I am Leo Pearlman, born in Sunderland, living in London. I am a partner at production company Fulwell 73, where we make content including “Carpool Karaoke” and “Cinderella.” I am a husband, a father, a son and a brother. But I know that even today in some parts of the world there are those who would define me simply as: Jew.
In 1936, my great-grandfather Leo, whose name I am proud to carry, managed to escape from Germany with eight members of his immediate family, including my then 6-year-old grandmother. Of the 32 who stayed, most died in Auschwitz. None survived. My grandmother spent the next 75 years of her life repeating the mantra “Never Again.”
More from Variety
That was now ninety years ago yet the generational trauma persists. It is written into our genetic code. My family, like so many other Jewish families, have been defined by it. We still see the world’s attitude through the lens of genocidal antisemitism. Sometimes that lens distorts, but never has it offered greater clarity of vision than it does now.
Today is not only International Holocaust Remembrance Day but also marks the 112th day since Oct. 7, a date that now has the dubious honor of recording the largest mass-murder of Jews than on any single day since the Holocaust. Many of the methods Hamas used – beheading, burning, raping – were employed by the Nazis too. And Hamas, like the Nazis, saw anyone fraternizing with Jews as Jews by association. On Oct. 7 they didn’t just murder Jews but also Muslims, Christians and atheists. Where they diverge from the Nazis is that they didn’t do this quietly, secretly, or make any efforts to destroy the evidence of their war crimes. Instead, they recorded and live-streamed it on Go-Pro cameras they donned just for the occasion. They were proud.
And let’s be clear, as confirmed by Hamas leadership on many occasions since, but for the arrival of their rescuers, the terrorists would not have stopped. As of this very moment at least 130 people – a group that includes Jews, Muslims, Israelis and other nationalities – still remain hostage.
The security that we as Jews felt by being part of an integrated, diverse, inclusive society has been blown apart, first by a deafening silence, then by the whispers amongst friends, at work and on social media that has crescendoed into a resounding drumbeat of a global antisemitism.
I have seen escalating displays of antisemitism on our streets and across the world, posters of kidnapped children defaced – in London one with a Hitler moustache – and ripped off walls. I have seen genocidal dogwhistles emerge at film festivals, mass marches accompanied by chants calling for the destruction of all Israelis, placards intertwining the star of David with swastikas, effigies of Jewish babies thrown around, attacks — physical and verbal — against anyone identified as Jewish, smashed windows, graffiti and Jewish students being hounded and harangued in well-publicized incidents on campuses in the U.K. and U.S.
Though it passionately espouses tenets of inclusivity and diversity, claiming to heal the world through artistic endeavour, the creative industry is not immune from this sickness. I’m proud of how often our industry stands up for underrepresented groups by telling their stories; how earnestly it challenges injustice and bears witness to terrible crimes against humanity.
This is why I’ve been so shocked and saddened over the last three months by the silence from so many within the U.K.’s creative industry. And during that time, I’ve heard from so many Jewish people within our industry who are afraid to speak up, scared into silence.
Our industry should be ashamed of its silence. Shame on all those who failed to issue a definitive public statement condemning the rape, murder and kidnappings committed by the terrorist organisation Hamas on Oct. 7 in clear terms. Shame on all those who call only on Israel to enact a ceasefire while Hamas leaders repeatedly reject offers of a ceasefire in return for hostages and give interviews promising to slaughter Jews over and over again.
We see you, we know you, and we know that, in the time since you decided to sit this one out, there’s been an exponential increase in antisemitism across Britain and the world.
As we sit here in 2024, over 100 days on from the massacre of Oct. 7, where does this leave us as Jews? In exactly the same place we have always been: with no choice but to stand up, speak out and fight for our right to exist; with no choice but to find strength through our community; with no choice but to proudly say ‘I am a Jew and I won’t allow a single slight, comment or hateful statement go unanswered,’ with no choice but to repeat the mantra oft repeated by my grandma ‘Never Again.’ It leaves us outnumbered and surrounded, hated for who we are and for what we represent, but above all else it confirms that if the world were to define us by a single word, then it would indeed be Jew. And on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, more than any other, that should fill us with immense pride.
Leo Pearlman is a partner in production company Fulwell 73 and the executive producer of numerous movies and TV shows including “Hitsville: The Motown Story” (Showtime), “Training Days” (YouTube), “I am Bolt” (Universal Pictures), “The Class of 92” (Universal Pictures), “Sunderland Till I Die” (Netflix), “Cinderella” (Sony/Columbia). He is also the managing partner of Fulwell 73 Group, overseeing business matters and business development for the company in the U.K. and U.S.
Best of Variety