The Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center will sponsor a series of speakers and films this summer as part of its Summer Institute to promote greater understanding of politics, arts and sciences.

This year’s speaker series will begin with a talk on Thursday, July 9, at 7:30 p.m. by Jane Harman, a former member of Congress and current president of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Ms. Harman will speak on the situation in the Middle East, an area of expertise for her. During her 16-year career in Congress she worked on the House Intelligence Committee and the Homeland Security Committee. The series will continue with different speakers every Thursday evening until August 13, all held at the Hebrew Center.

This year is the 11th anniversary of the speaker series, which is independently funded by both sponsorships and ticket sales. In the past, the Summer Institute has hosted guests such as former Congressman Barney Frank and former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff as speakers, who have explored issues like national security and cyber crime. Topics pertaining to Israel-Palestine and U.S. intervention overseas are often part of the schedule, too.

Jane Harman will speak about Middle East affairs on July 9.

“We try and find speakers who are not just highly knowledgeable, but also have specific information,” said Joseph Bower, a professor at Harvard Business School and the chairman of the Summer Institute. “They know their field in a deep way.”

The Summer Institute also tries to invite speakers with a more artistic focus, in keeping with its multifaceted mission to educate and spark debate. Novelist and Vineyard resident Geraldine Brooks has previously hosted a conversation on the process of writing a novel. Ms. Brooks will return this year along with another author, Allegra Goodman, as part of a panel entitled Exploring Jewish Life as Novelists.

This summer there will also be a focus on sociological issues, such as the prevalence of social media and its effect on communication and relationships. MIT Professor Sherry Turkle will lead this discussion on July 30. Ms. Turkle has become known for her research on the effects of the digital revolution in our everyday lives and interactions. Her talk is entitled Connected But Alone.

“What we’re trying to do is build on the intellectual and artistic life of the Island,” said Mr. Bower. “Not just one side of one issue.”

Along with the speaker series, the Summer Institute is screening films every Sunday night from July 5 to August 16, with the exception of July 26. The film series opens this Sunday with Belle and Sebastian, a family film that follows a boy and his dog during the early years of the German occupation of France during World War II.

The films screened this year will come from all across the country and, in some cases, the world. This marks a shift from previous years in which the screenings were done in conjunction with the Boston Jewish Film Festival, which limited the pool of potential movies to choose from.

Shelly Eckman, who chairs the film committee with Jim Dale, noted that they try and choose a mix of both documentaries and narrative films that cover genres from family entertainment to more serious dramas.

“What we’re really looking for at the end of the day is the best that’s out there,” said Ms. Eckman.

This year also marks the first time that the films will be shown at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center, rather than the Hebrew Center.

Tickets for the films along with the speakers’ events can be purchased at or at the door. All films are open to the public, except for a screening of Above and Beyond, a documentary about Jewish American fighters in the Israeli war for independence that will premiere on August 16. That event is reserved for museum sponsors.

“This is not only entertaining stuff,” said Ms. Eckman. “But also important.”

Visit for a full list of films and speakers.