November 19, 2018

Levy’s Special Oscar; Rabbi Lachtman Honored

Temple Beth David Rabbi Alan Lachtman and Congressman Judy Chu attended a brunch feting Lachtman. Photo Courtesy of Louie the Lens

The Jewish Federation of Greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys honored Rabbi Alan Lachtman of Temple Beth David during the 2018 Honoring Community Leaders Brunch at the Courtyard Marriott on Oct. 21. 

The gathering feted Lachtman for his 42-plus years as Temple Beth David’s spiritual leader and for his contributions to the greater community.

“You know, we don’t have a fancy building but we have a big heart,” Lachtman said in an interview published in JLife SGPV prior to the event honoring him. “I am just so grateful for the decades that I have been able to be here and try to be Jewishly warm, caring and relevant for my congregants, and the non-Jewish community looks upon me, as well.”

The more than 200 attendees at the brunch included U.S. Rep. Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park), Jason Moss, executive director of the Jewish Federation of the Greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys, and members of Lachtman’s family.

Lachtman was 29 when he was elected rabbi at Temple Beth David in 1976, after serving as education director of a Reform congregation in Berkeley, Calif. Speaking to JLife, he said some of his fondest experiences during his tenure as rabbi at Temple Beth David have involved different communities coming together for initiatives such as Purim carnivals, sending the synagogue’s children to Washington, D.C., to learn how to advocate for social issues, and witnessing the proliferation of Jewish day school education in Southern California. 

He holds a degree in marriage, child and family therapy and served as a chaplain in the U.S. Army for 29 years.

Temple Beth David is a Reform congregation in Temple City.

Celebrated public relations person Marvin J. Levy, who was honored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Courtesy of Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

Marvin J. Levy’s standing as one of the top public relations professionals in the movie business has been officially confirmed by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which will confer its first-ever honorary Oscar on a publicist when it fetes the energetic octogenarian on Nov. 18.

Levy and Oscar-winning director Steven Spielberg have enjoyed a close and complementary relationship for more than 40 years. They worked together beginning with Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and continued through “Jurassic Park,” “Lincoln” and, most recently, “The Post.”

Levy’s 1993 marketing campaign for the Oscar-winning “Schindler’s List” may have been one of his greatest achievements, as both Spielberg and Universal Studios were convinced it would end up as a box-office flop.

A native of New York City, Levy was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of New York University’s College of Arts and Science and became a bar mitzvah at the Park Avenue Synagogue. He is now a member of Wilshire Boulevard Temple.

In an interview with the Journal, Levy described Spielberg as “the most creative force I know, and he does it all while making his cast, crew and staff feel like family. “

— Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

Women of Reform Judaism Social Action Committee co-chair Karen Goldberg with Rabbi Dr. Tamara Cohn Eskenazi.
Courtesy of Women of Reform Judaism

More than 150 women gathered in San Diego on Oct. 18-21 for the Women of Reform Judaism (WRJ) Pacific District Convention. 

The Pacific District, the largest geographically of the WRJ’s eight districts, comprises 7,500 women in 57 sisterhoods. 

During the biennial weekend, which had the theme of “Educate, Empower, Embrace: Lechi Lach,” attendees had the opportunity to hear, learn from and study with WRJ Executive Director Rabbi Marla Feldman; scholar-in-residence Rabbi Tamara Cohn Eskenazi, coeditor of The Torah: A Women’s Commentary”; and Zach Herrmann, past president of the North American Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY).

New Pacific District board members were installed during a Saturday morning Shabbat service. They will serve with new President Dana Adler of Tucson, Ariz. 

Among the new women named to the board were Cher Krichmar of Temple Beth Ohr in Anaheim Hills; Erika Barnathan of Temple Ahavat Shalom in Northridge; Shoshana Lewin Fischer of Temple Adat Elohim in Thousand Oaks, who is the Jewish Journal’s digital director; Jackie Zev of Temple Ahavat Shalom in Northridge; Resa S. Davids of University Synagogue in Los Angeles; and Lori Glasky of Temple Beth Sholom in Santa Ana. 

In addition, four directors from Southern California began their term, acting as liaisons between the sisterhoods and the district: Madeline Eble of Temple Menorah in Redondo Beach; Gail Spivack of Shir Ha-Ma’alot in Irvine; Flo Cohen of Temple Sinai of Glendale; and Tracey Poirier of Temple Judea in Tarzana.

A record-setting amount of money was raised for the WRJ’s Youth, Education and Special Projects Fund, which funds Reform programs around the world, including URJ camps, NFTY programs, scholarships for cantors and rabbis, and programs like Women of the Wall and the Jewish Braille Institute. 

In addition, more than 330 hand-knitted hats were collected for homeless women and women with breast cancer

— Shoshana Lewin Fischer, Journal staff 

From left: Ben Silverman, Rob Morrow, Stanley Silverman and Jaime Camil attend the American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra Los Angeles Gala 2018 at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on October 25, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California.
Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra

The American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (AFIPO) held its 2018 Los Angeles Gala on Oct. 25 at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills, celebrating the life and work of composer Stanley Silverman.

Hosted by actors Rob Morrow and Jaime Camil, the evening featured a performance by the philharmonic’s brass quintet, following a lavish outdoor buffet and award presentation.

Presenting the award to his father, film and television producer Ben Silverman spoke at length about the 80-year-old Grammy and Tony award nominee’s five decades of accomplishments as a composer and educator, including his collaborations with James Taylor, Sting and Paul Simon, as well as the classes he taught at Harvard, Juilliard, New York University and Tanglewood.

“My dad was driven by art, not by fame,” Silverman said. “I learned from my dad that the process is the thing. The impact is the reward. I’m always so proud and impressed that he pursued that so beautifully and delivered on every single level. I’m incredibly proud to give him this honor [to] the smartest man I know.”

 In a conversation with the Journal earlier in the evening, Stanley Silverman said the award was “really personal” to him because of his connection to Israel. He has visited three times, most recently for Ben’s wedding in Jerusalem in 2011.

Silverman performed with the Israel Philharmonic’s current conductor, Zubin Mehta, in the 1960s and said that collaborations with artists like Mehta, Leonard Bernstein, Pierre Boulez, Arthur Miller and Paul Simon have been the high points of his career.

Silverman talked about growing up in the Bronx, N.Y., in an Orthodox family of “Trotskyites, very left-wing Jews,” including a mother who was determined that he learned to play music. “It was a ticket out and into general society,” he said.

Besides “bringing up terrific kids,” he said his greatest legacy was being a pioneer in new-music theater.  “People like Julie Taymor came out of it,” he said. “I think people will remember me for that.”

 During the presentation, AFIPO co-chair Kfir Gavrieli spoke about the Philharmonic’s commitment to music education in Israel via its Keynote program, pointing out that the orchestra’s next director, Lahav Shani, who will succeed Zubin Mehta in 2020, received a scholarship via Keynote 14 years ago. The gala raised $1.1 million for the Keynote program. 

— Gerri Miller, Contributing Writer 

Want to be in Movers & Shakers? Send us your highlights, events, honors and simchas. Email 

Spielberg Goes Biblical

The credits were rolling when it hit me: “The Post” was over. Time to go home. “Why am I still sitting here?” I looked around and saw others still sitting in their seats. “Why are they still sitting here?” “Why are we all still sitting here?!”

In my opinion, the answer is in the Bible.

It is accurate to frame Steven Spielberg’s “The Post” as a retelling of the 1971 Pentagon Papers drama, but it is also overly simplistic. Spielberg transforms a historical narrative into a profound commentary on American culture, partially conveyed by the choices made for the beginning and the end of the film.

Stories usually open with “Once upon a time” and end with “The End.” The soft ambiguity of “Once upon a time” signals that whatever preceded the story is unimportant. Correspondingly, the hard certainty of “The End” says that everything important to the story has been told. The narrative exists only in the space between “Once upon and time” and “The End.”

The Bible does the opposite.

It starts with a jarringly definitive “In the beginning” and it ends so gently that the narrative is never formally closed. It follows that the Bible, by its narrative structure, is signaling to the reader that the Bible is important from The Beginning — it has always been important. More significantly, the teachings of the Bible endure long after the story ends, — it always will be important.

Spielberg faced a dilemma about the beginning of “The Post.” When does the story of the Pentagon Papers begin? The first moment of this story is a finite place and time. But which moment?

“The Post” begins its story in Vietnam. Daniel Ellsberg, the man who eventually leaked the Pentagon Papers to the press, is on the battlefield documenting the war. A soldier notices Ellsberg and wonders aloud, “Who’s the longhair?” meaning, who is the hippie civilian?

That phrase stuck with me because Ellsberg is an outsider and is identified by his long hair. For the duration of the film, the outsider is the publisher of The Washington Post, Katharine “Kay” Graham, played by Meryl Streep. She is an outsider in a corporate world dominated by men and, as a woman, she is also identified by her long hair. Graham’s journey in the film is the story of how and when she found her voice as a strong, confident, trailblazing woman who confronted and stood up to a powerful White House.

In a movie with consequences of biblical proportions, Spielberg seems to take a cue from the Bible.

There is a third outsider identified by her long hair in “The Post.” Meg Greenfield, played by Carrie Coon, is the only woman on the editorial board of The Washington Post. As the film rises to its crescendo, Greenfield is holding court in the newsroom. She is on the phone with a contact at the court, and she is relaying everything she is hearing. Greenfield has the attention of the entire newsroom. The air is silent and heavy with dramatic pause when a middle-aged white male editor barges into the newsroom and steals her thunder. Reading from a slip of paper, he exuberantly announces victory. For a moment Greenfield’s face falls, but she composes herself and gets another chance to shine a few moments later when she dictates Justice Hugo Black’s forceful opinion — uninterrupted.

In a profound film about women’s empowerment, this moment was a reminder that we adapt and evolve slowly. Kay Graham may have found her voice but women could still expect to be interrupted by men oblivious to the shifting social environment around them.

“The Post” could have ended with the euphoric reaction to the Supreme Court ruling in favor of the media against the president. But Spielberg ends by setting the stage for the Watergate scandal. In a movie with consequences of biblical proportions, Spielberg seems to take a cue from the Bible and opts for a gentle, open-ended final scene.

Long after the Pentagon Papers were published, freedom of the press remains an issue. Long after Kay Graham found her voice, treating women fairly remains an issue. Long after Meg Greenfield was interrupted, respecting women remains an issue.

“The Post” does not conclude with finality because, just like the Bible, it is the beginning of a long struggle, not a story about one particular struggle. And that explains why we lingered in the theater watching the credits roll.

Eli Fink is a rabbi, writer and managing supervisor at the Jewish Journal

“The Post” attempts high-stakes drama with history

NOR_D11_061317_1665_R2 – Tom Hanks (as Ben Bradlee) and Meryl Streep (as Kay Graham) star in Twentieth Century Fox’s THE POST. Photo Credit: Niko Tavernise.

Steven Spielberg’s “The Post” recalls a pivotal time in 1971 when Katherine Graham (Meryl Streep) invokes the First Amendment right to freedom of the press while publishing top secret government conspiracy papers in The Washington Post.  Despite threats of jail time and bankruptcy, Graham stands by her paper and the reporting.

While the First Amendment may be important here, it’s actually Graham’s role in history that strikes a weightier chord.  Unfortunately, the narrative doesn’t make the significance as apparent as it should.  It becomes necessary for Tony Bradlee (Sarah Paulson, wasted here) to spell it out.  Her job isn’t just to make it clear for her husband Ben (Tom Hanks) within the context of the movie, but for the audience as well.  And, if a movie can’t make its own point without utilizing a character for this purpose, then how successful has it really been?

“The Post” certainly attempts to create high-stakes drama and lays out the history well.  In fact, the film relies heavily on an alternating blue/yellow color palette to this end.  For more about “The Post” and how these colors are used specifically, take a look below:

–>Keep in touch with the author on Twitter and Instagram @realZoeHewitt.  Looking for the direct link to the video?  Click here.

All photos courtesy of 20th Century Fox.

Screenwriter Sees Biblical Parallel in ‘The Post’

Meryl Streep stars as Katharine Graham in Steven Spielberg’s “The Post.” Photos by Niko Tavernise

For Joshua Singer, the Golden Globe-nominated co-screenwriter of Steven Spielberg’s “The Post,” there’s something biblical in the tale of how The Washington Post and its publisher, Katharine Graham, defied the Nixon administration at great risk to publish stories on the top- secret Pentagon Papers in the 1970s.

“It’s when God says to Abraham, ‘Take your only son, bind him and prepare him for a [sacrificial] offering,’” Singer said. “Then God stays Abraham’s hand. It’s a test of Abraham and his faith in God, in the same way that Katharine is forced to raise her hand in a way that might slaughter her business, her legacy and her fortune.

“It’s because she sees that there is something greater than her legacy, which is the freedom of the press. For those values, she’s willing to sacrifice that business, in the same way that the value of God and the Jewish religion is one for which Abraham was willing to sacrifice his own son.”

The movie especially focuses on Graham, a former socialite who took on the position after her husband committed suicide. She was the one who eventually made the decision to publish the Pentagon Papers story, which revealed that United States political and military leaders continued the Vietnam War, to save face, even though they knew the U.S. couldn’t win. She did so even though the Post was threatened with federal action that could have destroyed the newspaper, her family’s longtime business.

“When you’re raised Jewish, there’s something in our Bible stories that’s all about raising one’s hand up against the status quo.” — Joshua Singer

“She was risking everything,” said Singer, who was raised in a Conservative Jewish family near Philadelphia.

In 2016, Singer won an Academy Award for co-writing another movie about newspapers, “Spotlight.” It featured the story of a journalist he deemed as among “the pantheon of great Jewish heroes”: Marty Baron, who faced anti-Semitism when he became editor of The Boston Globe in 2001 yet went on to publish stories about pedophile priests in that mostly Catholic city.

Singer had a biblical parable about Baron, as well.

“When you’re raised Jewish, there’s something in our Bible stories that’s all about raising one’s hand up against the status quo,” he told the Journal in 2016. “It’s Abraham having the temerity to break all those idols in a land where everyone is worshipping them. Or David, a guy with a slingshot, standing up against a giant and knocking him down.”

“The Post,” he said, is “not about Jewish heroes but American heroes.”

The film began when Singer’s co-screenwriter, Liz Hannah, read Graham’s memoir, “A Personal History,” about six year ago. She realized that Graham’s Pentagon Papers dilemma “was the moment she found her voice,” Hannah said.

“One of the themes in the film is Katharine being the lone woman in the boardroom, and the idea of being the sole woman in a male-dominated industry is something I felt was very relatable,” said Hannah, who was raised in a Christian household in New York and Connecticut.

After Spielberg and actors Tom Hanks (who plays the Post’s executive editor, Ben Bradlee) and Meryl Streep (Graham) signed on to the project, Singer was brought in to collaborate on reworking the script with Hannah. He initially had trepidations about tackling another journalism saga, but then he fell in love with Hannah’s script.

From left: Tom Hanks, David Cross, John Rue, Bob Odenkirk, Jessie Mueller and Philip Casnoff in “The Post.”

“Liz’s genius was telling the story of the Pentagon Papers through the lens of Katharine Graham,” Singer said.

The screenwriters spent time with the Graham and Bradlee families in order to ensure the accuracy of their script.

“I think Katharine and Ben liked and respected each other, but their [platonic] relationship is a bit like a young marriage that is singularly tested over the course of the film,” Singer said. “One of the incredible things is that they actually got stronger because of this test.”

And that prepared them to tackle their next big story — the Watergate scandal, which was captured in the acclaimed 1976 film “All the President’s Men.”

“The Post” hasn’t been without critics, who have charged that the filmmakers ignored that it was The New York Times that originally broke the story of the Pentagon Papers; the Post ran with it after the Times was prevented by courts from publishing further on the matter.

In response, Singer said the film does give due credit to the Times and focuses on that newspaper’s original Pentagon Papers reporter, Neil Sheehan.

“We reached out to a lot of folks from the Times, some of whom didn’t want to talk to us, but some did,” he said. “The story of Katharine is the one that we
wanted to tell, but the movie is also a celebration of the Fourth Estate and the First Amendment.”

The movie resonates at a time when President Donald Trump has threatened news organizations and made allegations of “fake news.”

“Our film is about the role of the press,” Singer said, “which is to keep our leaders in check and to hold them accountable.”

“The Post” opens in Los Angeles theaters on Dec. 22.