Based in New York City, The Tikvah Fund claims “Our animating mission and guiding spirit is to advance Jewish excellence and Jewish flourishing in the modern age.” They do this largely through education and publication, supported by the right-wing Jewish community.
It’s my guess that a resounding 99.99% of Americans have never heard of the Tikvah fund. That doesn’t take anything away from their work, it just suggests that they haven’t much clout.
Tikvah hosts a few week-long summer seminars dedicated to educating students about various aspects of Jewish/Israeli culture and politics. A day before the application deadline they reached out to me, seemingly begging me to sign up for one of their programs:
“The Meaning of Jewish Nationalism: From the Hebrew Bible to Modern Zionism” with Yoram Hazony may be interesting to you (he wrote powerfully about nationalism and the West here: https://mosaicmagazine.com/essay/2016/09/nationalism-and-the-future-of-western-freedom/), but perhaps there are others you might also find appealing. In any case, I’m including a short writeup on all our summer programs below”
This was in response to an op-ed I had written for The Times of Israel. I explained to him that Jewish nationalism was not of particular interest to me, however the US-Israel Strategic Alliance seminar sounded fascinating.
He responded gleefully, and told me they’d even extend the deadline so I could submit the application. Reluctantly, I wrote a three-page essay on the Arab/Israeli conflict, the influence John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government has had on my political thought, and why I think I’m a good fit for the program.
Next, a fellow from Tikvah called me on Skype to speak for a half hour, with her first question being “You’re not Jewish, are you?” This is not at all to suggest that they didn’t accept me because of my ethnic/religious status, but it was an interesting way to start the conversation, to be sure. I thought the talk went pretty well, but I had the feeling that this wasn’t a very open minded program and my contrarian views would be discarded as opposed to embraced.
3 weeks later, after what was apparently a long deliberation, Alan Rubinstein informed me:
Thank you for your interest in Tikvah’s summer programs. We appreciated the opportunity to learn more about your interests and background through your application and are grateful for the time you gave for an interview.
We regret that we will not be able to offer you a place at this time. We received applications from many outstanding applicants and had to make a number of very tough choices.”
Thank you for my interest in Tikvah’s summer programs?! Had your institute not reached out to me, I surely would have never heard of you.
I replied to Alan saying
“Alan, thanks. My only advice would be not to have your staff reach out to people and tell them they should apply, and then, after they've wasted time and energy writing essays and conducting a Skype interview, regretfully inform them they wont be accepted. Why even reach out?
This will only cause spite towards your institution from people who may be influential someday.”
He didn’t have the courage to respond - I gave him three full days before publishing this column.
I regret even playing Tikvah up by mentioning them, but when something like this happens I assume I’m not special and that it happens to many others. Unfortunately not everyone has a public platform to air their grievances, so I must speak for all of us.
Long story short: If you’re thinking of donating to Jewish causes, there are much better places to take your money. Whatever you do, don’t support the Tikvah Fund.