In this core class, students will explore foundational ideas and conflicts that have shaped and sustained the Jewish people through its long and distinguished history: topics range from the nature of God and human nature, the relationship between virtue and political power, family dynamics, nationhood, chosenness, free will, and beyond.
Readings will draw from both the foundational texts of Jewish civilization, beginning with the Hebrew Bible, but drawing on classical and medieval sources, including the Talmud and Maimonides, as well as works by modern Jewish thinkers and writers like Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Abraham Joshua Heschel, and Mordecai Kaplan.
Students will be expected to be active participants, not passive observers, in a serious inquiry into the great ideas and profound debates that have captured the Jewish and Western imagination throughout the generations: What is justice? What does it mean for God to be one or for a people to be “chosen”? What is holiness and what role does it play in our lives?
Together, we will examine what some of the brightest minds of Jewish history—past and present—thought about these questions and interrogate our own assumptions and beliefs about these issues. What is at stake for us in these questions, and where will they lead us in the future?
The aim of these discussions is not to inculcate students in any particular sect or practice, but to deepen each student’s awareness of the rich intellectual currents, internal conflicts, and enduring promises offered by the Jewish tradition. These ideas shape our own identities, notions of justice and the good, and our vision for the kind of future we want for ourselves, our country, and the broader Jewish community.
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 David Wolpe
Named one of the 500 Most Influential People in Los Angeles in 2016 and again in 2017, Most Influential Rabbi in America by Newsweek and one of the 50 Most Influential Jews in the World by The Jerusalem Post, David Wolpe is the Max Webb Senior Rabbi of Sinai Temple. Rabbi Wolpe previously taught at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York, the American Jewish University in Los Angeles, Hunter College, and UCLA. A columnist for Time.com, he has been published and profiled in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post’s On Faith website, The Huffington Post, and the New York Jewish Week. He has been featured on The Today Show, Face the Nation, ABC This Morning, and CBS This Morning. In addition, Rabbi Wolpe has appeared prominently in series on PBS, A&E, History Channel, and Discovery Channel. Rabbi Wolpe is the author of eight books, including the national bestseller Making Loss Matter: Creating Meaning in Difficult Times. His book David, the Divided Heart was a finalist for the National Jewish Book Awards, and has been optioned for a movie by Warner Bros.
Shuli Taubes received her Master of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School and her BA in history from Barnard College. She currently serves as a faculty member at SAR High School in Riverdale, New York, where she teaches Tanakh, Jewish Identity, and chairs the Jewish Philosophy department. She has also developed and teaches a curriculum for educating Modern Orthodox high school students in comparative religion. She previously was the Sopher Community Scholar at the Young Israel of North Riverdale where she gave shiurim and served in a pastoral role. She also lectures in synagogues throughout the country.
Rabbi Mark Gottlieb
Rabbi Mark Gottlieb is Senior Director of the Tikvah Fund and founding Dean of the Tikvah Institute for High School Students at Yale University. Prior to joining Tikvah, Rabbi Gottlieb served as Head of School at Yeshiva University High School for Boys and Principal of the Maimonides School in Brookline, MA, and has taught at The Frisch School, Ida Crown Jewish Academy, Hebrew Theological College, Loyola University in Chicago, and the University of Chicago. He received his BA from Yeshiva College, rabbinical ordination from the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, and an MA in Philosophy from the University of Chicago, where his doctoral studies focused on the moral and political thought of Alasdair MacIntyre. Rabbi Gottlieb is a member of the Orthodox Forum Steering Committee and serves on the Editorial Committee of Tradition: A Journal of Orthodox Jewish Thought. He lives in Teaneck, NJ, with his wife and family.
Director, Tikvah Scholars Program