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JewishJournal.com

August 6, 2008

Motown Jews invade Hollywood

http://www.jewishjournal.com/circuit/article/motown_jews_invade_hollywood_20080806

Event co-chair Max Aronson, Mike Binder, 
event co-chair Eli Sussman, event co-chair Aaron Kaczander

Event co-chair Max Aronson, Mike Binder,
event co-chair Eli Sussman, event co-chair Aaron Kaczander

For the young Jews of Detroit now living in Hollywood, Bob Aronson might as well be a movie star. The gentle-voiced CEO of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit has the money, power and prestige to throw a respectable Hollywood party. More importantly, he knows the magic ingredient required to attract young, aspiring industry types to the much-stigmatized Jewish mixer: Make it free.

And it was -- the sexy Stone Rose Lounge at Hotel Sofitel featured an unlimited open bar and unending plates of food that flowed out of the kitchen until 11 p.m. So it's no wonder that more than 250 Detroit Jews in their 20s -- who left their hometown community to fulfill Hollywood dreams -- decided a federation event would be the best way to spend their Thursday night.

What was Aronson's motivation for throwing this soiree all of a sudden? For the most part, he says, "all our children are here," and judging by the size of the crowd he's not kidding. Yet instead of worrying about the future of Jewish life in Detroit, Aronson is bringing Jewish life to Detroiters wherever they happen to be. The new cause even has a name: "Young Detroit Hollywood" (YDH) and it was already being marketed, down to the nametagd. Aronson wants to brand his group, get them connected and get them involved.

"We want you to remember your Jewish roots," he said to the crowd. "We love you. We care about you. The Jewish community of Detroit is one of the great Jewish communities of the world."

So why exactly are they leaving?

"No. 1, weather. No. 2, women. No. 3, friends," said Zach Weisman, an account manager for Blackboard Connect, an Internet company based in Sherman Oaks.

Others cited a lack of economic opportunity in Detroit, or a desire for adventure. But everyone knows if you want to work in the movie business, there's really only one place to go. The very word "Hollywood" was used to generate buzz for the event and, expecting a mostly industry crowd, it was surprising to discover a larger swath of ambition than just a room full of future Steven Spielbergs. There was an attorney, an investment banker, a marketing executive, a "green builder" and a self-described "actor/writer/Hebrew teacher/bellman."

As they say in Hollywood, you have to do whatever it takes....

Early rumors had Jerry Bruckheimer slated as the evening's keynote speaker, but Michael Binder proved to be entertaining. Annoyed at the incessant chatter during his remarks, the actor, director, writer and producer said, "Could you just be quiet for a minute? Your chatting like that makes me wish I was a Muslim -- from Cleveland -- because at their get-togethers, everybody listens!"

He went on to say that he hopes more people will take moviemaking back to Detroit, and press local government to offer tax incentives for on-location shooting. When he wrote and starred in the film, "The Upside of Anger," tax breaks in London meant a story set in Detroit would have to shoot in the United Kingdom.

But all credit can't be paid to Aronson alone, who divulged his new secret weapon -- son Max Aronson, an assistant to two vice presidents at Sony Television, who, along with Aaron Kaczander and Eli Sussman, put together the guest list. The younger Aronson has big fundraising plans for YDH and was harder to corner for a quote than Binder.

"This is the Detroit Diaspora," Aronson said. "We're a very tight group and that's what L.A. lacks -- a community."

The real trick of the night, however, was the discovery that the Detroit Diaspora was prompted to show up through an age-old influence. Turns out, once the guest list was in order, two employees of the Detroit Federation called each nvitee's mother and had mom make sure her son or daughter showed up.

And there you have it: The secret to getting young Jews in Hollywood to a Jewish event.

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