You know that song by Simon & Garfunkel — “The Sounds of Silence”?
Those are the sounds that actress Julianna Margulies reports hearing from too many Jews in the entertainment industry about what has been happening in Israel, and about antisemitism in general.
Margulies said she’s trying to “understand and work around why every single person in our industry isn’t standing up” against hatred.
“Maybe they’re afraid. I honestly don’t know what they’re afraid of… losing followers?” Marguilies continued. “It’s just insane to me.”
It is insane to me, as well. I share Julianna’s anguish.
Except, I actually did some research on this, and I discovered something wonderful.
Hollywood Jews actually are speaking out in defense of Israel.
- Sarah Silverman has spoken out, and she is getting slammed for it.
- Natalie Portman has spoken out: ”My heart is shattered for the people of Israel. I am in horror by these barbaric acts and I pray for the families of all affected.”
- Bar Refaeli has spoken out. She has said that her “heart is broken,” and that “my country has been attacked by terrorists.“
- Mayim Bialik has spoken out. She read the final words of terror victims, and she is getting slammed for it.
- Sascha Baron Cohen has spoken out. He shared an appeal for a missing mother and her two children.
- Mandy Patinkin has spoken out: “Our hearts are broken. We cannot imagine what it is to live with terror on our doorstep, and the combination of grief and pain and fear and rage when families are callously murdered or taken hostage. For millennia, our people have had to flee and to live with terror.”
- Gene Simmons of KISS has spoken out. Born in Israel, he takes the October 7 attacks personally. “Hamas is a terrorist organization — period.”
- A letter signed by more than 1,000 members of the Hollywood community calls for the release of Israeli hostages taken by Hamas as part of their attacks on Israel. The letter includes such A-list names as Michael Douglas, Jerry Seinfeld, Jamie Lee Curtis, Mark Hamill, Howie Mandel, Sherry Lansing, Ziggy Marley, Debra Messing, Liev Schreiber, and Amy Schumer. #NoHostageLeftBehind includes such names as Adam and Jackie Sandler, Aaron Sorkin, Ben Stiller, Bradley Cooper, Chris Rock, Courteney Cox, David Geffen, Eugene Levy, Henry Winkler, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jason Sudeikis, Judd Apatow, Madonna, among many others.
So, yes — top Hollywood personalities have stepped up. Contrast that to the Writers Guild of America, which recently ended a months-long strike, and which said its members could not reach a consensus on issuing a statement on the attacks and their aftermath.
Which brings me back to the last time the world encountered a darkness as pervasive as this one.
It is 1943. A sizable percentage of Europe’s Jews have already perished.
In response to the world’s (and America’s) silence in the face of unremitting evil, as well as their contempt for Hollywood’s “fear of offending its European markets,” the Broadway impresario and lyricist Billy Rose and film director Ernst Lubitsch produced a dramatic pageant at Madison Square Garden.
Its purpose: to raise public awareness about the plight of European Jewry.
The pageant was written by Ben Hecht, with music by Kurt Weill, and was staged by Moss Hart. Its stars included Edward G. Robinson, Paul Muni, John Garfield, Ralph Bellamy, Frank Sinatra, and Burgess Meredith.
Two hundred rabbis and two hundred cantors raised their voices in prayer on stage. The pageant was called “We Will Never Die,” and when it was performed on March 9, 1943, forty thousand people filled the seats—thanks in part to newspaper advertisements provided gratis by the Hearst Corporation.
“We Will Never Die” went on the road, performing in Philadelphia, Washington, DC, and Los Angeles. The Los Angeles performance at the Hollywood Bowl was broadcast across the nation on NBC radio. In Washington, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt attended along with senators, members of Congress, and Supreme Court justices.
Notice a few elements of this story from the annals of American popular culture:
First, the venues, which were huge.
Second, the artistic prestige of the pageant’s creators and participants. These were top-tier cultural personalities — the A-listers of their time.
Third, while there were certainly Jews involved in the presentation, consider the gentile performers who were also involved—Bellamy, Sinatra, and Meredith.
As there have been gentile celebrities who have spoken up this time — Bradley Cooper, Jason Sudeikis, Chris Rock, and Madonna among them.
It is now time to repeat that.
I am calling for a huge public performance by American cultural heroes. That performance would allow them to publicly lend their voices to one of the most profound political and moral crises of our time— Hamas’s war against Israel, the Jews, and the West. The show wouldn’t have to go on the road; it need only be on television, and streamed on the internet.
Remember that song by Simon & Garfunkel — “The Sounds of Silence?”
There have been too many sounds of silence from Jewish rock and pop stars. We already have Gene Simmons, but we need other voices: Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, Donald Fagen of Steely Dan, Neil Diamond, Jeff Tweedy of Wilco (who recorded Debbie Friedman’s “Mi Sheberach” with his kids), Lenny Kravitz, Max Weinberg of the E Street Band, Randy Newman…
Let’s remember something.
In 1943, a moral conspiracy of Hollywood heavy-hitters pulled off a series of major events—all to raise consciousness about what was happening to the Jews of Europe.
This happened when the American Jewish community was a fraction of the size it is today and when the American Jewish community had but a fraction of the clout and affluence it has today.
And they did it.
In the words of the old sentimental film cliché—“Hey, kids, let’s put on a show.”