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Reviled as a fascist demagogue by his great rival David Ben-Gurion, venerated by Israel’s underclass, the first Israeli to win the Nobel Peace Prize, a proud Jew but not a conventionally religious one, Menachem Begin was both complex and controversial. Begin’s Herut party led the opposition to the Labor governments of Ben-Gurion and his successors until the surprising parliamentary victory of 1977 made him Israel’s Prime Minister.

Watch as Daniel Gordis, author of Menachem Begin: The Battle for Israel’s Soul, discusses Begin’s life, political vision, and his abiding legacy in Zionist thought, Israeli politics, and the Middle East today.

Watch the event here.

Orthodox Reform

March 12, 2014

The draft debate and the huge Haredi (ultra-orthodox) protest last week raises questions about the ideological and theological basis of Haredi perceptions. In this weekend’s Israeli Musaf Shabbat magazine, Tikvah 2012 Fellow Yoav Sorek writes about what he sees as a dangerous development in the popular Haredi worldview. Although Haredim see themselves as the authentic continuation of traditional Judaism, Sorek finds that some of them are moving away from the fundamental precepts of Judaism, which were basic for the previous generation and which are still shared by other parts of the orthodox world. This is a new religion, he claims, which is not interested in changing history – and therefore is not targeted by anti-Semites, which are willing to tolerate such Jews.

A translation of the first two paragraphs appears below the original Hebrew.

Read the excerpt here.

In the popular imagination, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel is remembered for his involvement in civil rights, the anti-Vietnam War movement, and the cause of Soviet Jewry. But, as Rabbi Shai Held demonstrates in his new book, Abraham Joshua Heschel: The Call of Transcendence, Rabbi Heschel was first and foremost a theologian and philosopher of religion. What are his core ideas, and what are his main religious insights? How did he develop his views of covenant and love, his fear of the unbounded ego, and his unique interpretation of human and divine agency? How can Rabbi Heschel’s thought inspire the Jewish community and challenge religious people everywhere to recapture the wonder that opens them up to God’s call?

Watch as Rabbi Dr. Shai Held, cofounder, dean, and chair in Jewish Thought at Mechon Hadar, discusses Heschel’s legacy and situates his work within contemporary Jewish theology and the philosophy of religion. The event was recorded before a live audience on February 25, 2014 at the Tikvah Center in New York City.

Watch the event here.

Nineteenth century political emancipation brought citizenship rights to European Jews. In How Judaism Became a Religion, Leora Batnitzky explores how this new political reality affected Jewish philosophy and the Jewish people. The prospect of secular citizenship challenged Judaism’s premodern integrity, and drove Jewish writers, intellectuals, and rabbis to grapple with how to recast Judaism as a “religion,” emphasizing its private faith over its national call to public practice. The transformation of Judaism as a religion – and reactions to it – is the driving question of modern Jewish thought to this day. What does Judaism gain and lose as a religion? What effects, positive and negative, has this modern transformation yielded? How does conceiving of Judaism as a religion relate to Zionism and the refounding of a Jewish State for the Jewish People?

Watch as Leora Batnitzky, Ronald O. Perelman Professor of Jewish Studies, Professor of Religion, and Chair of the Department of Religion at Princeton University, discusses the intellectuals who recast Judaism as a modern religion, those that opposed the change, and the legacy of modern Jewish thought today. The event was recorded before a live audience on February 20, 2014 at the Tikvah Center in New York City. For information on other upcoming Tikvah events, please check our Events page.

Watch the event here.

In the Valley of the Dry Bones

February 13, 2014

Americans marked the birthday of the Sixteenth President of the United States yesterday, Abraham Lincoln. In honor of this, we share here a recent scholarly article by Matthew Holbreich of the Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought and Danilo Petranovich of the Center for the Study of Representative Institutions at Yale. Based on a close reading of some of Lincoln’s most well-known speeches, the authors make two main arguments: First, Lincoln was a radical opponent of the institution of slavery throughout his life and, second, “It was Lincoln, perhaps more than anyone else, who recognized the power of Biblical narrative as a metaphor for America.” In particular, Biblical themes like covenant, purification, sacrifice, and rebirth were vital in shaping Lincoln’s thought and vision for America in its most troubled hour.

Read the full article here.