A quick glance at the program for this year’s Hebrew Center Summer Institute speaker series is enough to show that change has happened at the institute.

It is suddenly more diverse in both subject matter and guests.

Chalk it up to the new chairman of the summer institute committee, Geraldine Alpert, and her desire to see the series broaden its appeal.

“I thought I would try to get a more diverse program that attracts people from all over the Vineyard, not just the Jewish population,” she said.

Ms. Alpert’s background is as an economist.

“I wanted some politics, and clearly some economics,” said Ms. Alpert. “But then there were some other areas that I thought would be interesting to explore.”

As a result the institute this summer will include more music, more economics and more literature. In particular, Ms. Alpert has consciously set out to forge closer links with the African American population of the Vineyard.

Author Isabel Wilkerson is August 4 speaker. — Joe Henson

“So we have two African American programs. One is the jazz program; the other is Isabel Wilkerson, whose book [The Warmth of Other Suns, the story of the mass migration of some six million black Americans from the South to the North, named one of the 10 best books of 2010 by The New York Times], I read and adored. I thought she would be a wonderful person to bring to the Island.”

As for the other speakers, well, they came to her in a variety of ways. Another part of the program which features jazz pianist and lecturer in African American music studies Orville Wright and saxophonist, composer, ethnomusicologist and specialist in multicultural education Leonard Brown, happened after her husband heard them at Harvard.

Restrepo filmmaker Sebastian Junger is here July 28. — unspecified

Author Sebastian Junger, whose acclaimed book War and documentary Restrepo tell about his experiences during his year with troops in Afghanistan, was doing a book tour and was contacted through his publicist.

Richard Kogan, psychiatrist and concert pianist, is there because Ms. Alpert “read somewhere that he was dong a new program on Leonard Bernstein. I knew Leonard Bernstein wrote Candide on the Vineyard. So I thought we ought to be celebrating Bernstein. People love his music.”

And the three-member panel of economists — Joseph Bower, David Moss and Allen Sinai — who will explore the issue of whether the economy has really recovered and where things are headed in the second of the series — well, they were easy.

“Joe Bower is a member of our advisory committee, so he put the panel together with some input from me,” Ms. Alpert said, adding: “Allen Sinai, who’s a very well-known economist, lives on the Island.”

Barney Frank
U.S. Rep. Barney Frank offers political insight on July 21. — unspecified

The series will still contain a measure of politics; the speaker on July 21 will be Barney Frank, the 16-term Massachusetts congressman who will speak about protecting national security by reducing military spending.

There will again be some focus on the Middle East, but Ms. Alpert said she is treading carefully there. She sees the summer institute as politically progressive, but also is aware of critics who suggest that liberalism has not always been apparent when it comes to the choice of speakers on the Middle East.

This year, she has chosen R. Nicholas Burns, a former career diplomat and now professor on the subject of diplomacy at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. He will talk about “revolution and transformation” in the region.

Nicholas Burns: July 7. — unspecified

“Nicholas Burns worked for George Bush, for three presidents. I wouldn’t call him conservative or progressive. He’s an expert on the subject matter. I think he has a balanced view,” Ms. Alpert said.

A self-confessed political junkie who campaigned for Barack Obama in the 2008 election as a field supervisor in Clay County, outside Jacksonville, one of the most conservative areas of Florida, she said her own political views are clear enough.

“On the other hand, I think it really is important to hear legitimate views from the other side,” she said.

Her progressive views extend to Israel — she is no fan of the current government there. And they play a part, too, in her desire to broaden the scope of interest of the summer institute.

And not just the Thursday night speaker series. The institute also runs a Sunday night film series. Until this year, the films came directly from the Boston Jewish Film Festival.

“This year we decided that was too narrow a pool of films from which to choose. We decided to go out on our own,” Ms. Alpert said.

The four-member film subcommittee asked Richard Paradise, who puts together the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival, to lend his expertise.

“Diverse is the word,” said Ms. Alpert.