Virtual Cultural Arts & Jewish Heritage Speakers & Authors

The Cultural Arts & Jewish Heritage Programs Department presents engaging virtual speaker and author events on cultural, Jewish, and other contemporary topics.


Take time out to learn something new, be inspired and stay connected to your community.

Your registration fees help to fund these programs and Commonpoint Queens’ services to the community.

Registration required for each event. Registration is now open!

Upcoming Winter 2022 Speakers:

All speakers are $8 members / $10 non-members

The Socrates Express

Eric Weiner
THE SOCRATES EXPRESS: In Search of Life Lessons from Dead Philosophers
Monday, January 10, 2022 – 12:00pm

Eric Weiner combines his twin passions for philosophy and global travel in a pilgrimage that uncovers surprising life lessons from great thinkers around the world, from Rousseau to Nietzsche, Confucius to Simone Weil. Traveling by train, Weiner journeys thousands of miles, making stops in Athens, Delhi, Wyoming, Coney Island, Frankfurt, and points in between, to reconnect with philosophy’s original purpose: teaching us how to lead wiser, more meaningful lives. From Socrates and ancient Athens to Simone de Beauvoir and twentieth-century Paris, Weiner’s chosen philosophers and places provide important signposts as we navigate today’s chaotic times. In The Socrates Express, Weiner, a former foreign correspondent for NPR, invites us to voyage alongside him on his life-changing pursuit of wisdom and discovery as he attempts to find answers to our most vital questions.

Daniel SokatchCan We Talk About Israel
CAN WE TALK ABOUT ISRAEL?: A Guide for the Curious, Confused, and Conflicted
Monday, January 24, 2022 – 12:00pm

Can We Talk About Israel? is an attempt to grapple with a century-long struggle between two peoples that both perceive themselves as (and indeed are) victims. And it’s an attempt to explain why Israel (and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict) inspires such extreme feelings – why it seems like Israel is the answer to “what is wrong with the world” for half the people in it, and “what is right with the world” for the other half.  We will have the opportunity to hear from Daniel Sokatch, the Chief Executive Officer of the New Israel Fund, as he asks whether there is any other topic about which so many intelligent, educated, and sophisticated people express such strongly and passionately held convictions, and about which they actually know so little?

Black History Month Event
Andrew FeilerA Better Life for their Children
A BETTER LIFE FOR THEIR CHILDREN: Julius Rosenwald, Booker T. Washington, and the 4,978 Schools That Changed America
Monday, February 7, 2022 – 12:00pm

This is a story of how two very different people came together to make a difference in the world. Julius Rosenwald, born to Jewish immigrants, rose to lead one of the world’s largest retailers – Sears, Roebuck & Company – and Booker T. Washington, born into slavery, became the founding principal of Tuskegee Institute. In 1912 the two men launched an ambitious program to partner with Black communities across the segregated South to build public schools for African American children. Of the original 4,978 Rosenwald schools built during 1912-1937 across 15 states, approximately 500 survived. To tell this story visually, Andrew Feiler drove 25,000 miles, photographed 105 schools, and interviewed dozens of former students, teachers, and preservationists. A fifth-generation Georgian, Feiler will share some of the photographs capturing interiors and exteriors, schools restored and yet-to-be-restored, and portraits of people with compelling connections to these schools.

Anne SebbaEthel Rosenberg
ETHEL ROSENBERG: An American Tragedy
Monday, March 7, 2022 – 12:00 p.m.

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage for the Soviet Union in the 1950s despite the fact that the US government was aware that the evidence against Ethel was shaky and was based on the perjury of her own brother. With Ethel’s profound love for and loyalty to her husband, she refused to incriminate him despite government pressure, and then faced the death penalty. We will hear from Anne Sebba about new evidence that recently surfaced on Ethel Rosenberg through the revelation of prison letters Ethel exchanged with her husband, her lawyer, and her psychotherapist over a three-year period while in confinement. We will learn more about Ethel’s struggles with the social mores of the 1950s, longing to be a good wife and perfect mother to her two small boys while battling the political paranoia of the McCarthy era, antisemitism, misogyny, and a mother who never valued her. Anne Sebba is a prize-winning biographer, lecturer, and former Reuters foreign correspondent.

The Unexpected Spy

Women’s Month Event
Tracy Walder
THE UNEXPECTED SPY: From the CIA to the FBI, My Secret Life Taking Down Some of the World’s Most Notorious Terrorists
Monday, March 21, 2022 – 12:00 p.m.

Tracy Walder, a Jewish American woman recruited by the CIA straight from her sorority at the University of Southern California, tells a thrilling tale of clandestine meetings in clandestine locales with spies and embedded civilians from other countries and of following trails across North Africa, Europe, and the Middle East, shutting down multiple attacks. She watched al-Qaeda members with drones as President George Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Secretary of State Colin Powell looked over her shoulder. She tracked chemical terrorists and searched the world for weapons of mass destruction. In The Unexpected Spy, Walder shares the riveting story of her tenure at the CIA, and later, in counterintelligence at the FBI.


Registration is now open:

For more information, contact us at [email protected]

Click here for Virtual Cultural Arts Classes

Previous Fall 2021 Speakers

Raffi Berg
RED SEA SPIES: The True Story of Mossad’s Fake Diving Resortred sea spies raffi berg
Monday, October 4, 2021 – 1:00pm

In the early 1980s on a remote part of the Sudanese coast, a new luxury holiday resort opened for business. Catering to divers, it attracted guests from around the world. Little did the vacationers know that the staff were undercover spies working for the Mossad – Israel’s intelligence agency. Red Sea Spies, written by longtime BBC Middle East Editor Raffi Berg, tells the true story of what began with one cryptic message pleading for help and turned into a secret evacuation of thousands of Ethiopian Jews in refugee camps, spiriting them to Israel. These events inspired the recent Netflix drama The Red Sea Diving Resort.


Harold Koplewiczscaffold effect harold koplewicz
THE SCAFFOLD EFFECT: Raising Resilient, Self-Reliant, and Secure Kids in an Age of Anxiety
Thursday, October 14, 2021 – 7:00pm
This is a free event, but registration is required

Just as sturdy scaffolding is needed when building a structure that then comes down once the structure is stable and built, good parenting provides children with steady, warm, emotional nourishment on the path toward independence. Never-ending parental problem-solving and involvement can have the opposite effect, enabling fragility and anxiety over time. World-renowned child psychiatrist Harold Koplewicz will explain how to prevent and counteract the anxiety and emotional fragility prevalent in children and teenagers today, introducing a new parenting philosophy and strategies that give children the tools to flourish on their own.


Ami Ayalonfriendly fire ami ayalon
FRIENDLY FIRE: How Israel Became Its Own Worst Enemy
Monday, October 18, 2021 – 12:00pm

Retired Admiral Ami Ayalon, a former director of Israel’s Shin Bet security agency, shares his own thoughts and philosophy about what Israel needs to do to achieve relative peace and security and to sustain itself as a Jewish homeland and a liberal democracy. In Friendly Fire, Ayalon shares his deeply personal journey of discovery, seeking input and perspective from both Palestinians and Israelis whose experiences differ from his own and from each other. Join us, along with Prof. Mark Rosenblum who will moderate the discussion, to hear how Ayalon has come to realize that the sustainable and democratic Jewish homeland for which he repeatedly risked his life can only be realized side-by-side with a Palestinian state whose citizens have genuine hope for their own bright future.

A former Flotilla 13 (Israel’s navy SEALS) commando, a commander of the navy, cabinet minister, Knesset member, Ami Ayalon was the recipient of the Medal of Valor, Israel’s highest military decoration.

An expert on the Middle East, Prof. Mark Rosenblum is Director of the Ibrahim Student Leadership and Dialogue Middle East Program with Queens College, and Director Emeritus of the Center for Jewish Studies and the Center for Ethnic, Racial, and Religious Understanding.


Kristallnacht Event
Gwen Strauss

THE NINE: The True Story of a Band of Women Who Survived the Worst of Nazi Germanythe nine gwen strauss
Monday, November 1, 2021 – 12:00pm

The Nine tells the story of nine women under thirty who joined the resistance during World War II and eventually became a close-knit group of friends. They smuggled arms through Europe, harbored parachuting agents, coordinated communications between regional sectors, trekked escape routes to Spain, and hid Jewish children in scattered apartments. They were arrested by French police, interrogated and tortured by the Gestapo, subjected to a series of French prisons, and deported to Germany. Gwen Strauss shares with us the true story of her great aunt Hélène Podliasky, who led this band of female resistance fighters on a daring escape from a German forced labor camp and a ten-day journey across the front lines of WWII back to Paris.


Leah Garrettleah garrett x troop
X TROOP: The Secret Jewish Commandos of World War II
Monday, November 15, 2021 – 12:00pm

In June 1942 the Third Reich had cast a horrific shadow across Europe. In desperation, Winston Churchill and his chief of staff formed an unusual plan: a new commando unit made up of Jewish refugees who had escaped to Britain – a motley group of intellectuals, artists, and athletes, mostly from Germany and Austria, who had to take on fake British names and personas. Trained in counterintelligence and advanced combat to deliver decisive blows against the Nazis, this top-secret unit became known as X Troop. Acclaimed scholar Leah Garrett draws on extensive original research, including interviews with the last surviving members of X Troop, and follows this unique band of brothers from Germany to England and back, to British internment camps, the beaches of Normandy, the battlefields of Italy and Holland, and the hellscape of Terezin concentration camp – the scene of one of the most dramatic rescues of the war.

Previous Summer 2021 Speakers

Moriah Amit
TRACING YOUR ROOTS AT HOME, LEVEL II: Online Research Beyond the U.S.
Monday, July 12, 2021 – 12:00pm

Are you interested in learning more about your family’s history prior to their arrival in the U.S. or about a branch of your family that never emigrated to the U.S.? In this interactive online presentation, Moriah Amit, Senior Genealogy Librarian at the Center for Jewish History’s Ackman & Ziff Family Genealogy Institute, will show you how to broaden your family history search beyond the basic databases to specific online resources for places of origin worldwide. In addition, learn tips for finding and requesting records from your country of origin that are not available online. While this is designed as a follow-up to the Center’s genealogy basics session, first-time participants are welcome. This workshop is geared toward people of all religious/ethnic backgrounds.


Scott Shane
FACTS OR FAKES? Navigating the News in an Age of Disinformation
Monday, August 16, 2021 – 12:00pm

During this time of mass media, how do we differentiate between what is fact and fake? Is COVID-19 part of a secret plot to make a fortune by selling vaccines? Did Trump’s lawyer plot with Russian spies to hack the Democrats? Are Fox and MSNBC reporting on the 2020 election from different planets? Former New York Times reporter Scott Shane will examine recent case studies in online disinformation, using real images and video clips, and discuss how to separate truth from fabrication.


Sponsorship opportunities available. For more information, please contact Judy Vladimir at [email protected] or 718-225-6750 ext. 345.

For more information, please contact Karen Strauss at [email protected].


Below are highlights from some of our past series.