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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?

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Like Dreamers, Yossi Klein Halevi’s masterful history cum biography cum ethnography, has received praise from all quarters. It is a riveting book that presents in vivid colors the development and ideology of two of Israel’s most important movements of the twentieth century: The secular kibbutzim and the religious settlers of Judea and Samaria. It does so through portraits of seven paratroopers who were part of the force that won the battle for Jerusalem in June 1967 – portraits of their life and leadership in the Israel that this war created.

Yossi visited the Tikvah Center recently and sat down with Roger Hertog, Tikvah’s chairman and a supporter of this project for many years. The conversation captured here is worthy of their subject – ranging from behind the scenes discussion of the book’s creation to debate about the implications for the choices Israel faces today.

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Is there a philosophical or theological justification for the traditional Jewish doctrine of matrilineal descent? Meir Soloveichik, in an article published in Azure in 2005, makes the case that there is, drawing together phenomenological observations and rabbinical sources to illuminate the distinct dignity of mothers and fathers. Rabbi Soloveichik will be teaching in a Tikvah Advanced Institute this summer called The Future of the Family, alongside Eric Cohen, Gil Meilaender, Dara Horn, and others.

Read Azure Article

Last week, Tikvah’s Advanced Institute Moments of Decision, Great Debates pivoted from 20th century turning points for Israel to the alternatives faced by leaders in mid-Century America. Their engagement with Jewish America was deepened by a lunchtime visit from one of the country’s leading scholars on contemporary American Judaism, Professor Jack Wertheimer of the Jewish Theological Seminary.

Listen here to an interview with Professor Wertheimer, conducted by Tikvah’s Senior Director Mark Gottlieb.

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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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