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Spielberg grant to expand AJC Catholic-Jewish program

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 29 (JTA) — Steven Spielberg came to dinner last week, and like a thoughtful guest, he brought along a present for his hosts. The present was in the form of a $500,000 check. The celebrity-studded occasion was the American Jewish Committee’s annual dinner, which honored the filmmaker as an artist, philanthropist, humanitarian and all-around “mensch.” In accepting the AJC’s Sherill C. Corwin Human Relations Award, Spielberg made light of the praise heaped on him. “I became a humanitarian when my characters started eating people,” said the creator of “Jaws” and “Jurassic Park.” In a more serious vein, Spielberg spoke of the two foundations he established after “Schindler’s List.” He called the foundations’ activities “the most fulfilling work of my life.” One is the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, which so far has videotaped the testimonies of more than 25,000 Holocaust survivors. The second is the Righteous Persons Foundation, which seeks to support and revitalize Jewish life in America. The $500,000 grant, announced by Spielberg as head of the Righteous Persons Foundation, will support and expand the AJC’s Catholic-Jewish Education Enrichment Program. The program, created by the AJC’s Los Angeles chapter, sponsors visits three times a week by a rabbinical “circuit rider” to Catholic high schools in Los Angeles and Ventura counties. Conducted by Rabbi Michael Perelmuter, the visits cover such topics as the Holocaust, the Jewish roots of Christianity and the shared history of the two faiths, and the meaning of Jewish holidays. In turn, Catholic educators visit classes at the Milken Community High School of Stephen S. Wise Temple. The program is now starting up in New York and San Francisco, and the Spielberg grant will enable AJC to evaluate the curriculum and initiate it in other cities.