Joshua Malina will be in Portland, Oregon on January 31 "as part of this year's Jewish Federation of Greater Portland Annual Campaign.
At Men's Night Out Malina will discuss "How to Make It in Hollywood and Remain a Mensch."
From the Jewish Review:
" A television and film actor who is passionate about being Jewish and who is disappointed more Jewish celebritites do not speak out about Israel will be the featured guest Jan. 31 at Men's Night Out.
Men's Night Out is the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland event for Jewish men of all ages.
Joshua Malina is best known today as Will Baily, the character he plays on NBC's Emmy-Award-wining TV series "The West Wing." He also is the executive producer of "Celebrity Poker Showdown" on BravoTV.
Although he claims, perhaps tongue in cheek, that he is his favorite topic when he's on the road, the Yale graduate who will turn 40 this month has a way of turning the topic to Israel and his fellow Jews in the entertainment industry.
"There aren't enough Jewish celebrities who are mentioning Israel or saying things positive about Israel," said Malina. "There are not enough actors, actresses, musicians, whatever, speaking out about Israel."
He calls this a "pet peeve." He says it became an issue for him in 2001 when the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles invited him to a rally for Israel.
"Essentially, it was just a rally to say Israel has a right to exist. It's sort of disgusting, if you think about it, that you have to have a rally to make that statement," said Malina.
But that wasn't what got his attention at the time.
"I was invited and delighted attend. When I got there, I found out—as far as celebrity involvement—I was about it," said Malina, who doesn't consider himself a celebrity.
"I thought it was a pretty poor showing for Hollywood for a rally for Israel. I commented on that to the organizers and their immediate response was, 'Are you kidding? If it has to do with Israel, nobody will show up. You can't get the celebrities to come,' " he said.
Malina did not speculate on why that is the case, but thought the issue was underscored by the fact that several non-Jewish celebrities have been highly visible in regard to Israel.
"They're happy to visit Israel," he said. "Chris Noth is there and Madonna is there and Whitney Houston is there and Christopher Reeve before he passed away went to Israel."
Malina is uncertain whether it is wise for children to look up to actors, but he acknowledges that this is a fact of life.
"Where are the Jewish celebrities?" he asked. "It's really perplexing and sad to me because, for better or worse, these are who our kids look up to and it would nice if there were some people who are really in the spotlight in a way that I am not who would feel a little responsibility to be a model for Jewish kids."
With what quickly becomes apparent is a characteristic modesty, Malina describes himself as "low on the celebrity food chain."
"I think that people who have much higher profiles than I do could do so much by visiting Israel, and doing it publicly, and by speaking out on behalf of Israel, by embracing Judaism in a public way," he said. "It would be nice for Jewish kids to see some (Jewish) role models…There are people who are much better known than I who could do so much with very little effort."
Malina has been doing his part in this arena for about two years, he said. It began after the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles published an interview with him.
"I did a brief rant about my Jewish colleagues—no one in particular, that I thought it was generally a poor showing for Jewish celebrities who won't come out in support of Israel," said Malina.
"All of the sudden AIPAC was calling me. The consul general for Israel for Southern California called me. Jewish federations wanted me to speak. All of the sudden out of nothing, out of a vacuum, this whole thing started."
He thinks the fact that he is being sought out on the lox and cream cheese circuit is testimony to the situation he decries.
"If I …am getting that kind of response from an article in a small Jewish publication, it just sort of proves my point," said Malina.
Judaism is important to Malina and has been all his life.
Raised along what he described as Conservative Jewish lines in New Rochelle, N.Y., Malina attended a Jewish school for the first eight years of his formal education.
"When I entered first grade my family decided to enroll me in a yeshiva, I actually went to an Orthodox yeshiva, Westchester Day School. I went to yeshiva for eight years, until ninth grade, and had a wonderful experience," he said.
What he learned at yeshiva was reinforced at home.
"My parents have always lived a substantive Jewish life and cared about Jewish values and traditions," said Malina. "So it was all of a piece. It gave me a great foundation of Jewish knowledge and, more important than that, a love for Judaism."
The father of two—a daughter, Isabel, 7½, and a son, Avi, 3½—Malina and his wife Melissa keep a kosher home and make Judaism a part of their everyday lives.
"At home we try to lead a life where being Jewish is part of our daily routine. We wake up and my daughter and I say the modeh ani (awakening prayer). She goes to Hebrew school, and every evening we say the shema before we go to bed," said Malina. "It is absolutely a part of our identity, a part of our daily life."
And when he's on the road speaking before Jewish groups?
"I don't like to be too preachy because I have a great respect when I go to these communities," he said. "I am really addressing people who in a lot of ways are lot more committed than I and have done a lot more, so I don't want to be in a position of telling people who know what to do what to do."
Malina says it is heartening for him to visit different Jewish communities.
"Everywhere I go there are passionate Jewish communities that are keeping Jewish values and traditions alive. I try to be a living message that a Jewish education can take hold and really be a blessing for a lifetime," he said.
"My parents gave me a great gift by sending me to yeshiva and having a home where we kept kosher and where we had a sukkah. They gave me an identity when they gave me an introduction to the beauties of being Jewish.""
From On Tap Magazine's July '05 issue:
"Q: When you came onto The West Wing, you were joining a cast that had already been working together for three years. Was it hard to insert yourself into that dynamic?
A: It sounds really cliché, but the cast couldn’t have been nicer. After the first reading, John Spencer [who plays Chief of Staff Leo McGarry] came up to tell me that he had been watching re-runs of Sports Night, everyone was welcoming.
Q: The show is probably the most high-profile project you’ve been involved in. How do you deal with getting recognized on the street?
A: Actually, it’s still hard for people to place me. They know they recognize my face, but they can’t tell from where. A lot of people just think that we went to school together. At first I would try to explain that they probably recognized me from television, but now I just say “Yeah! We had English together! Wasn’t high school great?!”
Q: Ever been mistaken for someone you’re not?
A: People used to think I was Matthew Broderick a lot. They’d ask for my autograph and I would say ‘No, no, I’m not
him’…but they’d be really insistent. So finally I’d just sign.
Q: Characters on The West Wing are always playing elaborate practical jokes on each other. Is that something that happens on the set, too?
A: Yeah, it definitely does. I’m usually the instigator, and it’s usually something sophomoric involving some sort of ointment on someone’s trailer door. We did have a really good one on Valentine’s Day, though. Janel [Maloney, who plays Donna on the show] and I swiped some of Bradley Whitford’s [who portrays Deputy Chief of Staff, Josh Lyman] personal stationery, and then ordered a gigantic bouquet of flowers to be delivered to Jimmy Smits’s trailer. We included a note on the stationery that read “Every day on the set with you is a joy. Be My Valentine – Brad.”
Q: Did Bradley find out what you had done?
A: No, but I think he was pretty surprised when Jimmy came up and gave him a big kiss on the set the next day."
In the rest of the interview, Malina talks more about his personal history and favorite things. Thanks to OzzyOls at TWOP for pointing it out!