On September 13, 2022, the Zahava and Moshael Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought, in partnership with the Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein Honors Program, hosted a discussion with Zvika Klein, Jewish world analyst for the Jerusalem Post. Klein spoke with Straus Center Program Officer Tal Fortgang and several students about Klein’s career in journalism, his experiences reporting on Jewish communities around the globe and what he wished people understood better about Jewish life in Israel and in the diaspora.
Much of the discussion focused on Klein’s origins in the field of journalism. He explained that after working in the Israel Defense Force’s Spokesperson’s Office, he wanted little to do with communications or journalism. However, he quickly perceived that Israelis often did not understand well what Jewish life was like abroad. With some encouragement from family and friends, he decided to make world Jewish affairs his full-time beat. His public profile skyrocketed in 2015 after he filmed himself walking around Paris and its suburbs for ten hours wearing a kippah, and recording all the vitriol he got for doing so—both from anti-Semites who spat at him and Jewish leaders who thought he was painting French Jewish life unfairly.
Klein shared several anecdotes that provided the students with a glimpse into the diversity of Jewish ways of life around the world. He recalled telling the story of a Chabad rabbi in New York who designed bespoke menswear and the reception the story received in Israel. He also discussed the renaissance of Jewish life in Germany, which has had to balance its commitment to receptiveness towards Jews with its insistence on cultural and linguistic integration.
The students jumped at the opportunity to ask Klein about his insights into the profession, Israeli politics and world affairs. “It was so great to hear Zvika Klein’s perspective on diaspora Jewry and how a journalist views the Israel-diaspora relationship,” said Straus Scholar Yaakov Willner’ 25YC.
Asked what story he wished would garner more attention than it has, Klein referred the students to the growing issue of Israel’s Law of Return, which guarantees citizenship to anyone who can show proof of a Jewish grandparent. He explained that Russia’s recent attack on Ukraine, and the flood of emigres it has forced from both countries, has strained Israel’s ability to process and vet potential immigrants.
Meeting the students “was great,” Klein said after the event. “They asked fascinating questions about journalism and the Jewish world, as well as adding insightful information about their own personal experiences.”
The event kicked off the Straus Center’s slate of fall semester events. The Center plans to soon welcome the writer Liel Leibovitz, literary critic Adam Kirsch and several other prominent intellectuals for discussions with students.
It also marked Klein’s first visit to Yeshiva University. “I’ve been covering the Jewish world for so long but literally have never been to @yunews,” he tweeted before the event. “So happy to finally visit.”