Natan Sharansky Returns to Shalem to Teach Seminar on Democracy, Identity, and the Nation State
With the end of his nearly decade-long tenure as chairman of the Jewish Agency approaching this past August, Natan Sharansky, the renowned Prisoner of Zion, statesman, human rights activist, author, Israel Prize winner, and former head of Shalem’s Institute for Strategic Studies, sought a meaningful way to continue his contribution to the state to which he has devoted his professional life. He believes he’ll find it, alongside his public roles, in the seminar rooms at Shalem.
“Natan approached us because he felt that by engaging our students in a conversation about topics central to the survival and flourishing of a Jewish and democratic state, he would be helping to shape the worldview of the country’s future leaders,” explained Dr. Daniel Gordis, Shalem senior vice president, chair of the Core Curriculum Department, and Koret Distinguished Fellow. “It was an enormous vote of confidence in our vision for the college and an affirmation of our approach to building a cohort of influential citizens for Israel – and of course, a profound honor to the College and its students.”
Over the course of thirteen meetings in the spring semester, Sharanksy will meet with a select group of students to teach themes central to his scholarship and life’s work. Sharansky’s course, titled “Freedom, Identity, and Relations Between Israel and Diaspora Jewry,” will use as its textbooks his three published works: Fear No Evil, which describes his imprisonment in the former Soviet Union; The Case for Democracy, which argues that the spread of democracy is essential for bringing about a more peaceful, prosperous, and just world; and Defending Identity, a passionate defense of the value of national and religious identities in building democracy. In addition, he will speak about the relations between Israel and the Diaspora, based on his experience as a member of the Israeli government and as chairman of the Jewish Agency. Students will be expected to be active participants in all class discussions.
According to Dr. Ido Hevroni, Shalem’s educational director, the seminar is entirely in keeping with Shalem’s efforts to include among its faculty eminent scholars who are also actively engaged in the non-academic world. “Natan joins a roster of lecturers, such as former deputy chief of the National Security Council Dr. Eran Lerman and acclaimed Zionist author Assaf Inbari, who bridge the gap between the classroom and the world outside,” he said. “In this way, our students see themselves as not only consumers of knowledge, but also as agents of change. In addition, we strive whenever possible to make the most pressing challenges facing their country and people the subject of our students’ study. That is exactly what Natan’s seminar will do.”
“But most of all,” insists Hevroni, “it is an extraordinary opportunity to be able to introduce our students to a true Zionist hero. He chose Shalem as his next vehicle for impact on the Jewish state and people, and we look forward to helping him continue to have an outsized influence on the Jewish future.”