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.

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…

Gary Smith, "Distrust: Big Data, Data-Torturing, and the Assault on Science" (Oxford UP, 2023)

August 27, 2023


Gary Smith
Hosted by Renee Garfinkel

There is no doubt science is currently suffering from a credibility crisis. Gary Smith's book Distrust: Big Data, Data-Torturing, and the Assault on S…

Gadi Sagiv, "Jewish Blues: A History of a Color in Judaism" (U Pennsylvania Press, 2023)

August 13, 2023

Jewish Blues

Gadi Sagiv
Hosted by Renee Garfinkel

Gadi Sagiv's book Jewish Blues: A History of a Color in Judaism (U Pennsylvania Press, 2023) presents a broad cultural, social, and intellectual histo…

Tara Isabella Burton, "Self-Made: Creating Our Identities from Da Vinci to the Kardashians" (PublicAffairs, 2023)

July 27, 2023


Tara Isabella Burton
Hosted by Renee Garfinkel

In a technologically-saturated era where nearly everything can be effortlessly and digitally reproduced, we're all hungry to carve out our own unique …

The Art of Translation: A Discussion with Anne Birkenhauer Molad

July 22, 2023

The Art of Translation

Anne Birkenhauer Molad
Hosted by Renee Garfinkel

Translation is a mysterious process that combines the elements of writing – rhythm and voice, meaning, structure and nuance – with the challenge of pr…

Housing Insecurity and Homelessness: A Nonprofit Approach

June 14, 2023

Housing Insecurity and Homelessness: A Nonprofit Approach

Efrat Altshul Schorr
Hosted by Renee Garfinkel

The problem of housing insecurity and homelessness consumes the resources of many of the world’s major cities. Homelessness undermines urban cultures…

Daniel Gordis, "Impossible Takes Longer: 75 Years After Its Creation, Has Israel Fulfilled Its Founders' Dreams?" (Ecco Press, 2023)

May 17, 2023

Impossible Takes Longer

Daniel Gordis
Hosted by Renee Garfinkel

In 1948, Israel’s founders had much more in mind than the creation of a state. They sought not mere sovereignty but also a “national home for the Je…

Benjamin Balint, "Bruno Schulz: An Artist, a Murder, and the Hijacking of History" (Norton, 2023)

May 10, 2023

Bruno Schulz

Benjamin Balint
Hosted by Renee Garfinkel

The twentieth-century artist Bruno Schulz was born an Austrian, lived as a Pole, and died a Jew. First a citizen of the Habsburg monarchy, he would,…

Daniel Roth, "Third-Party Peacemakers in Judaism: Text, Theory, and Practice" (Oxford UP, 2021)

May 3, 2023

Third-party Peacemakers in Judaism

Daniel Roth
Hosted by Renee Garfinkel

In the race to discover real solutions for the conflicts that plague contemporary society, it is essential that we look to precedent. Many of today's …