Rabbi Wein.com The Voice of Jewish History

Great Non-Jews in Jewish History
11 Lectures

Item #: S625

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A remarkable part of Jewish survival is the role played by non Jews in the Jewish experience. This series highlights the involvement and contributions of important personalities and illustrates how they colored events in the Jewish world and aided the cause of the Jewish people.

Individual lectures:

Cyrus the Great - Opinions vary regarding Cyrus, the famed Persian general whose military and political strategies allowed the Jews to return to Land of Israel after the first exile. The Talmudic Rabbis, who called him "Koresh," see him in an ambivalent light while later historians hail him as a hero. Comparing both sets of opinions with the historical record, Rabbi Wein renders a definitive view of this towering figure of the ancient world.

Alexander the Great - In the Jewish world, the famed Greek emperor is nothing short of a folk hero. That he granted favors to the Jews is undisputed, but there's plenty of disagreement about the details. Rabbi Wein separates fact from legend with an examination of three accounts of Alexander's relations with the Jews: that of the Talmud, that of Josephus, and that of the ancient Samaritans.

Marcus Aurelius - The Talmud records the long-standing friendship between Judah the Prince and the Roman emperor Antoninus, but whether Marcus Aurelius was Antoninus himself or just a successor is a matter of some debate. Either way, his philosophical writings show that he identified with Jewish values. Rabbi Wein discusses the life and contributions of this rarity of Roman leaders: an altruist who admired and favored the Jewish people.

Abdul Al Rahman - With an absorbing crash course in the history of Islam, Rabbi Wein paints the backdrop for the rise of this 10th century Moslem leader whose affinity for the Jewish people allowed them to live in peace and prosperity. With the Jew Chisdai ibn Shaprut as his personal advisor, these two powerful men lay the foundation for centuries of peaceful Moslem-Jewish relations in Spain. In our present times, when relations with the Islamic world is uppermost on everyone’s mind, this lecture lays bare some basic facts about moderate and radical Islam.

Thomas Jefferson - All men are created equal. It's the most revered phrase in the history of democracy, but for its author, it was more - the defining principle of life. And what was his "test case" for democracy and religious tolerance? The Jewish people. Discover the astonishing truth in Rabbi Berel Wein's revealing lecture.

Benjamin Disraeli - The only Halachic Jew discussed in this series, Benjamin Disraeli converted to Christianity before his bar mitzvah and lived the life of a non-Jew. His colleagues, however, did not forget his origins, and the anti-Semitism he experienced makes his success as a statesman and writer all the more extraordinary. Rabbi Wein makes a compelling case for Disraeli’s influence on Zionism and shows how he defied the odds to benefit the people of his birth.

Emperor Franz Joseph - The last of the Hapsburgs, Emperor Franz Joseph was matchless in his friendship to Jews. While anti-Semitism was de rigueur in the rest of Europe, Emperor Franz Joseph involved himself personally in Jewish causes. From his outcry against the Church for the kidnapping of a Jewish child to his financial assistance to build the grandest synagogue in Jerusalem, Rabbi Wein shows how the emperor earned the love of the Jewish people.

Emile Zola - I Accuse!, the novelized retelling of the Dreyfus trial, takes the French government to task for its gross injustice and anti-Semitism. In writing it, journalist Emile Zola put himself at terrible risk, but became celebrated by Jews the world over. Rabbi Wein paints a complete portrait of Zola, describing the ideologies that formed him and the prescience that led him to conclude what no Jew dared to think: that worse tragedies would soon befall them.

Winston Churchill - Winston Churchill regarded himself as a champion of the Jews, though his record of leadership during the British Mandate over Palestine is a mixed picture. His outspokenness against Hitler’s treatment of the Jews, however, set him apart from all the other world leaders. Rabbi Wein captures the brilliant political and military career of this monumental figure whose influence on world events ranks him amongst the greatest leaders of the 20th century.

Orde Wingate - The British officer Orde Wingate was such a friend of the Jews, his nickname was "the friend." Training the Jews in guerilla warfare to defeat the Arab rioters in British-ruled Palestine, his strategies shaped early Israeli warfare more than any individual, but he paid a great price for his actions. Rabbi Wein tells the story of the eccentric military genius whose career ended in disgrace.

Harry S. Truman - That Harry Truman, a scrappy politician from a humble background, was thrust into the presidency is a clear example of Divine guidance. Yet unremarkable as he seemed, Truman made some of the most pivotal decisions of the 20th century: the decision to drop the A-bomb and support of the new State of Israel. In this admiring portrait, Rabbi Wein represents one of America’s greatest presidents who valued that elusive quality in modern politics: integrity.

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