April 13, 2020
On April 13, AJC hosted Jewish actor Josh Malina for its first “Celebrity Storytime.” This program was presented by ACCESS, AJC’s young professional program, as part of Advocacy Anywhere: Powered by AJC, a new online hub for expert briefings, hard-hitting analysis, and advocacy opportunities during the coronavirus crisis.
After reading two Passover-themed books—Sammy Spider’s First Passover, written by Sylvia A. Rouss and illustrated by Katherine Janus Kahn, and Grover and Big Bird’s Passover Celebration, written by Tilda Balsley and Ellen Fischer and illustrated by Tom Leigh—Malina joined AJC Global Director of Young Leadership Seffi Kogen for a Q&A session about life as a Jewish actor and how Judaism has impacted his life and work.
Malina said that his Judaism never comes into conflict with his profession because he feels comfortable being himself. Early in his career, Malina attended a pro-Israel rally hosted by the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles. As one of the only recognizable celebrities present, he learned that it was difficult to get celebrities to publicly support an event in support of Israel.
Malina said he does not view Israel’s right to exist as controversial and wishes that there were more Jewish role models who are willing to talk about Israel and other substantive Jewish topics. He discussed one of his Jewish heroes, Aly Raisman, an Olympic gymnast who won a gold medal performing to “Hava Nagila.” Malina praised her decision to dedicate her win to the 11 Israeli Olympic athletes killed by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics.
Malina shared his favorite “Jewish TV moment:” playing Jeremy Goodwin on the Sports Night episode, “April is the Cruelest Month,” which featured Malina’s character reciting Kiddush, the prayer over wine, at a Passover seder. He disclosed that his dream Jewish role is to play Mordechai Anielewicz in a story about the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. He also gave the audience a sneak peek about his next role in a comical Jewish play, hopefully premiering later this fall.
When asked about his thoughts and concerns about antisemitism in the U.S., Malina said, “I can’t pretend that none of it matters or that I’m not concerned or that I don’t worry about myself and my family and my people.” He also referred to the important work that AJC and many other Jewish organizations are doing to combat antisemitism at home and abroad.
After Kogen noted that the program had been “Zoombombed” with antisemitic remarks while they were speaking, Malina said, “As much as the online community can be an absolute gutter for the worst in people, it also can be a beautiful place where we come together and we celebrate and emphasize what’s important and who we are and remind ourselves of where we came from.”
The conversation ended on a positive note, as Malina shared a piece of wisdom on how to counter antisemitism.
“We have to take an active part in valuing ourselves and our tradition and keeping the Jewish tradition alive and thriving... and raising young kids into adults that care about being Jewish,” he said.
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