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 began last year, with scholars from the field of Jewish studies and civic leaders discussing the intersection of Jewish civilization and current political issues in the United States.

This year, Community Conversations will bring Waterville’s diverse constituencies together at Beth Israel Congregation to engage in three conversations guided by one unifying question: “Are We One? Speaking as a Divided Nation.” The conversations will take place over the course of the 2017-2018 academic year.

Sunday, November 19, 2017 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Political Diversity

Is our political diversity our strength? 

Location: Beth Israel Congregation, 291 Main Street, Waterville


Thought Leaders: Pious Ali and Rabbi Daniel Nevins


Pious Ali: Mr. Ali is a Youth and Community Engagement Specialist at the University of Southern Maine’s Muskie School of Public Service and has spent the better part of his life focused on community engagement. A native of Ghana, he migrated to the United States in 2000. He is the first African-born Muslim American to be elected to public office in Maine, becoming a member of the city’s Board of Public Education in 2013 and an at-large city councilor in 2016. He founded the Maine Interfaith Youth Alliance and is a co-founder of King Fellows, a Portland-based youth group dedicated to creating meaningful opportunities for youth through leadership and civic engagement, based on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


Mr. Ali serves on the board of Rippleffect, a Maine-based outdoor and adventure youth development and leadership program. He has volunteered at Long Creek Youth Development Center and served on the boards of the YMCA of Southern Maine, the Maine African Film Festival, and the Schair Memorial Lectures. In 2015 he was named Lift360’s Most Distinguished Alumnus. He has worked as a photojournalist for a range of print publications in Ghana. He lives in Portland, Maine with his two children.




Rabbi Daniel Nevins: Rabbi Daniel Nevins is the Pearl Resnick Dean of the Jewish Theological Seminary’s Division of Religious Leadership, which includes the rabbinical and cantorial schools, as well as the Center for Pastoral Education and the Block-Kolker Center for Spiritual Arts. He has served as dean since 2007 and ordained over 200 rabbis since then. A scholar of contemporary Jewish law, Rabbi Nevins writes position papers, or responsa, on topics of contemporary concern such as technology and religious life, gender and sexuality, and bioethics. Prior to his work as dean, Rabbi Nevins was a congregational rabbi for 13 years at Adat Shalom Synagogue in suburban Detroit. He lives with his family in New York City.



Sunday, January 21, 2018 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Pastoral Approaches to Political Questions

Are some wounds too deep to heal?

Location: Beth Israel Congregation, 291 Main Street, Waterville

Thought Leaders: Michelle Friedman and Darren Ranco



Michelle Friedman: Dr. Michelle Friedman is a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst in private practice, the chair of Pastoral Counseling at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School (YCT), and Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. A graduate of Barnard College, NYU School of Medicine, and The Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Study and Research, Dr. Friedman has been involved in bridging religious life and mental health issues for over 30 years. She has spearheaded educational initiatives on a variety of topics, including religious identity, postpartum depression, and sexuality. In 1998 Dr. Friedman was invited to develop a pastoral counseling curriculum for YCT in order to prepare Modern Orthodox rabbis to meet the challenges of contemporary community leadership. Her recent book, “The Art of Jewish Pastoral Counseling: A Guide for All Faiths,” co-authored with Dr. Rachel Yehuda, comes out of her teaching experience and her ongoing contact with graduates of YCT and other rabbinical seminaries.



Darren J. Ranco: Darren J. Ranco, a member of the Penobscot Nation, is an Associate Professor of Anthropology and Chair of Native American Programs at the University of Maine. He has a Masters of Studies in Environmental Law from Vermont Law School and a PhD in Social Anthropology from Harvard University. Dr. Ranco’s research focuses on the ways in which indigenous communities in the United States, particularly Maine, resist environmental destruction by using indigenous diplomacies and critiques of liberalism to protect cultural resources. He teaches classes on indigenous intellectual property rights, research ethics, environmental justice, and tribal governance.



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

Faith and Equality

How do we get along when our personal faith and societal conceptions of equality and justice diverge?

Location: Beth Israel Congregation, 291 Main Street, Waterville

Thought Leaders: Amy Walter and Steve Jacobson