Stellar lineup for Hebrew Center’s Summer Institute


The Martha’s Vineyard Summer Institute speaker series, organized by the Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center, is one of the hottest tickets around. Every year, many of the expert-led talks sell out, and this summer’s lineup is an impressive one, even by the Institute’s high standards.

Starting out with the media’s preeminent go-to expert for bioethical perspectives, and concluding with a New York Times bestselling author and political satirist whose online column has an audience in the millions, the Summer Institute this year will host a Nobel Prize winner, a former Deputy Secretary of State, a host of bestselling authors, two Emmy award winners. and a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist.

“I think it’s an extraordinary lineup. All these people are really at the forefront of politics and economics,” said Geraldine Alpert, who is in her third year as chairman of the Summer Institute. Ms. Alpert spent a long career in the economics field, serving as an expert witness in many anti-trust cases. “My interest tends to lie in economics and politics,” she continued.

The speakers come from a combination of referrals from donors and members of the advisory committee and a letter writing and phone call campaign by Ms. Alpert. “I think at this point the Summer Institute has a very good reputation,” she said, commenting on the organization’s ability to attract heavy hitters to the Vineyard.

This Thursday, July 11, the series kicks off with a man who was voted one of “The Ten Most Influential People in Science” by Discover Magazine. Renowned bioethicist and author or editor of 30 books, Arthur Caplan will tackle “The Ethics Of Genetic and Neurological Risk Testing.”

Next week, a talk entitled “Crafting a Long-Term Strategy For the U.S. in the Middle East” will feature former Deputy Secretary of State to Hillary Clinton, James Steinberg. Mr. Steinberg is an expert on a range of foreign policy issues who previously served as an aide to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and advisor on foreign policy to presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

On July 25, the host of MSNBC’s “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell,” will share his expertise on “The Lost Art of Politics.” As well as a political analyst, Mr. O’Donnell is also a television producer and writer who won an Emmy for the NBC series “The West Wing.”

The August lineup includes Nobel Prize recipient and the former chairman of the Council on Economic Advisors during the Clinton Administration, Joseph Stiglitz, who was named one of the 100 most influential people in world by Time magazine in 2011. Mr. Stiglitz will talk on the subject of his most recent book, “The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future,” which is a New York Times bestseller. Ms. Alpert, who has previously attended a talk by Mr. Stiglitz, says, “He’s a wonderful speaker and a brilliant man.”

A panel discussion on “The Media and Politics” on August 8 features the anchor of CNN’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper,” an Emmy award winning journalist whose book “An Untold Story of American Valor,” debuted at No. 10 on The New York Times Bestseller list; Communications Chief for George W. Bush’s White House and re-election campaign, Nicolle Wallace, who is a bestselling author, political analyst, and contributor for ABC News; and prize-winning journalist and bestselling author Michael Isikoff. Ms. Alpert points out that the panel is well rounded. “I think that program really will have lots of different points of view,” she said.

The series concludes with a program featuring political satirist Andy Borowitz. The New York Times bestselling author is the creator of the popular blog “The Borowitz Report,” and his memoir was named the Best Kindle Single of 2012 by Mr. Borowitz is a former sitcom writer and actor who created the series “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and produced the Academy Award-nominated film, “Pleasantville.” Said Ms. Alpert, “He left television and now writes for The New Yorker. I read his blog religiously. It keeps me up at night laughing.”

Mr. Borowitz will be interviewed by writer and Pulitzer prize winning journalist, Tony Horwitz.

The M.V. Hebrew Center Summer Institute also sponsors a film series every summer. This year’s selection includes two Israeli films dealing with controversial subjects – forced marriage and parents dealing with transgender children, a biopic of German Jewish political theorist Hannah Arendt, an Israeli comedy, and a documentary about a remarkable choral concert performed in a concentration camp. This year for the first time, guest speakers will accompany some of the films, which will be screened at the M.V. Film Center in Vineyard Haven to allow for the inclusion of more recent films only available digitally.

Summer Institute Speaker Series programs are Thursday nights at 7:30 pm in the Harriet B. Freedberg Learning Center at the Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center in Vineyard Haven. $20. For more information, visit