Program & Curriculum
Program Philosophy & Purpose
The Truman Scholars Program was launched in January 2021 and is grounded in the following three core beliefs:
- First, as a Jewish community, we believe it is our responsibility to educate exceptional young Jews in the founding ideas, heroic leaders, enduring challenges, and moral aims of the two great nations of which we are a part: America and Israel. If we seek to form the American Jewish leaders of the future, we need to immerse outstanding young Jews in the great Jewish, Zionist, and American leaders of the past. This is our purpose.
- Second, we believe that thoughtful, curious, and serious Jewish students are capable, beginning in 7th and 8th grade, of reading and discussing serious texts. This includes great speeches and classic stories, legal decisions and works of political philosophy, and religious sermons and commentaries, that together give voice to the American and Israeli spirit.
- Third, we believe that Jewish day schools and yeshivas are indispensable partners in this educational effort, and we are pleased to work with—and invest in—a strategic cluster of exceptional schools to launch this effort.
The overarching theme of the Truman Scholars Program is that America and Israel are both exceptional and covenantal nations; that both America and Israel were, and are, heavily influenced by the moral, political, and religious teachings of Tanach; that America and Israel are connected to each other in a special relationship; and that America and Israel also have different and distinct meanings to us as American Jews. America is our home—a land of Jewish liberty, capable of spreading Jewish values around the world, while Israel is the locus of our ultimate longings for justice, sovereignty, holiness, and redemption.
Too often, the Hebraic spirit of America is ignored in the secular telling of the American story. For we know that the first American settlers looked to Tanach for ideas and direction about the new political and moral order they hoped to fashion in Virginia, Massachusetts, and beyond. From the colonial age, to the American Founding, to the Civil War, to the World Wars, to the civil rights movement: Americans looked to the Bible to help give voice to America’s loftiest aspirations, at home and abroad.
As Jews, we also know that Zion—Eretz Yisrael—is the chosen and priestly nation: our unique and sacred inheritance. To understand the rebirth of the Jewish state, we need to explore how the Zion-pointing aspiration was preserved in exile; and we need to rediscover the religious, political, and intellectual leaders who transformed this longing—through strategy and struggle—into the re-born homeland of the Jewish people.
By understanding the Hebraic ideas that shaped these two exceptional nations—America and Israel—the Truman Scholars Program will also explore the special relationship between modern America and modern Israel—from proto-Zionist early presidents like John Adams, to Harry Truman’s unequivocal recognition of the new Jewish state in 1948, to the current-day alliance between Washington and Jerusalem, captured powerfully in Ambassador Ron Dermer’s “Two Chosen Nations” speech in New York in 2017.
Timeline & Schedule
The program itself will have four core segments, beginning in the middle of 7th grade and lasting through the end of 8th grade.
Phase I: Winter & Spring of 7th Grade
Once nominated and selected to be a Truman Scholar, students will participate in an intensive 10-seminar online course, taken together with Truman Scholars from other participating schools. This special course of study will introduce the theme of America and Israel as two exceptional and covenantal nations, and explore in-depth the Hebraic influence on the American experiment, through the careful study of great speeches, stories, letters, and excerpted works of political philosophy.
Phase II: Summer Preceding 8th Grade
During the summer, students will select from a variety of 3-seminar courses on the great speeches in the Jewish, Western, or American traditions as part of our Great Speeches program. Alternative arrangements will be available for students who are at camp or are otherwise unavailable.
Phase III: Fall of 8th Grade
Now in 8th grade—and, in many cases, busily applying to high school—Truman Scholars will choose from a wide range of specially-curated elective courses in Tikvah Online Academy, on Jewish, American, and Western topics. For the latest elective courses being offered, please click here.
Phase IV: Winter & Spring of 8th Grade
For the final segment of the program, Truman Scholars will participate in an intensive 12-seminar online course, taken together with Truman Scholars from other participating schools. This part of the program will focus on the founding of modern Israel, traced from the biblical and rabbinic sources that sustained Zionist longing in exile, to the modern statesmen, poets, soldiers, and religious leaders who gave birth—and voice—to modern Israel.