(JTA) — When the New York Times journalist Jodi Kantor was reporting the 2017 Harvey Weinstein sexual assault story that earned her a Pulitzer prize, the powerful Hollywood producer and his team tried to influence her by using something they had in common: They are both Jewish.
“Weinstein put [Jewishness] on the table and seemed to expect that I was going to have some sort of tribal loyalty to him,” Kantor told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency on a video call from the New York Times newsroom. “And that was just not going to be the case.”
Now, that exchange has been immortalized in “She Said,” a new film adaptation of the nonfiction book of the same name by Kantor and her collaborator Megan Twohey that details their investigation into Weinstein’s conduct, which helped launch the #MeToo movement.
The film, directed by Maria Schrader with stars Zoe Kazan as Kantor and Carey Mulligan as Twohey, is an understated thriller that has drawn comparisons to “All the President’s Men” — and multiple subtle but powerful Jewish-themed subplots reveal the way Kantor’s Jewishness arose during and at times intersected with the investigation.
In one scene, the Kantor character notes that a Jewish member of Weinstein’s team tried to appeal to her “Jew to Jew.” In another, Kantor shares a moving moment with Weinstein’s longtime accountant, the child of Holocaust survivors, as they discuss the importance of speaking up about wrongdoing.
Kantor, 47, grew up between New York and New Jersey, the first grandchild of Holocaust survivors — born “almost 30 years to the day after my grandparents were liberated,” she notes. She calls her grandmother Hana Kantor, a 99-year-old Holocaust survivor, her “lodestar.” Kantor — who doesn’t often speak publicly about her personal life, including her Jewish background, which involved some education in Jewish schools — led a segment for CBS in May 2021 on her grandmother and their relationship. Before her journalism career, she spent a year in Israel on a Dorot Fellowship, working with Israeli and Palestinian organizations. She’s now a “proud member” of a Reform synagogue in Brooklyn.
Kantor spoke with JTA about the film’s Jewish threads, the portrayal of the New York Times newsroom and what Zoe Kazan’s performance captures about journalism.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.
JTA: How did you feel having Zoe Kazan, who is not Jewish, play you? Kazan has played some notably Jewish characters before, for example in the HBO miniseries “The Plot Against America.”
JK: I feel Zoe’s performance is so sensitive and so layered. What I really appreciate about her performance is that she captures so many of the emotions I was feeling under the surface in the investigation. You know, when you’re a reporter and especially a reporter handling that sensitive a story, it’s your responsibility to present a really smooth professional exterior to the world. At the end of the investigation, I had the job of reading Harvey Weinstein some of the allegations and really confronting him. And in dealing with the victims, I wanted to be a rock for them and it was my job to get them to believe in the investigation. And so on the one hand, you have that smooth, professional exterior, but then below that, of course you’re feeling all the feelings. You’re feeling the power of the material, you’re feeling the urgency of getting the story, you’re feeling the fear that Weinstein could hurt somebody else. You’re feeling the loss that these women are expressing, including over their careers. And so I think Zoe’s performance just communicates that so beautifully.
What Zoe says about the character is that there are elements of me, there are elements of herself, and then there are elements of pure invention because she’s an artist, and that’s what she does.
I think the screenplay gets at a small but significant line of Jewish sub-drama that ran through the investigation. It went like this: Harvey Weinstein and his representatives were constantly trying to approach me as a Jew. And they’ve done this more recently, as well. There have been times when Harvey Weinstein was trying to approach me “Jew to Jew,” like almost in a tone of “you and I are the same, we understand each other.” We found dossiers later that they had compiled on me and it was clear that they knew that I was the grandchild of Holocaust survivors, and they tried to sort of deploy that. So speaking of keeping things under the surface, I privately thought that was offensive, that he was citing that. But your job as a reporter is to be completely professional. And I wasn’t looking to get into a fight with Weinstein. I just wanted to find out the truth and I actually wanted to be fair to the guy. Anyway, even as he was approaching me “Jew to Jew” in private, he was hiring Black Cube — sort of Israeli private intelligence agents — to try to dupe me. And they actually sent an agent to me, and she posed as a women’s rights advocate. And she was intimating that they were going to pay me a lot of money to appear at a conference in London. Luckily I shooed her away.
To some degree I can’t explain why private Israeli intelligence agents were hired to try to dupe the Hebrew speaking, yeshiva-educated, granddaughter of Holocaust survivors. But it’s not my job to explain that! It’s their job to explain why they did that.
Then the theme reappeared with Irwin Reiter, Weinstein’s accountant of 30 years, who kind of became the Deep Throat of the investigation. I quickly figured out that Irwin and I were from the same small world. He was the child of survivors, and had also spent his summers at bungalow colonies in the Catskills just down the road from mine. I don’t bring up the Holocaust a lot. It’s a sacred matter for me, and I didn’t do it lightly. But once I discovered that we did in fact have this really powerful connection in our backgrounds, I did gently sound it with him – I felt that was sincere and real. Because he was making such a critical decision: Weinstein’s accountant of 30 years is still working for the guy by day and he’s meeting with me at night. And I felt like I did need to go to that place with him, saying, “Okay, Irwin, we both know that there are people who talk and there are people who don’t. And we both grew up around that mix of people and what do we think is the difference? And also if you know if you have the chance to act and intervene in a bad situation, are you going to take it?”
We didn’t talk a lot about it, because I raised it and he didn’t want to fully engage. But I always felt like that was under the surface of our conversations, and he made a very brave decision to help us.
That was a very powerful scene in the film, and it felt like a turning point in the movie that kind of got at the ethical core of what was motivating your character. Was that a scene that was important to you personally to include in the film?
What Megan and I want people to know overall is that a small number of brave sources can make an extraordinary difference. When you really look at the number of people who gave us the essential information about Weinstein, it’s a small conference room’s worth of people. Most of them are incredibly brave women, some of whom are depicted, I think, quite beautifully in the film. But there was also Irwin, Weinstein’s accountant of all these years, among them. It’s Megan and my job to build people’s confidence in telling the truth. And as we become custodians of this story for the long term, one of the things we really want people to know is that a tiny group of brave sources, sometimes one source, can make a massive difference. Look at the impact that these people had all around the world.
Did you feel the film captured the New York Times newsroom? There’s a kind of great reverence to the toughness and professionalism in the newspaper business that really came through.
Megan and I are so grateful for the sincerity and professionalism with which the journalism is displayed. There are a lot of on screen depictions of journalists in which we’re depicted as manipulative or doing things for the wrong reasons or sleeping with our sources!
We [as journalists] feel incredible drama in what we do every day. And we’re so grateful to the filmmakers for finding it and sharing it with people. And I know the New York Times can look intimidating or remote as an institution. I hope people really consider this an invitation into the building and into our meetings, and into our way of working and our value system.
And we’re also proud that it’s a vision of a really female New York Times, which was not traditionally the case at this institution for a long time. This is a book and a movie about women as narrators.
There have been comparisons made between this movie and “All the President’s Men.” One of the striking differences is that those journalists are two male bachelors running around D.C. And this film has scenes of motherhood, of the Shabbat table, of making lunches. What was it like seeing your personal lives reflected on screen?
It’s really true that the Weinstein investigation was kind of born in the crucible of motherhood and Megan and my attempt to combine work with parenting. On the one hand, it’s the most everyday thing in the world, but on the other hand, you don’t see it actually portrayed on screen that much. We’re really honored by the way that throughout the film you see motherhood and work mixing, I think in a way that is so natural despite our obviously pretty stressful circumstances.
I started out alone on the Weinstein investigation, and I called Megan because movie stars were telling me their secrets but they were very reluctant to go on the record. So I had gone some way in persuading and engaging them, but I was looking to make the absolute strongest case for them. So I called Megan. We had both done years of reporting on women and children. Mine involved the workplace more and hers involved sex crimes more, which is part of why everything melded together so well eventually. I wanted to talk to her about what she had said to female victims in the past. But when I reached her, I could hear that something was wrong. And she had just had a baby, and I had had postpartum depression myself. So we talked about it and I gave her the name of my doctor, who I had seen. Then she got treatment. And she not only gave very good advice on that [initial] phone call, but she joined me in the investigation.
I think the theme is responsibility. Our relationship was forged in a sense of shared responsibility, primarily for the work – once we began to understand the truths about Weinstein, we couldn’t allow ourselves to fail. But also Megan was learning to shoulder the responsibility of being a parent, and I had two kids. And so we started this joint dialogue that was mostly about work, but also about motherhood. And I think throughout the film and throughout the real investigation, we felt those themes melding. It’s totally true that my daughter Tali was asking me about what I was doing. It’s very hard to keep secrets from your kid in a New York City apartment, even though I didn’t tell her everything. And Megan and I would go from discussing really critical matters with the investigation to talking about her daughter’s evolving nap schedule. It really felt like we had to get the story and get home to the kids.
And also, we were reporting on our own cohort. A lot of Weinstein victims were and are women in their 40s. And so even though we were very professional with this and we tried to be very professional with the sources, there was an aspect of looking in the mirror. For example, with Laura Madden, who was so brave about going on the record, it was conversations with her own teenage daughters that helped her make her decision.
We didn’t write about this in our book because it was hard to mix the motherhood stuff with this sort of serious reporter-detective story and all the important facts. And we didn’t want to talk about ourselves too much in the book. But the filmmakers captured something that I think is very true. It feels particular to us but also universal. When Zoe [Kazan] is pushing a stroller and taking a phone call at the same time, I suspect lots of people will identify with that. And what I also really like is the grace and dignity with which that’s portrayed.
It must have been surreal, seeing a Hollywood movie about your investigation of Hollywood.
I think part of the power of the film is that it returns the Weinstein investigation to the producer’s medium, but on vastly different terms, with the women in charge. Megan and I are particularly moved by the portrayals of Zelda Perkins, Laura Madden and Rowena Chiu — these former Weinstein assistants are in many ways at the core of the story. They’re everyday people who made the incredibly brave decision to help us, in spite of everything from breast cancer to legal barriers.
Working with the filmmakers was really interesting. They were really committed to the integrity of the story, and they asked a ton of questions, both large and small. Ranging from the really big things about the investigation to these tiny details. Like in the scene where we go to Gwyneth Paltrow’s house and Megan and I discover we’re practically wearing the same dress — those were the actual white dresses that we wore that day. We had to send them in an envelope to the costume department, and they copied the dresses in Zoe and Carey’s sizes and that’s what they’re wearing. There was a strand of extreme fidelity, but they needed some artistic license because it’s a movie. And the movie plays out in the key of emotion.
The post Weinstein approached me ‘Jew to Jew’: Jodi Kantor opens up on the ‘She Said’ movie’s Jewish moments appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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