Growing up in Los Angeles, Leslie Schapira was in close proximity to Hollywood. At the same time, she was connected to the Jewish community, attending Wilshire Boulevard Temple on Shabbat and holidays and going there for Hebrew school until she was a teen. Her parents are Zionists, and she has a deep love for the Jewish state.
“Our Jewish identity is very important to us,” she said. “Being a proud Jew and Zionist are priorities in my life.”
Today, Schapira, 33, is a TV writer; she worked on “Big Shot” on Disney+ and is currently on staff at “Noonan’s,” a Harley Quinn spinoff that’s going to air on HBO Max. She’s also involved in AIPAC, the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and AMIT Children, and is outspoken in her Zionist beliefs.
“My Israel advocacy work is just as important as my TV comedy writing,” she said. “I live and breathe it.”
When the opportunity arises, Schapira connects with other professionals in the entertainment industry to talk about supporting Israel. With her friends Anna Schiff, area director of AIPAC in Los Angeles, and Briana Benaron, Atid director at Sinai Temple, she started a dinner series where they bring young people in the entertainment industry together to talk about changing Israel’s narrative that currently dominates traditional and social media.
“It’s really important to identify as Zionists in this industry,” she said. “We need to stand together, empower one another and try to make a difference. It’s very unpopular to be pro-Israel, but that’s why it’s more important than ever to speak up and do our part.”
One of the issues that Schapira comes across is some people don’t want to be seen at these dinners – Israel support in Hollywood has become incredibly stigmatized.
“At our first dinner, we found that some people were afraid to attend,” she said. “They didn’t want to be seen at a pro-Israel event. Our hope is that as we have more dinners with incredible participants and it generates some buzz, it’ll inspire others to get over their fear.”
When Schapira isn’t working on Israel advocacy, she stays busy at her writing job. She spends her days collaborating with the other “Noonan’s” writers either virtually or at the studio offices in Burbank.
While Schapira was at business school at UCLA, she wrote a pilot about her experience there and sent it to David Kelley, the creator ofTV shows including “Doogie Howser, M.D.” and “Ally McBeal,” who became her mentor.
“I sent my script to David and he loved it,” she said. “Off of that script, he hired me for ‘Big Shot.’”
While she enjoys working in writers’ rooms, Schapira’s dream is to run her own show and create stories with Jewish and Israeli themes. She is also interested in telling stories about young women finding their voices and standing up for themselves when it isn’t comfortable or profitable for them to do so.
“I’m interested in portraying people who can buck that system and find their own voice and truth.”
“Right now, we’re in a very tough environment that promotes following a certain narrative,” she said. “I’m interested in portraying people who can buck that system and find their own voice and truth.”
For now, Schapira is continuing to work her way up so that she can make her dreams possible.
“I have yet to figure out what my next show is going to be,” she said. “But I want it to be something that speaks to my passions and values.”