Julianna Margulies on Speaking Up and Speaking Out
Emmy Award-winning actor Julianna Margulies is a longtime activist in the fight against antisemitism and an outspoken supporter of Israel. At the Museum of Jewish Heritage, she is also involved in outreach efforts to the younger generation.
In 2022, Margulies—currently in The Morning Show and best known for her roles in the television series ER and The Good Wife—donated funds raised from her participation in television specials commemorating International Holocaust Remembrance Day to establish the Holocaust Educator School Partnership (HESP). Through the initiative, university undergraduate and graduate interns are trained by museum staffers to teach Holocaust history to students at middle schools and high schools at partnering New York City public schools. To date, the partnership has trained 23 interns who have taught over 14,873 students in classrooms and during tours of the museum.
“The only way to fight antisemitism is to teach,” Margulies said about the educational initiative. “Without knowing history, history repeats itself, and you’re seeing this unfold today.”
As part of the museum’s “Courage to Act: Rescue in Denmark” exhibit, Margulies, a board member of the museum, recently took part in a discussion with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Kluger about his book, Hamlet’s Children, a historical novel set in Nazi-occupied Denmark. She subsequently spoke with Hadassah Magazine about the exhibit and her own efforts to support Holocaust education and speak out about Israel and antisemitism. This interview had been edited for brevity and clarity.
You spoke at the Hollywood and Antisemitism Summit in mid-October, sponsored by Variety magazine. Why did you think more celebrities are not speaking out in support of Jews?
I’ve been trying to get past feeling so disheartened by it…and understand why every single person in our industry isn’t standing up. It is shocking. Maybe they are afraid of losing followers? It’s just insane to me. That’s not how I roll.
Can you share your experiences in publicly advocating for Israel and against anti-semitism?
I have gotten death threats…and there are some days I just want to shut up and stay quiet and hide under my covers, and other days when I want to fight for human rights. So, I vacillate between thinking it’s too difficult and I’m not doing enough.
What was your reaction to the “Courage to Act” exhibit?
The most important gift you can give a child is to raise them to be empathetic. That’s what “Courage to Act” to me is all about and it is what the HESP program is all about. I was blown away by the exhibit. You have to find a nuanced way to be able to tell young children the story of the Holocaust without horrifying them. It is also vital to plant the seed of love, not hate. This exhibit is about heroes, and also about something I’m not seeing enough in today’s world, which is non-Jews protecting their Jewish brothers and sisters.
Jane Levere is a New York City-based freelancer for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Architectural Digest, CNN, Afar and Metropolis, among other publications, and a life member of Hadassah.