Week 1: The Roots of Jewish Modernity

The modern West, with its emphasis on progress, freedom, and individualism, has created unprecedented opportunities for Jewish flourishing. In America, Jews have had incredible opportunities to succeed as individuals without the hindrances that often held them down in other times and places in the diaspora. And in Israel, Jews have benefited from the ideas and institutions of political liberty in fashioning a modern democratic state and making it prosper as a protective homeland for Jews everywhere.

But the freedom that Jews as individuals have enjoyed has led to novel and difficult challenges – challenges in preserving Jewish identity, in educating a rising generation of Jews about the unique greatness and enduring importance of Jewish civilization, and in negotiating the complexities of a world with two major Jewish centers – Israel and America.

Young people who feel a calling to live a life of Jewish purpose and Jewish leadership need to understand the competing political ideas that have given birth to the modern Jewish condition and how the Jewish situation relates to the greater challenges and choices now facing the democratic West.

The seminars of the first week will be led by the preeminent scholar of modern Jewish thought, Leora Batnitzky (Princeton University) and by the pioneering leader of scholarship in Jewish literature, Ruth Wisse (Harvard University and the Tikvah Fund)

Week 2: The Enduring Questions of Politics

What are some of the major political questions that confront human beings in the modern age?

How have changes brought about by revolutionary ideas – in science, in art, and in politics – left their mark on the perennial effort to find security and meaning in the face of our mortality?

What debates among visionaries and statesmen have determined the contours of how we live today?

Led by thinkers like Yuval Levin (American Enterprise Institute) and Samuel Goldman (George Washington University), students will the themes of tradition and freedom, science and technology, economics and the human good, nationalism and cosmopolitanism, and the ultimate aims of liberal education.

Week 3: The Jewish Strategy Workshop

What is the mission of American Jewry? What matters most in American Jewish life today? And does American Jewry have a strategy to confront its problems and fulfill its essential purpose?

These are the questions at the heart of the third week’s seminar, led by Tikvah’s Executive Director, Eric Cohen. Mr. Cohen will lead a debate about these questions in a very concrete way. He will ask the group to imaginatively inhabit the position of a a major Jewish philanthropist, who wishes to invest $20 million per year for the next 20 years in the Jewish people. He will lay out a set of options for the investment, each of which represents a different assessment of how Jewish survival and flourishing can best be promoted.

As a group, the fellows will try to define, through deliberation and debate, an American Jewish strategy for the decades ahead.

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