In this week’s episode of “Top Story,” JNS editor-in-chief Jonathan Tobin is joined by Rabbi Meir Soloveichik, the author of Providence and Power: Ten Portraits in Jewish Statesmanship, a book that seeks to explain what it means to be a Jewish leader.
According to Soloveichik, the true measure of Jewish leadership must involve a biblical ideal. In his view, that must involve humility as well as accomplishment. While he subscribes to the “great man” or “great woman” theory of history that focuses on the influence of significant individuals on events, he also believes that true greatness in a Jewish leader means a willingness to see his or her work in the context of the story of the Jewish people and to acknowledge the role of Providence in that narrative.
Soloveichik discusses the examples he included in his book, including King David, Queens Esther and Shlomtzion, Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai, Don Isaac Abarbanel, Manasseh ben Israel, Benjamin Disraeli, Louis Brandeis, David Ben-Gurion and Menachem Begin. Their stories provide contrasting illustrations of the path to survival in the face of terrible trials and of the imperative to assert Jewish rights.
While acknowledging the essential importance and greatness of David Ben-Gurion in founding the State of Israel, Soloveichik emphasized that Menachem Begin, who balanced secular interests with genuine respect for Judaism and love of the Jewish people, is the ideal model of a Jewish leader.
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