Before the devastating events of October 7, Variety Magazine’s summit had already been planned. However, recent events in Israel became the focal point, drawing the attention of A-listers to discuss Jewish representation in Hollywood and the pressing issue of bigotry.

At the news of Hamas’s call for a global day of protest, comedian Alex Edelman’s first instinct was to make light of a grave situation. Playing on the traditional Hebrew greeting, he humorously asked a room full of Hollywood’s finest, “Do you say ‘Rage Sameach?’” But the mood quickly changed. Edelman became emotional, reflecting on the turbulence in Israel, a place he described as a sort of home, especially given his brother A.J. Edelman’s deep ties as an Olympic representative for the nation.

The Hollywood summit, attended by Edelman, celebrated for his one-man Broadway show about an encounter with white supremacists, was a powerful gathering organized by Variety. He felt compelled to attend, he told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, desiring the company of fellow Jews and non-Jewish allies keen on deepening their understanding of antisemitism.

Joining forces with prominent Jewish organisations, the event boasted a rich roster of panelists, including renowned figures such as Julianna Margulies, Tiffany Haddish, Marc Maron, Josh Malina, and Josh Peck. Representatives from influential groups like the Anti-Defamation League and the USC Shoah Foundation lent their voices. However, a keynote by SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher was canceled due to other pressing concerns.

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The summit delved deep into antisemitism in the entertainment industry, exploring facets from representation and social media impact to the historical portrayal of Jews in Hollywood. While Israel was originally to be just a segment of the discourse, it soon became the epicenter of the conversation. Many echoed that the events in Israel only amplified the need for such a summit, especially with a global rise in antisemitic incidents directly correlated to the conflict.

Variety’s chief production officer, Claudia Eller, iterated the magazine’s unwavering support for Israel, a sentiment echoed throughout the event. On the palpable anguish in the Jewish community, CNN’s Van Jones remarked, “People are hurting. Nobody should grieve alone.” Adding to the narrative was Israeli actress Swell Ariel Or, who shared the heart-wrenching news of the loss of seven childhood friends in the conflict. 

One notable discussion, “Israel and the Entertainment Industry,” underscored the potential for Hollywood to create narratives authentically representing daily Israeli life and culture. The Band’s Visit, a Tony-winning play, emerged as a shining example.

In a significant acknowledgment, producer Matti Leshem commended US President Joe Biden’s approach to the conflict, garnering widespread applause. Other segments highlighted the surge in antisemitic incidents in the US and recent controversies surrounding prominent figures like Ye (formerly known as Kanye West).

 Variety’s commitment to the cause was evident, with CEO Michelle Sobrino-Stearns pointing to a series of 28 articles on antisemitism. In a candid conversation, Julianna Margulies expressed her shock at the silence from many in the entertainment industry on the issue of antisemitism, hoping her voice might inspire others to speak up.

Beyond its structured panels, the summit was a testament to the resilience of humor in times of adversity. Maron, a comic known for weaving Jewish narratives into his routines, shared candid moments about his journey. Tiffany Haddish, discussing her recently discovered Jewish lineage, emphasized the importance of solidarity.

As Ike Barinholtz aptly said, “Jews find comedy in tough moments.” And while humor might serve as a momentary respite, the pressing issues need more than just fleeting attention. This summit, in its essence, was a call to action, a beacon of hope, and a reminder of the collaborative spirit needed in these trying times.