Israeli President Shimon Peres sought to bolster ties between his country and Hollywood in a four-day visit to Los Angeles that included stops at DreamWorks Animation and CAA and, on Sunday, a Beverly Hilton gathering of Jewish and Latino leaders in politics and showbiz.
As he did in a visit last week to Silicon Valley, where he launched a Facebook page and musicvideo, the 88-year-old Peres often kept the focus of his remarks on the younger generation, referring to the expansion of cultural expression through digital delivery. He quipped at one point that youth “prefer short SMSes versus long speeches.”
“They are entitled to build a world of their own,” he said. “They have to keep the memory of values and forget the drama of events.”
Sunday’s gathering, co-hosted by California Assembly Speaker John Perez, actress Eva Longoria and Univision chairman Haim Saban, among others, was a Q&A intended to focus on the historic ties between the Latino and Jewish communities.
Peres praised the bonds that have been formed even amid the diversity of the region. “One of the nice things about California is the special twist, or extension, of democracy,” he said. “It is not only the right to be equal, but the equal right to be different.”
Also present at the event were Avi Lerner, Brett Ratner, Edward James Olmos, Maria Conchita Alonso, Eduardo Verastegui and Eddie “Piolin” Sotelo. A sidelight: Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) and Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), rivals in one of the closest watched congressional primary races this year, also were present.Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren told Variety that one reason showbiz was on Peres’ agenda was that “it is an immense factor in the formulation of public opinion. And Israel, we have challenges in our image. What people see on the news is conflict, and Israel is about so much more than conflict.”
Saturday evening, Peres attended a dinner at CAA with industry professionals, and on Friday visited the Glendale campus of DreamWorks Animation, where CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg presented the Israeli president with a fitting gift: framed artwork from “Prince of Egypt,” the company’s first animated feature, which centered on the story of Moses.
“When it comes to a tireless hero, he is the real deal,” said Katzenberg.
Among those present for Peres’ visit to the campus were Leslie Moonves, Rich Ross, Billy Crystal, Steven Spielberg, Rabbi Marvin Hier, Michael Lynton, Arnon Milchan, Ron Meyer, Peter Rice, Tom Rothman, Barbra Streisand and Saban. After the remarks, Peres was led to a dining room for a lunch with the industry executives.
Peres spoke of the bond between Hollywood and Israel, noting the Jewish immigrants who helped build the entertainment industry. But he also stressed the role of Hollywood in spurring imagination, and suggested that the industry had a way of communicating to the masses that political leaders could not. “I think the children believe the actors more than the politicians,” he said.
At many of the events Peres largely steered clear of focusing on the concerns over Iran’s development of a nuclear program.
But on Thursday, Peres appeared at an event at the Beverly Hilton in which he sat for a Q&A with Campbell Brown. According to the Jewish Journal, he told the crowd that sanctions against Iran should be given time to work, “but saying very clearly that all other options are on the table.”
The visit comes as the Obama campaign has been working to bolster its support in the Jewish community, especially in light of attacks from GOP candidates over the White House’s policy toward Iran. Peres, whose title is largely ceremonial, did not address Iran in his remarks at DreamWorks. Katzenberg is among Obama’s most prominent fundraisers, and donated $2 million to the pro-Obama SuperPAC Priorities USA Action last year.