Wednesday | 21.02.24

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In the Beginning

During the 1950s and 60s George Ostrovsky expanded his impact as an international businessman and philanthropist. Based in Rio and later also in Paris, he regularly visited Israel where he donated to an array of academic, medical, scientific, social services and cultural institutions.

In the early 1970s he resolved to concentrate his support. Guided by discussions with his family he began to explore establishing a cinematheque in Jerusalem. He researched cinematheques throughout Europe and initiated meetings with Wim and Lia van Leer. The Haifa-based couple, was well known in Israel for collecting international cinema classics and organizing cineclubs and screenings in Haifa,  Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem.

Following a year of meetings and exchanges, in 1973, George persuaded the van Leers, who were thinking of re-locating to Jerusalem, to establish a facility there to be exclusively devoted to cinema. The Jerusalem Film Center would include screening halls, the Israel Film Archive, a library and café. Together they enlisted Teddy Kollek, former mayor and founder of the Jerusalem Foundation, to secure additional support from Hollywood sponsors and others. Lia van Leer identified a site near the old city walls and George Ostrovsky provided the first support -- a million dollars -- to underwrite construction. For almost a decade, he was actively involved in the planning and design of the building. He passed away months before its dedication in 1981.

Almost 25 years later, the Ostrovsky Family Fund initiated and gave major funding for a comprehensive renovation and expansion of the JFC and enlisted the Van Leer Group and the Jerusalem Foundation. When this was completed in 2009,  OFF contributed considerable additional support to upgrade the Film Archive and dedicate it to the memory of Wim and Lia van Leer, George’s partners in this endeavor.

When the doors first opened, the JFC quickly evolved into a beloved local landmark.  Drawing momentum from the leadership of founding director,  Lia van Leer and the film festival she launched in 1984, the JFC, a notion that began as a discussion around a kitchen table in Paris, has achieved international stature.  George’s daughter Vivian observed,                                                           

Part of the heart of our family beats here-albeit in samba rhythm.