Doors Open


Early Breakouts

(Participants Choose One)

Jews on Campus: Our Challenges and Our Strategy

Tamara Berens, Talia Katz, and Jonathan Silver

What’s it like to be a traditional Jew on campus today? Zionism is despised. Traditional Jewish ideas about faith and family are thought to be antiquated and discriminatory. Anti-Semitism has worsened, with threats of physical violence growing more common. In this session, two student leaders will bring their reports from the front lines of the campus conflicts. Tamara Berens recently graduated from King’s College, London, home of the global BDS movement, where she led her university’s Israel Society and founded a campaign to abolish Safe Spaces on campus. Talia Katz recently graduated from the University of Michigan where she mounted a press offensive to challenge her peers and her university to combat anti-Semitism. Between the protests and boycotts, identity taboos, anti-Jewish graffiti, and Apartheid Wall dramatics, Jewish students are exposing themselves to ostracism and ridicule, if not danger.

Given the state of affairs on campus, what should Jewish students and their loved ones do? The Jewish Leadership Conference’s executive director, Jonathan Silver, joins Ms. Berens and Ms. Katz to uncover the sources of today’s campus challenges, and to propose a realistic strategy for students that strengthens Jewish identity and deepens Jewish learning.

The Conservative Agenda in Israel: Key Policy Reforms to Strengthen Freedom in the Jewish State

Moshe Koppel and Amiad Cohen

We are living through a moment of incredible turmoil and uncertainty in Israeli political life. But at a deeper, underlying level, Israel is a conservative society that is increasingly open to conservative ideas. A new generation of leadership is needed to articulate and advance a new governing agenda that brings together tradition, freedom, security, and prosperity. Two of the leaders of this burgeoning movement will explain what is happening on the ground in Israel today. Join Moshe Koppel, founder and chairman of the Kohelet Policy Forum, and Amiad Cohen, head of the Tikvah Fund’s operations in Israel, to hear why limited government, economic freedom, a democratically accountable judiciary, and an intellectual infrastructure rooted in the abiding wisdom of the West hold the keys to the Israeli future.

Morning Plenary Session


Jonathan Silver

The Purpose of Jewish Conservatism

Eric Cohen

Socialism and the Jews: An Autopsy

Ruth Wisse

When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, so did the momentum behind the socialist intellectuals of the West. The awful human costs of socialist totalitarianism had become clear to all, especially the Jews, whose refusal to melt away into class consciousness made them a special target in Israel and the Diaspora. The idea that you could understand the truth of human affairs or govern a nation through class struggle, secularism, and a centrally planned economy was left to decompose on the trash heap of history.

Or so we thought. At the center of American culture, the social discord of class conflict has reemerged in the categories of race and identity, and in the heart of American politics, central planning breathes renewed life. Why have so many Jews in the modern age been tempted by the socialist vision? Why did attempts to blend Judaism and Socialism fail? Why are the Jewish and the socialist worldviews in such tension?  Join former Harvard professor and distinguished senior fellow at the Tikvah Fund, Ruth Wisse, to understand what socialism’s reemergence means and how to fight against it.

Anti-Semitism in America: How to Counter the Threats We Face

Malcolm Hoenlein

The problem of anti-Semitism seems to be getting more severe: Young Jews are being physically attacked and intellectually ostracized on campuses across the country; religious Jews are being beaten up on the streets; anti-Israel sentiment is on the rise in progressive movements at home and abroad; and Jews are once again being used as convenient objects of hatred to mobilize Islamist, fascist, and anti-Western movements around the world. Do American Jews have a strategy to confront this grave challenge to Jewish sovereignty, Jewish dignity, and Jewish security? And how do we prepare the rising generation of American Jews, in particular, to stand up for the Jewish people, the Jewish State, and Jewish principles?

Israel's Role Among the Nations

Yoram Hazony

The biblical prophets dreamed of a time when the nations of the world would turn to Israel for inspiration. Is this just fantasy or could it really happen? As the nationalist revival of recent years has touched one nation after another, Israel’s star seems to be rising as non-Jews turn for intellectual resources to the Hebraic political tradition and to the Jewish state, the most impressive nationalist enterprise in the modern era.

In this keynote speech, Israeli intellectual Yoram Hazony, author of ISI’s 2019 Conservative Book of the Year, The Virtue of Nationalism, brings together political analysis, intellectual history, and Scripture to consider the unfolding miracle of Jewish nationalism and its place in the world. Does the Israel of today have the confidence to share its teaching with the West and contribute to its restoration? Or will the dysfunction and loss of direction afflicting parts of the West instead bring Israel down?

Morning Breakout Sessions

(Participants Choose One)

The Israeli Culture Wars: Observations of a Haredi Conservative

R. Yehoshua Pfeffer

This past April, Israel held national elections that would either grant Prime Minster Netanyahu and his Likud party another term in office, or else designate a replacement. And for the first time since in Israeli history, the apparent victor could not assemble a governing Knesset majority, forcing the country to hold another election. In September, Israelis went back to the polls and, as of this writing, no coalition has emerged capable of establishing a new government.

At the very center of Israel’s political turbulence is the Ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) community. Will the government force Israel’s Haredim to join their fellow citizens in conscripted military service? How can this community – now a million strong – integrate into the Israeli economy and society without losing its distinctive vision of Jewish life? Rabbi Yehoshua Pfeffer, editor of the Israeli journal of Haredi thought and ideas, Tzarich Iyun, is one of the most important figures thinking about and shaping the future of haredi politics and culture in Israel. Learn about the culture war at the center of Israeli politics from one of the Haredi community’s most insightful leaders.

The Trump Doctrine: America, Israel, and the Middle East

Michael Doran

Since he took office, President Trump has pursued a Middle East strategy that has sometimes put him at odds with America’s foreign-policy establishment. The president’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria has provoked bipartisan backlash, angering not only his political adversaries, but also many friends in both America and Israel.

What if the consensus is mistaken? Hudson Institute Senior Fellow Michael Doran will help us understand the strategic concepts that inform the Trump Administration’s approach. By putting America’s latest decision in the framework of regional politics, the legacy of the Obama Administration, Iranian expansion, and Russia’s evolving role in the Middle East, Doran will shed light on the emerging Trump Doctrine, explain how it is shaping the U.S.-Israel relationship, and describe the challenges and opportunities it creates for Israel.

What Adam Smith Can Teach the Jews

Russ Roberts

Adam Smith is thought of as the father of capitalism, and so he is sometimes caricatured as a simpleminded advocate for self-interest, utility maximization, and the unlimited benefits of material prosperity. But one of America’s most gifted economic educators, host of the EconTalk podcast, and author of How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life, Russ Roberts believes that thinking about America in 2019 through a Smithian lens actually leads in a very different direction. Drawing on insights from Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Roberts finds that religious communities can develop the civic qualities that American society most needs. Roberts will explore how the very virtues that Smith thought necessary – self-government, sympathy, gratitude, and civility – are nursed in the communal life of religious Judaism, making it an example of the emergent order at the root of civil society. We’ll hear one of Smith’s most interesting interpreters consider how Jewish communities can cultivate moral sentiment, serving as a model for other communities who, together, can revitalize America from the bottom up.

Religious Freedom and the Courts

Neomi Rao, Mark Rienzi, and Daniel Mark

Since the founding, religious liberty and freedom of conscience have been fundamental to the American constitutional order, whose “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” But as American society has grown less religious, its tolerance for traditional beliefs and ritual has diminished. In 2019, religious Americans are facing troubling questions about whether traditional communities of faith can any longer flourish in the United States.

Some Jewish Americans, in particular, worry that government could come to restrict the moral teachings and obligations essential to the Jewish way of life. Will leaders of Jewish institutions be kept from the public square? How should Jewish leaders work to strengthen religious liberty in America? We’ll hear from Judge Neomi Rao, a federal judge appointed this past March to the United States Court of Appeals, Mark Rienzi, President of the Becket Fund, America’s leading legal and educational institute with a mission to protect the free expression of all faiths, and Daniel Mark, professor of political science at Villanova University and chairman of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.


2019 Herzl Prize Ceremony

Roger Hertog, John Podhoretz, and Norman Podhoretz, Herzl Prize Laureate

Afternoon Breakout Sessions

(Participants Choose One)

Israel and the Muscular Spirit of the West

Victor Davis Hanson

Parts of Europe and North America seem to have lost their self-confidence. We see pacifism and appeasement in the face of external threats, anemic birth-rates that suggest hopelessness, anxiety about defending national borders, and overwhelming shame about the national past. Religious devotion is down, and the cultures of the West are fractured.

But the eminent military historian Victor Davis Hanson believes that Israel is the exception. With significant national resources devoted to defense, an above average birth-rate (even among secular Israelis), a society that fosters religious observance, a culture of military service and national readiness, all while maintaining a democratic government, a market-oriented economic system, and defending the rights of its Jewish and non-Jewish citizens, Israel today exemplifies the very civilizational confidence that other parts of the West need to recover. What are the reasons for Israeli exceptionalism, and can these cultural characteristics inspire a revival of moral confidence elsewhere? Victor Davis Hanson brings his extensive knowledge of ancient and modern history to bear on the role that the Jewish State can now play in the energizing the West.

Winston Churchill: The Great British Zionist

Andrew Roberts

Winston Churchill was perhaps the greatest man of the 20th century, and he believed that the Jews had offered a larger contribution to the great causes of civilization than had any other people in human history. Churchill held that view not because of, but despite of the casual anti-Semitism of the British upper classes and aristocracy of the late-19th and early-20th century. That philo-Semitic affection moved Churchill to support Zionism, and it began a career-long endeavor to restore Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel. Join Andrew Roberts, whose authoritative Churchill: Walking with Destiny the New York Times has called “the best single-volume biography of Churchill yet written,” to learn the inspiring history of Churchill’s Zionism.

Afternoon Plenary Sessions

Modern Statesmanship: Why Leaders Matter

A conversation between Henry Kissinger and Roger Hertog

Secretary of State, National Security Advisor, penetrating strategist, Noble laureate, author of nearly twenty books, Henry Kissinger has been one of the most consequential global figures of the post-war era. For more than five decades, he counseled virtually every American president, and political leaders the world over. Perhaps no one understands why statesmanship matters more than Dr. Kissinger, who has worked intimately with so many leaders of consequence. In this intimate conversation with Jewish Leadership Conference Co-Chairman, Roger Hertog, Dr. Kissinger will look at leadership under the pressures of war. Taking us inside the moments of decision during Israel’s Yom Kippur War of 1973, Mr. Hertog and Dr. Kissinger will discuss U.S. President Richard Nixon, Israeli premier Golda Meir, and Egyptian president Anwar Sadat to help us think about the essence of modern leadership.

Jews: The Case for God

R. Meir Soloveichik

Theologians and scholars of the Hebrew Bible have long argued about the historicity of the Exodus, the authorship of the Torah, theodicy, and much else. But all agree that long ago, a small group of people appeared in history to declare that they had been chosen to play an extraordinary role in the world. Because of that declaration, the nations of the world would pay special attention this chosen people. The nations of the world would love them, and the nations of the world would despise them. By blessing the descendants of ancient Israel the nations of the world would be blessed. By cursing the descendants of ancient Israel, the nations of the world would be cursed. Israel—ancient and modern—has always been a small nation, but it has always been at the moral and political center of human affairs.

Am Yisrael Chai—the Jewish people lives—is a fact, but what is the theological meaning of this most improbable miracle? Rabbi Meir Soloveichik of Shearith Israel and Yeshiva University’s Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought will examine how Jewish history itself illustrates God’s enduring providence.

The Strategy of Jewish Conservatism and Farewell

Eric Cohen