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Jim Berk, a veteran executive who formerly served as CEO of Participant Media and currently serves as chairman and CEO of Goodman Media Partners, will become the CEO of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in 2024, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. SWC’s board of trustees has chosen Berk to succeed Rabbi Marvin Hier, the charismatic two-time Oscar winner who founded the Jewish human rights activist organization in 1977 and has led it ever since.
“Jim’s passion for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, its mission and his long history of supporting Jewish rights, Zionism and the State of Israel, makes him the right choice at the right time to lead the Center and all of its divisions,” says Hier. “There isn’t a more experienced or capable executive today with the same level of skill set and understanding of the Center’s mission than Jim, and I am delighted to have him lead the Simon Wiesenthal Center into the future.”
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Berk will be tasked with leading not only the SWC, which has long been a prominent force in efforts to combat antisemitism and hate, but also its Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles and Moriah Films division.
“It’s a privilege to join an organization that has distinguished itself as a multi-faceted global voice for tolerance, social action, standing in support of the State of Israel and fighting against antisemitism and hate in all forms,” Berk says. “The dedicated Board and talented staff at the SWC understand the urgency in which we must build on the visionary work of Rabbi Hier to reach more people through education, inspire social action and use entertainment, in all forms, to multiply impact.”
Dawn Arnall Aaron, the chair of SWC’s board of trustees, says, “Selecting an individual to follow a leader of international stature who has shepherded the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s mission for nearly half a century has been an extraordinarily challenging task, one we have embraced with care and thoughtful deliberation. After a nearly yearlong global search, we are privileged and delighted to welcome Jim Berk to follow in the footsteps of Rabbi Marvin Hier, leading the Simon Wiesenthal Center into the next generation of its service.”
Continues Aaron, “Throughout his diverse career, Jim has demonstrated his remarkable abilities in leading organizations committed to social impact, education and entertainment at the highest levels. He is committed to enhancing the Center’s voice through initiatives in and beyond the United States, supporting Jewish rights and combating the darkness of antisemitism.”
Aaron adds, “For more than 47 years, Rabbi Hier engineered the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s programs, often involving distinguished leaders and always reminding the world of the lessons learned from the Holocaust and the absolute importance of human dignity. In doing so, he has left an indelible mark of leadership and commitment on the Center and its legion of followers. No one could have performed such noble tasks so faithfully, and we are so pleased that he will continue to actively support the institution that he founded.”
Berk will officially begin in his new role Jan. 1, 2024.
At Goodman Media Partners, where he has worked since 2018, Berk has invested in early stage media content creation and distribution companies. He previously served, from 2016 through 2018, as CEO of PodcastOne/Courtside Entertainment, a leading producer and distributor of podcasts. And prior to that, from 2006 through 2015, he was CEO of Participant Media, which focuses on entertainment that inspires positive social change.
Earlier gigs included serving as the founding executive director of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences Foundation, where, from 1992 through 1996, he produced live concerts, festivals, television programs, records and Grammy-branded educational programs; president and CEO of Hard Rock Cafe International, a global entertainment and leisure company with operations in 29 countries, from 1996 through 2000; and then as president and CEO of Fairfield Resorts from 2000 through 2002 and chairman and CEO of Gryphon College Corporation from 2003 through 2006.
Berk began his career in education. Starting as a public high school music teacher in 1981, he went on to found L.A.’s Hamilton High School Academy of Music in 1986, creating the largest comprehensive performing arts magnet in the Western United States. And then, upon assuming the role of principal of the Hamilton High Schools Complex in 1989, he became the youngest principal in the history of the 725-school Los Angeles Unified School District.
Berk is a voting member of the Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and — like Hier — the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
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