Episode #26 – Daniel Gordis, Senior VP of Shalem College, Author, Writer & Thought Leader

January 4, 2021

Dr. Daniel Gordis is Senior Vice President, Koret Distinguished Fellow, and Chair of the Core Curriculum at Shalem College. Previously the vice president of the Mandel Foundation in Israel and director of its Leadership Institute, Gordis was also the founding dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles. Author of numerous books, a regular columnist for Bloomberg View and The Jerusalem Post, and a frequent contributor to the New York TimesThe Times of Israel, and other leading news outlets, Gordis lectures throughout the world on Israeli society, American-Israeli relations, and the challenges facing the Jewish state.

Dr. Gordis is a two-time winner of the National Jewish Book Award, first for Saving Israel: How the Jewish People Can Win a War That May Never End (Wiley, 2010), and then for his Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn (Ecco, 2017), a comprehensive yet accessible single-volume history of the state of Israel from its inception to the present day.

Dr. Gordis’s other books include Menachem Begin: The Battle for Israel’s Soul (Nextbook, 2014), an original examination of Israel’s sixth Prime Minister, and The Promise of Israel, Why Its Seemingly Greatest Weakness is Actually its Greatest Strength (Wiley, 2012), which was named by Jewish Ideas Daily as one of the “best Jewish books of 2012.”

On this episode of Jewanced, we discussed the following topics and more with Daniel:

  • Shalem College, Israel’s first liberal arts college.
    • We review the typical Israeli post-secondary education model and Daniel explains why a place like Shalem is so necessary
  • Daniel shares some thoughts about his recent Covid-19 vaccination that demonstrate the efficiency of the process in Israel and an ‘only in Israel’ moment
  • Jewish life in the post-Coronavirus crisis era: we talk about how life for Jews in America is going to become harder, for how Jews in Israel, life is going to become easier, and how that affects relations between the two communities
  • The renaissance of Jewish learning in North America amongst non-traditional streams of Judaism
  • The potential societal impact of an Israel at peace with her neighbors on Israelis, Arabs, and on American Jewry and legacy Jewish organizations in the US
  • The shifting hierarchies of power in the Jewish religious world (in all of its streams) and the possible effects of the post-Covid reality on Haredi society
  • The irrelevancy of the streams of American Judaism (Reform, Conservative, Orthodox – all American creations) in Israel for Israelis
  • How Americans perceive being Jewish primarily as a religion whereas in Israel, being Jewish is perceived (traditional stance) as a tribal peoplehood – ethnicity with a specific belief system – Judaism. I.E. in America, Jew is to Christian whereas in Israel, Jew is to Arab. Another example is that in America, one would answer the question ‘who is more Jewish’ based on their level of religious observance whereas in Israel, it’s a ridiculous question. One’s level of observance has nothing to do with whether one is more or less Jewish than another. You can’t be more or less Jewish.
  • Worry about the substance of North America Judaism in a context where Israel is less of a tying bind or issue
  • The ‘burning out’ of Tikkun Olam as what being Jewish is about in the US
  • American Jews, Israelis, and resilience
  • Zionism, social change and liberation movements
  • Daniel talks about his relationship with Peter Beinart who, he feels, as an advocate for the end of Zionism and Israel as a Jewish State has become an enemy of the Jewish people
  • What Jewish and Democratic looks like in the Israeli context

Links to purchase books by Daniel Gordis:

  • We Stand Divided: The Rift Between American Jews and Israel on Amazon
  • Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn on Amazon
  • The Promise of Israel: Why Its Seemingly Greatest Weakness Is Actually Its Greatest Strength on Amazon
  • Saving Israel: How the Jewish People Can Win a War That May Never End on Amazon
  • Home to Stay: One American Family’s Chronicle of Miracles and Struggles in Contemporary Israel on Amazon
  • If a Place Can Make You Cry: Dispatches from an Anxious State on Amazon
  • Becoming a Jewish Parent: How to Explore Spirituality and Tradition With Your Children on Amazon
  • Does the World Need the Jews on Amazon
  • God Was Not in the Fire: The Search for a Spiritual Judaism on Amazon

Other Links:

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