Amid Outcry, Academy Museum to Revise Exhibit on Hollywood’s Jewish Roots

When the popular Academy Museum of Motion Pictures opened in 2021 with exhibits celebrating the diversity of the film industry, the museum was criticized for having largely omitted one group: the Jewish founders of Hollywood.

Last month, the museum aimed to correct that oversight by opening a permanent new exhibition highlighting the formative role that Jewish immigrants like Samuel Goldwyn and Louis B. Mayer played in creating the American film industry.

But the new exhibition, which turns a sometimes critical eye on Hollywood’s founders, ignited an uproar. An open letter that a group called United Jewish Writers sent to the museum on Monday objected to the use of words including “tyrant,” “oppressive,” “womanizer” and “predator” in its wall text, called the exhibit “antisemitic” and described it as “the only section of the museum that vilifies those it purports to celebrate.”

In response to the growing outcry, the Academy Museum said in a statement Monday that it had “heard the concerns from members of the Jewish community” and that it was “committed to making changes to the exhibition to address them.”

“We will be implementing the first set of changes immediately — they will allow us to tell these important stories without using phrasing that may unintentionally reinforce stereotypes,” the museum said.

The museum announced the changes just before receiving the open letter, which was signed by more than 300 Hollywood professionals. “While we acknowledge the value in confronting Hollywood’s problematic past, the despicable double standard of the Jewish Founders exhibit, blaming only the Jews for that problematic past, is unacceptable and, whether intentional or not, antisemitic,” said the letter. “We call on the Academy Museum to thoroughly redo this exhibit so that it celebrates the Jewish founders of Hollywood with the same respect and enthusiasm granted to those celebrated throughout the rest of the museum.”

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