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Jewish Community Centers of Greater Boston

Thought-provoking topics are at the heart of the Jonathan Samen Hot Buttons, Cool Conversations Discussion Series, with nationally known scholars and luminaries. Discuss hot issues, ask questions, and add to the conversation on topical issues viewed through a Jewish lens.

The Jonathan Samen Hot Buttons, Cool Conversations Discussion Series is underwritten by generous donor support. View listing of donors. All JCC arts and humanities offerings are programs of the Ryna Greenbaum JCC Center for the Arts.

Beginning in April 2015, Hot Buttons discussions will be recorded in partnership with the Forum Network, a joint venture of WGBH and The Lowell Institute.  Videos of each event are posted here and are available online at forum-network.org and other affiliated sites.

View past programs:

Mind the Gap: Income Inequality in America (May 2016) - With Dean Baker, N. Gregory Mankiw, Dr. Kim Weeden and moderator Roger Lowenstein.

Scapegoating: And Then They Came For Me (March 2016) - With Dr. Donna Hicks, Jasmina Dervisevic-Cesic, Ken Gude and moderator Dr. Aleisa Fishman.

Anti-Semitism Today in Europe (Nov 2015) - With Deborah Lipstadt (author, professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory University), Diego Ornique (Europe Director of the American Joint Distribution Committee), Andras Borgula (founder of the Hungarian Jewish Theatre in Budapest) and moderator Alan Solomont (former U.S. Ambassador to Spain and Dean of the College of Citizenship and Public Service at Tufts University).

How Judges Judge - The Role of Personal Values in Judicial Decisions (May 2015) - With former U.S. federal judge Nancy Gertner, Justice Salim Joubran of the Supreme Court of Israel, and moderator Frederick M. Lawrence, President, Brandeis University.

Journalists in Jeopardy - Risking it All to Get the Story (April 2015) - With journalists Joe Bergantino, Amir Tibon and Tracey Shelton and moderator Aaron Schachter.

From Conflict to Peace (October 2014) - With Dr. Fran Buntman, Dr. Francis Costello, Bernie Glassman and moderator Tom Ashbrook.

The Future of Gender (December 2016) - With Dr. Norman Spack, Mimi Lemay, Schuyler Bailar, Nick Teich and moderator Idit Klein.

Upcoming Programs

All events held at the Leventhal-Sidman JCC (333 Nahanton Street, Newton) unless otherwise noted.

Cyber Trolls, Death Threats and the First Amendment

A Jonathan Samen Hot Buttons, Cool Conversations Discussion Series event

  • Date

    Wednesday, March 15 (7:30pm)

  • Location

    Leventhal-Sidman JCC

    333 Nahanton Street, Newton, MA 02459

  • Age Groups


  • Cost

    Cost: $18 JCC members, seniors, students: $15


In October 2016, Politico reporter Hadas Gold wrote an article about the presidential campaign and was met with a litany of Naziesque death threats.  She received a photoshopped image of herself with a bloody bullet hole to her forehead and a yellow “Jude” star, as Jews were forced to wear in Nazi Germany, on her chest.  

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. The mechanisms of the internet – its global reach, immediacy and anonymity – have exposed an ugly underbelly of targeted hate.  As they consider user rights and First Amendment freedoms, social media platforms are grappling with whether to police, or even prosecute, these threats.

On the internet, the push and pull between hate speech and freedom of speech reflects a new frontier in the pursuit of an ethical society.  Is there a road back to civility? How far can the First Amendment be reasonably stretched?  Should journalists and others under threat simply double down, or is self-censorship the way forward?


Lisa Green (pictured) is an author, lawyer, and legal analyst. A former senior producer at NBC News, Lisa has appeared on TODAY, CBS This Morning, MSNBC, CNBC and CNN.com to discuss current legal issues, and has written for MSNBC.com and Tablet. Lisa has litigated cases involving First Amendment, access, new media and intellectual property claims. Her book, On Your Case: A Comprehensive, Compassionate (and Only Slightly Bossy) Legal Guide for Every Stage of a Women's Life (William Morrow) was hailed by Judge Judy Sheindlin as "an insightful encyclopedia and brilliantly crafted."


Mary Anne Franks is a professor of law at the University of Miami School of Law and the Vice-President and Legislative & Tech Policy Director of the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, a nonprofit organization dedicated to combating online abuse and discrimination. Professor Franks frequently advises legislators and tech industry leaders, including Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Microsoft, on privacy and abuse issues. She is the author of The Radicalized Constitution: The Rise of Fanaticism in American Law and Politics (forthcoming, Stanford University Press), in addition to numerous scholarly and popular press articles. Professor Franks holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School and doctorate and master’s degrees from Oxford University, where she studied as a Rhodes Scholar.

Hadas Gold is a reporter at POLITICO, covering media and politics. She joined POLITICO after a wide range of experience from following trash pickers in Argentina with the Pulitzer Center and work with Spanish-language network NTN24, to internships with 60 Minutes, PolitiFact and Cox Newspapers. Gold earned her B.A. in journalism and M.A. in media and public affairs from The George Washington University and is a proud alumna of the award-winning college newspaper, The GW Hatchet. She was born in Tel Aviv born and raised in Arizona.

Ari Ezra Waldman is Associate Professor of Law and Director of the Innovation Center for Law and Technology at New York Law School (NYLS) and an Affiliate Scholar with Princeton University’s Center for Information Technology Policy. Professor Waldman is the Founder and Director of NYLS’s Data Privacy Project, a locus of student-faculty cross-disciplinary research on notice and choice, privacy and design, and trust and disclosure. He is the founder and director of the Institute for CyberSafety, a research and direct services initiative that includes, among other things, the first and to date only law school clinic providing free counsel to victims of cyberharassment. Professor Waldman is a nationally recognized expert on data privacy and cyberharassment.  He recently appeared as an expert on Syfy’s “The Internet Ruined My Life,” a six-episode miniseries on privacy and cyberharassment. Professor Waldman holds a Ph.D. in sociology from Columbia University, a J.D. from Harvard Law School, and a B.A., magna cum laude, from Harvard College and has published work in many leading law reviews.