Van Leer Institute Series on Ideas with Renee Garfinkel

Van Leer Institute Series on Ideas with Renee Garfinkel


The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute cultivates innovative interdisciplinary research into publicly-significant questions, reflecting our commitment to a just, open society, well-integrated in the region.

Judith Lewis Herman, "Truth and Repair: How Trauma Survivors Envision Justice" (Basic Books, 2023)

June 7, 2024

Truth and Repair

Judith Lewis Herman
Hosted by Renee Garfinkel

Judith Herman is renowned for her groundbreaking work with survivors of trauma, including sexual trauma. Her earlier books include Trauma and Recover…

Thomas Sparr, "German Jerusalem: The Remarkable Life of a German-Jewish Neighbourhood in the Holy City" (Haus Publishers, 2021)

June 4, 2024

German Jerusalem

Thomas Sparr
Hosted by Renee Garfinkel

In the 1920s, before the establishment of the state of Israel, a group of German Jews settled in a garden city on the outskirts of Jerusalem. During…

Carl Zimmer, "Life's Edge: The Search For What it Means to be Alive" (Dutton, 2022)

May 10, 2024

Life's Edge

Carl Zimmer
Hosted by Renee Garfinkel

Carl Zimmer investigates one of the biggest questions of all: What is life? The answer seems obvious until you try to seriously answer it. Is the appl…

David Tal, "The Making of an Alliance: The Origins and Development of the US-Israel Relationship" (Cambridge UP, 2022)

May 8, 2024

The Making of an Alliance

David Tal
Hosted by Renee Garfinkel

Laying the foundation for an understanding of US-Israeli relations, this lively and accessible book provides critical background on the origins and de…

Seth D. Kaplan, "Fragile Neighborhoods: Repairing American Society, One Zip Code at a Time" (Little, Brown Spark, 2023)

April 14, 2024

Fragile Neighborhoods

Seth D. Kaplan
Hosted by Renee Garfinkel

The neighborhoods we live in impact our lives in so many ways: they determine who we know, what resources and opportunities we have access to, the qua…

Eric Hoffer's "The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements" (1951): A Discussion with Jay Garfinkel

April 10, 2024

Eric Hoffer's "The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements" (1951)

Eric Hoffer
Hosted by Renee Garfinkel

A stevedore on the San Francisco docks in the 1940s, who eventually taught at the University of California at Berkeley, Eric Hoffer wrote philosophi…

Brothers and Sisters for Israel (“Achim Baneshek”): A Conversation with Ronen Koehler

April 1, 2024

Brothers and Sisters for Israel (“Achim Baneshek”)

Ronen Koehler
Hosted by Renee Garfinkel

How does an organization change in an instant, shift its focus and mission in response to a new reality? One volunteer organization did just that. I…

Kenneth Miller, "Mapping the Darkness: The Visionary Scientists Who Unlocked the Mysteries of Sleep" (Hachette Books, 2023)

March 8, 2024

Mapping the Darkness

Kenneth Miller
Hosted by Renee Garfinkel

Why do we sleep? How can we improve our sleep? A century ago, sleep was considered a state of nothingness—even a primitive habit that we could learn …

Paul Scharre, "Four Battlegrounds: Power in the Age of Artificial Intelligence" (Norton, 2023)

February 24, 2024

Four Battlegrounds

Paul Scharre
Hosted by Renee Garfinkel

An award-winning defense expert tells the story of today’s great power rivalry―the struggle to control artificial intelligence. A new industrial re…

Mike Caulfield and Sam Wineburg, "Verified: How to Think Straight, Get Duped Less, and Make Better Decisions about What to Believe Online" (U Chicago Press, 2023)

February 10, 2024


Mike Caulfield and Sam Wineburg
Hosted by Renee Garfinkel

An indispensable guide for telling fact from fiction on the internet—often in less than 30 seconds. The internet brings information to our fingertips…

John Horgan, "Terrorist Minds: The Psychology of Violent Extremism from Al-Qaeda to the Far Right" (Columbia UP, 2023)

February 8, 2024

Terrorist Minds

John Horgan
Hosted by Renee Garfinkel

What makes a person want to become a terrorist? Who becomes involved in terrorism, and why? In what ways does participating in violent extremism chang…

What Can We Learn From A Pottery Shard? Uncovering the Ancient Past Through Biblical Archeology with Professor Aren Maeir

January 17, 2024

What Can We Learn From A Pottery Shard?

Aren Maeir
Hosted by Renee Garfinkel

Some people are good at what they do, some are enthusiastic about their work. This guest brings both to bear in his exploration of the ancient past.…

Matthew Levitt, "Hamas: Politics, Charity, and Terrorism in the Service of Jihad" (Yale UP, 2008)

January 14, 2024


Matthew Levitt
Hosted by Renee Garfinkel

The world is reeling from the savage terror attack that brutalized, raped, murdered and kidnapped Israelis and civilians from at least 25 other countr…

Con Coughlin, "Assad: The Triumph of Tyranny" (Picador, 2023)

January 12, 2024


Con Coughlin
Hosted by Renee Garfinkel

In Assad: The Triumph of Tyranny (Picador, 2023), Con Coughlin, veteran commentator on war in the Middle East and author of Saddam: The Secret Life, e…

John Perlin, "The Forest Journey: The Story of Trees and Civilization" (Patagonia, 2023)

December 4, 2023

The Forest Journey

John Perlin
Hosted by Renee Garfinkel

A Foundational Conservation Story Revived. Ancient writers observed that forests always recede as civilizations develop and grow. The great Roman poe…

Dan Senor and Saul Singer, "The Genius of Israel: The Surprising Resilience of a Divided Nation in a Turbulent World" (Simon and Schuster, 2023)

November 26, 2023

The Genius of Israel

Dan Senor and Saul Singer
Hosted by Renee Garfinkel

How has a small nation of 9 million people, forced to fight for its existence and security since its founding and riven by ethnic, religious, and econ…

The Enlightened Donor: How to Give Charity Wisely

November 22, 2023

The Enlightened Donor

Arnie Draiman
Hosted by Renee Garfinkel

Motivated by compassion and hope, and the shared desire to make the world a better place, the immense amount of charitable giving stands as a testamen…

Jeremy Howick, "The Power of Placebos: Unlocking Their Potential to Improve Health Care" (Johns Hopkins UP, 2023)

November 5, 2023

The Power of Placebos

Jeremy Howick
Hosted by Renee Garfinkel

Should your doctor prescribe a placebo for you, instead of conventional medicine? And if she did, would it work? Is the double-blind placebo-control…

Itamar Rabinovich, "Middle Eastern Maze: Israel, the Arabs and the Region" (Brookings Institution Press, 2023)

October 25, 2023

Middle Eastern Maze

Itamar Rabinovich
Hosted by Renee Garfinkel

Navigating through the intricate web of Middle Eastern geopolitics, few are better equipped to provide insights than Itamar Rabinovich in his compelli…

Andrew J. Hoffman, "The Engaged Scholar: Expanding the Impact of Academic Research in Today’s World" (Stanford UP, 2021)

September 23, 2023

The Engaged Scholar

Andrew J. Hoffman
Hosted by Renee Garfinkel

Society and democracy are ever threatened by the fall of fact. Rigorous analysis of facts, the hard boundary between truth and opinion, and fidelity t…