All in the Family: Les Moonves is grandnephew of Ben Gurion


Today, CBS Corporation president and CEO Les Moonves turns 62.

Moonves made headlines in our archive for his network’s 2003 miniseries about Hitler.

Moonves’s great-uncle made headlines for being the first Prime Minister of Israel, David Ben-Gurion.


The LA Jewish Journal shared the family connection in 1998, when Moonves was feted at an American Jewish Committee dinner:

[Moonves] also recalled a dinner with his granduncle in Israel 28 years ago as a defining moment in his life "that will stay with me always" — particularly noteworthy since his granduncle happened to be first Prime Minister of Israel David Ben-Gurion.

Moonves’s grandfather, Bernard Moonves, was Paula’s brother. A brief 2005 interview in The Forward explained the difference in surnames:

Later I asked Moonves, “Whence the name?” He replied, “It’s Jewish, from the Ukraine.” He then added, “My great-aunt who was married to Ben-Gurion poured tea for me.” Aha! With a little research, I discovered that Ben-Gurion met Paula Munweis, a nurse, in 1915 in New York. They fell in love, and he convinced her to go to Palestine. Several people who visited the Ben-Gurions in Israel recalled that Paula always served guests tea “with lemon.”

Indeed, a search for the name "Munweis" turns up this Feb. 1967 article outlining the prime minister’s forthcoming travel plans in the U.S:

During the trip, Mr. Ben-Gurion will also celebrate the 50th anniversary of his marriage. He and the former Miss Paula Munweis were married in Brooklyn in 1917. Mr. Ben-Gurion recalled that the marriage was in the afternoon because, that morning, he was busy addressing a meeting of the Poale Zion in New York.

The JTA obituary for Paula Ben Gurion fills in other details about the first first lady of Israel:

Mrs. Ben-Gurion was born in Minsk, Russia, on April 8, 1892 and was brought to the United States by relatives when she was 13. She studied at the Brooklyn Jewish Training School for nurses and later worked as a student nurse at Beth Israel Hospital in New York City. She met her future husband in New York where Mr. Ben-Gurion came after being expelled from Palestine by the Turkish authorities. They were married at City Hall on Dec. 5, 1917, A few months later, Mr. Ben-Gurion returned to the Middle East and enlisted in the Jewish Legion, the first Jewish military unit in modern times, which fought with Lord Allenby to liberate Palestine from Turkish rule.

Mrs. Ben-Gurion joined her husband in Palestine at the end of World War I, bringing with her an infant daughter, Geula, who was born in New York during her father’s absence. In 1920, the Ben-Gurion family spent several months in London where Mr. Ben-Gurion was sent on a mission for the Zionist Organization. Their son, Ames was born there. Their youngest daughter, Renana, was born later in Jerusalem.

While Ben Gurion did a number of interviews with CBS TV in his time– including an exclusive and a talk on the Bible — these were before Moonves graduated high school.

Still, our archive documents one interesting Ben-Gurion-related decision under Moonves’s tenure with the network:


LOS ANGELES, Apr. 20, 1998 (JTA) – The stars came out for Israel’s jubilee. A cast of 21 headliners, backed by hundreds of dancers, singers and musicians, put together "To Life! America Celebrates Israel’s 50th," a CBS-TV variety show that mixed historical reminiscences, American comedy and Israeli song and dance…

Actors recalled pleas for peace made by four Israeli prime ministers — Dennis Franz played David Ben-Gurion, Kathy Bates was Golda Meir, Dustin Hoffman was Menachem Begin and Richard Dreyfuss was Yitzhak Rabin.


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