Plenary Session


Jonathan Silver

The Strategy of Jewish Conservatism

Roger Hertog

At this second national gathering of Jewish conservatives, our chairman looks to the future. What is the best way to harness the passions of our community, and to serve the common good together? What institutions need to be built, what initiatives funded, what are the strategic priorities that will shape our work in the years to come?

Chairman of the Tikvah Fund and the Jewish Leadership Conference, president of the Hertog Foundation, and vice-chairman emeritus of AllianceBernstein, Roger Hertog will describe his vision of the new Jewish landscape where communal entrepreneurs can breathe new life into Jewish politics, Jewish philanthropy, and Jewish institutions.

BDS and the Jewish Institutions of America

Caroline Glick

The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement has spent millions on college campuses across North America. The ostensible target of their protest are Israeli settlements, the State of Israel, and the millions of citizens who live there. But Israel is not the ultimate target of BDS.

Author and Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick will argue that the ultimate targets of BDS are American Jews, particularly the American Jews most sympathetic to the disgraceful claims of BDS, those who lean to the political left. Remember back in June 2017 when lesbian activists were kicked out of Chicago’s “Dyke March” for raising flags that combined symbols of gay pride with the Star of David? The rising current of anti-Zionist, progressive doctrine will force the Jewish left to choose between its support for Israel and its progressive values. You can be on the left or you be a Zionist. But according to the left, you can’t be both.

The debasement of Israel by the anti-Zionist left is not merely an attack on the Middle East’s only democracy and the political refuge for history’s most persecuted people, it is also a way to establish political litmus tests that are designed to uniquely discriminate against Jewish Americans. Unless and until Jewish institutions understand the true political strategy of the BDS movement, they will not be effective in their opposition to it or in their support for the State of Israel on campuses, in the left-leaning media, or in American culture.

A Tribute to the Legacy of Charles Krauthammer Z"L

William Kristol and Rich Lowry

Charles Krauthammer z’l leaves a legacy of bold ideas, political analysis, and cultural commentary. He was an American treasure, a Zionist champion, and a student of Jewish ideas. The loss of Charles Krauthammer leaves the American public square without its cornerstone conservative writer.

William Kristol, founding editor of the Weekly Standard, and Rich Lowry, editor of National Review, will reflect on Dr. Krauthammer’s seminal writing, distinguished career, and his life dedicated to the things that matter. Join two of the most prominent editors as they pay tribute to this generation’s most important conservative columnist.

Break and Booths


Awarding the Tikvah Fund's Herzl Prize to Natan Sharansky

Award Given by Roger Hertog
Natan Sharansky in conversation with Elliott Abrams

The Tikvah Fund is awarding its inaugural Herzl Prize to Soviet refusenik, human rights champion, influential author, Israeli statesman, and former chairman of the Jewish Agency, Natan Sharansky.

Natan Sharansky’s life is a portrait of Jewish courage in the modern age. Whether he was fighting Soviet oppression, championing human rights, arguing for the human goods of democracy, Natan Sharansky’s Jewish identity has always driven his most consequential achievements.

At this historic, marquee session, Elliott Abrams will interview Mr. Sharansky. They will discuss his life as a young man in the Soviet Union and his rise to become a leader of the dissident movement there. They will discuss his captivity, freedom, immigration to Israel, and his life as a new immigrant already engaged in public life. Together, they will probe Mr. Sharansky’s most important writing, including his Case for Democracy that inspired the Bush administration in which Mr. Abrams was a key player. We’ll learn about Mr. Sharansky’s achievements as a Zionist elder statesman, his views of America, and how he sees contemporary global politics.

Breakout Session A

(Participants Choose One)

Israel's Founding Fathers

Martin Kramer

The creation of Israel is a story that can be told in many ways: as an oppressed people’s struggle for survival, as a typical movement of colonization, even as a work of Divine Providence. Historians tell the story in whatever fashion confirms their own view of what drives history.

But no one can fail to detect the dominant role of individual leaders in the rise of Israel. Theodor Herzl stirred the Jews of Europe to see a Jewish state as a feasible project. Chaim Weizmann persuaded the world’s greatest power to shelter the movement. And David Ben-Gurion inspired a mere 600,000 Jews to win a war of independence. Subtract any one of the three, and Zionism may have fallen short of its goal of a sovereign Jewish state.

Most great national revivals are driven by one transformative champion, or a group belonging to a single generation (such as America’s founding fathers). How is it possible that, over three generations, three visionary geniuses arose to lead the Jews to restored national independence? In this lecture, founding President of Shalem College and distinguished Zionist historian Martin Kramer will argue that the rise of Israel, one of the most improbable success stories in the annals of history, constituted the eruption of two millennia of suppressed longing so profound, that it raised up not one Moses but three. The birth of Israel did not take place outside human history, but it did occur on its furthest edge, where individuals have an outsized impact. It is the story of some of the greatest Jews who ever lived.

Can the Universities be Saved? A Jewish View

Peter Berkowitz and Elliot Kaufman

No institution of public life touches American Jews more than American colleges and universities. There are more Jews that pass through these institutions of higher education than through synagogues, summer camps, or youth groups. So the American Jewish community has a deep interest in what happens there.

And on campuses today, inside and outside of the classroom, there is much for the American Jewish community to worry about. Israel and Jewish national pride are ridiculed or scorned. Traditional Jewish ideas about family and faith are seen as obsolete or primitive. Anti-Semitism haunts the campus.

What has been the response of Jewish institutions on campus, from the non-denominational to the orthodox? How should Jewish family members be thinking about equipping their children and grandchildren to survive the university years with their Jewish commitments in tact? And how do the unique challenges that Jewish students face relate to the larger crisis of the liberal arts, the rule of law, and the freedom of speech on campuses throughout the country?

Join Hoover Institution Senior Fellow, renown teacher, and regular writer on campus issues, Peter Berkowitz, along with recent Stanford University graduate and current Wall Street Journal writer Elliot Kaufmann, for a look at one of the most consequential environments for the future of American Jewry.

Israel's Haredi Challenge

R. Yehoshua Pfeffer

There are now about one million Haredi Israelis, and their numbers are projected to continue growing over time. They are not well integrated into the cultural and civic life of Israel, and that fact constitutes one of the great challenges facing the Jewish state in the coming decades.

If Israel is to continue flourishing in the areas of economics, defense, health, and technology, it will need to incorporate this large and growing sector without undermining its unique way of life. And if Israel is to continue achieving its mission as the Jewish nation-state, then this will involve Haredi participation in the civic responsibility of nation building.

The Haredi integration movement is slowly gaining traction, but like every social movement, it requires strong intellectual foundations. Given the nature of Haredi Judaism, the insights of conservative sociology, conservative public policy research, and conservative political philosophy can enrich the foundations of the Haredi integration into Israeli public life.

Join the distinguished Haredi dayan, Hebrew University law school graduate, Israeli Supreme Court clerk, and editor of the Tikvah Fund’s journal of Haredi intellectual life, Tzarich Iyun, Rabbi Yehoshua Pfeffer as he describes Israel’s Haredi challenge.

The Meaning of Israeli Exceptionalism

Dan Senor and Seth Seigel

Israel’s population, including Jews and non-Jews alike, was recently counted at just over 8.5 million people. There are roughly as many citizens of Israel as there are inhabitants of New York City, and fewer Israelis than there are residents of Moscow, Istanbul, and Beijing. The city of Shanghai has nearly three times as many people as the Jewish State altogether.

And yet, this small country, under constant military threat, facing persistent ideological opposition, with whole sectors of the economy still languishing under the socialist legacy of Israel’s early years, the Israeli economy emerged as one of the most dynamic, creative, and entrepreneurial economies in the world.

In 2009, Israel was the home of research and development operations for 126 multinational corporations and the home to more investment dollars per capita than any other country. Since then, that number has almost tripled.

How did this happen? What in Israeli education, Israeli immigration, and Israeli culture is the creative source of Israel’s innovative economy? How does it sustain the entrepreneurial eco-system that has transformed global high-tech and ushered in a water revolution?

Join Dan Senor, author of Start-Up Nation, and Seth Siegel, author of Let There Be Water, both active entrepreneurs, to learn about the creativity that fuels the Israeli economy and that is sought after by the most innovative corporations in the world.

Jews, Muslims, and the Crisis of Europe

Douglas Murray and Daniel Johnson

Last year, British Jews experienced the highest number of anti-Semitic incidents since 1984. In France, the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, and throughout the European continent, Islamist attacks against Jews and Jewish institutions have risen precipitously. Within living memory of the Shoah, Europe’s Jews are again worried for their safety and well-being in nations where they have lived for over one thousand years.

Why is this happening? What do the conditions of European Jewry reveal about the character of European nations, the ideals of European politics, and the trade-offs that European leaders are making? And with millions of new Muslim immigrants coming from societies imbued with anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic sentiment joining forces with a resurgent, leftist ideology opposed to Israel and Jewish particularism, do European leaders have a strategy to combat the anti-Semitism in their midst, or is it really time for the Jews of Europe to leave for good?

Political analyst and author of The Strange Death of Europe, Douglas Murray, joins Standpoint editor Daniel Johnson to survey the European horizon and to think hard about the dilemmas confronting the Jewish communities of Britain and Europe, and the fateful choices now confronting European Jews and European leaders.

Breakout Session B

(Participants Choose One)

The Education of a Jewish Conservative

Ruth Wisse

Over her many years of political and cultural analysis in the pages of the Wall Street Journal, Commentary, and Mosaic, and in her books If I am Not for Myself and Jews and Power, Ruth Wisse has been a north star for Jewish conservatives. What were the formative intellectual influences that shaped her worldview? What does she recommend that can shape our own?

At last year’s conference, Professor Wisse drew lessons for Jewish conservatives from the literature of Isaac Babel, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and S.Y Agnon. This year, she focuses on Jacob Glatstein.

As the dangers escalated for Jews across Europe in the 1920s and 1930s, some Jews who had emigrated from there to this country realized that American freedoms threatened—not their personal, but their collective—survival. Without yielding their individuality, how could they sustain the golden chain of Jewish continuity? Was it necessary to choose between the kerosene lamp and the neon lights, between the God of Abraham and faith in progress?

In raising such questions, one of the keenest of those immigrants, Jacob Glatstein, charted his own brilliant path to a set of insights that can even today serve to revitalize Jewish conservatism in America.

Updating Pew: The State of Jewish America Now

Alan Cooperman and Jonathan Silver

In October 2013, the Pew Research Center released its “Portrait of Jewish Americans.” Data collected by Pew indicates a rise in the proportions of Jews who do not identify as Jewish by religion, a decline in religious observance among younger Jews, and the difficulties the liberal movements have in retaining the allegiance of their younger cohorts. Pew also measured major differences between the movements in how their adherents understand and participate in Jewish life.

Now, five years on, what new information do we have about the state of American Jewry? Have the trends identified in the 2013 report continued the trajectory one might have thought? How have changes in the religious complexion of the Jewish community and American public life affected the Jewish population of the United States?

Alan Cooperman, director of religion research at the Pew Research Center, was the main author of the 2013 report, and will offer new data that brings his earlier portrait up to date. He will be joined by Jonathan Silver of the Tikvah Fund and the Jewish Leadership Conference, who will suggest how this data informs the future of Jewish conservatism in America.

Religion and Nationalism: A Conservative View

Yoram Hazony and Jonathan Haidt

Nationalism is the most vital challenge of this political moment. From the President Trump’s election on the basis of his “America First” platform to the British people’s vote to withdraw from the European Union, to debates about immigration and migration throughout the Middle East, Europe, Central America, and North America, the questions of borders, political limits, and sovereign independence are the defining questions of our age. In his stirring new book, The Virtue of Nationalism, president of the Herzl Institute and Israeli philosopher Yoram Hazony argues that a world governed by independent nations is a positive good and worth defending.

In the course of his argument, Hazony recovers an older meaning of political conservatism, one based not on Enlightenment doctrines of the social contract or modern rationalism, but inspired by the ideas of the Hebrew Bible. That older conservative tradition is the political philosophy that comes to life not in empire or global government, but in free, self-governing nations.

And there are few more interesting analysts of the roots of moral and political ideas than the social psychologist, author, and New York University professor, Jonathan Haidt. Join this lively conversation between Yoram Hazony and Jonathan Haidt to examine the deeper ideas at the core of today’s most spirited debates.

The Moral Case for Conservative Ideas

Arthur Brooks and Eric Cohen

Seen through the lens of electoral politics, the 2016 election was an incredible victory for the Republican Party, which now controls both houses of Congress, a majority of state houses across the country, and of course, the presidency. Republican victories offer a unique opportunity for conservative ideas to shape our public institutions and legal culture. But what is conservatism today? And what can religious and moral voices contribute to conservative thought and conservative policy at this American moment?

In this session, the president of the American Enterprise Institute, Arthur Brooks, and executive director of the Tikvah Fund, Eric Cohen, analyze the state of conservative ideas. Focusing on the contributions of the Jewish and Christian traditions, Brooks and Cohen will discuss the vital role that America’s religious communities have to play in the renewal of conservatism and the renewal of a shared vision of society in which freedom and faith work together to revitalize the public square.

The Political Lessons of the Soviet Jewry Movement

Elliott Abrams

The American Jewish community took an almost entirely unified position in support of Soviet Jewry—in the end. But the internal struggle within the community was sometimes fierce. The relationship between the struggle of Soviet Jews and the larger battle for human rights in the USSR was debated. How to work with, or against, the administrations then in power in Washington was controversial. The leaders of the most prestigious Jewish organizations often came very late to the battlefield and insurgent organizations sprang up. The conduct of the community toward European Jewry during the Nazi era was said to be on everyone’s mind, but what exactly that meant was never clear.

Elliott Abrams’s career would eventually take him to President Reagan’s State Department and President George W. Bush’s national security council. But it began with Henry “Scoop” Jackson and Daniel Patrick Moynihan in the Senate, where Mr. Abrams had a firsthand view of how Jewish power and American idealism can together bring about transformative political change. At this pivotal moment in the history of the West, this session will look at the lessons that can be learned from the story of the Soviet Jewry movement in the United States.

Final Plenary

Judges, Lawmakers, and the Future of Israeli Conservatism

Ayelet Shaked

Israel is a democratic and Jewish State, and responsible public servants need to nurture both of these national goods. But for the last several decades, Israel’s democratic character has been challenged by its Supreme Court, whose unelected judges have arrogated to themselves legislative functions that do not belong to them, effectively supplanting the democratically elected lawmakers of the Knesset. Israel’s activist judiciary threatens the freedoms of Israeli citizens.

Since 2015, Ayelet Shaked has served as Israel’s Minister of Justice, and she joins us in New York to lay out her vision for reestablishing the Knesset as Israel’s democratically elected legislative branch, for restoring the Israeli balance between Jewish and democratic principles, and for instituting the conservative reforms that Israel needs for effective governance.

Jewish Conservatism Among the Almost Chosen People

R. Meir Soloveichik

In February 1861, on the way to his inauguration as America’s 16th president, Abraham Lincoln stopped in Trenton, New Jersey, where he described himself as a “humble instrument in the hands of the Almighty, and of this, his almost chosen people, for perpetuating the object of that great struggle.” In describing Americans as an “almost chosen people,” Lincoln points to the Hebrew Bible and the miraculous story of the Jewish People as the American model of a particular nation with a distinctive purpose and universal significance.

Americans no longer share a common understanding of the meaning of America’s “great struggle.” What is this nation for? What did Abraham Lincoln mean when he called the American people “almost chosen”? Freedom is essential to the American constitutional order, but Lincoln thought the soul of the nation was destined for “something even more than National Independence; that something that held out a great promise to all the people of the world to all time to come.”

Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik of Congregation Shearith Israel and Yeshiva University will shed light on the debate gripping America about the meaning of nationalism, our civic identity, the role of religion in the public square, and how both biblical and philosophical ideas inspired the American founding and American public life to this day.

Parting Words

Roger Hertog

Cocktail Reception