Pictured: Max Leventhal at the Alliance Theatre job site
We're incredibly proud that AJFF attracts some of the most talented, passionate people. We rely heavily on this village to make AJFF what it is, and we're going to introduce you to some of the people who make up that village. From our staff, to our volunteers, or even to members of our audience, there's a huge group of people that make AJFF a world-class cultural event. This month, we're putting the spotlight on our new Board President and Owner's Representative at the Woodruff Arts Center, Max Leventhal.
A Little Bit About Max
Max Leventhal consults as an Owner’s Representative for theatre renovations, such as the Alliance Theatre, Denison University’s Eisner Performing Arts Center, Lawrenceville’s Aurora Theatre, the King Chapel at Morehouse University. Kennesaw State University’s Dance Theatre, Dad’s Garage, and Chicago’s Goodman Theatre.
Max was the GM/COO at the Alliance Theatre for 13 years, with his wife, Susan V. Booth, Artistic Director, who were hired as a management team from Chicago’s Goodman Theatre. Their daughter, Moira, is a student at Paideia and the Atlanta Ballet.
Other volunteer engagements include the Board of Trustees of Theatre Communications Group, the not-for-profit theatre’s national service organization; Treasurer of the Board of the Atlanta Bike Coalition; (Loves biking) and formerly the Advisory Board of the Metropolitan Atlanta Arts Fund, a division of the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta.
How did you come to be involved with AJFF?
This nice colleague at the Alliance, Jody Feldman, made a match for me with the Film Evaluation Committee and Kenny [Blank]. That was in the CD era, post-VHS and pre-streaming. I watched films for a summer and had a great entrée back into what felt like a missing piece of my life. We had great leaders in Phyllis Lazarus and Tom Karsch and I was hooked on films and conversations having to do with Jewish people.
What is the most interesting challenge, in improving AJFF, that you get to help with?
I am one of the “founding” members of the board of the Atlanta Jewish Film Society. The effort to create a standalone organization through an amicable separation from the parent company, the American Jewish Committee -ATL, was thoughtful and detailed work. It was a great team effort and I think most, if not all of us, who took on the task feel proud of the process. Thank you Steve Labovitz, who led us all. Now we are looking at a new venue opportunity at the City Springs Byers Theatre. I am hopeful sitting a film in a large, brand new, excitingly outfitted theatre will transform the experience for our audience into a great communal conversation.
What is your fondest memory from being involved with AJFF?
For three years, I worked with my friend and co-Chair of the Film Evaluation Committee, Rabbi Brad Levenberg. We developed a fun partnership in meetings that made the work truly joyful. A ritual developed around distilled spirits. At the end of each meeting, a small band of tipplers would join the Rabbi and me. We took turns providing a bottle of single malt/barrel/batch/whatever and we would have a tasting and hang out. We had great comradery and a shared love of stories on film.
How has your experience outside of AJFF played into your work with the festival?
My life has been the study and production of theatre and other performing arts. I have spent my career in not-for-profit executive leadership. From my background I have a deep abiding love of people and organizations who do a lot with a little. Those organizations do not do great work the easy way. You see people who dig in and drive towards their goals. I think I will be a strong cheerleader and advocate for a lean and smart not-for-profit whose mission resonates deeply with my own individual tastes.
What is the most rewarding aspect of being involved with AJFF?
Watching movies that are doors and windows into what it means to be Jewish. I feel connected to my community through the wide variety of excellent films the festival brings to Atlanta. What makes it even better is the opportunities created by speakers, artists, and panels around each film.
What's your favorite AJFF film, and why?
So many! Every year I need both hands to count the great films. Why are you asking me to pick only one?
Who would you cast to play you in a film?
Peter Riegert, seems like he’d be a mensch.
Thank you to Max for his time this month and invaluable participation throughout the years. We can’t wait to see where his stewardship will take AJFF in the years to come. Stay tuned to see who we profile next month.