The South Bay Institute Speaker Series

The South Bay Institute is an annual speaker series that presents thought-provoking lectures on a variety of topics from October through May, at various locations around  the South Bay. Most lectures are free or low priced.

For more information, contact 408.357.7423 or [email protected].

Ariel Burger, “Witness: Lessons from Elie Wiesel’s Classroom”

Sunday, May 5, from 11:30am -1:00pm at the JCC

The Silicon Valley Holocaust Survivors Association will host Rabbi Professor Ariel Burger who will discuss his book Witness: Lessons from Elie Wiesel’s Classroom. Burger was Wiesel’s teaching assistant for many years and is a rabbi, teacher, artist and lecturer.
Admission $10 per person, payable at the door.


Past Speakers

Congressman Steve Israel

Tuesday, October 2, 7:00-9:00pm at the JCC

This year the South Bay Institute Speakers Series will focus on “Pursuing Justice in Polarized Times.” The series will launch on October 2, when former Congressman Steve Israel presents his book Big Guns, a political satire about the gun lobby. Israel was a Member of Congress for sixteen years. He left in 2016, undefeated and un-indicted. He served as the House Democrats’ chief political strategist between 2011-2015. President Bill Clinton called him “one of the most thoughtful Members of Congress.”

Rabbi Reuven Firestone: Pursuing Justice in Polarized Times

Sunday, October 28, 10:00-11:30am at Congregation Shir Hadash

Rabbi Reuven Firestone of the Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles will speak at Congregation Shir Hadash, 20 Cherry Blossom Lane in Los Gatos.  Author of numerous books and articles on Islam, Professor Firestone is the Regenstein Professor in Medieval Judaism and Islam. He has been a national leader in initiatives bringing together Jews, Muslims and Christians, Jews and Arabs, and Israelis and Palestinians. This event is offered in partnership with the Abrahamic Alliance. This event is free of charge.

Shira Ben-Sasson Furstenberg, Associate Director of the New Israel Fund

Sunday, November 18 from 10:00-11:30am at Congregation Sinai
Shira Ben-Sasson Furstenberg, Associate Director of the New Israel Fund in Israel will speak at Congregation Sinai. She was the Director of JPW (Jewish Pluralism Watch- AL MISHMAR HAKNESSET) – Conservative Movement’s non-partisan institute which monitors, interprets, and publicizes the positions, statements, and voting records of Knesset Members and other elected officials on all issues of democracy, religion and the state. Prior to that she was the director of iRep, JFNA’s Israel Religious Expression Platform. Its mission is to impact a range of issues related to increasing religious diversity in Israel with the initial goal of promoting and helping to advance meaningful change to the status quo that will serve to facilitate a range of legally-recognized options for marriage in Israel. She will discuss how her work and thought interacts with our theme for the year. This event is free of charge.

Pursuing Justice in the Criminal Justice System

Thursday, December 6, 7:00-9:00pm at the JCC

Aaron Zisser, former U.S. Department of Justice civil rights attorney and former San Jose Independent Police Auditor, will speak about criminal justice reform. Zisser is an alumnus of Yavneh Day School. Tickets $8-$15.

This speaker was brought to the JCC by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Jewish Federation of Silicon Valley.

Shmuly Yanklowitz, “Refugee Rights in Polarized Times”

Sunday, March 31, 1:00-3:00pm at Congregation Beth David

Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz will speak about the Jewish underpinnings of his social justice work with an emphasis on his work with Arizona Jews for Justice and refugee rights. As a global social justice activist and educator, Rav Shmuly has volunteered, taught, and staffed missions in five continents including Israel, Ghana, India, France, Thailand, El Salvador, Britain, Senegal, Germany, Switzerland, Ukraine, Argentina, South Africa, and Haiti. He served at the World Economic Forum in Geneva and Davos, Switzerland as the rabbinic representative, a facilitator, and motivational speaker. Rav Shmuly is the Founder and President of Uri L’Tzedek, the Founder and CEO of The Shamayim V’Aretz Institute, and is the author of fourteen books. Tickets $8-$15.


The South Bay Institute is organized by the JCC in partnership with other local Jewish community organizations including Congregation Beth David, Congregation Shir Hadash, Congregation Sinai, Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Silicon Valley, Kehillah High School, Silicon Valley Holocaust Survivors Association, and Temple Emanu-El.


The APJCC is proud to be a part of the Initiative on Jewish Peoplehood, co-funded by the Koret Foundation and the Taube Foundation for Jewish Life & Culture, and supported further by the Jewish Federation of Silicon Valley and other generous supporters.

To become a donor to programs like this at the JCC, visit our Donations page.