Conversations with Tyler: A Conversation with Rabbi David Wolpe

Tyler Cowen explores the world of ideas in one-on-one dialogues with today’s top thinkers.


This event was co-hosted with Sixth & I.

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Jan 26, 2017
Sixth & I Historic Synagogue 600 I Street NW Washington, DC 20001

Event Speakers

Tyler Cowen

Holbert L. Harris Chair of Economics at George Mason University

David Wolpe

Max Webb Senior Rabbi of Sinai Temple

Event Video

Rabbi David Wolpe, an outspoken and highly influential leader of the Jewish faith, will join Tyler Cowen for a wide-ranging dialogue as part of the Mercatus Center’s Conversations with Tyler event series. This event is co-hosted with Sixth & I, a historic synagogue in downtown Washington, D.C.

Named the most influential rabbi in America by Newsweek and one of the 50 most influential Jews in the world by the Jerusalem Post, Rabbi Wolpe is a renowned leader of the Jewish faith. As a frequent commentator on current events and politics and a proponent of biblical criticism, he was quick to announce his intention to conduct same-sex marriages once the California courts ruled to lift the ban. He remembers the first same-sex Jewish ceremony he performed: “[it] was between two women who had been together for nineteen years. They stood under the huppah with tears streaming down their faces.” (Wolpe, “Gay Love and Jewish Tradition”). Wolpe rejects the idea that the purpose of marriage is procreation and instead claims that human life exists to join together in love.

Wolpe is also among those who believe the Exodus, the great movement of freed Israelite slaves into the Canaan region, never actually happened. Taking a progressive perspective on the Bible, Rabbi Wolpe agrees with many historians and archeologists that the lack of physical evidence of a mass exodus in the Canaan region makes it unlikely that such an event ever occurred. He posits that such a lack of evidence gives Israelites a stronger historical claim to the area. 

Rabbi Wolpe previously taught at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York, the American Jewish University in Los Angeles, Hunter College, and UCLA. He writes a weekly column for, and his work is included in publications such as The LA Times, the Washington Post's On Faith website, The Huffington Post, and the New York Jewish Week. His work has also been profiled in the New York Times.

Additionally, Rabbi Wolpe has been a guest on numerous talk shows, including the Today Show, Face the Nation, ABC this Morning, and CBS This Morning. Rabbi Wolpe has also been featured in series on PBS, A&E, the History channel, and the Discovery channel. He is the author of eight books, including the national bestseller Making Loss Matter: Creating Meaning in Difficult Times (2009).