Since the early 20th century, the American Jewish community has maintained a dual commitment to “Americanness” and “Jewishness.” These two commitments were mutually reinforcing (rather than competing) formulations that defined and served the growth, stability, and comfort of Jews in America and as Americans.

The experience of the early 21st century is showing signs of the fraying of this implicit covenant. As a result, there are major ramifications on the vitality of Judaism in America and on the capacity of Jews in America to be effective American change-agents as Jews.

The Jewish Values and American Democracy Research Team is working on questions like:

  • How do we challenge and invite American Jews to study the juxtaposition of Jewish values and their American experience?
  • What is the connection between Jewish values and democratic values in the United States?
  • What big Jewish questions arise from our experience in America?

A “Torah of Civics and American Democracy” has started to emerge. The Institute is actively bringing this learning to Jewish leaders and communities across North America.

This research team is led by Yehuda Kurtzer.

We are grateful to the Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah for their partnership and support of our initiatives.


Articles by JVAD Fellows

Yehuda Kurtzer – Published January 22, 2018 in the Forward – The Biggest Threat to the Jews? The Partisan Divide

Joshua Ladon – Published July 27, 2018 in The New Republic – The Dilemma of Jewish Privilege

Elana Stein Hain – Published September 12, 2018 in Morethodoxy – On Religious Materialism…Part I

Elana Stein Hain – Published October 8, 2018 in Morethodoxy – On Religious Materialism…Part II

Rivka Press Schwartz – Published November 8, 2018 in the Jewish Week – On Citizenship and Soda Cans

Mijal Bitton – Published January 15, 2019 in the Forward – I’m a Sephardic Latina With An Intersectional Identity. That’s Why I Oppose The Women’s March

Sara Hirschhorn – Published January 17, 2019 in Ha’aretz – How Jews Became ‘Too White, Too Powerful’ for U.S. Progressive Activism

Michael Avi Helfand – Published February 8, 2019 in Tablet Magazine – The Case Against Yeshivas and the Future of Religious Liberty

Michael Avi Helfand – Published March 21, 2019 in the Wall Street Journal – A Day of Rest May Get a Day in Court

Yair Ettinger – Published May 9, 2019 in Ha’aretz – A Chaplain. A Rabbi. A Professor. An Editor. A Soldier. These Are the Faces of Jewish America

Sara Hirschhorn – Published May 24, 2019 in Ha’aretz – America’s Synagogues Are Burning: A Turning Point for U.S. Jews

Michael Avi Helfand – Published January 16, 2020 in the Wall Street Journal – Discrimination Without Discriminating?



Michael Walzer (Institute of Advanced Study) reflects with Yehuda Kurtzer on the Exodus story and how “the arc of history doesn’t bend toward justice, it zig-zags.” In this taped conversation, they discuss why democracy is difficulty to sustain in crises, Passover and Exodus, and how we haven’t figured out how to honor the under-paid and under-respected heroes in our midst.

Yehuda Kurtzer and Yavilah McCoy – November 13, 2019


Michael Avi Helfand – Published February 20, 2020, Tikvah Podcast – Urgent Religious-Freedom Case Now before the Supreme Court

Yehuda Kurtzer – Recorded on October 16, 2018 –The Moral, the Political and the Partisan: Jewish Community and Jewish Values in an Era of Polarization

Episode #1 of Identity/Crisis: “Jews and the Presidency” Yehuda Kurtzer talks with Aaron Dorfman (President of Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah) and Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt (Features Editor at The Forward) about American Democracy and Civics.


Contact Us
Question? Please Contact Yehuda Kurtzer, President of SHI North America