Salvador Litvak is a Chilean-American filmmaker and social media influencer. He has written and directed two theatrically-released feature films, When Do We Eat? and Saving Lincoln. As the Accidental Talmudist, Litvak shares Jewish wisdom with over one million followers on his Facebook page and hosts AT Daily, a Talmud study show on Facebook Live and YouTube.
Litvak was born in Santiago, Chile in 1965 and came to the United States at the age of five. He grew up in Riverdale and New City, New York. During his childhood, Litvak went by his middle name, “Alex.” Litvak attended Harvard College, where he lettered on the heavyweight rowing team and graduated with honors. Litvak then attended NYU Law School. During his time at NYU, Litvak began tapping into his creative side, writing a novel and mounting a series of multimedia performance art pieces in the East Village. He earned his JD degree and passed the New York State Bar Exam, then accepted a position as a mergers and acquisitions lawyer at Skadden Arps while continuing his writing. After two years, he left the practice of law to enroll in the graduate Directors’ Program at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, where he earned a Master of Fine Arts degree.
While at UCLA, Litvak won a MPAA scholarship and multiple awards. He directed a music video for three-time Grammy nominee Suzanne Ciani and made a short called Dick and Slick Go to the Restaurant, which won a Spotlight Award for Comedy of the year. His 30-minute 35mm thesis film, Great Harry and Jane won an award from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. After graduating from UCLA, Litvak worked as a script reader at CAA and as a film professor at Antelope Valley College.
Litvak formed a production company, Pictures From the Fringe. With his wife Nina Davidovich Litvak, Litvak wrote When Do We Eat? a comedic Passover film about a dysfunctional Jewish family celebrating “the world’s fastest seder.” Litvak directed the film and partnered with Executive Producer Horatio Kemeny to make When Do We Eat? independently. The film’s ensemble cast included Lesley Ann Warren, Michael Lerner, Max Greenfield, Shiri Appleby, Ben Feldman and Jack Klugman in his final role. When Do We Eat? was released theatrically by THINKFILM in 34 cities in 2006. When Do We Eat? press includes LA Times, Orange County Register, Morning Call, NY Post, Boston Globe, Tablet.
Litvak’s next film to reach the screen was Saving Lincoln, also written with his wife and made independently. The film is based on the true story of Abraham Lincoln and his closest friend, Ward Hill Lamon. Litvak made this Civil War epic on an indie budget (under $1 million) by inventing a style called CineCollage, in which live action elements are inserted into 3D environments composited from vintage photographs from the Library of Congress.
Saving Lincoln press includes the LA Times, NY Times, Indiewire, Filmmaker Magazine, John Banks’ Civil War Blog, Hollywood Reporter, Movie Fanatic, Honeycutt’s Hollywood, BirthMoviesDeath, I Love Newton. Litvak raised postproduction funds on Kickstarter. He contributed an essay to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library’s book Gettysburg Replies.
At a Jewish bookstore in Los Angeles in 2005, Litvak had a life-changing moment. He happened to purchase Book One of the Talmud on Day One of a 7.5 year cycle. This “minor miracle” inspired him to embark on the Daf Yomi program of reading the entire Babylonian Talmud, which takes approximately one hour a day for 2,711 consecutive days. The Talmud is a vast treasure trove of wisdom for living, some of it applicable only to Jews, but much of it relevant to all humanity. Despite challenges – finding time to study, overcoming lack of serious Jewish education – Litvak successfully completed the Talmud in August 2012, and he attended the huge siyum (celebration) at MetLife Stadium along with 93,000 other Jews – most of whom hadn’t completed Daf Yomi, but were celebrating those who had. This story became the subject of the Jewish Journal’s cover story on August 8, 2012.
Now that he’d read the entire Talmud, Litvak was determined to share what he’d learned. For millennia, the Talmud was the exclusive province of very religious Jewish men, but Litvak felt it was time to share the spiritual wealth. He started a blog at the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles called Accidental Talmudist. To promote the blog, Litvak started an Accidental Talmudist website and Facebook page, where he and his wife Nina share a wide variety of original Jewish content six days a week.
The Facebook community grew and grew, reaching one million followers in 2018. Litvak tapped into a worldwide thirst for meaning, purpose, and time-tested wisdom. When the new Daf Yomi cycle began in January 2020, Litvak started broadcasting a daily Talmud class on Facebook Live based on that page’s teachings. All episodes available here. Accidental Talmudist is on multiple platforms, including Instagram, TikTok and LinkedIn.
Litvak edits the Table for Five column for the Jewish Journal, which features five writers commenting on the same verse in the weekly Torah portion. In 2019, Litvak partnered with the Jewish Journal to launch the Accidental Talmudist podcast.
Litvak has appeared on podcasts including Modern Philosophers, David Suissa Podcast, Jay’s Four Questions, Building Jerusalem Antony Gordon Show, You Are Not A Goat.
Accidental Talmudist story has been covered by the Orange County Register, Ami Magazine, Israel National News, Australian Jewish News, Jewish Telegraph, Jewish Independent. Sal was honored at the 2020 Daf Yomi siyyum in Los Angeles.
When Do We Eat? is available on Amazon Prime and iTunes. Saving Lincoln is available on iTunes and Amazon Prime
Sal is a contributor to: the Jewish Journal, Aish.com, Chabad, 929, Hevria, Torah Cafe, The Forward, Huffington Post.
Accidental Talmudist is a 501c3 nonprofit with a Gold Seal of Transparency by GuideStar.
Sal was honored by the Chai Center with the Chesed Award