Identity and Division: Hollywood’s Social and Cultural Transformation of the Los Angeles Jewish Community, 1910-1930

“Identity and Division” examines the individual choices made by prominent Hollywood Jews in negotiating the demands of their very secular industry, the largely anti-Semitic surrounding culture, and the nature of their Jewish identity. It analyzes their interactions within the non-Jewish community, such as in the social clubs they attended or other social activities they participated in. It reviews how the secular community viewed these Hollywood Jews, as well as looks at the rise of new establishments as a result of the rise of an anti-Semitic cultural reaction. Even while most tried to hide their Jewish past, the personal choices made by Louis B Mayer, Samuel Goldwyn, the Warner brothers, Lewis Milestone, Alla Nazimova, and Sonya Levien shaped a kind of Jewishness. Hollywood was not Jewish, but the industry was an empire made by Jews—something that became clear when the rise of anti-Semitism in the 1930s forced Hollywood Jews to confront what their identity meant to the broader culture. Thus, it is important to analyze how and why certain choices were made by Hollywood Jews, and how those choices affected the Los Angeles Jewish community and the community at large. This project also includes a website that focuses on images and maps the journeys of Louis B Mayer, Samuel Goldwyn, the Warner brothers, Lewis Milestone, Alla Nazimova, and Sonya Levien, giving a visual aid in understanding the difficulties this group went through. (Hollywood Jews: Transformation of the Los Angeles Jewish Community Website ( It includes a brief description of Mayer, Goldwyn, the Warners, Jolson, Nazimova, Milestone, and and Levien as well as a background description of the Russian Empire pogroms. The website also contains several documentary shorts for each person mentioned above encompassing the 50-page article along with photographs and music providing a more visually and emotionally connected experience. The sources include films created, photographs taken between the 1900 and 1930s, and transcripts of interviews.