PHOTO: Jewish Federations of North America Board Chair Julie Platt addresses the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland's Cornerstone fundraiser Tuesday Aug. 29. (Rockne Roll/The Jewish Review)
By ROCKNE ROLL
The Jewish Review
Julie Platt, the Board Chair for the Jewish Federations of North America, was raised on Jewish philanthropy and community work. It’s a legacy she’s proud to have inherited from her father, who had died just weeks before her recent visit to Portland.
“I’m still in shloshim,” she told The Jewish Review, using the Hebrew word for the 30-day mourning period following the death of a close relative. “He was a giant in Jewish philanthropy and set an example for us of giving as you live.”
Platt told guests at the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland’s Cornerstone event that continuing her work supporting programs and Federations around the country was the best way she could think of to honor her father’s legacy – as well as passing it on to her five children.
“[They] are all deeply engaged in Jewish life in the way they’ve curated for themselves,” she told the Review.
One of Platt’s priorities at JFNA has been community security. This includes Live Secure, a national funding program that has amassed $62 million to ensure the security of Jewish communities, including Portland. Platt mentioned the upcoming High Holidays as an example of why that work is so crucial.
“I don’t think you can have the spiritual payoff of sitting in beautiful High Holiday services if you’re scared to walk through the front door,” she said, “or to engage in the joys of Judaism if you’re afraid to walk in the front door.”
Those services are a highlight of the season for Platt, who is a member of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Another is the food – including her kugel with a crumb topping made with Frosted Flakes cereal, a recipe she picked up from her sister-in-law.
“I’m excited to go to shul,” she said. “Maybe that’s not the normal thing you hear, but my family loves going and learning from our clergy.”
While Platt is well known in philanthropic circles, the rest of her family is best known for their work in the entertainment industry. Her husband, Marc, and fourth son, Ben, have three Tony awards between them; Marc as a producer, won Best Musical awards for “The Band’s Visit” and “A Strange Loop” while Ben was the youngest person to win the Tony for Best Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical for his performance in the titular role in “Dear Evan Hansen.” The other Platt children also work in the arts; one as an entertainment lawyer, another as a writer and actor, and the youngest, Henry, in music. Julie Platt’s favorite work that any of her family have been involved in, however, is her husband’s production of the musical “Wicked” and the motion picture version that should be released in the near future.
“My husband chose to tell that story, because it was the story of the other,” she said. “The green girl was 'the other' and you see that she was not the wicked one. So he is drawn to storytelling that tells the story of really the Jewish people, even if you don’t know that from walking into it.”