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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.

Jonathan Yudelman is 2013-2014 Tikvah Fellow. His article, “The Christian Theologian of Zion,” will appear in the February issue of First Things. The article explores the life and thought of Marcel Dubois, an important 20th century Catholic theologian in Israel. In the course of doing so, it raised issues about Jewish-Catholic relations generally:

Israel could not have hoped for as passionate an admirer as Fr. Marcel-Jacques Dubois, this most Israeli of traditionalist Catholic theologians, yet received at the same time almost as passionate a critic. His story and its theological legacy bring into sharp relief some of the permanent obstacles in Jewish–Christian relations.

Read the full article here

One More Joke?

January 3, 2014

According to the much discussed Pew Survey “A Portrait of Jewish Americans,” 42% of respondents name “having a good sense of humor” as essential to a Jewish identity. Even more interesting: this answer, more than any other choice offered by the survey, is affirmed by almost equal numbers of “Jewish by religion” and “Jews of no religion.”

What is the connection between Jews and wit? Is there something deep and, dare we say, serious about it? Ruth Wisse, a pioneering scholar and teacher in Jewish studies, recently wrote a book on the topic for Tikvah’s Library of Jewish Ideas series, entitled No Joke: Making Jewish Humor. Here we republish an excerpt that was included in the Jewish Review of Books in Spring 2013.

And while we are at it, we’ve dusted off an old audio file from our Jewish Thought and Enduring Human Questions seminar in 2009. This was a session that Professor Wisse taught on the subject of humor (as an Enduring Human Question – no joke). She was joined by freelance intellectual, writer, and lover of words Hillel Halkin as a respondent. Together they present much in the way of satisfying theory on the subject, but also delight their listeners with some great material. The jokes really get going around minute 41, when Mr. Halkin takes the mic.

Listen to the audio and read the article here

Christmas was this week and God’s love is in the air. But do Christian sources and Jewish ones think of the love of God in overlapping or opposing ways? Renowned Harvard bible scholar and Tikvah faculty regular Jon Levenson is working on a new book on the love of God—what it means for God to love human beings and for human beings to love God. What is being commanded when a Jew is enjoined to love God “with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.” Is passion an imperfection, unworthy of God? What is the “pretty dirty” love poem Shir haShirim (Song of Songs) doing in the Bible?

Professor Levenson sat down with Tikvah’s Director of University Programs Alan Rubenstein in Princeton last summer to discuss this profound subject. You can watch the 28 minute conversation here.

Watch the full video 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