Colby College’s Center for Small Town Jewish Life will host the first in a series of Community Conversations from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 20, at Beth Israel Congregation, 291 Main St., Waterville. This event is free.

This inaugural program will feature Sen. Justin Alfond, Maine Senate Democratic Leader, and Rabbi Shai Held of Mechon Hadar, who will speak about income inequality, according to a news release from Colby College.

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 the 2016-2017 year is wealth, and each conversation will feature two thought-leaders — one Jewish and one secular — in conversation with each other, followed by group discussions with the members of both Colby and Waterville communities over coffee and dessert, catered this month by Holy Cannoli of downtown Waterville.

The program is sponsored by the Center for Small Town Jewish Life and the Wexner Alumni Collaboration Grants, and co-sponsored by the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, Oak Institute, Center for Arts and Humanities, and the Goldfarb Center at Colby College.

Future Community Conversations on Philanthropy and Dignity are scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 18, and Sunday, April 2, also at 6:30 p.m. at Beth Israel Congregation.

According to the release, Held is a theologian, scholar, and educator. He is cofounder, Dean and Chairman in Jewish Thought at Mechon Hadar, a New-York based educational institution that empowers Jews to create and sustain vibrant, practicing, egalitarian learning, prayer, and service communities. He has taught both theology and Halakha (Jewish law) at the Jewish Theological Seminary, and served as director of Education at Harvard Hillel. A 2011 recipient of the Covenant Award for excellence in Jewish education, Held has been named multiple times to Newsweek’s list of the 50 most influential rabbis in America. He holds a doctorate in religion from Harvard University.

Alfond, a fourth-term state senator, is the Maine State Senate Democratic Leader; he also served as Senate President in 2012. A Mainer with roots in Dexter and Waterville, he founded the Maine chapter of The League of Young Voters in 2004. He served four years as the Maine state director, leading initiatives such as Opportunity Maine, the Maine Energy Efficiency Disclosure Form, and Portland’s inclusionary zoning ordinance. A resident of Portland, Alfond is an active member of a number of civic, political, and philanthropic organizations, including Avesta Housing, Opportunity Maine, Maine Initiatives, Kennebec Valley Community College, the New England Board of Higher Education, and the New England Secondary School Consortium. He is a graduate of Tulane University.

For more information about Community Conversations, contact the Center for Small Town Jewish Life at [email protected] or visit