What is the meaning of human life? This phrase, of course, is the essence of many existential conversations, but it is also the name of a book by Raymond A. Belliotti. The Distinguished Teaching Professor of Philosophy at SUNY Fredonia has also written the thought-provoking tomes Happiness is Overrated, Roman Philosophy and the Good Life, Stalking Nietzche and Good Sex. On April 22, Belliotti will discuss the meaning of life at the Central Queens Y. Part of the human condition, this Harvard Law School grad with a Ph.D. from the University of Miami argues, is that the questions most important to us evade answers and instead underscore the limitations of human reason. Seriously confronting such questions threatens our mundane lives. Belliotti purports that the meaning of life is best understood through two metaphors: telescopes and slinky toys. Find out what he means on Monday.
In 2009, Afghanistan passed a law giving Shia men the right to deny their wives food if the women don’t obey their sexual demands. (Shia is a version of Islam.) This legislation also required women to get permission from their husbands if they wanted to work and granted legal guardianship of children to the fathers and even grandfathers, instead of mothers. However, in 2010, advocates were successful in passing the Elimination of Violence Against Women Act, which strengthens sanctions against various forms of violence against women, including making rape a crime for the first time under Afghan law. On April 15, Naheed Bahram will discuss women’s rights in this war-torn country during a special presentation at the Central Queens Y. Bahram, Queens chapter program director for NY Women for Afghan Women — which supports literacy, job education and health care while respecting Afghan traditions and practices – left Afghanistan after the loss of her mother in a bomb explosion in Kabul. Her family migrated to Pakistan, where she graduated from high school and taught English at refugee camps. In 2004, Bahram moved to the U.S., and started working for NY WAW as an intern and volunteer in 2007. She graduated from Queens College in 2011 and currently works full time for NY WAW.
The term ”rough childhood” is an understatement. Marione Ingram was born in Nazi Germany in 1935. During World War II, neighbors told the Gestapo that her mother was Jewish. Soon thereafter, her father was beaten and pressured to divorce his mother before being coerced into working for the Luftwaffe in Belgium.
It only got worse. Ingram, age 8 at the time, and her mother escaped death camps because their city, Hamburg, was firebombed and after being denied access to air raid shelters, they were presumed dead. They survived about 18 months in hiding, dealing with constant fear and hunger. In 1952, Ingram immigrated to New York City and observed discrimination against African Americans. Impelled by her own experiences, she became a civil rights activist and jumped back into dangerous living.
During the 1960s, she worked on voter registration in the South and opened a Freedom School in Mississippi. Harassment and threats ensued, and the school was eventually torched by the Klu Klux Klan. Today she is a writer who has been published in Best American Essays and a fiber artist who has exhibited in Europe and the United States. On April 8 at the Central Queens Y, Ingram will discuss her life and memoir, The Hands of War, in an informal setting with light refreshments.
Mary Fulbrook grew up hearing about Udo Klausa, a family friend, good neighbor and civilian administrator in the small town of Bedzin, Poland. His wife, Alexandra, was Fulbrook’s godmother. As an adult living in England, Fulbrook discovered that Udo had been a Nazi functionary who had faithfully followed orders that led to the herding of 85,000 Jews to slave labor camps and gas chambers. She uncovered Udo’s past by chance, leafing through old letters that her mother had received from Alexandra, who wrote of dead Jews lying in the streets of their hometown. On March 28 at the Central Queens Y, Fulbrook, a professor of German history at London’s University College, will talk about her new book on the topic, A Small Town Near Auschwitz. Her story is scary because it was so commonplace. Udo is one of thousands of low- and middle-level government functionaries across the Third Reich who considered themselves to be decent humans, but also facilitated the Holocaust. Without their diligent cooperation, the Nazi leaders would not have been able to carry out their massive murderous plans.
Prepare to be inspired without the Hollywood ending. The ReelAbilities: NY Disabilities Film Festival is part of the country’s largest showcase on the lives, stories and artistic expressions of those living with disabilities. Now in its fifth year, ReelAbilities mixes movies and documentaries by — and about — people with disabilities with post-screening discussions, presentations, speeches and other programs. On March 9 & 10, Queens-based activities will take place at the Museum of the Moving Image and the Central Queens Y with award-winning international short documentaries about people dealing with such maladies as Down syndrome, autism, Tourette’s syndrome, deaf-mutism and blindness. On March 11, the Central Queens Y’s program will feature Anita Hollander (pictured above), who has performed at the White House, Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center despite losing a leg to cancer three decades ago. Her musical performance and talk will emphasize her survival guide for life’s catastrophes.
For the past two centuries, the Jewish experience in Hungary, home to Europe’s largest synagogue, has been a mixture of extreme darkness and shining light. In the 1900s, the Hungarian Jewish community was successful, respected and integrated into the larger society. At the turn of the 20th century, Jews comprised roughly 23% of the population of Budapest, the capital city. Nonetheless, this group was devastated during the Nazi Occupation and Holocaust, as neighbor turned against neighbor and thousands were killed, despite Swedish humanitarian Raoul Wallenberg‘s heroic rescue of an estimated 100,000 Jews in 1944. Agnes Veto will discuss the history of Hungarian Jewry at the Central Queens Y in Forest Hills on January 28. Born in Budapest, Veto is completing a Ph.D. in Jewish Studies at New York University. She was an adjunct professor in Jewish Studies at Vassar College.
America’s longest war is now 12 years old, yet many Americans don’t understand Afghanistan and the background of the fighting there. Tamim Ansary will speak about the long struggle driving the conflict between the Taliban and other forces as part of an ongoing lecture series at the Central Queens Y. A prolific author who writes for the San Francisco Chronicle, the Los Angeles Times and Salon, Ansary was born and raised in Afghanistan, but has lived in the U.S. since 1964. In his new book, Game Without Rules, Ansary draws on his heritage and Muslim roots to explain Afghan history from the inside.
As part of the ongoing Central Queens Y Lecture Series, Wall Street Journal reporter Lucette Lagnado will discuss her new book, The Arrogant Years, about Lagnado’s mother, who had to flee Cairo after the city became hostile to Jews. She ended up in Brooklyn, where her family had trouble adjusting to the New World.
Image source: yivo.org – Jonathan Brent is on the far left
Lecture on East European Jewry - The Central Queens Y will host a special lecture on a disappearing part of Jewish history on Monday, Oct. 29. Jonathan Brent, executive director of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, will discuss his agency’s work in recovering the lost world of East European Jews. YIVO was founded in Poland in 1925 by a group of Jewish intellectuals, including Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud. The event begins at 1:30pm with a suggested donation of $6. The Central Queens Y will provide refreshments and light snacks. (more…)
There’s never been a dearth of things to do for the family in Queens, as this borough has been ranked the most family-friendly place in New York City. Today, we focus on events for all the various possible age groups in a family, from the young to the old:
Science Playground - Did you know North America’s largest science playground exists right here in Queens? The New York Hall of Science is home to this amazing playground filled with slides, see-saws, fog machines and more, that will allow kids have a fun time while learning the basic principles of science like motion, balance, sight and more. Studying science was never this fun for your children, and with over 60,000 feet of space devoted to playing and learning, you can rest assured that your kids will have a jolly good time.