Hollywood transformed Jews from outsiders to insiders (and endowed many of them with cultural power)

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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?”

4 Responses

  1. annie
    December 17, 2010, 4:08 pm

    interesting info from the ‘tribe media corporation’. thanks phil.

  2. Justice Please
    December 17, 2010, 6:12 pm

    Let’s remember why this is important:

    First, if Jews are insiders, that shatters the cult of fear that Jewish organizations like the ADL celebrate and profit from. They, drastically put, tell Jewish kids that Jews are about to be exterminated any minute, and the only way to ensure survival is unquestioning support of and donations to said organizations and, of course, Israel.

    Second, if Jews working in Hollywood are Zionists, it can affect the art/information they produce, just like other people sometimes let their politics influence their work. Like NBCs head Jeff Zucker who didn’t want “jihadis raving about Palestine” and because of that vetoed some piece about 9/11, if I remember correctly.

  3. Les
    December 17, 2010, 6:23 pm

    It was originally a risky business and not impossibly expensive to get into, a terrific opportunity for Jewish writers who had otherwise limited opportunities.

  4. RoHa
    December 17, 2010, 8:02 pm

    Isn’t it anti-Semitic to say this? Some sort of trope? Where’s the ADL?

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