The Tikvah Yeshiva Fellowships – Exciting New Program

Friday saw the launch of a program that will be exciting to yeshiva men with unfulfilled intellectual leanings, to Klal Yisrael, and to this author, who will be given an opportunity to pay back a debt many decades old.

The Tikvah Fund (TF) announced that it is now accepting candidate applications for the Tikvah Yeshiva Fellowship Program, to be held August 10-17 at the Glen Cove Mansion on Long Island. The program is designed for talmidei yeshivos between the ages of 20-30 who are possessed of enough intellectual curiosity to want to spend a week with some stellar presenters from both the Torah and secular communities, exploring issues of the relationship of the Torah Jew to the betterment of general society.

The Tikvah Fund, in its own words, “ [is]aimed at men and women who wish to influence the intellectual, religious, and political life of the Jewish people and the Jewish state.” It leans heavily to classic conservative thinking on political and economic issues. To help create a new generation of Jewish leadership, it organizes seminars and fellowships that bring icons of American intellectual achievement to talented Jewish participants. The current list of presenters at one of its programs includes Ruth Wisse, Yuval Levin, Walter Russell Mead (a Jonathan Rosenblum favorite!), and Elliot Abrams. Wanting to be fully inclusive, TF has tried recruiting Orthodox participants, and understood that charedi participants might have their own needs. It reached out to Rabbi Mayer Schiller and myself to help craft the special program that will run this August. (Rabbi Schiller is a rebbi at Bais Shraga in Monsey and at MTA in Manhattan, the author of one of the first books on the teshuvah movement, a former resident of New Square (he upgraded to Monsey), and the celebrated and successful coach of the MTA hockey team.)

We hope to expose Tikvah Yeshiva Fellows to topics and the thought of Torah personalities that are often not part of the typical yeshiva curriculum. Faculty is in formation, but already includes a young chassidishe talmid chacham who wrote a powerful examination of attitudes towards non-Jews that appeared in the chassidishe journal Paamonim, and another who completed an entire sefer on the matter. The secular faculty will include people similar to Ryan Anderson and Phillip Munoz, who are already committed.

Completing the program will be a mark of distinction in seeking future employment, and will hone verbal and written communications skills. It will yield , BE”H, dividends to Klal Yisrael as a whole, by hopefully inspiring young people to become leaders of their communities, and better advocates for Torah principles within the larger society that surrounds us. A generation or so, young people got “hooked” on working for the tzibbur through their contact with those who devoted themselves to the klal, and through some experience volunteering for such work. As the yeshiva experience tightened the restrictions on all outside activity, we lost the greater part of our feeder system of leadership. Identifying young people with an extraordinary sense of curiosity and exciting it for a week just may be enough to jump-start future involvement with the work of imagining a Torah future proactively, rather than only responding to crises as they occur.

For me, this is a wonderful opportunity to try to pay back some of the investment of time and energy of a few of my great mentors. Besides all of my important rabbeim, two “chance” encounters with incredibly gifted people shaped the rest of my life. In one, I was picked up while hitchhiking in the Catskills by Rav Nachman Bulman zt”l; in the other, I was bowled over by a presentation by Rav Aryeh Kaplan zt”l at an NCSY event. In both cases, a single exposure to depth and articulation that I was not used to led to many years of tutelage and inspiration. Many of us stand in awe at the explosive growth of the Torah community in the last decades, but often find a monotony and sameness in many of its members. We realize that people haven’t changed; only the circumstances of their education. The same seforim that turned us on can do the same for others. We just need to find ways to bring those seforim to young people who have not seen them. At least for me, the Tikvah Yeshiva Fellowships will serve as a serious attempt at determining whether this will work.

Applications and more information are available online. All expenses of the resident program are paid by the Tikvah Fund, and a modest stipend for participation is also provided. The deadline for applications is May 31.

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17 Responses

  1. mb says:

    What a brilliant idea. Wishing you a huge success.

  2. mycroft says:

    One can easily be an Orthodox Jew who is a neoconservative and one can easily be an Orthodox Jews who is a liberal.

  3. Jerry says:

    “The Tikvah Fund, in its own words, ‘[is]aimed at men and women who wish to influence the intellectual, religious, and political life of the Jewish people and the Jewish state.'”

    Is this program open to women?

    [YA – For many people in the charedi world, a program would have to be separate to allow participation. (Obviously not all of the charedi world, as shown by the AJOP convention, in which both men and women participate, and at which women not so long ago were presenters to the full house, without any dissent.) The inaugural program is not open to women, but TF is already at work planning a parallel program for women. Prospective applicants should use the contact information at the website to indicate that they may be interested in the women’s program. ]

  4. Steve Brizel says:

    What a great progam! I think that a parallel program for seminary educated women would also be a great idea.

  5. Jerry says:

    Must applicants be Orthodox?

    [YA – Yes]

  6. Raymond says:

    In response to a comment above, while neoconservative politics strikes me as being a perfect fit with Orthodox Judaism, I do not see how liberalism can provide an equally perfect fit with Judaism, unless one is referring to the classical liberalism of America’s Founding Fathers as opposed to the Far Left politics of the current White House Administration.

    The part of the above article that most caught my attention, though, was the direct encounter with the late, great Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan. I have been in such total awe of Rabbi Kaplan for so many decades now, that I am not sure I could even withstand the tremendous spiritual intensity of being in the same room as him. Perhaps I am alone in thinking about such things, but I wonder if anybody else has ever thought about what would it be like to actually meet the truly great Torah leaders of the generations. What would it be like to actually meet the Chovetz Chaim, or the Ramchal, or the Vilna Gaon, or the Arizal, or the Rambam, or Rashi? I suspect that anybody fortunate enough to have such experiences, emerge as completely spiritually transformed human beings.

  7. Nachum says:

    Is there really a large market of charedi yeshiva students looking for a program like this? Would they be open about it at their home institutions? If so, I’d be pleasantly surprised.

  8. b/c says:

    As a current Yeshiva student in a prestigious Yeshiva I think that there would be a market for such a program (myself and my friends spread across my institution Chevron and Mir as they are). I would be interested to know what type of essays the program is looking for. Academic with the footnotes etc. or more standard.

    I assume this is directed at participants coming from institutions to the right of Yu. If this ends up being a reunion for the Gush types (and yes I have friends there too) it will have missed its opportunity to reach the part of the Yeshiva world that is generally not part of such programs.

    [YA – The essay can be written in any form with which you are comfortable. Making the choice is part of the challenge when responding to an open-ended request. TF is certainly inteprested in “Gush types,” but their needs will be far better served in the main Tikvah Fellow program.]

  9. Yosef says:

    “In response to a comment above, while neoconservative politics strikes me as being a perfect fit with Orthodox Judaism…”

    The charedi world generally supports mass, open-ended Kollel in Israel and *demands* to be supported by the government. Since when is asking to be supported by government not to work neo-conservative?

  10. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    Why are women only an afterthought? Perhaps doing women first would have been better because hareidi women are less isolated than men from the secular world.

  11. Steve Brizel says:

    Raymond wrote:

    “neoconservative politics strikes me as being a perfect fit with Orthodox Judaism”

    This may be a valid analogy to a point, but RYBS once pointed out that the same Torah includes such diametrical opposites as Shemitah, Yovel, Taharas HaMisphacha and Peru uruvu, and all the myriad halachos in Bava Kama, Bava Metziah and Bava Basra that regulate the use of one’s private property and possessions and treatment of injured persons.

  12. Ken Applebaum says:

    Sounds like a great idea. Too bad I don’t qualify at my age (late 40s). Regards.

  13. Raymond says:

    For me to properly respond to the above, it would involve a complicated political discussion that would be completely secular, hardly relevant to this website. So all I will say on this for now, is to point out that within the Republican party, there seems to be two factions: the compassionate conservatism, or neoconservatism, of people like a Ronald Reagan, Rudy Giuliani, or a Newt Gingrich, who have never hesitated to care about the injustices of the world, and so they have naturally gravitated toward strong support for morally decent countries such as Israel; and then there is the increasingly popular faction within the Republican Party, led by Pat Buchanan, Ron Paul and his son Rand, whose entire focus is on free market economics, without regard to the tremendous suffering that goes on in this world. It is no accident that this smaller faction has seemed suspiciously antisemitic at times.

    As for the above comment about the Chareidim certainly not living a life of conservatism with their reliance on the government for welfare, I could be wrong, but I do not think that the majority of the Chareidim live such a lifestyle. And when they do, I have been very critical of them, regarding it as a desecration of G-d’s Name. And even after a lengthy discussion I recently had over Pesach with a very intelligent Chareidi Jew about the issue of them serving in the military, I simply do not buy into their arguments. I regard their arguments as a cop-out, hiding behind their Talmuds to escape their moral responsibility to help defend the lives of their fellow Jews against our sworn external enemies.

  14. David Z says:

    Too old by four years!! 🙁

    To the discussion on politics and Orthodoxy raised by mycroft… I don’t know why we’re discussing “neoconbservatism” as opposed to conservatism, but I agree with Raymond that Orthodoxy and what we now call Liberalism is an impossible fit, at least socially. Modern Liberalism is antagonistic to religion in general and traditional morality in particular. one does not have to believe that Jews have a responsibility to actively promote the sheva mitsvot b’ne noakh (ala R’ Scheerson) to know that we pasken that there is indeed an isur of lifne iver for us vis-a-vis goyim. That is, we can’t support homosexual marriage or vote for people who do, when it encourages that kind of coupling. I think you may have meant Modern Liberal economic policies and you are right of course. I might think they are wrongheaded, but certainly nothing in halakha speaks against them, and indeed the Orthodox Jews of NYC have a very chummy relationship with the Democratic Party which likes to give them money in return for votes. An anathema to conservatives. But the truth is that in the modern political climate and society, the economic liberalism and social liberalism are inseparable. This has been true for at least 30 years now.

    As to the Leftism brought in by Raymond, this is the other problem. Much of Modern Liberalism is influenced by Leftism and Progressivism. The problem there is that these aren;t ideas for how to help the poor, but substitutes of religion with their own eschatons. They leave no place for traditional religion (and indeed have historically been explicitly anti-religion). What Classical Liberalism (and today Conservatism) preach is allowing the faithful unfettered right to worship and use their community resources to support what they believe G-d wants. It is that reason that they are our natural allies in the secular political realm.

    So, mycroft, you can either start our own political movement or party which is socially conservative and fiscally liberal or you can join the more fiscally liberal wing of the Republican party. Because the social stuff is halakha and the fiscal stuff isn’t (as I think you admit).

    One final argument. I understand that some well-intentioned Orthodox Jews (I will include Michael Broyde in this), think that halakha mandates fiscal liberalism. And indeed, it is a challenge for a libertarian to read some of the market-torturing of khaza”l or even the communism-lite of portions of tana”kh. But what is important to remember is that these halakhot were given for the Jewish people, a people we consider to be mishpakha. This explains why we have special rules for Jew-to-Jew conduct (e.g. no interest) that do not apply to goyim. It’s because we are hateful and overly discriminatory, it is because we recognize that these are very special, radical even, rules that are not designed for a polyglot society, but for an insular Jewish society. These rules were not designed for the United States of America (in fact no rules were designed for such a large and populous country, which is why we have state and federal law, but that gets me onto a tangent of federalism). Instead, they are only binding and indeed only really work within relatively a small, like-minded, community. And that’s okay. And that’s what fiscal conservatism and libertarianism allow-–we can be part of a greater society and decide on our own how to help the community we feel attached to and with which we wish to associate (i.e. halakha and tora). Now you can say you would like fiscal halakha that only binds Jews-on-Jew behavior to inform secular American law and still be Orthodox, of course, but you cannot say that halakha compels this. And of course, as a biased conservative/libertarian, I would say that our obligation to help our society (and our own self-interest in increasing our society’s well-being so they don’t massacre us as scapegoats) would support the wealth-creating policies of conservatism/libertarianism, but I can still daven comfortably next to someone who sincerely thinks I’m wrong and that the way to help the poor is to keep them suckling on the teat of the welfare state.

  15. N Pfeiffer says:

    David Z –
    You wrote that “These rules were not designed for the United States of America” with regards to economic policy. Do you have any problem with saying the same thing about the Torah’s rules for morality?
    In addition, if the Torah was written as a guide for our daily life, why should we not allow our government to be informed by such views?

  16. c-l,c says:

    David Z.,
    That amounts to heresy!
    Is this an open Chapter 11 filing for Torah Im Derech Eretz, “Confrontation” and Torah U`Madda?!
    Or are you (plural) now ” coming out of the closet”?!

    [ A wise man once said on this regard “those who profess, don’t do ,and those who do , don’t need to profess”]

    Torah deals with every single elemental aspect of human existence

    “If it seems lacking..from you it’s lacking” (Talmud)

  17. Moshe S says:

    In response to Raymond who believes that if one were to come in contact with a spiritual giant he would become a “completely transformed spiritual human being” ;
    Jewish history has proven otherwise. It has shown the Jewish nation in contact with Moshe Rabbainu, the greatest spiritual leader of all time, face God at Mount Sinai, then worshiping the golden calf not more than a few weeks later. They faced spiritual greatness but were not miraculously transformed.
    While meeting a spiritual giant shows us a certain perspective of greatness it doesn’t transform us. The spiritual transformation can only happen by the actions and mindsets of a person living by the word God. It’s a slow process, but like the way of all great things, spiritual transformation come through hard work and sacrifices.

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