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New indie production company to specialize in making Jewish stories for film and TV

Leviathan acquires rights to planned adaptations of a play about British Jewish chemist Rosalind Franklin, a novel on King David and a book on US role in Israel’s Independence War

Ben Cosgrove attends a special screening of "Black Christmas" in Los Angeles, Dec. 5, 2019. (Rachel Luna/Getty Images via JTA)
Ben Cosgrove attends a special screening of "Black Christmas" in Los Angeles, Dec. 5, 2019. (Rachel Luna/Getty Images via JTA)

JTA — A new independent production company aims to “ensure the Jewish tradition is carried forward” on TV and film, as Jewish stories continue to be a hot property in Hollywood.

Leviathan Productions will specialize in developing content based on Jewish history, literature and folk tales, as well as stories about Israel, Deadline reported. Leviathan is founded by Ben Cosgrove, a film and TV producer whose credits include the Oscar-winning “Syriana” and the recent “Black Christmas” remake; and Josh Foer, journalist and co-founder of the adventure travel brand Atlas Obscura as well as of the online Jewish text repository Sefaria.

Foer is also one of the people behind a new “Jewish tavern” in the Boston area, which like the projects on Leviathan’s docket aims to situate Jewish content in a space that is accessible to Jews and non-Jews alike.

The company has moved quickly to acquire a number of upcoming projects with Jewish themes, including planned adaptations of “Photograph 51,” a play by Anna Ziegler about Rosalind Franklin, the British Jewish chemist who played a central role in discovering the molecular structures of DNA, RNA and viruses; “The Secret Chord,” a novel by Geraldine Brooks about King David; and “The Pledge,” a 1970 nonfiction book by Leonard Slater about the U.S.’s role in Israel’s 1948 war for independence.

“Jewish stories have incredible resonance because they explore ideas that are universally identifiable,” Cosgrove told Deadline. “Everyone knows what it feels like to be the underdog, the outsider, or the immigrant. Jewish stories tackle these ideas with humor and drama, and people around the world see themselves in our stories.”

The launch of Leviathan Productions comes soon after this summer’s launch of Reboot Studios, a funding initiative for Jewish entertainment that brands itself as “the Sundance Labs of the Jewish world.”

Both projects are concurrent with a notable uptick in Jewish content from major streaming platforms. Netflix is prepping an American remake of its hit Israeli import “Shtisel,” in addition to an upcoming reality show, “Jewish Matchmaking,” both joining a suite of Jewish-themed programs that include “The Club,” “Heirs To The Land,” “My Unorthodox Life,” “13: The Musical” and “The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem.”

In addition, HBO Max is developing content based on Hasidic rapper Nissim Black and the Yiddish folktales of Chelm; Hulu recently acquired the Israeli series “Hazarot” (Rehearsals); Amazon recently produced “Yosi, the Regretful Spy” in addition to its ongoing hit series “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”; Apple TV+’s Israeli spy series “Tehran” is on its second season; and two recent European period dramas, “Ridley Road” on PBS and “Paris Police 1900” on MHz, boast strong Jewish themes.

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