Because the 3,500-year-old Jewish Story still speaks to life today.

Pictured: A finalist of Reboot’s “Sukkah City,”
an international design competition funded by RPF

Our Vision

The Righteous Persons Foundation lives where Jewish life
meets art, culture, media, beauty, justice, and joy.


Deeply moved by the experience of directing Schindler’s List, Steven Spielberg donated his portion of the film’s profits to build and support a meaningful and relevant Jewish community. To that end, he established the Righteous Persons Foundation (RPF), which has made more than $100 million in grants—and been supported by additional profits from the films Munich and Lincoln—since its founding in 1994.

For more than two decades RPF has funded innovative approaches to strengthening Jewish identity and community and to ensuring that new generations draw upon the moral lessons of the Holocaust.

As part of this work, RPF has developed a particular focus on supporting Jewish arts, culture, and media.

RPF envisions a world in which Judaism’s rich history is accessible to all, the Jewish values of justice and responsibility for others inspire social activism, the power of storytelling is used to connect people of different backgrounds and nationalities, and the next generation of Jews are empowered and engaged

THROUGH THE YEARS

A History of
Making Change

Let's begin
  • 1995

    Opening Our Doors

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    Steven Spielberg decided to launch RPF while directing the Academy Award-winning film Schindler’s List. His vision was twofold: to recover and make accessible Jewish stories from the past, and to help build a contemporary Jewish community predicated on meaning, joy, and a responsibility to help repair our world. Spielberg initially funded the foundation with his portion of the profits from Schindler’s List. He later designated profits from his films Munich and Lincoln to the foundation as well.

  • 1995

    Recording Holocaust Survivor Testimonies for Generations to Come

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    RPF provided significant support to establish what is now the USC Shoah Foundation, an independent institute founded by Steven Spielberg that is dedicated to recording and preserving the stories of survivors of the Holocaust (and now other genocides). To date, the Foundation has collected more than 54,000 Holocaust survivor testimonies conducted in 62 countries and 41 languages. RPF’s most recent grant supports the foundation’s New Dimensions in Testimony project, a cutting-edge initiative that works with USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies to enable future generations to engage with testimonies in an interactive way.

    Stephen Spielberg meets with a group of USC Shoah Foundation Junior Interns during a trip to Poland to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Photograph by Steve Purcell.

  • 1996

    Investing in the Power of Film

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    Because we believe storytelling is one of the most powerful tools for social change, RPF launched a fund for documentary film at the Foundation for Jewish Culture. The fund backed projects such as Sandi Simcha DuBowski’s critically-acclaimed Trembling Before G-d (2001) and Ari Folmam’s Academy Award-nominated Waltz with Bashir (2008, pictured), along with close to 100 other docs. RPF continues to support film, such as Aviva Kempner’s Rosenwald, the story of a Jewish businessman and philanthropist who helped build over 5,000 southern schools for African-American children during the period of Jim Crow.  Rosenwald has been screened in hundreds of communities across the country and was shown at the White House in 2016.

     

  • 1997

    Designing the Synagogue of the Future

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    Seeing the need to revitalize synagogues, RPF joined the Nathan Cummings Foundation to support the establishment of Synagogue 2000, a national project to enable religious institutions to become more relevant for 21st century Jewish life. The initiative brought together some of the best Jewish minds and drew upon lessons from the likes of Disney and the mega church movement. “We are trying to learn from as many sources as possible how to create a welcome place of spiritual nourishment,” said Ron Wolfson, who co-headed the project. To continue this work, RPF went on to support the Institute for Jewish Spirituality and the first-of-its-kind national rabbinic fellowship at B’nai Jeshurun.

  • 1999

    Sparking Innovation through Jewish Social Entrepreneurship

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    At the height of the dot-com boom, RPF joined forces with the Nathan Cummings Foundation and the Walter and Elise Haas Fund to develop Joshua Venture, an organization dedicated to fostering the next generation of Jewish innovators. Since its launch, Joshua Venture Fellows have gone on to helm a variety of projects—from a new Jewish magazine to a support network for young Jewish women with breast cancer to an initiative to make Jewish life more welcoming to LGBT youth.

  • 2003

    Unleashing the Power of Creatives

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    Reboot—a network of Jewish creatives co-founded by RPF and the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, began with a question: What would happen if we brought together some of the most creative young Jews in art, technology, activism, academia, and business and gave them a space to examine what Jewishness means today? The result is a network of more than 500 individuals and the creation of countless projects to make the Jewish experience more relevant—from an international design competition to re-imagine to the sukkah to a Jewish archival record label to a digital forum for introspection during the high holy days. To date, hundreds of thousands of people have been reached by Reboot projects, both directly and through Reboot’s partnership with more than 800 community organizations.

     

  • 2005

    Promoting Media as a Tool to Humanize the “Other”

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    Just as he had a decade earlier with Schindler’s List, Steven Spielberg committed his profits from the film Munich to RPF, designating an initial $5 million to establish RPF’s Media Fund for Co-existence. He did so based on the belief that media plays a powerful role in humanizing the “Other” and to amplify voices of moderation. With this fund, which has expanded beyond the original designation, RPF supported such projects as Arab Labor, an award-winning Israeli sitcom by an Arab Israeli journalist about his life in Israel; Israel Story, a radio show and podcast reaching millions of Israelis and audiences around the globe; and Greenhouse, a project that brings filmmakers from across the Mediterranean together.

  • 2007

    Working to Rebuild New Orleans After Hurricane Katrina

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    RPF responded to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina by funding volunteer service trips to New Orleans organized by Jewish Funds for Justice (now Bend the Arc). With our support, nearly 1,000 college students inspired by the Jewish value of social justice traveled to New Orleans to clean up neighborhoods, tear down old structures, and renovate homes. As a way to address the ongoing and long-term challenges of that city, RPF also provided mulit-year support to Avodah’s New Orleans program, which has young Jews committing a year of service to local organizations that address poverty, educational inequity, and juvenile justice reform.

    Photograph courtesy Avodah

  • 2008

    Helping Survivors Access Tens of Millions of Dollars in Holocaust Reparations

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    In addition to supporting organizations over the years that provide aid to Holocaust survivors, RPF helped Bet Tzedek launch the Holocaust Survivor Justice Network, a nationwide team of attorneys who work pro bono to help survivors of the Shoah access reparations from the German government that are much needed but difficult to get. The network, which has helped more than 5,000 survivors secure an estimated $25 million in reparations since its founding, is now working—with the continued support of RFP—to double those figures in the next four years.

  • 2010

    Digitizing All of Yiddish Literature and Then Making It Accessible

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    Yiddish books provide a rare window to the rich and varied culture that in many ways was lost during WWII. Yet, as the generation of native Yiddish speakers passed away, these books were often discarded. So, in 1998, RPF became the lead funder of the Yiddish Book Center’s ambitious effort to preserve all of Yiddish Literature. The result was the Steven Spielberg Digital Yiddish Library, which includes digitized copies of all the books in the center’s collection (over one million books, with over 11,000 distinct titles)—all of which are accessible online. A decade later, RPF began funding a growing network of fellows who are now translating these important works into English so that a new generation can access these treasures.

  • 2014

    Unlocking Jewish Media Archives

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    RPF helped bring artist Peter Forgacs’ critically-acclaimed multimedia project Letters to Afar to the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco and, later, to the Museum of the City of New York. The work, based on home movies made by Americans visiting the “old country” right before WWII, provides an intimate look at Jewish life in cities like Warsaw and Vilna along with small towns and shtetls. Forgacs culled this video footage (some of it digitized years before with support from RPF) from YIVO, one of the premier Jewish archives the foundation supports along with the Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Steven Spielberg Film and Video Archive at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. One surprise—color film footage from Warsaw from the late 1930s.

    Photograph from Letters to Afar: By Péter Forgács, music by the Klezmatics, courtesy YIVO Institute for Jewish Research

  • 2014

    Making Jewish Life More Beautiful Than Ever

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    Judaism contains so much beauty, yet the expression of Judaism often seems anything but. So RPF approached the iconic design firm IDEO to help do something about that. Together with Reboot, IDEO convened a group of some of the best Jewish thinkers with some of the best designers. They asked difficult questions, explored shared values, and created a manifesto on “redesigning Jewishness.” Out of this work they developed “Friday,” a visually driven, Shabbat-inspired app that invites users to engage with one of the world’s oldest religions in a modern way. RPF also made it possible for PJ Library, which provides free Jewish books to children around the world, to work with IDEO on engaging new parents.

  • 2016

    Galvanizing Support for Jewish Arts and Culture

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    RPF has long funded arts and culture programs and projects—from a star-studded National Public Radio show featuring the work of Yiddish and Jewish writers (in 2000) to an acclaimed staging of Paula Vogel’s Indecent at Yale Repertory Theater (in 2015) to Asylum Arts, an international collective of Jewish artists. In an effort to bring more attention and much needed philanthropy to this area of funding, RPF partnered with Partners in Performance and the Jewish Funders Network to create a report on the importance and power of Jewish arts that was distributed to more than 400 foundation professionals at the 2016 JFN conference in San Diego. This study was only a first step to inspire broader—and more impactful—support from the larger community.

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