Temple Beth Israel hosts interview with ‘Zookeeper’s Wife’ producer

Luke Torrance
The Zookeeper's Wife (Photo courtesy of Temple Beth Israel)

Since its release in March, “The Zookeeper’s Wife” has grossed more than $27 million and received positive responses from audiences around the world. On Monday, the woman who helped make the film will come to Temple Beth Israel to discuss how she helped shepherd the project from page to screen.

“She will bring an insider’s look at Hollywood, and we thought that might be an interesting program,” said Bob Epstein, who helped schedule the event.

The producer is Diane Miller Levin, a Los Angeles native who happened to be coming to New York for a wedding.

“I have a friend who owns a bookstore in L.A., and he is a close friend of [Levin’s] so he put me in touch with her,” he said.

The discussion will be held at the temple in Port Washington on Monday at 7:30 p.m. The event is free and refreshments will be served.

For those who have not seen the movie, and Epstein admits he is among them, the temple will screen the movie the night before, on Sunday at 5 p.m.

The movie tells the story of Antonina Żabiński, played by Academy Award nominee Jessica Chastain and her husband, Jan, who run the Warsaw Zoo in the 1930s. When Nazi troops invade the city, Antonina helps Jewish residents to escape the Warsaw ghetto.

The film was based on the best-selling book by Diane Ackerman, which is itself based on the diary of the real-life Antonina, who managed to maintain the zoo and save the lives of 300 Jews during the Nazi occupation of Warsaw. Epstein said he was reading the book and hoped to have it finished before he viewed the film on Sunday.

“We would love to have [Ackerman] here,” Epstein said.

The event is sponsored by the Temple Beth Israel Sisterhood and Library Committee. In the past, the temple has hosted discussion with photographer Ruth Gruber and Dr. Bernd Wollschlaeger, who converted to Judaism even though his father was a Nazi.

“We’ve done a lot of diverse kind of artsy cultural programs over the past several years,” he said.

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