Your Daily Phil: Hollywood museum corrects omission with exhibit on Jewish founders

Good Tuesday morning. 

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on Mazon’s annual gala in Washington, D.C., and on the Israeli government’s decision to include victims of antisemitic attacks around the world in the country’s Yom HaZikaron commemorations. We interview U.S. antisemitism envoy Amb. Deborah Lipstadt, and feature an opinion piece by Rabbi Amanda Schwartz about the impact of a Jewish service-learning model on her community’s youngest members (and their parents). Also in this newsletter: Ben-Tsiyon KlibanskyJames Kirchick and Neville Goldschneider. We’ll start with the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures’ new exhibition on the Jewish founders of Hollywood.

When The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures opened its doors in the fall of 2021, it had something for cinephiles of all ages and inclinations. One room highlighted Oscar winners, including some intricate costumes and facial prosthetics. One gallery profiled the films of Spike Lee; another, the work of Pedro Almodovar. And overhead, “Bruce the Shark” — a.k.a. Jaws — was suspended from the ceiling. But in a museum devoted to movie-making, the contributions of its Jewish founders, who created the studio system and the industry, were notably absent — until May 19, when “Hollywoodland: Jewish Founders and the Making of a Movie Capital” made its debut as the museum’s first permanent exhibition, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Esther D. Kustanowitz from the opening.

The occasion was marked by a weekend of special events, many featuring Jacqueline Stewart, the museum’s director and president, and associate curator Dara Jaffe.

When the museum opened last year, it met a flurry of criticism for leaving out the role that Jews played in the creation of Hollywood and the entertainment industry as we know it. Speaking to journalists to mark the opening, Stewart said that the critical responses to that omission helped shape the “Hollywoodland” exhibition and were part of the reason why the museum decided to make it a permanent part of the collection.

“I really feel that we’re able to present this exhibition now in a way that’s better than it would have been if we had tried to tell the story when we first opened because we understand our audiences better,” said Stewart. “[We are] listening to a broad range of voices and coming to understand that we really need to be the place to tell this industry’s history. And this industry’s history is a story about Jewish immigrants and the world that they built in Los Angeles.”

Jaffe curated the exhibition with support from Gary Dauphin, former associate curator of digital presentations, and research assistant Josue L. Lopez. Film critic Neal Gabler, author of the 1988 book An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood  — considered by many to be the definitive chronicle of the industry’s early days — was an adviser for the exhibition, and appeared in conversation with Jaffe during the opening weekend.

“Hollywoodland” tracks early Hollywood history, from the founding of the original eight major film studios — Universal, Fox (later 20th Century Fox), Paramount, United Artists, Warner Bros., Columbia, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and RKO — through the late 1920s. An immersive map of Hollywood is paired with projections that show Hollywood’s transition “from film frontier to industry town,” including a timeline of where and when studios were developed. Archival objects, like letters, memos and other communications from studio heads are featured, Jaffe told the press “because that’s where you really get a sense of their voice, their personality.”

One such artifact, a letter from Universal Pictures founder and first president, Carl Laemmle, to his cousin, director William Wyler — who would later win best director and best picture Oscars for “Mrs. Miniver” (1942), “The Best Years of Our Lives” (1946), and “Ben-Hur” (1959) — illustrates Laemmle’s efforts to save Jewish Germans in the 1930s, aiming to bring them to America and give them jobs at the studio.

The exhibition also features a short original documentary — “From the Shtetl to the Studio: The Jewish Story of Hollywood,” narrated by Turner Classic Movies host Ben Mankiewicz — about the contributions of Hollywood’s Jewish founders, in the context of their history and their rise to success.

Jaffe told eJP that she hoped everyone who encounters the museum “can see someone celebrated that they can relate to,” and that one of the museum’s goal’s is “telling complicated stories and challenging the dominant narratives of history… It’s an opportunity to make a difference,” she said.

“We are thinking about [‘Hollywoodland’] as a very important educational platform to dispel these antisemitic harmful stereotypes, to offer some clarity and accuracy about why the founding of Hollywood is a Jewish immigrant story,” Jaffe told the press.

“It’s always the right time to tell this story,” Jaffe said. “Unfortunately, antisemitism has always been prevalent and remains so, so this story always remains relevant. There have been so many times throughout the last couple years where I wished that this exhibition was open, so I could point to it and say if you’d like to be educated on this topic, please come to the museum.”

Read the full report here.


Mazon hosts annual gala in D.C. ahead of Farm Bill vote

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) was honored at Mazon’s gala Washington, D.C. for his commitment to ending hunger, on May 21, 2024.
Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) was honored at Mazon’s gala Washington, D.C. for his commitment to ending hunger, on May 21, 2024. Haley Cohen/eJewishPhilanthropy

In the U.S, 44 million people don’t know if they will have access to breakfast tomorrow morning. To recognize several lawmakers — Reps. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Jim McGovern (D-MA) — helping those who struggle with hunger, some 200 concerned philanthropists gathered last Tuesday night at the annual Mazon gala, held at Union Station in Washington, D.C., reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen from the event.

SNAP to it: This year’s gala, dubbed “Hunger Bites,” was Mazon’s first in Washington and it took place just days before the House Agriculture Committee voted on a divisive Farm Bill proposal, which authorizes federal nutrition programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known by its acronym SNAP. “The week we did this turned out to be the biggest focal point for anti-hunger policy in the country,” Leibman told eJP, pointing to the Farm Bill. “It’s a moment of great focus on our work so [hosting the event in DC] made great sense to us.” (Two days after the event, the House of Representatives Agriculture Committee passed its version of a $1.5 trillion farm spending bill, which shrinks funding for SNAP.)

You are what you eat: Also honored at the “Hunger Bites” gala were Josh Protas, the group’s former vice president of public policy who is now chief advocacy and policy officer at Meals on Wheels America. Protas, whose work focuses primarily on food insecurity among military families, said at the event, “food is foundational to who we are as people.” He told the story of his grandmother, who immigrated to the U.S. from Poland at a young age after her father was killed in a pogrom. “She was full of stories,” Protas said, recalling her first bite of food after arriving at Ellis Island. “It was a chance to move past tragedies… for her that bite meant the world…what we fight for, food, is just that.”

Read the full report here.


Israel to include victims of antisemitic attacks around the world in its Yom HaZikaron commemorations

Mourners visit the memorial outside the Tree of Life Synagogue on October 31, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Penn., after 11 people were killed in a shooting attack there days before. Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

The Israeli government yesterday approved a plan — spearheaded by the Ruderman Family Foundation and the World Zionist Organization — to commemorate people killed in antisemitic attacks around the world as part of the country’s Memorial Day, Yom HaZikaron, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross.

In the works: Both the Ruderman Foundation and the WZO had been developing the idea independently before joining forces. They approached Israel’s Diaspora Affairs Ministry about the concept, who embraced it and presented it to the government. Last May, the cabinet approved the formation of a committee to consider the measure and determine what exactly it would entail. (Read eJP’s reporting on the initiative here.)

Resolution 492: Yesterday, the government signed off on the committee’s recommendations, which includes constructing an official monument to the victims of antisemitic attacks and compiling a database — similar to the one that exists for fallen soldiers and victims of terror in Israel — with the victims’ names, personal information and the circumstances of their deaths. These victims of antisemitic attacks will also be included in state ceremonies on Memorial Day. The Diaspora Affairs Ministry has been tasked with implementing the decision, Resolution 492.

Bonds of destiny: Shira Ruderman, executive director of the Ruderman Family Foundation, hailed the move, calling it “courageous” and saying it “strengthens the bond of shared destiny between Israel and the Jewish world, which has become more evident than ever since October 7.”


Deborah Lipstadt’s horseshoe theory of antisemitism

Deborah Lipstadt, then-nominee to be special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, speaks at a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations committee.

After Deborah Lipstadt was sworn as the U.S. special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism two years ago this week, she began to travel the world to ask countries how the United States could help them fight antisemitism in their borders. But something has begun to change since the Oct. 7 terror attacks in Israel, Lisptadt said Friday at a virtual hour-long briefing for members of the Jewish community, reports Gabby Deutch for eJewishPhilanthropy’s sister publication Jewish Insider.

Two steps away: Lipstadt, who was nominated to the ambassador-level position by President Joe Biden, said the good news of the past nearly eight months has been the support of the U.S. government in fighting antisemitism. But she expressed deep concern about rising antisemitism around the world and in the U.S. “I’m often asked, as a historian, ‘Is this 1939?’” Lipstadt said. “I say, ‘No, that’s a bit of an extreme position.’ I think it’s more like the early 1930s, maybe the late 1920s, with the destabilization of society.”

Double duty: As a diplomat at the State Department, Lipstadt’s work is focused on international antisemitism, rather than what’s happening at home. But she raised concerns about American antisemitism and, in particular, a lack of leadership at U.S. universities. “Leaders, whether they be leaders of countries, leaders of states, leaders of cities, leaders of public institutions, leaders of universities, must speak out, directly, unequivocally and expeditiously. No froufrou-ing, ‘Well, it depends on context, and what happened,’” Lipstadt said, offering a not-so-subtle dig at the presidents of Harvard, Penn and MIT.

From both sides: Since Oct. 7, she said, Lipstadt said the language she uses to talk about antisemitism — and where it appears on the ideological spectrum — has changed. “I talk about a horseshoe. If you think about a horseshoe, the two ends meet together and often are magnetized and attracted to one another. It’s a question of extremism,” said Lipstadt. “Very few prejudices come from different ends of the political spectrum, virtually none. They’re either one side or the other, but they’re not coming from both. And here, they come from both, they share the same template, because the antisemitic template is so old and so malleable, and they share that extremism. And that makes this harder to fight and a more frightening phenomenon.”

Read the full report here and sign up for Jewish Insider’s Daily Kickoff here.


Saving Jewish education through service learning

Mongta Studio/Adobe Stock

“Right now is the season when many rabbis and educators are planning for the next school year. I know many of my colleagues are toying with how to tweak their religious school programs to entice families to either join or stick around. For those who find themselves in this boat, I hope you’ll seriously consider incorporating a service-learning model,” writes Rabbi Amanda Schwartz — family life director for Judaism Your Way in Denver and co-creator of its service-learning program for children and parents, Changing the World Together — in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Getting the littles involved: “Jewish service learning is nothing new. Organizations like Avodah, American Jewish World Service and Repair the World have been using this model and deeply impacting lives for decades. The catch is that these organizations work with adults. In fact, it’s often very challenging to even find volunteer opportunities for youth. Most organizations have a minimum age requirement, typically anywhere from 14-18 years old. Another challenge is families can usually only volunteer on weekends, when most organizations are closed.? Luckily, we realized a workaround: Many organizations have projects that can be done off-site by even the youngest members of our communities.”

Recipe for meaning: “In every CWT program… we root our service work in first learning about an important Jewish value. Then, we explore the work of our partner organization and why we chose the organization in connection with the value we are investigating. Only after this learning do we do our service project. Finally and perhaps most importantly, we ensure time for reflection so that the students and their parents can process and internalize what they learned during the day.”

Worth noting: “Last year, the Jewish Education Project released a report demonstrating that religious school enrollment has declined by almost 50% since 2000. At a time when more and more people are choosing not to give their children a Jewish education, CWT has had a wait-list both years… I’ve noticed that the parents who do not come from Jewish backgrounds are more comfortable participating in CWT than attending religious services or more traditional Jewish educational opportunities. The service-learning model offers an environment where the entire family unit can meaningfully participate.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Parents’ Devotion: Jewish Insider’s Melissa Weiss interviews Rachel and Jon Goldberg-Polin about their ongoing efforts, including a recent trip to Washington, D.C., to secure the release of their son, Hersh, who was taken hostage by Hamas on Oct. 7. “On the day she and her husband, Jon Goldberg-Polin, spoke to Jewish Insider by Zoom from their home in Jerusalem, both wore masking tape on their shirts, the number 233 written in marker, marking 233 days since their son, Hersh Goldberg-Polin, was taken hostage by Hamas — 233 days since he went to a party in the desert, 233 days since he and his friend got trapped in a bomb shelter, 233 days since Hersh’s left arm was severed below the elbow when more than half a dozen grenades were lobbed into that shelter, 233 days since those who survived the grenades were piled into a truck and taken to Gaza along with more than 200 other hostages… [Rachel said,] ‘I’m going to wear this every day, like, “Hello, my name is and this is going to be my identity.” So from Day 26 until now, I’ve been wearing on my chest for more than 200 days, “Hello, my name is 233 today.’ Every day my name changes”’… One thing that has not changed has been Rachel and Jon’s work to secure the release of Hersh, their only son and the older brother to two sisters. The two had just returned from Washington, their 10th visit since the Hamas terror attacks of Oct. 7 turned their world upside down.” [JewishInsider]

Study Abroad: In Tablet, Ben-Tsiyon Klibansky examines the international draw of Lithuania’s yeshivas in the period between World War I and World War II, attracting students from Western Europe and even America (and producing some amusing accounts of culture shock for posterity). “[The Americans’] highest concentration was in Mir, and an article that appeared in an American newspaper described their first meeting of this Polish town: ‘When they arrived in Mir, a place that does not even appear on a map, they had to change their entire way of life. Hot baths, sports facilities, cars, a pressed suit and the theater — all these are unknown in Mir … A Harvard graduate knows that it is possible to study science and still go outside between lectures and play a little ball. But in the Mir Yeshiva they don’t agree with this approach. This is what happened: five or six Americans wanted to get some air and, with great gusto, started to play football right in front of the yeshiva. Their Polish friends and householders from the town stood and stared with amazement. This was the first time that they had seen the combination of students and ball-players … Immediately the administration informed the young men that they “had gone too far.” After a quiet protest, the group gave in.’” [Tablet]

Around the Web

The Hostages Families Forum created a new cookbook for the upcoming Shavuot holiday featuring recipes for foods loved by the hostages in Gaza, each of which is accompanied by their personal stories…

Israel Policy Forum announced the election of five new members to the organization’s board of directors: Adam Levine, Adina Schwartz, Joe Kanfer, Modi Wiczyk and Roei Eisenberg…

In a New York Times opinion piece, James Kirchick claims Jewish writers are being forced to denounce Israel or face exclusion from the literary world…

Former President Donald Trump promised to crush anti-Israel protests on college campuses to a roomful of donors this month in New York. “One thing I do is, any student that protests, I throw them out of the country. You know, there are a lot of foreign students. As soon as they hear that, they’re going to behave,” Trump reportedly said…

Former Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley visited southern Israel yesterday, touring the communities that were attacked on Oct. 7…

Canaan Lidor, The Times of Israel’s Jewish world correspondent, and Elad Simchayoff, the Europe correspondent for Israel’s Channel 12, were awarded the B’nai B’rith World Center’s award for excellence in Diaspora reporting on Sunday night…

The Washington Post profiles Claudia Sheinbaum, who looks set to become Mexico’s first female and first Jewish president…

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation awarded a $200,000 grant to the nonprofit Religion News Service

Toronto police are investigating a Saturday morning shooting at Bais Chaya Mushka Elementary School, a Jewish girls school. There were no reported injuries…

Montreal police arrested a 20-year-old man who is believed to have fired gunshots at a Jewish school in the city last November…

The ordinarily well-attended Lag B’Omer celebrations on the Tunisian island of Djerba were notably empty this year, after a deadly terror attack outside a synagogue there last year and amid significant tensions over the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza…

Neville Goldschneider, who stepped down as CEO of the British nonprofit Camp Simcha last month after 19 years and moved to Israel, is being brought on as a consultant to the Israeli nonprofit Myisrael

Los Angeles police arrested an 18-year-old Jewish man who is suspected of attacking an anti-Israel encampment at the University of California Los Angeles last month…

Pic of the Day

Shmulie Grossbaum/Chabad Young Professionals

Over 1,000 Jewish young professionals attend “We Will Dance Again,” a Lag B’Omer event organized by Chabad in New York City on Sunday evening, as both a celebration of Jewish pride and a testament to resilience in the face of adversity.

The event included “06:29 am: The Moment Music Stood Still,” a traveling exhibit that recounts the harrowing events of the massacre at the Nova Music Festival on Oct. 7. The exhibit was brought to New York City by music executive Scooter Braun and tech entrepreneur Joe Teplow (pictured onstage above), who emphasized the evening’s theme: living life to the fullest in honor of those who cannot. “This evening, we witnessed the stories of our people who were murdered for their values; tonight is about how we must live for ours. That’s what they would have wanted,” Teplow said.

In addition to musical performances led by David Farhi, the event featured testimonies from Nova festival survivors Tomer Meir and Millet Ben Haim. They talked about their horrific experiences, their miraculous survival stories and their ongoing trauma recovery journeys with the support of the Nova Foundation, to which the event’s proceeds were donated.


Jonathan S. Lavine, co-managing partner and chief investment officer of Bain Capital Credit
David Livingston/Getty Images

Winnipeg-born attorney, previous campaign chair for Winnipeg’s Combined Jewish Appeal and governor of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Gail Sheryl Asper

Founding rabbi of both Lincoln Square Synagogue in NYC and then later the City of Efrat, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin… Director of UCSF’s Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases, he won the 1997 Nobel Prize in medicine, Dr. Stanley Benjamin Prusiner… Executive director of Ner Israel Rabbinical College, Jerome H. Kadden… Former mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani… Former mayor of Toronto, John Howard Tory… British comedian, screenwriter and singer, he is the author of a 2021 book on antisemitism, Jews Don’t CountDavid Lionel Baddiel … U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)… Four-time U.S. national fencing champion and a two-time Olympian, then an attorney who clerked for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Eric Oliver “Nick” Bravin… Longtime member of the Knesset on behalf of the Likud party, he was recently appointed as Israel’s consul general to New York, Ofir Akunis… Guitarist, composer and leader of the bands Rashanim and Zion80, Jon Madof… Rabbi at Temple B’nai Sholom in Huntsville, Ala., Eric Berk… Senior manager in the executive office at The Pew Charitable Trusts, Lauren Mandelker… Singer-songwriter, artist and filmmaker, Adam Green… Entrepreneur and member of the Pritzker family of Hyatt Hotels, Matthew Pritzker… Managing principal of Asher Strategies, David A. Lobl… Founder in 2015 of At The Well, a women’s wellness organization rooted in Jewish spirituality and women’s health, Sarah Michal Waxman… Founder and CEO at Vista Nexum, Adelle Malka Nazarian… Freelance journalist Thea Glassman… Fashion designer and the founder of WeWoreWhat, Danielle Bernstein… Harry Weinstein… Named for his father, a WSJ bureau chief that was kidnapped and murdered by Pakistani terrorists a few months before he was born, Adam Daniel Pearl… Israeli swimmer, she competed in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Aviv Barzelay… Irwin Weiss…