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The Jewish Idea: Morality, Politics, and Theology

Tikvah Summer Fellowship for College Students       June 18, 2015—July 31, 2015


Who Should Apply?

      • Applications for “The Jewish Idea” are closed, however current college students interested in Jewish, moral, social, political, or strategic thought are encouraged to apply to our “Jewish Thought, Jewish Literature, Jewish Politics” summer seminar.

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Program Overview

In summer 2015, the Tikvah Fund is offering an intense six-week seminar for college students living in America, Canada, or elsewhere in the Diaspora. Throughout the summer fellowship, students will examine and debate Jewish ideas of man and woman, family and children, war and peace, wealth and justice, and Zionism and freedom. Led by preeminent professors, rabbis, and intellectuals, “The Jewish Idea: Morality, Politics, and Theology” will probe the teachings of biblical and rabbinic Judaism, the lessons of Jewish history, the insights of modern Jewish thought, and the conversation between Jewish and Western ideas. Students will debate the most pressing challenges facing modern Jews, and learn from prominent Jewish and American leaders about their callings and careers in politics, academia, the rabbinate, journalism, and cultural life. 

Classes will take place at the Tikvah Center in the heart of New York City’s Midtown district. The space is not simply for seminars, but for study, conversation, writing, and research. Participants will receive a generous stipend of $5000.  Students are free to arrange their own housing, and we are willing to provide guidance and advice on living options for those who request it.


Core Topics

We live in an age of unprecedented Jewish success, but also one of great challenges to Jewish existence and flourishing: assimilation, anti-Semitism, Israel’s vulnerability, and tensions between secularism and traditionalism in both Israel and the Diaspora. Facing these predicaments requires Jewish wisdom about the most fundamental things, and it requires sober analysis of the modern Jewish condition.



Week 1. The Jewish Idea of Man and Woman: Eating, Death, Sex, and Work
To recover the Jewish idea of man and woman, we will begin at the beginning—with the Torah and its account of human origins. Students will explore the mysteries of the human form in its four core concerns: sustaining body and soul, living well despite knowledge of our mortality, sexual desire and generation, and balancing work and rest.

Week 2. The Jewish Idea of the Family: Men, Women, and the Generations
What is the Jewish idea of the family? What do parents owe children? What do children owe parents? What makes family life holy? The Jewish tradition offers rich and deep perspectives on these questions, which we will explore by studying the bible, rabbinics, and great works of Jewish literature.

Week 3. The Jewish Idea of Power: The Challenges of Jewish Sovereignty
What is the Jewish idea of power, and how has it been conditioned by  the unique history of Jewish exile? With the return of sovereignty in the State of Israel, how should the tradition of Jewish thinking about ethics, security, and defense relate to novel technologies, existential threats, and an unstable geopolitical landscape? We will look to both traditional Jewish texts and reflections from Israel’s founding statesmen in our exploration of Jewish power and Israeli security.

Week 4. The Jewish Idea of the Good Society: Capitalism and its Discontents
What is the Jewish view of wealth and economics? Which economic system—capitalism, socialism, or the modern welfare state—is best for the Jews? To explore these questions, we will examine biblical and rabbinic precepts and parables, the accumulated wisdom of the Jewish historical experience, and the most valuable modern economic thinkers. 

Week 5. The Jewish Citizen in Action: Writing, Research, Debate
Week five will be a change of pace, allowing students to research and prepare for presentations and debates on a few core crises facing the Jewish people today. This week will also feature intimate, detailed discussions with Jewish leaders who have actually been in positions of responsibility at moments of crisis and decision.

Week 6. The Jews in America: Extraordinary Blessings and Daunting Challenges
For our final week, we will examine the Jewish condition in the United States of America. American Jews have flourished, but American Jews also face new and pressing challenges: The allure of assimilation, the conflicted relationship between modern liberties and of traditional ways of life, the encounter between American Jews and their Christian neighbors, and the role of Israel in the American-Jewish imagination.

Callings and Careers: Speaker Series
Central to the fellowship experience is having students reflect on their lives, potential careers, and future ambitions. Every week, Tikvah will host preeminent rabbis, columnists, scholars, politicians, novelists, and diplomats for intimate, off-the-record conversations about what inspired these leaders, how they have succeeded and failed, and what the next generation can do for modern Judaism. The six-week program will also begin with an off-site Shabbat—time set aside for deep and deliberate conversation on the meaning of being Jewish. 



Essential Details

The entire program will be conducted with respect for Jewish observance, including Kosher meals to the highest standards and no programming on Shabbat or Jewish holidays.

The fellowship will take place at the Tikvah Center in the heart of New York City (165 E. 56th Street). Most days will have a morning session (10 AM – 12:30 PM), an afternoon session (3:00-5:30), and sometimes an evening dinner (6:00-8:30). Meals will be provided daily.

Applications were due on February 2, 2015, however current college students interested in Jewish, moral, social, political, or strategic thought are encouraged to apply to our “Jewish Thought, Jewish Literature, Jewish Politics” summer seminar.

For more information contact info@tikvahcollege.org.