A new Los Angeles museum depicting the history of Hollywood is under fire from donors and influential members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for its lack of inclusion of the Jews who were credited with founding many aspects of the American film industry during its infancy.
ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, who attended the opening gala of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, told Rolling Stone magazine that the lack of a showcase on Hollywood’s Jewish history is “a conspiracy of silence and that’s deeply upsetting.”
“I would’ve hoped that any honest historical assessment of the motion picture industry – its origins, its development, its growth – would include the role that Jews played in building the industry from the ground up,” Greenblatt said. “As I walked through, I literally turned to the person I was there with and said to him, ‘Where are the Jews?’ The omission was glaring.”
Among the mega-donors to the museum who were unhappy with the museum’s direction were Israeli-American businessman and film and television producer Haim Saban. Saban and his wife Cheryl gifted $50 million to the museum, the largest donation. He told the magazine that he and his wife “firmly believe that the Jewish contributions to the film industry, from its founding to today, should be highlighted.”
Saban added: “We shared our perspective with the Academy Museum’s management and appreciate that they are taking our feedback seriously.”
Other donors are said to be considering removing their financial support from the new museum for its lack of acknowledging Jewish Hollywood founding fathers such as Warner Brothers founders Harry and Jack Warner, Paramount Pictures co-founder Adolph Zucker, Universal Pictures co-founder Carl Laemmle, Columbia Pictures co-founder Harry Cohn, and the founders of MGM, Sam Goldwyn and Louis B. Mayer.
An anonymous Academy member described the exhibitions as leaving the “impression that the film industry was created 10 years ago. They erased the past. And I find it appalling.”
The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures will be the biggest museum in the United States solely focusing on filmmaking. On its website it says its mission is to promote “the understanding, celebration, and preservation of cinema through inclusive and accessible exhibitions, screenings, programs, initiatives, and collections.”
Triller CEO and Academy member Ryan Kavanaugh told Rolling Stone that the lack of Jewish representation in the museum’s historical exhibits “goes against everything that our industry says they stand for.”
“As the grandson of Holocaust survivors, it’s just shocking that they erased the contributions of a group who faced severe antisemitism – they couldn’t get bank loans, they couldn’t own homes in LA, and yet they still created this industry that is the bedrock of the LA economy and touches people around the world," Kavanaugh said.
“Instead of, ‘Look at what what they were able to do,’ it’s just wiped out,” Kavanaugh added.