Past Hot Button Events

Cancel Culture through a Jewish Lens

Whether it’s Dr. Seuss, J.K. Rowling, or Mr. Potato Head, allegations of cancel culture seem to dominate the recent headlines. Fueled by social media, cancel culture has earned a consistent spot in the news cycle this past year. Yet the exact meaning of this phenomenon and movement is still up for debate as society weighs the balance of free speech and accountability. In our latest Jonathan Samen Hot Buttons, Cool Conversations discussion series, we examine the spirit of cancel culture and how it relates to Jewish values. With the rise in anti-Semitism, we explore how we may educate and forgive instead of simply canceling. We will examine when cancellation is merited and when it is insufficient or even harmful.

Racial Justice in America: Reflections on the Past, Present and Future

In the last year, people across the United States have been taking to the streets to protest racism and police brutality. In this Hot Buttons, Cool Conversations event, we examine how structural racism has fueled inequity and reflect on our nation’s long legacy of racial injustice. 

Can Faith and Politics be Separated

Can Faith and Politics be Separated?

Communities across America are divided over politics, culture, identity, and the direction of the country. Are religious congregations any different? How do religious leaders today navigate deeply divisive issues in their own communities? We’ll examine the role religious leaders play in such partisan times.


The Future of the Supreme Court

Washington Post Supreme Court Reporter Robert Barnes leads a discussion with three law professors— Gary Lawson, Kate Shaw and Jed Shugerman—to examine the shift in the Supreme Court and its power to determine the direction of hot button issues including reproductive rights, gun laws, and immigration.

America's Opioid Epidemic

The opioid epidemic is devastating communities across the country. This discussion examines the origins of the worst public health crisis of the twenty-first century and exposes the role pharmaceutical companies played in pushing addictive opioids into the American market. A panel with Richard J. Dyer, Esq., Dr. Andrew Kolodny, Dr. Bertha K. Madras and journalist Barry Meier explores how we got here, the science of addiction, and how to stem the crisis.

Immigration: Balancing Security and Compasion

Immigration: Balancing Security and Compassion

Comprehensive immigration reform has been a hot button issue for decades in this country. Immigration policy forces politicians and citizens alike to weigh economic and security concerns against humanitarian interests.

Our panel examines the immigration debate on the very day of President Donald Trump's address to the American People about his request for a border wall.

Being Jewish in Trump's America

Fresh on the heels of the mid-term elections, the JCC Greater Boston Jonathan Samen Hot Buttons Cool Conversations series examines the political landscape in America. On issues ranging from the economy and healthcare, to immigration and the future of the Supreme Court, candidates are facing a deeply polarized electorate in a charged political environment. We present an analysis of the election outcome with two of the brightest political minds in the country.

Is science replacing God

Is Science Replacing God

Are science and religion forever locked in conflict or can they coexist? On issues from evolution and the big bang to new advances in technology and medicine, religion and science are often at odds. The panelists for this talk tackle some of the most controversial breakthroughs in science, including gene editing. What happens as our ethical and religious institutions struggle to keep up with science’s latest developments? We address the weighty questions asking if science refutes religion or if they are two separate issues.

Criminal Injustice in America

A panel composed of a former prosecutor, criminal justice professor, civil rights attorney, sentencing reform activist, and a wrongfully convicted individual explore racial inequities throughout the legal system. They discuss the criminal justice system's issues of racial bias, which have led to a miscarriage of justice ranging from police violence and brutality to presumption of guilt and wrongful convictions. In the post-Ferguson era, we examine the role that race plays in the criminal justice system from policing to prosecuting.

Israel: 50 Years After the 1967 War

Since the Six Day War, history has unfurled in the Middle East at a rapid pace, impacting generations of Israelis, Palestinians and the entire region. Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel and Egypt Daniel Kurtzer will moderate a discussion among several Israeli thought leaders and activists on the social, political and religious challenges - and opportunities - for Israel in the next 50 years.

Cyber Trolls, Death Threats and the First Amendment

Cyber Trolls, Death Threats and the First Amendment

From journalists and activists, to doctors and politicians, death threats, and particularly anti-Semitic and anti-women cyber threats, have become common fodder on social media. As they consider user rights and First Amendment freedoms, social media platforms are grappling with whether to police, or even prosecute, these threats.

The future of Gender

The Future of Gender

What is gender and how do we relate to it? There are entire cultures for which gender is a different conversation than it is in the US. In today’s American cultural landscape, the conversation about the human rights and dignities of transgender individuals seems to be just beginning. This panel will look at the fluidity of gender through many lenses – historical, cultural, biological – to understand how societal bias takes root. 

Income Inequality

Mind the Gap: Income Inequality in America

Seven years after the depths of the financial crisis, Wall Street and the 1% have mostly recovered. Yet wages for the ordinary American has barely risen at all. Indeed, adjusted for inflation, the typical American household does not earn as much as it did in the year 2000. As Madeline Albright put it, reducing income inequality is no longer just an economic issue; it is a "moral imperative." Or is it? 

Scapegoating: And Then They Came For Me

Scapegoating: And Then They Came For Me

Front and center in the news during this most unusual campaign for U.S. President is the growing rhetoric of hate and xenophobia. Digging beyond emotional reactions, it is critical to take a step back and get a broader view of how fear, blame and hate speech impact people through a constructive and historical lens.
Drawing on the experiences and analysis of a diverse panel of speakers, this event takes a look at the personal, the policy, and the politics surrounding this complex issue.

Anti-Semitism Today in Europe

Anti-Semitism Today in Europe

This past year, worldwide outrage followed the events at Charlie Hebdo and the kosher market in Paris. As #JeSuisCharlie flooded the twitter-sphere, the supermarket attack brought European anti-Semitism into sharp focus. It is a critical time to look at the challenges facing world Jewry. Is anti-Semitism on the rise? What can be done about it? And, perhaps most hauntingly, are the Jews of Europe still safe?

How Judges Judge: The Role of Personal Values in Judicial Decisions

How Judges Judge: The Role of Personal Values in Judicial Decisions

Do judges bring their personal histories to bear when ruling on cases? With rulings that can change lives, shift policy or alter the course of history, what is the role of personal experience and perspective in judicial decisions?

Journalists in Jeopardy: Risking it All to Get the Story

Journalists in Jeopardy: Risking it All to Get the Story

Even in this digital age, there is no lens that can replace human observation – on the ground, in the trenches and on the front lines of the war. Hear from journalists fwho faced extraordinary peril to report on the prevailing issues of the day.