The Controversial David Magerman

Wealthy Main Liner David Magerman has given millions to Philadelphia's Jewish community. The Jewish community is thankful. Sort of.

Main Line investor David Magerman at Citron and Rose.

Jennifer Love Hewitt is standing in a coffee shop on 43rd and Baltimore, deep in conversation with a plus-sized gentleman. “You know what would be weird?” the man asks, tentatively. “If this world were, like, a virtual world. And everyone in it were a fake, computerized character that someone else was making up and controlling.”

Improbably, this resonates with the actress, who floats a cosmic scenario of her own: “What if the entire expanse of the sky was just a big sheet of black construction paper? You know, like, in the shape of a, like, a dunce cap or something? You know, at the tip of the cone was the moon. And, like, this huge giant could look down on us?”

Hours later, Love Hewitt is murdered on the streets of West Philadelphia, only to be resuscitated the very next day, thanks to the fat man’s newfound faith.

This turn of events, it should be noted, took place not in real life but in an allegorical indie flick called Café that generated some mild applause at the 2010 Philadelphia Film Festival. The plot details of Café—the murder, the resuscitation—aren’t all that important. What matters is that its executive producer is a fantastically rich Main Line philanthropist named David Magerman. And to understand Magerman, whose mission involves reshaping Philadelphia’s Jewish community, you’ve got to understand his relationship to Café.

A decade ago, Magerman went through a spiritual awakening much like the fat man’s: He had a midlife crisis, quit his Long Island hedge fund, moved to Gladwyne, adopted Modern Orthodox Judaism, and decided to devote his life to Jewish causes. Now he owns Citron and Rose, the Philadelphia area’s only gourmet glatt kosher restaurant, which he started a year ago with über-chef Michael Solomonov. Meanwhile, through his Kohelet Foundation, he’s given millions to every Jewish day school within a 50-mile radius. Oh, and he wants to explode a tiny pocket of the Main Line into the Orthodox epicenter of the East Coast.

But despite the personal resonance of Café, which was written and directed by another Main Line Orthodox Jew, and despite the fact that he bankrolled the whole thing, Magerman now doesn’t like the movie. “It was on IFC last week,” he told me one weekend this summer. “I haven’t chosen to watch it.”

See, 44-year-old David Magerman doesn’t generally approve of how other people spend his money. So he’s stopped producing movies, let go of one of the hottest chefs in America, and basically given the finger to the most powerful entity in Jewish Philadelphia—at least a few times. Beneath the overt tension between Magerman and his adopted community, however, lies an internal tension. Spiritual, philanthropic millionaire David, it turns out, might not be ready to say goodbye to cocky, hedge-fund millionaire David.