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.


Upcoming Fall 2021 Speakers:

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

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.

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.

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.

Previous Spring 2021 Speakers

Women March

Amalgamated Clothing Workers Strike, 1915 Courtesy of the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives/B’nai B’rith

Monday, March 8, 2021 – 3:30pm

Discover 200 years of women’s activism and celebrate the centennial of women’s suffrage and the 19th Amendment with exhibition highlights from Women March. Led by a curator from New-York Historical Society’s Center for Women’s History, this interactive virtual presentation uses photographs, campaign posters, and historic footage to uncover the stories of women throughout the centuries who organized and marched to end slavery, win the vote, and protect reproductive rights, among other crucial causes. Held in partnership with the Commonpoint Queens High School & College Success Division.


Michael Ian BlackMichael-Ian-Black
A BETTER MAN: A (Mostly Serious) Letter to My Son
Thursday, March 11, 2021 – 7:30pm
*Click here to read a recent Queens Chronicles feature on Black and the motivation behind his book.

Comedian, actor, and writer Michael Ian Black has written many award-winning books and in A Better Man: A (Mostly Serious) Letter to My Son, he offers a thoughtful and personal appraisal of the complicated meaning of masculinity in our times. The book blends memoir and advice, written with both weight and wit, and challenges the outdated assumptions that society continues to impose upon boys about their place in the world. Black tackles these serious questions with characteristic humor and a respectful grace.


Sabeeha Rehman & Walter RubyWe Refuse to be Enemies: How Jews and Muslims Can Make Peace, One Friendship at a Time
WE REFUSE TO BE ENEMIES: How Muslims and Jews Can Make Peace, One Friendship at a Time
Monday, March 22, 2021 – 12:00pm

Concerned with the rise of intolerance and bigotry in our country, Sabeeha Rehman and Walter Ruby have spent decades doing interfaith work and nurturing cooperation among the Muslim and Jewish communities. They have learned that through face-to-face encounters people of all backgrounds can come to know the Other as a fellow human being and turn her or him into a trusted friend. In We Refuse to Be Enemies, the authors share their vision for reconciliation, offering concrete principles for building an alliance in support of religious freedom and human rights.


Michael DobbsMichael Dobb photo from JBC
THE UNWANTED: America, Auschwitz, and a Village Caught in Between
Monday, April 5, 2021 – 12:00pm

In 1938, on the eve of World War II, the American journalist Dorothy Thompson wrote that “a piece of paper with a stamp on it is the difference between life and death.” A Holocaust story that is both German and American, The Unwanted is the intimate account of Jewish families in a small village on the edge of the Black Forest in desperate pursuit of American visas to flee the Nazis. Drawing on previously unpublished letters, diaries, interviews, and visa records, Michael Dobbs provides an illuminating account of America’s response to the refugee crisis of the 1930s and 1940s. Some make it to the United States after battling formidable bureaucratic obstacles, while others are turned back. Some perish along the way, and others are murdered in Auschwitz. With a reporter’s eye for narrative and a historian’s attention to detail and context, Dobbs, a foreign correspondent, gives us a heartbreaking and timely read.


Jennifer SteinhauerJennifer-Steinhauer
THE FIRSTS: The Inside Story of the Women Reshaping Congress
Monday, April 26, 2021 – 12:00pm

In The Firsts, Jennifer Steinhauer focuses on the 35 women newly elected to the U.S. Congress in 2018 who helped make the 116th Congress the most diverse (by gender, race, ethnicity, age, and socioeconomic background) in the nation’s history. In an intimately told story, with detailed and thought-provoking portraits, The Firsts questions whether these women advanced legislation to help those they represent and whether they reframed the national debate. Steinhauer is an acclaimed journalist who makes herself a character in her account, sharing with readers some witty and at times acerbic observations that propel the narrative.

Kenneth S. SternKenneth-Stern
THE CONFLICT OVER THE CONFLICT: The Israel/Palestine Campus Debate
Monday, May 3, 2021 – 12:00pm

As a defense attorney and author, Kenneth Stern examines attempts from each side of the Israel/Palestine debate to censor the other at a time when some say that students, rather than being challenged to wrestle with difficult issues and ideas, are being quarantined from them. In The Conflict over the Conflict, he uniquely frames the examination of one of the most divisive and toxic issues on today’s college and university campuses. According to Stern, the campus is the best place to mine the Israel/Palestine conflict and our intense views about it to help future generations do what they are supposed to do: think. Stern is the director of the Center for the Study of Hate at Bard College. For 25 years he was the American Jewish Committee’s expert on antisemitism and the lead drafter of the “Working Definition of Antisemitism.” He has argued before the U.S. Supreme Court and testified before Congress. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, and The Forward, and he is a frequent guest on television and radio. 
Debbie CenziperDebbie-Cenziper


CITIZEN 865: The Hunt for Hitler’s Hidden Soldiers in America
Monday, May 24, 2021 – 12:00pm

Drawing on Nazi documents and previously undisclosed government records, Citizen 865 is a definitive account of the hunt for Nazi killers living openly in neighborhoods across the U.S. During a dinner party in Washington D.C., Debbie Cenziper first learnt of the Office of Special Investigations (OSI), a small unit inside the Department of Justice tasked with prosecuting Nazi war criminals who fled to the U.S. after World War II. The story spans 75 years, from the Holocaust to present day, and perhaps beyond. The last OSI defendant ordered deported from U.S. soil was sent back to Germany just last year while the organization, under a new name, continues tracking war criminals who have slipped into the U.S. from new hot spots around the world. Cenziper is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and nonfiction author. She is a contributing reporter for the investigative team at The Washington Post and is the director of investigative journalism at the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism.


Jill Wine-BanksJill-Wine-Banks
THE WATERGATE GIRL: My Fight for Truth and Justice Against a Criminal President
Monday, June 7, 2021 – 12:00pm

At the crossroads of the Watergate scandal and the women’s movement stood a young lawyer named Jill Wine Volner (as she was then known), barely 30 years old and the only woman on the team that prosecuted the highest-ranking White House officials. Called “the mini-skirted lawyer” by the press, she fought to receive the respect accorded her male counterparts – and prevailed. In the process, her house was burglarized, her phones were tapped, and even her office garbage was rifled through. In The Watergate Girl, Jill Wine-Banks takes us inside this troubled time in American history, and it is impossible to read about the crimes of Richard Nixon and the people around him without drawing parallels to today’s headlines. The book is also the story of a young woman who sought to make her professional mark while trapped in a failing marriage, buffeted by sexist preconceptions, and harboring secrets of her own. Wine-Banks is currently an MSNBC Legal Analyst and has been the recipient of many awards, including several from the U.S. Department of Justice and the highest civilian award given by the U.S. Department of the Army.

Previous Winter 2020-21 Speakers

NOTORIOUS RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Monday, December 21, 2020 – 12:00pm


Join us for a virtual visit to the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center with curator Arielle Weininger. Arielle will lead us through the exhibition that explores Justice Ginsburg’s life and her numerous, often simultaneous, roles as a student, wife, mother, lawyer, judge, women’s rights pioneer, and internet phenomenon. Our program will include a video tour followed by a Q & A session with a docent. Held in partnership with the Commonpoint Queens Central Queens Adult & Senior Center.


Andrée Aelion Brookssilk road bukhrarian jews cultural arts speaker
Monday, January 11, 2021 – 12:00pm


Jews lived in Central Asia for over 2,500 years, one of the oldest Jewish communities in the Diaspora. Many Bukharians believe they are descended from the Ten Lost Tribes. Today Queens is home to the second largest Bukharian Jewish community in the world. We will explore the history of the Bukharian Jews with Andrée Aelion Brooks, and take a peek into their lives and culture over the centuries. Ms. Brooks is an Associate Fellow, Yale University and a former contributing columnist for The New York Times.


In Conversation with Mark Wilf, Owner of the Minnesota Vikings
Thursday, January 21, 2020 – 7:00pm


As the owner of the Minnesota Vikings for the past 16 years, Mark Wilf has led a transformation of the organization, building a team that consistently competes for championships, providing the best in class fan experience, positively impacting the Minneapolis-St. Paul community, and growing the game of football.

As the son of Holocaust survivors, Mark has drawn upon his parents’ experiences to become an unwavering advocate for the needs of the Jewish people and the community at large, currently serving as chair of the Board of Trustees of The Jewish Federations of North AmericaDuring the COVID-19 pandemic, the Wilf Family Foundations and the Vikings gave over $5 million in donations and commitments to support health care workers, the elderly, food banks, social service organizations, and Jewish causes in the US and Israel.

Join us for an inspirational evening with Mark Wilf and Ken Berger, award-winning sports journalist, taking questions from YOU. All registered attendees will be entered to win one of two signed jerseys from Harrison Smith and Kirk Cousins.


David Lehrerahava desert
Monday, January 25, 2021 – 12:00pm


In celebration of Tu B’Shevat, the Jewish holiday recognizing ecology and trees, we will hear from David Lehrer, the executive director of Israel’s Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, about the environmental cooperation between Israel and its neighbors in the Middle East.

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Event is FREE and sponsored by the Jewish National Fund.


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.