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In 2012-2013, Tova Ganzel took sabbatical from her role as deputy director of the Midrasha for Women at Bar Ilan University to serve as a Tikvah Fellow and to join her husband doing his own fellowship at Sloan-Kettering. Upon her return to Israel, she became the director of the Midrasha and has created a Tikvah program that was inspired by an element of the Fellowship curriculum – something we call “The Jewish Citizen.” This series, which will be a part of the Summer Fellowship this year as well, is a course of study built around major policy issues facing the Jewish world – issues that are informed by the study of classic Jewish and Western texts but that also require measured judgment about what is to be done today. The program is meant as training for the art of the possible (as Otto von Bismark called politics) as it relates to the Jewish future.

Dr. Ganzel’s Tikvah program at Bar Ilan is tailored to issues related to the goals of the Midrasha. As she describes it, the program “provides a weekly forum for engagement between a broad array of religious thinkers and a select cadre of achieving women scholars spanning the range of religious observance.”

Here we republish an interview that we did with Tova during her fellowship, discussing her ideas on women and halakha, holiness and Ezekiel, and biblical criticism and orthodoxy.

Read the interview here.

Does a liberal arts education have as its final end the training of citizens? Dan Polisar, one of the founders of Shalem College, Israel’s first liberal arts college, maintains that it does. Israel needs institutions of higher learning that strive to make the men and women who pass through their doors more free (the root meaning of “liberal” in “liberal arts”). Only a sustained and serious exploration of the great ideas and texts that formed the polity in which one was raised can meet this lofty goal. So what does this mean about how students at Shalem will learn texts like the Bible and Talmud and topics like Judaism, Zionism, and nationalism generally? And beyond this, what does the future for Israel look like to Dr. Polisar, now that he has reached his long-sought goal?

Listen to the full audio here

Israel is an incredible place, where it is not uncommon for contemporary events to evoke fundamental human questions and fundamental questions about the nature of Judaism. One such event is the opening of Shalem College, the country’s first liberal arts college, which not only puts such great questions front and center in its curriculum but also represents, itself, a statement about Jewish national identity and the vexed question of the universal and the particular.

Princeton Alumni Weekly just ran an excellent profile of Shalem, its history, and its goals.

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