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Jewish Culture and Ideas

The inheritance of Jewish civilization is rich, varied, and diverse. From the Tanach and Talmud to the medieval commentaries, from the songs and poetry of the liturgy to the Yiddish literature of the Jews of Europe, Jewish culture has always been a source of inspiration and pride. In the Jewish tradition there are plays and playwrights, poets and poetry; novels, short stories, political and legal theory; songs and music. Many of our summer fellows have used their research weeks to delve deeper into this tradition, and some of their projects are discussed below.

Past Fellows

Penina Spearman

Penina Spearman, born and raised in Queens, New York, arrived at Yeshiva University and the Zahava and Moshael Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought in 2020 after spending a year studying in Israel at Michlelet Mevaseret Yerushalayim (MMY). At Stern College for Women, Penina is pursuing a degree in philosophy as a Jewish Foundation for Education of Women (JFEW) scholar. Penina has interned at the Kohelet Policy Forum and the Kings County Supreme Court. On campus, Penina sits on the American Enterprise Institute’s YU Executive Council and is the Logistics Officer for the Alexander Hamilton Society (AHS) Yeshiva University chapter. Penina’s project is to help both with the editorial and research process for “Sacred Time: The Jewish Holidays,”a book adaptation of essays by Rabbi Meir Soloveichik for Koren Publishing. She has been working with the team to make sure the text both fits the vision of Rabbi Soloveichik and Tikvah and is accessible to a broad audience.

Jake Greenspan

Jake Greenspan recently graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Chicago where he studied Fundamentals and served as a Student Marshal. At Chicago, Jake taught Humanities in South Side schools through the Civic Knowledge Project and pre-college Philosophy through the Collegiate Scholars program. He recently joined the Tikvah Fund as a full-time Teaching Fellow. Next year Jake plans to continue this work abroad as a Fulbright fellow at Athens College in Greece, and afterwards hopes to pursue graduate work in the UK. As a Summer Fellow, Jake investigated how to best integrate Classical Liberal Education with traditional Jewish learning for primarily pre-college students. To this end he has happily divided his time between several complementary ventures: first, close tutorial study with Dr. Harry Ballan and Rabbi Mark Gottlieb, primarily on the philosophical theology of Michael Wyschogrod and Joseph Soloveitchik; second, weekly participation in a pedagogy roundtable for young and veteran teachers; and third, work with Rabbi Dr. Mitch Rocklin on a fully integrated four-year Classical education curricula for Jewish high school students. In addition, Jake has taught a course for 7th and 8th graders in the Tikvah Online Academy on the Jews & Greeks: “Hero, City, Altar.” The delights and difficulties of teaching over Zoom have reinvigorated Jake’s interest in exploring the unprecedented educational opportunities that a pandemic and post-pandemic world presents, work which Jake is grateful to be continuing with Tikvah post-summer.


Ruth Wisse

Distinguished Senior Fellow, The Tikvah Fund

Recently retired from her position as Martin Peretz Professor of Yiddish Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature at Harvard, Professor Wisse is currently Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Tikvah Fund. Her books on literary subjects include an edition of Jacob Glatstein’s two-volume fictional memoir, The Glatstein Chronicles (2010), The Modern Jewish Canon: A Journey through Literature and Culture (2003), and A Little Love in Big Manhattan (1988). She is also the author of two political studies, If I Am Not for Myself: The Liberal Betrayal of the Jews (1992) and Jews and Power (2007). Her latest book, No Joke: Making Jewish Humor, a volume in the Tikvah-sponsored Library of Jewish Ideas, was recently published by Princeton University Press.

Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik

Guest Speaker | Yeshiva University & Congregation Shearith Israel

Rabbi Dr. Meir Y. Soloveichik is director of the Zahava and Moshael Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought at Yeshiva University and the rabbi of Congregation Shearith Israel, the oldest Jewish congregation in the United States. Rabbi Soloveichik has lectured throughout the United States, in Europe, and in Israel to both Jewish and non-Jewish audiences on topics relating to Jewish theology, bioethics, wartime ethics, and Jewish-Christian relations. His essays on these subjects have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Commentary, First Things, Azure, Tradition, and the Torah U-Madda Journal. In August 2012, he gave the invocation at the opening session of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. He is the son of Rabbi Eliyahu Soloveichik, grandson of the late Rabbi Ahron Soloveichik, and the great-nephew of the late Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik.

Leora Batnitzky

Princeton University

Leora Batnitzky is Perelman Professor of Religion and Chair of the Department of Religion at Princeton University as well as the Director of Princeton's Tikvah Project on Jewish Thought. She is the author of Idolatry and Representation: The Philosophy of Franz Rosenzweig Reconsidered (Princeton, 2000), Leo Strauss and Emmanuel Levinas: Philosophy and the Politics of Revelation (Cambridge, 2006), and How Judaism Became a Religion: An Introduction to Modern Jewish Thought (Princeton). Her current project focuses on the conceptual and historical relations between modern religious thought (Jewish and Christian) and modern legal theory (analytic and Continental). She received a B.A. in philosophy from Barnard College, Columbia University and a B.A. in biblical studies from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. Her M.A. and Ph.D. are in religion from Princeton University.

Dr. Dara Horn

Dr. Dara Horn is the award-winning author of six books: In the Image (2002),  The World to Come (2006),  All Other Nights(2009),  A Guide for the Perplexed(2013), Eternal Life (2018), and People Love Dead Jews (2021). One of Granta magazine's "Best Young American Novelists," she has twice won the National Jewish Book Award and has received numerous other honors for her books, which have been translated into twelve languages. A scholar of Yiddish and Hebrew literature with a doctorate in comparative literature from Harvard, Dr. Horn has taught these subjects at Sarah Lawrence College, Harvard University, and Yeshiva University, and has lectured on Jewish literature in over 200 universities and cultural institutions throughout North America, Israel, and Australia. Her nonfiction work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Smithsonian, and Jewish Review of Books, among many other publications, and she is a columnist for Tablet. She lives with her husband and four children in New Jersey.

Rabbi Dr. Jacob J. Schacter

Yeshiva University

Rabbi Dr. Jacob J. Schacter is University Professor of Jewish History and Jewish Thought and senior scholar at the Center for the Jewish Future at Yeshiva University. From 2000 to 2005, he served as dean of the Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik Institute in Boston, and from 1981 to 2000, he served as rabbi of The Jewish Center in Manhattan. Rabbi Schacter holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages from Harvard University and received rabbinic ordination from Mesivta Torah Vodaath. He was a teaching fellow at Harvard from 1978-1980, director of Yeshiva University’s Torah u Madda Project from 1986-1997, and an adjunct assistant professor at the Stern College for Women at Yeshiva University from 1993-1999. He is the co-author of A Modern Heretic and a Traditional Community: Mordecai M. Kaplan, Orthodoxy, and American Judaism (with Jeffrey Gurock, 1996) and the editor of Jewish Tradition and the Nontraditional Jew (1992) and Judaism’s Encounter with other Cultures: Rejection or Integration? (1997). He has published numerous articles and reviews in Hebrew and English and is the founding editor of the Torah u-Madda Journal.

Liel Leibovitz

Tablet Magazine

Liel Lei­bovitz is a senior writer for Tablet and the author of sev­er­al books, includ­ing, most recently, A Bro­ken Hal­lelu­jah, a spir­i­tu­al biog­ra­phy of Leonard Cohen.

Abraham Socher

Abraham Socher was educated at UCLA, Harvard University and UC Berkeley, where he received a PhD in History. He is the author of The Radical Enlightenment of Solomon Maimon: Judaism, Philosophy, Heresy (Stanford University Press, 2006), and has published essays and reviews on topics in Jewish intellectual history, literary criticism and baseball. He is a professor at Oberlin College in the Department of Religion and directs the Program in Jewish Studies. In 2010, with the support of the Tikvah Fund, he founded the Jewish Review of Books, which he continues to edit.

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