About the August 2021 Program

What is the “Great Speeches & Great Leaders” Program?

From King David to Pericles, Henry V to Abraham Lincoln, David Ben-Gurion to Golda Meir, Winston Churchill to Martin Luther King Jr., Tikvah Online Academy is offering rising 7th to 12th graders a unique opportunity in August 2021: to study some of the greatest speeches and leaders in Jewish, Zionist, Western, and American history with leading educators, policy experts, rabbis, and intellectuals. Students will be able to choose from over 60 individual speeches across our three grade levels: 7th-8th grade, 9th-10th grade, and 11th-12th grade.

When is the Program & How Does it Work?

From August 8 to August 26, 2021, we will offer a different seminar every weekday (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday) and every Sunday morning and evening in each grade level. Our online seminar-style classes will focus on the careful study and close reading of short speeches and texts, with limited advance preparation required. Each speech will be taught in a single-session seminar.

Flexibility and Membership

By signing up for either an “Academy Membership” ($100/up to 3 classes) or “Premium Membership” ($300/unlimited access) students can pick and choose whichever classes they like. Register in advance or up to a week before a given seminar. This combines serious learning and maximum flexibility. No matter what else you are doing in August—camp, trips, home with family and friends—this enables any interested student to participate.

Which Great Speeches & Leaders Can You Study?

The menu of speeches and classes is incredibly rich and varied. Here’s a representative sample: Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” · Theodore Roosevelt’s “The Strenuous Life” · King’s “I Have a Dream” · Churchill’s “Finest Hour” · Golda Meir’s Zionist Plea to America · Pericles’ “Funeral Oration” · Shakespeare’s “St. Crispin’s Day Speech” · Plato’s Apology· UN Amb. Moynihan’s “Zionism Is Not Racism” · Menachem Begin’s “Against German Reparations” · Natan Sharansky’s Heroic Defense of Soviet Jewry · Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson’s “Response to Reagan’s Attempted Assassination” · Some of the great speeches from the Hebrew Bible, including Job, Ruth, and King David

Click to see the menu for: 7th and 8th Grade · 9th and 10th Grade · 11th and 12th Grade, including recent graduates

When is the Registration Deadline?

All students must register by Sunday, July 25. Since spots are limited, we strongly encourage interested students to sign up as early as possible.

Is There a Screening Process to Get Into the Program?

Alumni of previous Tikvah programs—including Tikvah Online Academy, the Tikvah Scholars Program, and the Truman Scholars Program—do not need an additional interview. After registration, new students will be asked to schedule a conversation with a Tikvah Academic Advisor. This will be a chance for students to get a better understanding of how Tikvah seminars work and for our team to to make sure that every student is well-suited to this specific program. Tikvah reserves the right council out any student that we feel would not thrive in the program. In such cases we will offer a full refund.


About Tikvah Online Academy

Tikvah Online Academy students aspire to lives of meaning, integrity, and Jewish leadership. We believe that rich intellectual inquiry is the best preparation for such a life, and we aim to inspire our students with the best of our traditions—Jewish, Zionist, American and Western.

We offer a liberal education that will provide a foundation for our students’ thinking and flourishing, and our curriculum expands and deepens our students’ intellectual imaginations. Courses are taught at the highest-level by exceptional teachers. Our faculty is comprised of college professors, award-winning writers, policy experts, preeminent rabbis, and communal leaders—eager to teach thoughtful young students who want to engage in deep inquiry.

Tikvah Online Academy is a community of ideas, and our students engage in lively discourse and debate. Our virtual classrooms foster deep intellectual friendships among diverse young Jews from around the world. Wherever they come from, we challenge our students to learn together as one Jewish community, so that every young person can claim their remarkable inheritance as their own.

A Tikvah Online Academy education equips students for lives of free inquiry and free choice, the constitutive elements of a classical liberal education.

Our curriculum centers around the following four areas, which we believe all serious young Jews should study:

Jewish Thought & Western Civilization

Jewish learning must be at the heart of Jewish existence, now more than ever. But Jewish thinkers have always been in conversation with other traditions, from antiquity to today. We believe that that thoughtful comparisons between Jewish and Western sources can illuminate both traditions and direct us toward the enduring questions asked by both. These questions address issues such as love and friendship, life and death, individual and society, obedience and freedom, virtue and wisdom, and more. What does Judaism teach us about the most fundamental aspects of human existence? Our inquiry begins by reading Homer alongside the Bible and continues through recent thinkers such as Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, Michael Wyschogrod, and Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks z”l.

Zionism & Modern Israel

Israel has been at the center of Jewish consciousness for millennia. Today, Zionism has resulted in the restoration of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel and the return of the exiles to our historic homeland. We live in an era where the ancient dream of our ancestors is our reality, and we cannot afford to take this fact for granted. How did this modern miracle come to pass and how can young Jews contribute to the Zionist project? We attempt to answer these questions through passionate study of Zionist and Israeli political theory, history, and literature, as well as deep engagement with the heroes, statesmen, and thinkers behind the historic events.

American Civilization & Policy

America has been uniquely good to the Jews but now appears to be at a crossroads. Historically, perhaps, this is because of America’s Hebraic spirit and the profound influence of the Hebrew Bible on the American founding. For the Jews and other religious groups, America has proved the compatibility of the spirit of religion and the spirit of liberty, and religion has been central to the American story at every turn. How do we understand the values and ideals that the founding fathers enshrined in our institutions of government, and how have the Jews benefited? In our inquiry, we seek to examine the rights and responsibilities of democratic citizens, as well as the preconditions and tensions of a virtuous and democratic society.

The Western Canon: Great Books & Thinkers

We believe that the study of literature, philosophy, and history are necessary for the development of moral character. The subtleties of human life are best conveyed through the written word, and through close readings, we often learn as much about ourselves as we do the texts. We read classics that have the stood the test of time because they convey deep truths about the human condition—truths that every serious person must confront. Through rich discussions, students come to recognize the relevance of these texts to their own lives, and they realize that they draw upon the collective wisdom of the greatest minds throughout human history to inform their futures.

What is the Tikvah Fund?

The Tikvah Fund is a think tank and educational institution focused on the foundational ideas of Jewish civilization, the great challenges facing the Jewish people and the State of Israel, and the political, moral, and economic traditions of Western civilization and American democracy. Tikvah runs a wide range of initiatives in the United States, Israel, and around the world, including educational programs and fellowships, publications and websites, conferences, and policy research.

Our main interest is challenging exceptional students—from middle school to high school, from gap year to college, from graduate students to emerging professionals—to become Jewish leaders and Jewish citizens. We seek to expose them to the most important ideas—in Jewish thought, Zionist history, political philosophy, economics, and strategy—and to inculcate a sense of responsibility for Jewish, Western, and American civilization. We also offer extensive programming and content for the alumni of our various programs, and we encourage our students to think about their time with us as the gateway to a larger Tikvah community.


How does Tikvah Online Academy fit into students’ education?

Tikvah Online Academy courses are an excellent supplement to a traditional middle school, high school, or yeshiva curriculum. We can also help you integrate our seminars into a home school or school pod experience. Tikvah’s classes expose student to the greatest ideas of the Jewish, Zionist, and Western traditions and aim to inculcate a sense of responsibility for Jewish and American civilization.


How do classes take place?

Each class meets live over Zoom. Students will receive zoom links and any background materials/readings well in advance of any seminar.


Why do you require an interview with an academic advisor?

Our seminars are conducted at the highest level and require active participation in group discussions. When we meet with applicants, we are evaluating their ability to succeed in our seminars and program. A strong applicant will have deep intellectual curiosity, an interest in Jewish ideas, and an ability to articulate him or herself clearly.


Do you need to have a Jewish day school or Jewish studies background to participate?

No. Tikvah Online Academy courses are designed so that students from diverse Jewish backgrounds can come together as equal partners in inquiry. The program is designed for both students who are deeply immersed in Jewish life and Jewish education already and students who are coming to Jewish learning for the first time.


Additional Questions?

If you have any questions or concerns, please email Irina Rakhlis at irakhlis@tikvahfund.org.

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