Classes, Courses, and Lectures

Winter 2024 Classes


Ethics Series

We will consider challenging choices, some from history and some not. All of them have bearing on life today.

Online course
1–2:15 p.m.

Disunion Among Ourselves: The Perilous Politics of the American Revolution

Far from a harmonious collaboration, the Continental Congress during the Revolutionary War was so filled with political strife that the delegates feared the Revolutionary War would end in disunion or civil war. But instead of disbanding, these founders managed to unite for the sake of liberty and self-preservation, forging grueling compromises and holding the young nation together. Political historian Eli Merritt explores the deep political divisions that almost tore the Union apart during the Revolution.

January 9

The Classics Book Club

We will discuss Edith Wharton’s Custom of the Country. Its heroine, Undine Spragg, is an ambitious young American woman who strives to rise in New York City society through a succession of marriages and divorces. She has often been compared to Becky Sharp of Vanity Fair—minus the charm.

January 9 and 23
10:30 a.m.–noon

Instructor: Richard Redmond

Differ We Must: How Lincoln Succeeded in a Divided America

Throughout his life and political career, Lincoln often agreed to disagree. Democracy demanded it, since even an adversary had a vote. The man who went on to become America’s 16th president has assumed many roles in our historical consciousness, but most notable is that he was, unapologetically, a politician. And as author Steve Inskeep argues, it was because he was willing to engage in politics—meeting with critics, sometimes working with them and other times outwitting them—that he was able to lead a social revolution.

January 16

Instructor: Peter Sohn

Through My Lens: NYC in the 1970s

Marcia Bricker Halperin’s’ photographs from the 1970s offer a nostalgic and poignant glimpse into New York City’s diverse and visually rich communities. The works include iconic cafeterias such as Dubrow’s Cafeteria and the Automat, public markets, Coney Island, Brighton Beach, the streets of Flatbush, and Hell’s Kitchen. The images, which span more than a decade, celebrate the cultural significance of these neighborhoods and places while highlighting their ongoing struggle for survival amid the city’s ever-evolving landscape.

January 16
10:30–11:45 a.m.

Instructor: Marcia Bricker Halperin. Halperin has been photographing the characters and landscapes of the city for almost 50 years. She received an M.F.A. from Brooklyn College, where she studied with Barney Cole, Walter Rosenblum, Lee Bontecou, Jimmy Ernst, and Lois Dodd, among others. Her photography has been included in many group exhibitions, including the Brooklyn Museum and the International Center of Photography, and a recent solo exhibition at the Edward Hopper House Museum. Her first book, Kibbitz & Nosh: When We All Met at Dubrow’s Cafeteria (Cornell University Press), was published in 2023.

The Real-Life Trolley Problem

The trolley problem is one of the most famous problems in ethics. It’s also one that most people don’t have trouble answering—they would divert a train if it would cause it to hit one person rather than five. But could a real-life version of this problem be devised? If so, would people act as they said they would?

January 23

Instructor: Rona Goldwitz

Ordinary People Are Evil

Called “the most controversial ethics paper ever written,” this essay by philosopher Peter Singer holds that spending money on luxuries is not just morally bad, it is downright evil. He makes the claim that giving money to charity is not merely a good thing to do, but is morally obligatory.

January 30

Instructor: Maura McGovern

The Periodic Table of the Chemical Elements

An entertaining video that traces the development of Mendeleev’s periodic table and includes demonstrations of the real-life chemistry of several elements will be shown. Additional discussion about the determination of relative atomic weights, the history of the periodic table, and the relation between the layout of the periodic table and the shell model of the atom will be presented.

January 30
10:30–11:45 a.m.

Instructor: Henry Brenner


Reading The New York Times Science Section

Great things are happening in the world of science today. Read and bring the Tuesday New York Times Science Section to class for our informative discussions about the latest breakthroughs.

January 3–31
10:30–11:30 a.m.

Instructor: Rotating facilitators

Current Events Discussion Group

This group will enlist rotating facilitators for discussions of local, national, and international news. Come tell us what you think.

January 3–31
12:30–2 p.m.

Instructor: Robert Mishaan


Turning Points in Modern History

We continue our unique view of world history through the discoveries, inventions, upheavals and ideas that shaped the modern world. In a series of lectures, we will learn of unexpected connections between events and figures and their long-term impact on history and our lives today.

January 4 and 11
1–2:15 p.m.

Instructor: Robert Mishaan

Demon Copperhead, by Barbara Kingsolver

In her 2023 Pulitzer Prize–winning novel, Demon Copperhead, Barbara Kingsolver gives readers a challenge: How to read her often brutal story, set in Kingsolver’s own Appalachia, of an orphaned child struggling to survive foster-care-gone-bad and opioid addiction. The novel is a hard read, but worth our stick-to-itiveness for many reasons, among them the remarkable narration. Beginning with the opening sentences that resonate with the beginning lines of David Copperfield by Charles Dickens, readers may wonder whether Kingsolver can create in Demon Copperhead her main character, a narrator who can evolve and bring reflection and intelligence to his rough circumstances. She does. Demon’s evolving consciousness powers a narration that makes this a novel deserving of our attention.

January 4 and 18
10:30–11:45 a.m.

Instructor: Gail Green-Anderson

Bob Dylan: Words and Music

Bob Dylan forever changed popular music in both the folk and rock genres. This class will focus primarily on the early part of his career in the 1960s, through video and class discussion.

January 18 and 25
1–2:15 p.m.

Instructor:  Marc Epstein


Films for a Winter Day

We will enjoy four feature-length films: The Fabulous Baker Boys (January 5), The Truman Show (January 12), The Social Network (January 19), and The Accidental Tourist (January 26)

January 5 and 26
10:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m.

Instructor: Sol Makon

Museum Walks and Talks: Making Their Mark

Docent-led tours of 80 works by significant women artists (including Judy Chicago) from the last eight decades will be offered. The exhibit will include drawings, mixed media works, painting, sculptures, and textile works.

January 12 and 19
11 a.m.

Location: The Shah Garg Collection

The exhibit is free to the public; however, it is being offered at $10 per member as a fundraiser. The funds will be donated to BLL.

E-mail reservation requests, including your preferred date. If you do not have email, call the office at 718.951.5647 and leave a message. Information about mailing a check will be included with reservation confirmation.

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