LA Jewish Film Fest Screening, Federation Education Summit, “Jacob the Baker” Premiere

Notable people and events in the Jewish LA community.
February 15, 2024
From left: LAJFF Executive Director Hilary Helstein, Hershey Felder, Helen Mirren and Taylor Hackford. Photo credit: Orly Halevy for LAJFF

On Feb. 6, the world premiere screening of acclaimed pianist, storyteller and actor Hershey Felder’s newest film, “Noble Genius: Chopin and Liszt,” was held at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills.

The event was held in partnership with the Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival (LAJFF) and Temple of the Arts and, despite the heavy rains, drew about 800 guests. The celebrities out in force to support the film included Oscar-winning actress Helen Mirren; acclaimed director Taylor Hackford, who is Mirren’s husband; actors Patrick Duffy and Linda Purl; composer Charles Fox, and two actors in the film, Sally George and Jonathan Sylvestri.

“Noble Genius” is set in Weimar, Germany, in 1852. In the film, the romantic world of piano virtuoso Franz Liszt and his friend and rival, Fryderyk Chopin—and the women who influenced them—comes alive. It’s a story of intrigue, manipulation and the world’s greatest piano music. 

“The Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival was deeply honored to be chosen to co-host this exclusive one-night-only world premiere event,” LAJFF Executive Director Hilary Helstein said. “This extraordinary and unique drama from our beloved LAJFF friend, Hershey Felder, is a colorful and highly charged exploration of the relationship between two of the most remarkable composers who ever lived.” 

From left: Joanna Mendelson, senior vice president of community engagement at Jewish Federation Los Angeles; L.A. Federation President and CEO Rabbi Noah Farkas; and Laura Ross, head of school at Harvard-Westlake. Courtesy of Jewish Federation Los Angeles

The Jewish Federation Los Angeles convened 50 schools, including 125 school district superintendents, heads of school, DEI directors, and other educational leaders from public and private schools throughout Los Angeles County, as part of its inaugural “Education Leaders Summit: Understanding, Embracing and Including Jewish Students in Your School Community.”

The Feb. 7 summit helped education leaders learn more about the experiences of Jewish students and parents and how to best support them during these challenging times. The program examined the classic and modern-day tropes of antisemitism and ways to combat antisemitism in schools; how to understand the diversity of the Jewish people while learning about Jewish history and Israel; and ways to gain tools and resources that will make school environments more hospitable to Jewish students.

Speakers included experts in the fields of education and curriculum development, as well as in Jewish history and Israel. They included LAUSD Board of Education Member Nick Melvoin; State Sen. Ben Allen (D); VBS Rabbi Nolan Lebovitz; StandWithUs Director of Research and Strategy Max Samarov; ADL Regional Director Jeff Abrams; L.A. Federation Senior Vice President of Community Engagement Joanna Mendelson; Zioness Founder and CEO Amanda Berman; L.A. Federation President and CEO Rabbi Noah Farkas; and UCLA student Jaden Penhaskashi.

The event was held amid rising antisemitism and disinformation about Israel in Los Angeles’ public and private schools. According to hate-monitoring groups, antisemitic incidents, including harassment, assault and vandalism, have increased since the Oct. 7 attack on Israel and the subsequent Israel-Hamas war.

“We are acutely aware of the climate that has only magnified in intensity since the outbreak of the war,” Mendelson said. “So, it’s something that we have always known we’ve needed, but the war has certainly put a finer point on the need in this moment.”

​​The cast and crew of feature film “Jacob the Baker” at the film’s November premiere in Beverly Hills. (Courtesy of Getty Images)

The world premiere of “Jacob the Baker” was recently held at the Saban Theatre.

The film had a recent theatrical run in Los Angeles at the Laemmle Encino and is currently available on Amazon Video.

“Jacob the Baker” stars and is based on the works of Noah benShea, the scholar, poet, philosopher, and Pulitzer Prize-nominated author. The film follows a young, skeptical reporter. Assigned to interview the author of a bestselling book series, she discovers the incredible story of how Jacob, a fictional character, provides help and hope to countless people around the world. Over the course of the interview, her own struggle comes to light, and she begins to question her preconceptions about the man she is interviewing, and whether she is making the right choices in her own life. The film, shot around the world, also follows the lives of people who are struggling with universal life issues, all of whom reach out to Jacob the Baker for help. One of those people is a former IDF soldier who is battling addiction.

The moving film features the music of award-winning composer Sharon Farber.

Wendy Kout wrote and co-produced the film. Gev Miron directed.

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