Community Conversations is a series of three events bringing together Waterville faith and community institutions with Colby faculty and students to consider major issues of common concern. This series engages scholars from the field of Jewish studies and civic leaders in order to discuss the intersection of Jewish civilization and current political issues in the United States.

This year, Community Conversations will bring Waterville’s diverse constituencies together in the Chace Forum to engage in three conversations guided by the theme word “home.” We will delve into these three questions: What must we give—and give up—to be American? What is the role of the American family today? Colby and Waterville today—who really calls Waterville home? The conversations will take place over the course of the 2018-2019 academic year.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

6:30-8:30 p.m.

Who Calls Waterville Home?

Featuring David Greene, President of Colby College

Mike Roy, Waterville City Manager

Rachel Isaacs, Rabbi of Beth Israel Congregation

Colby College’s Center for Small Town Jewish Life will host the third in a series of Community Conversations on Thursday, May 2, 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Chace Community Forum in the Bill & Joan Alfond Commons, 150 Main Street, Waterville. This event is free and open to the public; a light dinner and dessert from Acadia Cakes will be served.

David Greene, president of Colby College, Mike Roy, Waterville city manager, and Rachel Isaacs, rabbi of Beth Israel Congregation, will lead a forum on the topic “Who Calls Waterville Home?” This will be followed by the opportunity for a facilitated community roundtable discussion.

In 1929, in the shadow of the Great Depression, Colby College’s place in Waterville came into question. As the college struggled with a cramped downtown campus and financial troubles, other cities approached the Board of Trustees with promises of a new and improved home in another location. At this critical moment, the citizens of Waterville joined forces with Colby to raise $100,000 to establish a new home for the college on Mayflower Hill. The new campus kept Colby in Waterville, but the move also set the precedent for a clear Hill and Ville dynamic, with a social and economic divide that separated the two communities for decades. Now, with the construction of the Bill & Joan Alfond Main Street Commons and Colby’s significant investment in Waterville’s downtown, a core question about identity and belonging has emerged: Who calls Waterville home? To what extent is Colby as an institution, and its students, faculty, and staff, truly members of the Waterville community, and how do our responses to these questions impact our future together?

Community Conversations is a series of three discussions bringing together Waterville faith and community institutions with Colby faculty and students to discuss major issues of common concern. The theme for 2018-19 is Home. Each program has featured Jewish and secular thought leaders in conversation with each other, followed by group discussions with members of both the Colby and Waterville communities.

The program is sponsored by the Center for Small Town Jewish Life and the Maine Humanities Council, and co-sponsored by the Colby Religious Studies and Jewish Studies departments, the Center for Arts and Humanities, the Cultural Events Committee, the Office of Civic Engagement, the Student Government Association, the Office of the Provost, and Beth Israel Congregation.









Sunday, January 27, 2019

6:30-8:30 p.m.

What is the role of the American family today?

Featuring Naomi Schaefer Riley, Beth Cooper Benjamin, and Adrienne Carmack

The event will take place in the new Chace Community Forum—a communal events space on the first floor of the Bill & Joan Alfond Main Street Commons in Waterville. A light dinner will be served beginning at 6 p.m., followed by desserts from Acadia Cakes, and coffee and tea.


James Allen Walker

Naomi Schaefer Riley is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, focusing on issues regarding child welfare. She is also a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum. She is a former columnist for the New York Post and a former Wall Street Journal editor and writer, as well as the author of six books, including, Be the Parent: Stop Banning Seesaws and Start Banning Snapchat (2018).







Beth Cooper Benjamin is associate director of The Joseph Stern Center for Social Responsibility Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan. She serves as a vocal advocate for girls in the Jewish communal world and has addressed audiences including the Jewish Funders Network and the Jewish Women’s Foundation of South Palm Beach County, and contributed writing to Sh’ma: A Journal of Jewish Responsibility, the Union for Reform Judaism’s Torah at the Center journal, Moving Traditions’ Rosh Hodesh: It’s a Girl Thing!, and the Journal of Jewish Communal Service.


Adrienne Carmack is a 2018 graduate of Colby College. Originally from Veazie, Maine, Adrienne has a background in community organizing and youth work, She has worked around the state to further progress in gender equity, racial justice, and reproductive rights. She lives in New York City and works at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Center in youth education services.  






Sunday, November 11, 2018, 6:30-8:30 p.m.


What must we give—and give up—to be American?

The event will take place in the new Chace Forum—a communal events space on the first floor of the Bill & Joan Alfond Main Street Commons in Waterville.

Thought leaders: Bethashley Cajuste and Rabbi Erica Asch


Bethashley Cajuste ’20 has been working intimately with the Pugh Administration for two years and has been serving as a domestic violence advocate for five years.  She is an Independent Global Health major at Colby with a focus on Women’s Health. Bethashley is also a QuestBridge scholar and mentor.







Rabbi Erica Asch is the spiritual leader of Congregation Beth El in Augusta, and the Hillel advisor and Jewish chaplain at Colby. She received her rabbinic ordination from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 2008 and then took a position as a community organizer with the Industrial Areas Foundation, the first rabbi to do so directly out of rabbinical school. After three years with IAF, she served as an assistant rabbi at Temple Sinai in Washington, D.C., before moving to Augusta in 2013.