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Past Events at CDHS 2016

This page lists recent lectures and events. It includes a brief description plus a link to a complete summary.


John Caher:

"The Curious Case of Kiryas Joel”
December, 2016

John Caher is a legal reporter and author of six books, one of which, The Curious Case of Kiryas Joel, was co-written with Louis Grumet. His talk, based on it, concerned how a small religious sect got the state to establish its own school district. Kiryas Joel is a community in Rockland County, home to about 22,000 members of the Satmar sect of ultra-orthodox (Hasidic) Jews. They originated in Hungary but experienced some inconvenience during the Holocaust, prompting the survivors to relocate to Brooklyn. From there, their Rebbe, Joel Teitelbaum (1887-1979), led them on an exodus into Orange County in the 1970s. “Kiryas Joel” translates as “Joel’s Village,” and is inhabited almost exclusively by Satmars.


Dr. Michael Brannigan:

Disaster Recovery With A Focus On Japan’s 2011 Tsunami
November, 2016

Dr. Michael Brannigan is professor in Ethics and Moral Values at the College of St. Rose. His talk was about how people use what he calls “moral grit” cope with disasters, focusing upon Japan’s 2011 tsunami. Brannigan began with a quote from Friedrich Nietszche: “Of all that is written, I love only what a person has written with his own blood.”


Frank Robinson Esq. :

Our September meeting featured a review of Robert Putnam's recent book Our Kids: The America Dream in Crisis.
October, 2016

Our September meeting featured a review of Robert Putnam's recent book Our Kids: The America Dream in Crisis by CHDS' own erudite member, Frank Robinson. If you were a regular attendee of CDHS Book Discussion group last year you were able to delve into this interesting book in much more detail and I hope that you will not take exception this abbreviated recap.


Corinne Carey Esq. of "Compassion and Choices":

She described the nation’s leading nonprofit organization working to improve care and expand choices at the end of life.
September, 2016

She began by posing the question, how do you envision your own death? Some say they want to die while having sex. But most want to die at home among loved ones. It often doesn’t work out that way. Carey spoke of her father’s cancer death, which that ex-soldier fought hard against, and the efforts to ameliorate his pain toward the end. Hospice, she said, can be very helpful, but sometimes isn’t enough.


Albany City Court Judge Rachel Kretser and Hudson and Mohawk River Humane Society's Brad Shear:

“The Connection Between Human Trafficking
and Animal Cruelty”

August, 2016

Our August meeting featured another set of thoroughly delightful topics – human trafficking and animal cruelty. The panelists were Rachel Kretser, Albany City Court Judge, and Brad Shear*, Executive Director of the Hudson and Mohawk River Humane Society. (A third scheduled panelist was unable to make it.) Judge Kretser began, describing her court as being on “the front lines” of the justice system, and closest to the people.


Colin Donnaruma Esq. and Melanie Trimble:

“Current Issues Being Tackled By The NY Civil Liberties Union.”
July, 2016

Our July program featured Colin Donnaruma and Melanie Trimble, both officials of the New York Civil Liberties Union (the ACLU’s local incarnation). They discussed some current issues requiring civil liberties attention. Mr. Donnaruma began by noting the concern regarding racial disparities in police use of force; this was days after the killings in Baton Rouge, Minnesota, and Dallas.


Dr. Matthew Szydagis:

“Wave Hello to Gravitational Waves.”
June, 2016

Matthew Szydagis is an Assistant Professor of Physics at SUNY. His talk was titled “Wave Hello to Gravitational Waves.” The story begins in 1687 with Isaac Newton’s law of gravity – not merely that stuff like apples falls down, but that the force is proportional to mass, and diminishes with the square of the distance. This was a fantastic advance of understanding. But Newton couldn’t say how the force of gravity is transmitted between objects.


Rick Mathews:

“Countering Terrorists and Other Violent Actors in the USA.”
May, 2016

In May we heard from Rick Mathews, on “Countering Terrorists and Other Violent Actors in the USA.” [“Violent Actors” has nothing to do with Hollywood.] Mathews is Director of Simulations and Training at the State University’s College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security, and Cybersecurity.


Keenya Oliver Bemis:

“Mitochondria, Y Chromosomes, You and Me.”
April, 2016

Keenya Oliver Bemis is a longtime active CDHSer, on the Executive Council, and teaches biology at various different schools.

Mitochondria are organelles – little gizmos inside living cells. (All life is made up of cells.) Mitochondria convert food into ATP, which is where we get our energy from. (That’s why they’re called “mighty mitochondria.”)


Heidi Parker:

“Closing Ceremonies: How to honor and celebrate the lives of the non-religious.”
March, 2016

Our society doesn’t like to talk about death – a “death defying culture” according to our March speaker, Heidi Parker. But we humanists don’t fit that characterization – indeed, based upon speakers we’ve had, death seems to be one of our favorite topics. Heidi Parker is a humanist celebrant and chaplain, certified in thanatology (grief and death counseling).


Dr. Gregory Pfitzer:

“The Past We Choose to Remember – Children’s Historical Literature and the Christian Right.”
February, 2016

His interest in the subject was triggered when, as a bibliophile collecting past history texts, he bought on eBay what he thought was an 1884 book, but which turned out to be a 1998 re-issue by Mantle Ministries. That publisher produces books intended for use by Christian home schoolers. The volume in question was a monosyllabic text by Josephine Pollard.



Dr. Alan Lizotte:

Observations on Reducing Gun Violence
January, 2016

Alan Lizotte is a Professor at SUNY Albany, specializing in gun-related issues, which he said he’s been studying for 45 years. It is estimated that there are 310 million guns in the U.S. – something Professor Lizotte came back to repeatedly, as a key basic fact to be reckoned with. America has a culture of gun ownership, with guns having a cultural meaning for many people.



[Past Events 2015]

[Past Events 2014]

[Past Events 2013]

[Past Events 2012]

[Past Events 2011]

[Past Events 2010]

[Past Events 2009]

[Past Events 2008]

[Past Events 2007]

[Past Events 2006]

[Past Events 2005]

[Past Events 2004]

[Past Events 2003]

[Past Events 2002]

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