2020 Season Speaker Biographies

Because of the present COVID-19 rules for the State of New York and unknowns ahead for the summer, the EJLCC has canceled its summer presentations and films.

Further information will be available mid-May regarding any other changes.

Week One

Dr. Gil Troy

Dr. Gil Troy

A Distinguished Scholar in North American History at McGill University currently living in Jerusalem, Gil Troy is an award-winning American presidential historian and a leading Zionist activist. In the Foreword to Troy’s latest book, The Zionist Ideas: Visions for the Jewish Homeland – Then, Now, Tomorrow, Natan Sharansky writes:  “This magnificent work is the perfect follow-up to Arthur Hertzberg’s classic The Zionist Idea. Combining, like Hertzberg, a scholar’s eye and an activist’s ear, Gil Troy demonstrates that we now live in a world of Zionist Ideas, with many different ways to help Israel flourish as a democratic Jewish state.”

Recently designated an Algemeiner J-100, one of the top 100 people "positively influencing Jewish life," Troy wrote The Age of Clinton: America in the 1990s, and ten other books on the American presidency. One leading historian called Age of Clinton “the best book on the man and his times.” Troy edited and updated another classic, the multi-volume History of American Presidential Campaigns, originally edited by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. and Fred Israel. He is now writing new essays on the 2012 and 2016 elections.

Troy’s book Moynihan’s Moment: America’s Fight against Zionism as Racism, describes the fall of the UN, the rise of Reagan and the spread of Anti-Zionism.  Jewish Ideas Daily designated it one of 2012’s “best books.”

He appeared as a featured commentator on CNN’s popular multipart documentaries, The Eighties, The Nineties, and The 2000s. He has been interviewed on most major North American TV and Radio networks.

Troy has published essays in the American, Canadian, and Israeli media, including writing essays for the New York Times’ “Campaign Stops” in 2012 and 2016. He writes a weekly column for the Daily Beast, “Secret Lives,” putting current events in historical perspective, and writes a weekly column for the Jerusalem Post.  His next book, Never Alone: My Life in Prison, Politics, and with my People, is a celebration of Jewish peoplehood through the lens of Natan Sharansky's life, written together with Natan Sharansky.

Lecture Titles:

June 29: A Short Happy History of American Anti-Semitism -- Even in these Unhappy times

June 30: Identity Zionism: More than Just anti-anti-Semitism and anti-anti-Zionism


Week Two

Ambassador Ido Aharoni

Ambassador Ido Aharoni

Ido Aharoni serves as Global Distinguished Professor for International Relations at New York University’s Faculty of Arts and Science. He is a co-founder of Emerson Rigby Ltd., a member of the International Advisory Council of APCO Worldwide, Chairman of the Charney Forum on New Diplomacy, Global Ambassador for Maccabi World Union and Global Ambassador for the Genius 100 Initiative.

Aharoni is a 25-year veteran of Israel’s Foreign service. He is a public diplomacy specialist, founder of the Brand Israel program and a well-known nation branding practitioner. Aharoni has been Israel's longest serving Consul-General in New York and the tri-state area to date. He held that position with the rank of Ambassador for six years, overseeing the operations of Israel’s largest diplomatic mission worldwide.
In 2002 Aharoni initiated the inclusion of Israel in the BAV (Brand Asset Valuator), the world's largest database on brands maintained by advertising giant Y&R (Young and Rubicam). Later that year he convened the Brand Israel Group, an independent group of marketing and branding specialists, thus creating the foundation to what would later become the Brand Israel Program.

In 2015 Ambassador Aharoni conceived and initiated the creation of Best Countries Index by convening U.S. News & World Report magazine with market research specialist BAV (Brand Asset Valuator). This venture was later joined by Wharton School of Business and was unveiled at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January of 2016.

In 2013, the news magazine 'Algemeiner' named him among ‘Top 100 People Positively Influencing Jewish Life’ commonly known as the "Jewish 100."

In 2018 Ambassador Aharoni took part in the design and creation of the Israel Then & Now museum exhibit produced by the Maltz Jewish Museum in Cleveland.

Lecture Titles:

July 6: Israel the Brand

July 7: The Rise of the New Participant


Week Three

Dr. Annie Polland

Dr. Annie PollandDr. Annie Polland is a public historian, author and Executive Director of the American Jewish Historical Society. Previously, she served as the Vice President for Programs & Education at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, where she oversaw exhibits and interpretation. She is the co-author, with Daniel Soyer, of Emerging Metropolis: New York Jews in the Age of Immigration, winner of the 2012 National Jewish Book Award. She received her Ph.D. in History from Columbia University, and served as Vice President of Education at the Museum at Eldridge Street, where she wrote Landmark of the Spirit (Yale University). Polland has taught at New York University and serves as an educator for the Bronfman Fellowship.

Lecture Titles:

July 13: Enduring Legacy: Emma Lazarus In her Time and in Ours

July 14: Soapbox Speeches: Union Square and American Identity



Week Four

Dr. David Bryfman

Dr. David Bryfman

Dr. David Bryfman is the CEO of The Jewish Education Project. After working in formal and informal Jewish educational institutions in Australia, Israel, and North America, David earned his Ph.D. in Education and Jewish Studies from NYU, focusing on the identity development of Jewish adolescents. David has authored several articles and presented broadly on topics ranging from the Jewish teenage experience, innovation and change in Jewish life, Israel education and more broadly about Jewish education. He is a founder of the annual Jewish Futures conference, lead researcher of the groundbreaking 2016 study, “Generation Now: Understanding and Engaging Jewish Teenagers Today,” and editor of “Experience and Jewish Education,” a compendium of essays written by and for Jewish experiential educators. David is an alum of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship Program and the Schusterman Fellowship. David lives in Brooklyn with his wife, Mirm and 2 children Jonah and Abby.

Lecture Titles:

July 20: Understanding Jewish Generation Z: The Narcissists Who Will Save Us All

July 21: Educating Our Children in a Time of Fear





Week Five

Susan Pollack

Susan Pollack

Susan Pollack has spent her life helping people trapped by oppression and tyranny. From 1981-1991, Susan worked in Sudan and Ethiopia during civil war and famine, smuggling Jews out of Ethiopia where the Marxist military regime arrested and tortured those trying to leave the country. For years, Susan repeatedly brought exit papers and medical supplies to Ethiopia’s Jews and - realizing the solution was ultimately political - Susan tirelessly lobbied reluctant governments to stage airlifts.

They did so in November 1984 with Operation Moses out of Sudan, and once again in May 1991 with Operation Solomon, after Susan implemented secretly moving 18,000 Jewish from 300 mountain villages south 800 km to Addis Ababa to stage the Operation Solomon airlift. She opened ‘Susa’s Compound’ and found food, medicine, blankets and housing for all 18,000 and defied the Ethiopian government from harming them. She survived typhoid and respiratory disease, but always says that she never suffered compared to Ethiopia’s Jews.

Susan followed the community to Israel in 1991 and worked there for 3 years, helping with the absorption of the Ethiopian Jewish community.

Since returning to the United States, Susan has earned a Masters Degree at Harvard University and spent 9 years working on behalf of Yemin Orde Youth Village in Israel, which helps immigrant and refugee children from 22 countries. She has also helped Tibetan refugee children in India and orphans of genocide in Rwanda, and disabled U.S. veterans.

For her work on behalf of Ethiopian Jews, Susan was named Hadassah Woman of the Year and received the Jan Karski Freedom Award for Valor and Compassion, as well as numerous other citations and honors.

Susan is married and today lives in Silver Spring, Maryland. She continues to work on behalf of the Ethiopian Jewish community through Friends of Ethiopian Jews, a nonprofit organization which she co-founded that supports grassroots programs and advocacy efforts by organizations run by Ethiopian Israelis themselves. www.friendsofethiopianjews.org

Lecture Titles:

July 27: Ethiopian Jews: An Overview: "Everything You've Ever Wanted to Know About Ethiopian Jews"

July 28: Ethiopian Jews in Israel Today: How Are They Doing?


Week Six

Dr. John Loike

Dr. John Loike

John Loike, PhD joined Lander College of Arts & Sciences at Touro College in the Fall of 2017 as Professor of Biology after serving as the director of Special Programs in the Center for Bioethics at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. His biomedical research focuses on how human white blood cells combat infections, Parkinson’s disease, and cancer. Dr. Loike lectures internationally on emerging topics in secular and Jewish bioethics, organizes international conferences, and has over 150 papers and abstracts published in the areas of immunology, cancer and bioethics. He writes a monthly column for The Scientist Magazine on Frontiers of Bioethics and has published many groundbreaking articles on bioethics. He is ranked as one of the top 2% of all scientists read. His sixth edition of “Science-based Bioethics” came out in 2019 and Yeshiva University is publishing his book with Rabbi Moshe Tendler entitled “Bioethics - The New Frontier of Jewish Ethics”. He also runs a yearly innovative on-site medical ethics program in Bangkok, Thailand for undergraduates, called Biomedical Cross-cultural Education Program (BioCEP). Dr. Loike has a Ph.D. from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University and continues to do biomedical research as an adjunct research scientist for Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Lecture Titles:

August 3: The Ethical Applications Of Genetics To Jewish Law

August 4: Do Our Genes Represent Our Life Destiny? Epigenetics In Health And In Jewish Law


Week Seven

Stephanie Butnick

Stephanie Butnick

Stephanie Butnick is the deputy editor of Tablet and a host of Unorthodox, the #1 Jewish-themed podcast on iTunes. She and her co-hosts authored The Newish Jewish Encyclopedia: From Abraham to Zabar's and Everything in Between. She has a Bachelor's degree in religion from Duke University and a Master's degree in religious studies with a specialization in journalism from New York University, and has written for The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

Lecture Titles

August 10: The Kids are Alright: How New Technologies Kindle Ancient Feelings in Young Jews

August 11: The 10 Commandments for Engaging Young Jews (And Other Millennials)




Week Eight

Dr. Mirele Goldsmith

Dr. Mirele GoldsmithDr. Mirele Goldsmith is the founder of Jewish Earth Alliance, a national, grassroots coalition raising a moral voice on climate change to the US Congress. Mirele directed Hazon’s Jewish Greening Fellowship, a program that mobilized 55 synagogues, JCCs, day schools, and social service organizations to respond to climate change. Mirele went to the UN Summit on Climate Change in Copenhagen representing 22 American Jewish organizations. She was the leading Jewish organizer for the People’s Climate Marches in New York and Washington. Mirele has shared Jewish environmental teachings in Kathmandu, in the Salisbury Cathedral, at the Parliament of World Religions. and other interfaith settings. Her writings on Judaism and sustainability have been published in the Forward, Times of Israel, Jewish Week, and other publications. Mirele earned her PhD in environmental psychology from City University of New York Graduate Center

Lecture Title:

August 17: From Moses to Greta: Leadership Lessons for Facing Up to Climate Change




Richard Marker

Richard MarkerRichard Marker is an internationally known professor, writer, speaker, and advisor on philanthropy for philanthropists and foundations around the world. He is the founder of the Institute for Wise Philanthropy and faculty co-director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for High Impact Philanthropy’s funder education program.

He is also a prominent volunteer leader in the international interreligious realm, as past Chair of the Board of World Religious Leaders, and also of IJCIC [the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations], world Jewry’s official interlocutor with other religions.

Over his career, Marker has spoken in 40 countries and throughout the United States.


Lecture Title:

August 18: A Chief Rabbi, the Dalai Lama, and a Sheik walked into…the Golden Temple:  What interreligious leadership teaches us about ourselves.


Week Nine

Dr. Norman Ornstein

Dr. Norman Ornstein

Norman Ornstein is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where he studies politics, elections, and the US Congress. He is a cohost of AEI’s Election Watch series, a contributing editor and columnist for National Journal and The Atlantic, a BBC News election analyst, and the chairman of the Campaign Legal Center.

Dr. Ornstein previously served as codirector of the AEI-Brookings Election Reform Project and senior counselor to the Continuity of Government Commission. A longtime observer and analyst of American politics and the US Congress, he has been involved in political reform for decades, particularly campaign finance reform and the reform of Senate committees. He has also played a part in creating the Congressional Office of Compliance and the House Office of Congressional Ethics.

Dr. Ornstein was elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2004.
His many interviews have been aired on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal,” CBS, CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, NPR, and “PBS NewsHour,” among others. His articles and opinion pieces have been published widely, including in Politico, The New York Times, NY Daily News, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post.

Dr. Ornstein’s books include the bestsellers “One Nation After Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate, and the Not-Yet Deported,” with E. J. Dionne and Thomas E. Mann (St. Martin’s Press, 2017); and “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism;” “The Broken Branch: How Congress Is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track,” with Thomas E. Mann (Oxford University Press, 2006); and “The Permanent Campaign and Its Future” (AEI Press, 2000).

Dr. Ornstein has a PhD and a master’s in political science from the University of Michigan and a BA from the University of Minnesota.

Lecture Titles:

August 24: It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: The Roots Of Our Political And Social Tribalism, And What To Do About It

August 25: The Race To The White House And Control Of Congress: A Roadmap