Today—10 weeks into the job—I officially arrived at The Jewish Journal with my first cover story. It’s about the role of Hollywood in the Jewish community, and it was a bear to report.
The entertainment business was created by Jews, but the industry also helped build the LA Jewish community. Still, the widely held opinion—“as much a part of Jewish belief as monotheism”—is that Hollywood does very little for the Jews. But despite what you may have heard, the movie business is not run by a bunch of cheap Jews.
My article discusses the history of Hollywood philanthropy and the coming generational shift in Hollywood leaders—from the Spielbergs and Katzenbergs to people in their late 20s and 30s.
These are better days for Hollywood Jews. They no longer need to change their names—sometimes not even their noses. Orthodox screenwriters like David Sacks of “The Simpsons” and “Malcolm in the Middle” find producers more understanding of Shabbat. Young stars like Natalie Portman, Sacha Baron Cohen and Seth Rogen make it cool to be Jewish.
But a chasm remains between Jewish identity and Jewish institutions. One reason has as much to do with geography and economy as it does with generational shift. The problem in Los Angeles is not simply that young Jews aren’t interested in Jewish organizations. The problem, in part, is Los Angeles.
“There is plenty of blame to go around. Some of it is Los Angeles, some of it is the Jewish community, some of it is the lack of appeal to younger people,” said Donna Bojarsky, an adviser to Hollywood figures. “In the Los Angeles Jewish community, most people didn’t grow up here. You don’t have those communal ties that sometimes facilitate engagement. The Jewish community itself, therefore, is perceived as your mother’s or grandmother’s Jewish community, so it doesn’t seem as interesting to younger Jews.”