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The Tikvah Overseas Student Institute

For Yeshiva, Midrasha, and Post-High School Students in Israel |  חשון – סיון תשע"ט / Oct. 2018 – May 2019

Institute Curriculum

The curriculum is divided into three major sections with each component tackling a different aspect of the political condition of the Jewish people and the State of Israel.


herzl balconyThe “Jewish State” and Contemporary Nationalism

Since the founding of the Zionist movement, Jews have debated what it means to build a Jewish state. Is Zionism a political movement? A cultural program? A religious awakening? Are the ideas of Herzl, Rav Kook, Jabotinsky, and Ahad Ha’am still relevant today, or must Zionism renew itself with a new approach in the twenty-first century? These questions continue to reverberate as Israel affirms itself as a Jewish and democratic nation-state in a world polarized by questions of ethnic and religious nationalism. We will explore what the persistent allure of the “Jewish state” tells us about the meaning and necessity of communal identity and patriotism. Leading activists will debate the wisdom of the “Jewish Nation-State Law” and the merits of Israel’s immigration policies while probing how varying ideological perspectives on nationalism impact the perspectives taken on Israel throughout the world.


Challenges and Opportunities in Modern Israeli Society

How do religious and democratic values coexist in Israel’s public sphere? Can the growing Haredi sector become integrated into broader Israeli society? What should be done to heal the relationship between Israel and American Jewry? Should halakha have in role shaping Israeli law relating to the military, citizenship, and family life? How should Shabbat be celebrated within the public sphere of a diverse country?

These are just a sample of the many dilemmas facing Israeli society as it builds a vibrant Jewish and democratic state within an explosive region and unstable world order. Leading Israeli activists, journalists, and thinkers will guide us in exploring these quandaries and offering their proposals to help move Israel forward. Students will have a unique and intimate opportunity to discuss and debate the divisive policy questions facing the Jewish people.


U of C Quad_200Religion and Western Political Culture

These final seminar sessions address pressing global issues that confront modern Jews engaged in the contemporary world, with an eye toward questions that are particularly contentious on college campuses. Western society today grapples with dilemmas posed by multiculturalism, post-modernism, and individualism, all of which deeply impact the Jewish political condition. Jewish citizens must undertake careful study of the political and social condition of the West and the role that Jewish men and women can and must play in their nation.

Many liberal democracies seek to preserve freedom of conscience by regulating the role of religion in the public square. Does such regulation infringe upon the religious liberty of its faithful citizens? Given the plurality of ethical positions today, some believe that we can no longer confidently make moral judgments. How can we preserve a meaningful liberal education and continue to assert ethical truths within this climate? Can societies committed to individual choice preserve central social structures like families and formative traditions? These questions will be explored with a particular eye for the implications on traditional Jewish values and whether Jews might create interfaith political alliances to address these challenges.


Schedule 1_200Schedule

Regular sessions will begin on Friday, October 26th, 2018, and take place twelve times over the course of the year. Each session will meet in central Jerusalem on Friday mornings between 9:00 a.m.–1:15 p.m. When necessary, transportation for students is provided to the events. A delicious brunch will be served at each meeting.

Throughout the year, participants attend three additional shabbaton retreats at hotels around the county. These events facilitate deeper explorations of key topics with leading intellectuals while allowing for more extended informal conversations.

The format of the presentations will vary between debates, small reading seminars, and lectures followed by Q & A.

Before each session, participants will be expected to carefully prepare the assigned readings that are critical for each event. Students must commit to regular attendance and to actively engage in group discussion.

The program is fully sponsored by the Tikvah Fund and is free of charge.

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