January 16, 2019


Gustav Klimt (1862-1918)

“Adele Bloch-Bauer I,” 1907. Oil, silver and gold on canvas.

This portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, a wealthy Jewish society woman and hostess of a renowned Viennese salon, was commissioned by her husband, Ferdinand. The painting, also called “Woman in Gold,” was stolen by the Nazis in 1941 and displayed at the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere museum in Vienna. In 2006, after eight years of litigation by the Bloch-Bauer heirs, led by Los Angeles attorney E. Randol Schoenberg, the painting was returned to the family.

Austria will not return Klimt painting to heir of Jewish owners

 An Austrian government advisory board recommended against returning a 112-foot artwork by Gustav Klimt to the heirs of the Jewish art dealer who sold it.

The panel, which examines claims over works of art looted by the Nazis, unanimously recommended Friday against returning “The Beethoven Frieze” to the heirs of the Lederer family, because, according to the panel’s members, it had been lawfully sold to the state, the German DPA news agency reported. Austria’s government declared that it would follow the panel’s decision.

The Austrian state already returned the painting once to the Viennese art dealer Erich Lederer after World War II, when it was seized by the Nazis along with other works owned by the Lederer family after its members fled to Switzerland in 1938.

But the family’s lawyers claimed that Austria would not let Erich Lederer export the Klimt masterpiece, forcing him to sell it to the state at a discount price of about $750,000 in the 1970s. The Secession Museum in Vienna, where the 1902 “Beethoven Frieze” is on display, disputed this claim.

Lederer’s heirs filed their claim for the return of the “Beethoven Frieze” in 2013, after Austria changed its laws on restitution and looted art. Since 2009, restitution laws have included works that were sold rather than stolen, but whose owners had been put under pressure to sell them.

Austria passed a law in the 1990s covering the restitution of artworks stolen by the Nazis, and thousands of them, including some worth millions of dollars, have been returned.

Premieres of Holocaust films in Germany show strong interest in Nazi past

Two starkly different images: a woman wrapped in shimmering gold, a man whipped and bleeding on a cold cement floor.

The first, a 1907 painting by Austrian artist Gustav Klimt, is the centerpiece of “Woman in Gold,” a film starring Helen Mirren that had its world premiere last week at the Berlinale International Film Festival.

The second, of activist Georg Elser, who sought to assassinate Hitler in 1939 and paid for the attempt with his life, has been retold in a new German production, “Elser: 13 Minutes,” that also had its world premiere at the festival.

Neither film was up for an award at the Berlinale. But the fact of their premieres in Germany shows how the Nazi past remains a subject of intense interest here nearly 70 years after the end of World War II.

Watching these films at the Friedrichstadt Palast theater, it was easy to forget that, according to a recent poll, 58 percent of Germans think it’s time to put the past behind them.

“Woman in Gold” tells of the struggle for a small measure of justice decades after the genocide of European Jewry and the plundering of their property. The title refers to the art nouveau painting “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I,” which hung for decades in the Belvedere Palace museum in Vienna before it was restituted to Maria Altmann, Bloch-Bauer’s niece.

Mirren adopts a nearly flawless Austrian-accented English in her portrayal of Altmann, who fled the Nazis with her husband only to return decades later seeking the restitution of Klimt’s portrait of her aunt.

Maria faces stony refusals from Austrian museum authorities and nearly gives up, but her lawyer, Randol Schoenberg (played by Ryan Reynolds), and a young Austrian journalist, Hubertus Czernin (Daniel Bruhl), urge her to fight on. Eventually the painting is returned to Maria, who admits that her “mistake was thinking it would make everything all right, make it better.”

The return of great works of art to their rightful heirs has not been a frictionless process for Austria or Germany. Given that the film begins with Klimt applying gold leaf to his portrait of Bloch-Bauer, one might think that it would feed stereotypes about greedy heirs seeking to rob Austria of its cultural heritage.

But the screenplay by Alexi Kaye Campbell confronts these notions directly. In a wrenching flashback scene of the family’s final parting, Fredrick “Fritz” Altmann (Max Irons) reminds the young Maria of how his Jewish family started in Austria with nothing.

“We did everything we could to contribute and belong,” he says, asking one thing of his daughter: “Remember us.”

Remembrance is also a theme of “Elser: 13 Minutes,” which reconstructs the life and death of Georg Elser (Christian Friedel), a young Bavarian carpenter who became convinced that the top Nazi leadership had to be eliminated to end the war. The film is to open in German cinemas in April.

Elser involved no one else in his plot. He built and tested a bomb, and on Nov. 8, 1939 — two months after Germany invaded Poland — placed it behind Hitler’s lectern at a Munich beer hall. Hitler left the building 13 minutes earlier than planned, a gap that gives the film its title. Seven others in the hall were killed after Hitler was already out of range.

Bungling his escape, Elser was captured and tortured before confessing. But the torture did not end there. His interrogators — among them Arthur Nebe (Burghart Klaussner), chief detective in the Reich Security Head Office — were ordered to find out who else was involved in the plot and continued the beatings until they become convinced that Elser had acted alone.

Ultimately, Nebe himself, who is considered to have been sympathetic to Elser, though he was also commander of a Nazi death squad, is hung as an alleged member of the 1944 Claus von Stauffenberg plot against Hitler. In a grueling scene, we witness his hanging from behind. For more than a minute Nebe twitches, suspended from a piano wire in the Plotzensee prison in Berlin, while an official Nazi cameraman films the scene for later propaganda use. Some 5,000 filmed executions actually took place there.

After last week’s screening, director Oliver Hirschbiegel defended the graphic scene as a statement against the death penalty. He also said that the extensive depictions of Elser’s beatings were intended to demonstrate how torture “turns a human into an animal.”

But his main aim was to elevate Elser, whose act of defiance had been put on the back shelf after the war.

Elser was “less interesting than the noble von Stauffenberg, but he was the first true resister who said this has to be stopped,” said Hirschbiegel, whose 2004 film about Hitler, “Downfall,” was nominated for an Academy Award.

Screenwriter and producer Fred Breinersdorfer, who came of age in the 1960s when German students were angrily challenging their parents’ generation over Nazi crimes, said the film grew out of that conflict.

“It’s a confrontation that will not end,” Breinersdorfer said. “People from the resistance were still considered to be traitors after the war, and this is still the case today.”

“Woman in Gold,” on the other hand, needed no scenes of savagery; the violence is implied through its contrast with the beauty of the painting. In the huge movie theater in the former East Berlin, many wiped away tears during the scene of final parting. Applause began with the first rolling credits and did not end until the lights went up.

Even though he found some of the characters to have been caricatures, one audience member told JTA that he wants to see the film again – this time with family and friends.

Alexander Ferwer, 40, a Cologne businessman, said he “can’t understand” why some Germans say they have heard enough about this history.

“That’s really bad,” he said. “I think there can’t be enough films about this time. … It has to never be forgotten.”

Briefs: Olmert upbeat on U.S. ties; Hamas names new leader; Olmert’s lesbian daughter slams Jerusale

Olmert Upbeat on U.S. Ties

Ehud Olmert voiced confidence that Israeli-U.S. relations will remain robust despite the Republicans’ midterm election defeat.

“Support for Israel has traditionally been bipartisan,” the Israeli prime minister told reporters en route to Washington, where he met President Bush on Monday morning.

“I don’t see anything changing in the next two years that can alter overall attitudes toward us,” Olmert said, referring to Bush’s remaining time in office. The Democratic sweep of last week’s congressional elections has raised speculation that Bush, with his Iraq policies increasingly unpopular, could turn his attention to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This could mean reduced U.S. support for unilateral Israeli moves and a greater engagement of somewhat moderate elements in the Palestinian Authority.

Haniyeh Successor Named

Palestinian Authority officials named the likely successor to Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh in a future Cabinet. Representatives of the governing Hamas and rival Fatah faction said Monday that Mohammad Shbair, former head of the Islamic University in Gaza City, had been tapped to lead a future Cabinet of technocrats. Hamas and Fatah hope that by forming a coalition government devoid of major figures from the Islamic terrorist group they’ll be able to lift a Western aid embargo on the Palestinian Authority. Haniyeh, of Hamas, has voiced willingness to step down under such circumstances. Shbair, who was educated in the United States, is close to Hamas but isn’t an official member. Israeli media reported that his candidacy has received tacit U.S. backing. PA President Mahmoud Abbas has yet to approve Shbair’s nomination.

Olmert’s Daughter Slams Gay Pride Handling

Ehud Olmert’s lesbian daughter came out against Israeli authorities’ handling of last week’s gay pride rally in Jerusalem. Dana Olmert gave a rare media interview Sunday in which she accused police and politicians of being too lenient toward religious protesters who threatened violence against those participating in the event. While not commenting on her father’s refusal to take a strong stand for or against last Friday’s rally, she deplored the fact that a Cabinet member could denounce homosexuals without being challenged.

“I would have been happy had someone within the government responded to Eli Yishai, who called the march an abomination,” Olmert told Israel’s Army Radio. As a compromise deal, what had been planned as a march through Jerusalem was relocated to a Hebrew University stadium on the outskirts of the capital. Dana Olmert said the fact that the event was not canceled outright was a “bitter victory.”

“There was a feeling that we were in a cage,” she said. “There was something sad about the whole thing, the way it was handled.”

Seaman Sentenced for Japanese Deaths

An Israeli court sentenced a seaman to community service for causing the death of seven Japanese fisherman. Pilastro Zdravko, a Montenegrin who worked as a navigator for Israeli shipping company Zim, received six months of community service Sunday in Haifa Magistrate’s Court. He was found guilty of negligence in a 2005 collision off Japan that capsized a fishing boat. Separately, Zim has offered compensation to the victims’ families.

Arabs Want Peace Summit

The Arab League called for a peace summit with Israel and U.N. power brokers. Arab foreign ministers who had gathered for an emergency conference Sunday in Cairo issued a resolution to try to engage Israel, as well as the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, in peace talks on the principle of territorial concessions. The Cairo talks were convened following the recent killing of 18 Palestinian civilians in an Israeli artillery barrage on the Gaza Strip. Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar, a member of Hamas, said he supported the idea of a summit, but it remained unclear if he would attend.

Israeli Arabs Suspected of Gun-Running

Twelve Israeli Arabs are suspected of trafficking arms in the Palestinian Authority. The Shin Bet on Sunday lifted a gag order on arrests of the 12, all of them from northern Israel. Four suspects have been remanded in custody, while the rest where released on bail pending their indictment on lesser charges. According to the Shin Bet, the suspects, who were arrested last month, sold large amounts of small arms and ammunition obtained on the black market to Palestinians. It was not immediately clear how they would plead to the charges.

Border Communities Strike

Israeli communities on the border with Lebanon went on “strike” to demand compensation for damages suffered during the recent war with Hezbollah. Seven frontier farming villages announced Sunday that they were suspending tax and utilities payments until they receive long-delayed government payouts for lost harvests and buildings damaged by Hezbollah attacks in the 34-day conflict. They also threatened to withhold services to Israeli soldiers garrisoned along the border. State representatives said the hold-ups were due to bureaucratic difficulties, but promised to address the bulk of the communities’ complaints by the end of the month.

Study: More Boston Kids Raised Jewish

Most children in interfaith households in Boston are being raised as Jews, a new study found. Almost 60 percent of such children in Boston are being raised Jewishly, far above the national average, according to preliminary findings released Friday from the 2005 Greater Boston Jewish Community Study. The study was commissioned by the Combined Jewish Philanthropies, the central planning and fundraising arm of Boston’s Jewish community, and carried out by Brandeis University’s Steinhardt Social Research Institute. The study also found strong growth in the Jewish community, which now stands at 265,500,or nine percent of the total population. That figure includes 57,000 non-Jews living in Jewish households.

Stolen Klimt Sets Record

A Klimt painting stolen by the Nazis and returned to its rightful owner set records at auction. Austria ended an extensive legal battle in January by handing over five works by Gustav Klimt to Maria Altmann, the niece of Adele and Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer; one of the paintings was a portrait of Adele. It sold for $87.9 million at a Christie’s auction in New York on Nov. 8, setting a record for a Klimt. It had been expected to sell for $40 million to $60 million.”My Aunt Adele and Uncle Ferdinand enjoyed living with these paintings and sharing them, and we trust that their new owners will build on this tradition of appreciation,” Altmann said.

Three of the other Klimts also sold for much more than anticipated. Another work reclaimed through Nazi restitution, by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, sold for $38 million, above its $18 million to $25 million estimate.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Austria Makes Reparations for Nazi Past

The expulsion and extermination of 182,000 Austrian Jews during the Nazi era is a wound that will never heal completely, but two important decisions during recent weeks at least point to a symbolic closure for the dwindling number of survivors and the Austrian government.

In a high-profile case, Maria Altmann won her seven-year battle to recover from Austria five famous paintings looted by the Nazis and now valued at $200 million. The art works were seized in Vienna in 1938 from Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, a wealthy Jewish sugar magnate and Altmann’s uncle.

After an even longer period of legal and diplomatic wrangling, a court decision has cleared the final hurdle for payment of restitution money to survivors or the heirs of victims.

The drawn-out Altmann case finally reached its end when the Austrian government accepted the decision of an arbitration court in Vienna that the five paintings by Gustav Klimt rightfully belonged to Altmann and four relatives.

The decisive ruling in favor of Altmann and her attorney, E. Randol Schoenberg, is “the most important victory in the entire history of litigation on Holocaust restitution,” said professor Michael J. Bazyler of Whittier Law School, whose latest book, “Holocaust Restitution: Perspectives on the Litigation and Its Legacy,” has just been published by New York University Press.

Altmann, a tall and animated Cheviot Hills resident, who will celebrate her 90th birthday next month, greeted the decision as “Fabulous…. It is wonderful that justice has finally been done, that was my whole goal.”

Born Maria Victoria in Vienna in 1916, she was raised the pampered daughter of the fabulously wealthy Bloch-Bauer family. Her uncle Ferdinand owned Austria’s largest sugar-refining factory, numerous mansions and a major art collection.

The Bloch-Bauers were Jewish, but in the selective manner typical of central Europe’s Jewish upper class.

“We went to a temple once a year on Yom Kippur, where I remember seeing the Rothschilds, the men in top hats and cutaway coats,” Altmann recalled. “But otherwise, we celebrated Christmas and Easter. That’s sometimes hard to explain to American Jews.”

In December 1937, in the last grand Jewish wedding in Vienna, Maria Block-Bauer married Fritz Altmann, an aspiring opera singer. The newlyweds left for an extended honeymoon. Shortly after their return, Hitler’s troops marched into Vienna, amid the unrestrained jubilation of the Austrian people, Maria Altmann remembers well. In one of their first acts, the Nazis seized the art collection of Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, including the Klimt paintings.

The most famous of the paintings is a gold-flecked portrait of Altmann’s aunt, Adele Bloch-Bauer, currently a centerpiece of the Austrian National Gallery and one of the most reproduced pictures of all time.

Following the ruling, there remain some loose ends to be tied up, especially whether Austria will try to buy the Adele portrait, considered a national treasure, from Altmann.

The portrait itself is valued at about $100 million, and the government has said it cannot afford the sum, which is equal to the annual budget for all Austrian museums.

It is Austria’s hope that a generous private donor might step up and pick up the tab.

The other Klimt works are a second portrait of Bloch-Bauer and three landscapes.

Schoenberg predicts that his client’s victory will encourage other governments and museums, especially in France and Spain, to arrive at settlements on other cases of Nazi looted art taken from Jews during the Hitler era.

A bizarre touch was added last week, when Schoenberg received an anonymous e-mail, whose sender threatened to destroy the Klimt paintings in order for “hungry people to get bread.” Austrian authorities temporarily removed the paintings from the National Gallery, and then arrested a 50-year-old man, tracked down through his Internet provider.

The unidentified man claimed that he was drunk when he sent the e-mail.

Until two years ago, Altmann, mother of four and grandmother of six, supported herself by running a fashionable dress shop for women over 40.

Her fortunes have changed in recent months. In addition to the money she is expected to receive under the settlement with Austria or the sale of some of the Klimt paintings, Altman and 13 co-heirs got $21.8 million last year in recompense for the sugar factory and other properties seized by the Nazis.

Although the Bloch-Bauers had the foresight to set up a trust account for the factory’s stock in a Swiss bank to shield it from seizure, the bank turned around and sold everything to a well-connected German businessman at a fraction of its value.

Altmann said she plans no changes in her lifestyle.

“I’ll stay in the same home where I’ve lived for 30 years and keep driving my ’92 Ford,” she said. “And I don’t need any new clothing.”

However, she plans “to do something” for the Jewish communities in Austria and the United States and for Israel.

Once the money is in hand, she also hopes to realize her long-held dream of sponsoring a performance by the Los Angeles Opera, starring her idol, tenor Placido Domingo. The event would be dedicated to her late husband, whose operatic career was cut short when he had to flee Austria.

Altmann said she had urged Austria seven years ago to arbitrate the dispute, “but I never got a response back.”

Schoenberg savored the end of the lengthy confrontation, noting that “at the beginning, we didn’t think we had any chance at all.”

A decisive break in the legal proceedings came in June 2004, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Austria could be sued in a U.S. court, despite the opposition of the Austrian and American governments.

The Supreme Court decision helped Austria “to finally see the light” and agree to arbitration, Schoenberg said.

Austria Accepts Responsibility

While the Altmann case has made headlines, it is only part of the larger question of Austria’s responsibility toward Nazi victims in the postwar decades. Austria, whose native son Adolf Hitler incorporated it into the Third Reich during the 1938 Anschluss, played the role of “first victim” of the Nazis, guiltless of the Holocaust and other atrocities.

This attitude changed in the mid-1990s, when the Austrian president admitted for the first time that his country bore its share of blame for Nazi crimes against Jews, as well as against the Roma and Sinti (gypsies), homosexuals and the disabled.

In 1995, the Austrian parliament established the National Fund for Victims of National Socialism, which over the past 10 years has appropriated some $770 million under various programs compensating for loss of property, education, pensions, tenancy rights, and for slave labor and hardship cases.

But Austria has held back a good chunk of the allotted money, some $210 million, until the government was guaranteed that no subsequent class-action suits against Austrian businesses would be filed by survivors.

Last month, a U.S. District court in New York dismissed all such class-action suits, a decision welcomed by the Claims Conference, which negotiated with Austria on behalf of survivors.

The first payments to some 19,000 claimants in 69 countries are to start next December and should be completed one year later, said Hannah M. Lessing, secretary general of the Austrian National Fund. Lessing was in Los Angeles last week to meet with survivors and, accompanied by Austrian Consul General Martin Weiss, met with The Journal over cappuccino at a Brentwood restaurant.

Lessing was born in Vienna in 1963, the daughter of a Jewish photographer who had fled from Vienna to Palestine in 1939, but returned to his native city after the war. He had left behind his mother and grandmother, who both perished in Auschwitz.

Lessing’s non-Jewish mother, with Hannah and her siblings, formally converted to Judaism in 1973. Her later resumé includes a stay in Israel, where she worked as a hotel receptionist and businesswoman.

The raven-haired Lessing wore a prominent Star of David around her neck, which led to a question about the widely reported wave of anti-Semitism again rising in Europe.

She said that the reports were greatly exaggerated, although remnants of classical anti-Semitism remain and in France, especially, threats from young Muslim immigrants.

“I wear my Star of David in Vienna without any comments or incidents,” Lessing said. “But when I’m in Paris, my friends think I’m crazy to do so, and in New York I am often advised that I might be better off leaving it at home.”

On a subtler level, she acknowledged that most non-Jewish Austrians would categorize her first as a Jew and secondly as an Austrian, just as in past decades most non-Jewish Americans considered Jewish citizens as not “real Americans.”

Her answer drew a pained rebuttal from Consul General Weiss.

“I am a Catholic, and I consider Hannah as much an Austrian as I am,” he protested.

When Lessing switched from her career as a banker five years ago to accept her present position, she insisted on a pro-active policy of seeking out survivors, open access by claimants to her offices and a minimum of red tape. Nevertheless, she acknowledged criticism that the whole process is still too slow and complex, especially given the advanced age of the remaining survivors.

“There are only some 12,500 Austrian survivors still alive, and every time one dies, we lose,” she said.

Lessing also wishes that she could raise the payment rate for Jewish property lost during the Nazi era, which now stands at only 10 to 15 percent of current valuation.

“No amount of money can ever make up for the suffering of the Holocaust,” she said. “Whatever we do is meant as a gesture of reconciliation toward our former citizens.”


Artful Solution to Nazi Looting

After six years of litigation and diplomatic battles over Nazi-looted art, in a legal case stretching from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., to Vienna and back, the Austrian government has agreed with Maria Altmann, an 89-year old widow, to let arbitration decide who now owns masterpieces that once belonged to her family.

At stake are six works painted by Viennese artist Gustav Klimt, valued at $150 million and considered treasures of early 20th-century art.

The most famous among them is a gold-flecked portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, a member of a prominent Viennese Jewish family and the aunt of Altmann, a Cheviot Hills resident.

In 1938, the paintings were confiscated by the Nazis and eventually ended up at the Austrian National Gallery, where they are on display.

A major break in the litigation came last June, when the U.S. Supreme Court rejected pleas by both the Austrian and American governments and ruled that Austria could be sued in a U.S. court.

The Supreme Court decision helped Austria “to finally see the light,” said E. Randol Schoenberg, Altmann’s lawyer, and encouraged the country to consent to arbitration, which Schoenberg had first proposed in 1999.

Under the agreement, announced May 18, both sides have appointed one representative, who will jointly name a third member to the arbitration panel. All three will be Austrian legal experts, who are to render a nonappealable decision by Nov. 1.

The longtime court opponents reacted to the new agreement, hammered out over the last two months, with considerable relief.

“I feel very good that the case will finally be resolved, after waiting, waiting and waiting some more,” Altmann said. “We could have had this result six years ago, when I wrote a letter to the Austrian authorities offering just such a resolution, but they never even sent a response.”

Altmann said she had complete confidence in the fairness of the Austrian arbitration panel. She indicated that if the decision goes her way, she would not insist on the physical return of all the paintings, but consider a monetary settlement.

Martin Weiss, the Austrian consul general in Los Angeles, hailed the agreement as heralding “a very good day.”

He and attorney Scott P. Cooper, representing the Austrian government, expressed satisfaction that the case will be decided in Austria and under Austrian, rather than American, law.

The arbitration panel will have to resolve two key points: The first is whether, under conflicting wills written by the Bloch-Bauers, the paintings rightly belong to Austria or to Altmann. The second is how a 1998 Austrian law on restitution of Nazi-looted art applies to this case.

The Austrian decision to submit to arbitration could have considerable impact on other countries. Many of their museums have been reluctant to settle cases of paintings in their possession that were originally taken by Nazis from their Jewish owners outright, or through forced sales.

A current case involves a painting by impressionist Camille Pissarro hanging in Madrid’s Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. The painting was sold by a German-Jewish family under Nazi pressure for a fraction of its value.

For five years, Claude Cassirer, 84, of San Diego, a descendant of the painting’s former Jewish owners, has sought the painting’s return.

Spain will host an international Conference on Anti-Semitism and Other Forms of Intolerance on June 8 in Cordoba, and advocates for Cassirer are hoping to draw wider attention to the dispute over the Pissarro painting.

“The government of Spain would be well advised to follow the Austrian model,” Schoenberg said. “The claimants are getting very old and it is unconscionable to drag out the cases any longer.”


Community Briefs

Spielberg Donates $1 Million to AidIsrael

Producer-director Steven Spielberg pledged $1 million to aid Israeli terrorism victims and has named five Israeli and U.S. organizations as the initial recipients of the grant. Spielberg’s Righteous Persons Foundation cited the filmmaker’s “concern for the current crisis in Israel and for the country’s innocent victims” in announcing the grants.

Spielberg established the Righteous Persons Foundation in 1994 and has financed it through his entire profits from “Schindler’s List.” Until now, practically all grants by the Righteous Persons Foundation have been earmarked for projects to strengthen Jewish life in the United States, including those related to education about the Holocaust.

However, under the impact of terrorism on Israeli life, this policy has now been changed, and the foundation has designated at least 10 percent of its new commitments in 2002 for “efforts to respond to the tragic situation,” said Rachel Levin, associate director of the Righteous Persons Foundation. A similar percentage for the same effort is foreseen for 2003, although the money will not necessarily go to the same organizations.

Named as the initial recipients of “significant donations” are:

  • The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles for its Jewsin Crisis program, which directly funds mobile emergency units, trauma centers,school security and assistance to terror victims in Israel.
  • American Friends of the Hebrew University forscholarships in memory of the nine Israelis and Americans killed in the July 21terrorist attack at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
  • Selah-Israel Crisis Management Center, a volunteernetwork that assists new immigrants victimized by terror, violence and suddencrisis.
  • Natal-Israel Trauma Center for Victims of Terror and War,which provides professional psychological counseling to terror victims and theirfamilies.
  • Eran, which operates an around-the-clock help lineoffering emotional support, in four languages, for those in crisis. Withcontinuing terrorist attacks, the volume of callers rose to 53,000 in the firsthalf of 2002 alone. — Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

Battle to Recover Nazi Loot Advances

The long legal and emotional battle by Maria V. Altman to recover the paintings stolen by the Nazis from her family moved a major step forward when a federal appeals court ruled last week that she can proceed with her suit against the Austrian government. The unanimous decision by a three-member panel of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco marked the first time that a court at this level has decided that a foreign government could be held to answer in the United States for a Holocaust claim.

Altman, an 87-year-old Cheviot Hills resident, is seeking to recover six paintings, now valued at $135 million, by the Austrian artist Gustav Klimt, including a portrait of her aunt, Adele Bloch-Bauer.

Professor Michael Bazyler of the Whittier Law School, an expert in Holocaust-related claims, described the court ruling as a milestone in Holocaust restitution legislation. Altman’s attorney, E. Randol Schoenberg, who initiated the lawsuit two years ago, also hailed the ruling as “a very big deal … and in many ways unprecedented.” Peter Launsky-Tiefenthal, the Austrian consul general in Los Angeles, said that his government would most likely file an appeal. — TT

Panel Looks at Image of Jewish Women inMedia

Seven women in the entertainment industry visited UCLA Nov. 13 to participate in a panel discussion titled, “Hollywood Images: A New Look at Jewish Women in the Media.”

“Chances are that most people in the world won’t know a Jew, which means that most people will only know about Jews through what’s portrayed in film, television, books or other media, so we feel that it’s important that that portrayal be accurate, diverse and positive,” said Olivia Cohen-Cutler, vice president of broadcast standards and practices for ABC.

Cohen-Cutler was moderating the panel comprised of members of the MorningStar Commission, a group founded by Hadassah that advocates improving the image of Jewish women in the media.

The event, which was part of UCLA Hillel’s newly established Arts and Culture Initiative, was sponsored by UCLA Hillel, USC Hillel and The MorningStar Commission. It included panelists Joan Hyler, president of Hyler Management; Laraine Newman, actress; Andrea King, screenwriter; Susan Nanus, film and TV writer; Arlene Sarner, screenwriter, playwright and producer, and Paula Silver, president, Beyond the Box Productions.

Each panelist explained how she broke into the entertainment industry and described the ways that she integrates her Jewish identity into her current success. Newman, an alum of “Saturday Night Live” who recently played a rabbi’s wife on “7th Heaven,” told the audience that when she was beginning as an actress, she was often pressed to get a nose job and refused. “I really wanted to maintain my Jewish features. I made my way looking the way I did, and that was very important to me,” she said.

“I’m very comfortable being Jewish and very proud of being Jewish,” Nanus said. “I wasn’t always popular and didn’t care.”

Nanus said she dedicates her career to creating screenplays falling under the categories of “women, children, Jews and the underdog,” including, “If These Walls Could Talk” and “Rescuers, Stories of Courage in the Holocaust.”

King, who has written for the Jerusalem Post and whose scripts include “Body Language” and “Two’s Company,” has one key career rule: She refuses to work on a story where a Jewish man gets together with a non-Jewish woman. “I don’t want to contribute to the perpetuation of an image that I think is unfair,” King said.

Silver often tries to incorporate tzedakah (charitable giving) into her work. At the premiere of “Boyz N the Hood,” she asked everyone who came to bring books to be donated to schools. While developing the marketing campaign for “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” her company became involved with a Greek foster-care organization.

“If you can do good while doing business, it’s part of being Jewish,” Silver said. — Rachel Brand, Contributing Writer