A reference in a Grapevine column last week to the paucity of Jews in the recently opened museum of the Academy of Motion Pictures, stirred memories for some former Californians from Los Angeles who are now living in Israel. One such reader is Martha Stern of Jerusalem, who took the trouble to write that her husband David H. Stern’s grandfather, Jacob Stern, had a home on the block of the Hollywood and Vine intersection, which is now the famous area in which the names of iconic film stars are embedded in the sidewalk. But in the days before the sidewalk became star studded, Cecil B. DeMille, whose mother was Jewish, made his first Hollywood movie Strawman in 1913 in the barn of Jacob Stern’s home. The barn, half of which DeMille rented, still exists. Located at the southeastern corner of Selma Street and Vine Street, it stood opposite Stern’s home estate, which at that time was one of the most impressive residences in Hollywood.
In the mid-1920s, Stern and his son built the luxury Hollywood Plaza Hotel at the intersection of Hollywood and Vine and it quickly became a hangout and home away from home for movie stars, writers, opera stars and other people of note – but mainly leading figures from the movie industry, including budding actors and actresses on the road to fame. Guest books of the 1930s read like a Who’s Who of Hollywood. Over the years, there were changes of management and changes of décor as the hotel was upgraded, but it could not keep pace with luxury hotels that sprung up in Hollywood and in 1973 it was converted into a residence for senior citizens.
David Stern’s brother, Robert, owns the property refused to cut down the pine trees to make way for a parking lot. When David and Martha Stern got married on March 21, 1976, they sought permission to have the wedding at the former Plaza hotel and the ceremony was conducted under the palm trees, which the groom’s grandmother had planted a half century earlier.
The barn, which is still standing, was moved to near the Hollywood Bowl, where it became a movie museum. David Stern’s cousin, Peggy Stern Darling, wrote a book from the perspective of the barn, which offers more information about Jews in the movie industry and the industry per se. The Stern family were among the first 20 Jews who settled in Los Angeles in the mid-1800s and helped found Wiltshire Boulevard Temple. The total population when they came to LA was around 5,000, it’s close to 19 million today.
■ THE FOCUS of events for part of last week and most of this week has been Holocaust remembrance and awareness. Last week, KAN 11 featured the trials of the last of the Nazis, which have been followed for several months by Antonia Yamin, KAN’s Berlin-based reporter in Europe, where she personally experienced antisemitism and anti-Israelism.
Survivors and their descendants of Częstochowa, Poland, commemorated the 77th anniversary of the liberation of the city by the Red Army on January 16, 1945, and the resultant release of 5,194 Jews from the tortuous Hasag Pelcery labor camp. Most of the Jews of Częstochowa were murdered in Treblinka or shot down in the streets.
Tonight, January 23, there will be a screening of a film about Jews who risked their lives to save other Jews during the Holocaust at the Jerusalem Cinematheque.
On Tuesday, January 25, the Jerusalem Press Club will host a Zoom discussion with audience participation at 5.30 p.m. Israel time and 10.30 a.m. EST, in which Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai, who is a journalist by profession, prize winning journalist Ben Dror Yemini and Carol Nuriel, a former broadcaster and currently the director of the Israel office of the Anti-Defamation League, will look at the attempt to exterminate the world’s Jewish population some 80 years ago and today what is happening in terms of antisemitism in the world, with emphasis on the media coverage of both and whether this coverage is adequate, objective or biased.
Shai will deliver the keynote address, Yemini, who specializes in researching and reporting about antisemitism, will examine the thin line between legitimate criticism and double standards in a journalistic context, and Nuriel, who is actively engaged in the struggle against antisemitism and the delegitimization of Israel, will present the latest trends and statistics on global antisemitism.
On Holocaust Remembrance Day, Thursday, January 27, the Polish Institute in Tel Aviv together with Moreshet and the Tel Aviv Cinematheque Tel Aviv will present a special screening of the 1963 film The Passenger by Andrzej Munk.The screening will be preceded by a lecture by Noam Leibman, the director of the educational department of the Moreshet Mordechai Anielevich Memorial Holocaust Study and Research Center, who will speak on the Shoah in Polish cinematography.
■ ISRAELIS WILL also participate in overseas Zoom and Facebook ceremonies on Thursday, January 27. It is obvious that Israeli diplomats will be among the participants, but in Australia for instance, Israeli speakers in an event under the auspices of the Zionist Federation of Australia and the Israel Embassy will include, in addition to Ambassador Amir Maimon, New Hope MK Sharren Haskel, who chairs the Knesset’s Israel-Australia Friendship Group, and Likud MK and former minister Amir Ohana. Canadian-born Haskel, lived in Australia for six years and studied veterinary nursing while there.
■ A SURVEY commissioned by Iraqi-born British Jewish businessman and philanthropist David A. Dangoor CBE, of Dangoor Education, a subsidiary of The Exilarch’s Foundation, a charity which supports educational initiatives, including primarily in the field of Sephardi and Mizrahi heritage, culture and education, has found that very little is taught or known in Israel about the history, heritage and culture of Jews from North Africa and the Middle East. As it is barely taught in schools, most Israelis have little or no knowledge of what North African Jews suffered during the Holocaust and only 7% when asked knew about Farhud, the vicious pogrom conducted against Jews in Iraq in 1941. By contrast, 58% of respondents knew about Kristallnacht, the night of shattered glass, in which the windows of Jewish commercial enterprises and Jewish religious and cultural buildings in Germany and Austria were smashed, and the contents ransacked and stolen.
Dangoor has been vice-president of the World Organization of Jews from Iraq (WOJI) for the past ten years and has funded several cultural, educational and historical projects in Israel. He said of the findings of the survey that they were both disappointing and heartening. He was disappointed because so little is known, but heartened that respondents from so many different backgrounds are eager to change this and replace ignorance with knowledge. Dangoor was hopeful that the government and educational authorities throughout the Jewish world would realize that the results of the survey are a wake-up call and would react accordingly. The results were presented last Thursday to Minister for Social Equality Meirav Cohen.
■ SOUTH AFRICAN organizations take great pride in honoring members of their community who have distinguished themselves by acting for the common good. Last month, the Israel-South Africa Chamber of Commerce, Telfed (the Israel branch of the South African Zionist Federation), and Profimex co-hosted a reception to honor Advocate Hertzel Katz, and to publicly recognize his tireless efforts in advancing the Chamber of Commerce, Israel-South Africa bilateral relations, and the South African community in Israel and at large.
Among Katz’s many initiatives is the Urgent Relief Fund for South Africans in distress. The fund has been renamed in tribute to Katz and his legacy of kindness, compassion and commitment to the well-being of South Africans living in Israel and is now known as the Hertzel Katz Urgent Relief Fund.
■ IN A bid to encourage academic excellence, promote good citizenship and support the growth of businesses, Bank Hapoalim some years ago established a scholarship fund for success through which it awards scholarships to university students who have distinguished themselves in volunteer activities in centers for educational excellence around the country.
Over the past year, the fund has distributed a hundred scholarships totaling NIS 1 m. Early this year, there were five more recipients, Priel Bleichman of Kiryat Gat, Noam Fedal of Ramat Gan, Elior Sela of Hazor in the Galilee, Sali Smara of Lod and Yasmin Edery of Emek Hefer, who received their awards at a ceremony presided over by Bank Hapoalim chairman Reven Krupik, who praised the students, saying that they were both personally and professionally outstanding. The five were selected by a judiciary panel that examined 10,000 applications.