Richard Dreyfuss Reminds Des Moines Jewish Federation of a Time When We Didn’t Need Jewish Federations


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Actor Richard Dreyfuss gave the keynote speech at the 100th anniversary ceremony of the Jewish Federation of Greater Des Moines on Sunday evening, and shared his memories of growing up in 1950s New York City.

“It was a breathless hush of beautiful memory. I yearn for that fellowship, ” Dreyfuss said. “The pride of being Jewish kids whose dads had beaten Hitler and were starting their own lives as the first- and second-born children who could be part of the story and remember it, is a star burst to my heart.”

The event also celebrated the federation’s endowment’s expansion to $1 million.

“It means education for Jewish children can go on for generations and generations, ” organizer Barb Hirsch-Giller, a former federation president, told the audience of more than 600 guests.

Academy Award winner Dreyfuss, said he grew up in a housing development for soldiers who had come back from World War II.

“All of the men were guys who fought Hitler not once, but twice – in Spain against the fascists in 1936 and in our own World War II, ” Dreyfuss said. “In other words, they were communists and socialists and they were the leaders of the community to which I was born. And they were heroes for real and they were Jewish almost every one.”

Dreyfuss said there was no Jewish federation in those days because “our whole world was Jewish; we didn’t need a federation.”


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