Danielle Berrin reports in the Jewish Journal of LA on the visit to Hollywood of a curator of the Jewish Museum of Vienna, Werner Hanak-Lettner, a non-Jewish Austrian who is admiring of this world the Jews made. Many echoes here, of a past that is now past. (Thanks to Jeff Blankfort):
There is something undeniably tribal — and paradoxical — about Hillcrest, which was founded, and populated mostly by Hollywood Jews, in the 1920s, when no other social clubs in Los Angeles permitted Jewish membership. Today it requires prestige to “belong” — the outsiders become insiders.
[Werner Hanak-Lettner says] “Hollywood helped Jews find a place in America, and it is a very special cultural life that Jews gave to Hollywood and to Los Angeles: Just look at the historic sight of Wilshire Boulevard Temple with the murals inside. Nobody else in the world, even in a Reform synagogue, has murals like that. There you feel [a sense of] some sort of kingdom that was once here.”
It was Warner Bros. chieftain Jack Warner who commissioned the biblically inspired murals in 1929, and they are emblematic of Hollywood’s importance to the Jewish community, a reminder that the Kingdom of Hollywood was a Jewish response to the modern world.
“A guy once said to me — a musician working in TV — ‘It would be interesting to work in Hollywood, but you have to be a Jew.’ I said, ‘I don’t believe that, because I know other musicians in Hollywood who aren’t Jewish; you just have to face [the fact that] they invented it!’ ” Hanak-Lettner said.
From his perch in a chandelier-bedecked dining room overlooking Hillcrest’s magnificently manicured golf course, he concluded, “I don’t feel bad if lots of producing people are Jewish here. I mean, they came here and did all this, so why should it be different after 100 years?”