(JNi.media) Hollywood is the ultimate popularity contest, and stars who do not want to compromise their fan base often avoid getting too serious when it comes to politics and religion. While exceptions abound, a star of a wildly popular sitcom isn’t just putting her own reputation on the line, but may potentially face heat from the network and a pushback from sponsors for bad behavior or just for being a bit outspoken.
None of this seems to worry “Big Bang Theory” star Mayim Bialik, 39, who, with stoic acceptance and steely grace, acknowledges it as a given that she will receive criticism on several fronts. It isn’t unusual to be a Jewish actor in Hollywood, but Mayim Bialik is one of the few Orthodox Jewish actors, and blogs often about her daily life, which includes observance of Jewish rituals, Shabbat and holidays. Interspersed in her ongoing blog narrative are explanations of practices, the spiritual significance behind them and the way they are observed in Bailik’s home. Still, not everyone appreciates Mayim Bialik’s discussion of her religious faith as well as her visits to Israel at a time when many in Hollywood openly criticize what they see as religious excess, express sympathy for the Palestinian side and are harshly critical of Israel.
Mayim Bialik, in addition to four Emmy nominations for “Big Bang Theory,” starred in the 90s series “Blossom” and had a memorable early role in the film “Beaches” as the child version of Bette Midler’s character. She was born to Barry and Beverly Bialik in San Diego and grew up Reform. She is a cousin three times removed of Israeli national poet Hayim Nahman Bialik. Her recent trip to Israel to visit a friend serving in Israel’s Defense Forces involved a lot of heat that had nothing to do with the local climate. She told Fox News, “I’ve gotten a lot of negative attention for visiting Israel. That’s what’s amazing. Simply going to Israel and saying nothing more than, ‘I’ve gone to Israel.’ I got the same amount of hatred and threats and anti-Semitism as I had done for actually making a statement trying to support people who, whether I like it or not are serving in the army … it doesn’t matter what I support and believe. The fact that I’m Jewish and go there is enough–that should be alarming to most people.”
Mayim Bialik showed her support for Israel during 2014’s Operation Protective Edge, and commented on the verbal abuse she received for her position. She tweeted, “Apparently wishing happy Sabbath to my family and friends and people in Israel constitutes being a baby killer.” Mayim recently had to fight back against another one of her critics who took her to task for talking too much about her religion. On Facebook, a man said Bialik was taking a “private matter” and waving it at the public. Bialik responded, also on Facebook, “To the man who admonished me for discussing religion bc ‘it’s supposed to be a private matter,’ it’s private until Fox news asks you about it because you’re on a TV show. And also, I’m Jewish, and it’s not just my religion. It’s my ethnicity and peoplehood. It’s public whether I like it or not.”
Many fans have expressed interest in learning more about her Jewish observance and faithfully read her blog on Kveller for information, insight and inspiration. In a sense, Mayim Bailik holds a position that many Jewish outreach sites, such as Chabad.org or Aish.com may envy, since she is already a high profile celebrity who brings Jewish observance to the mainstream, and shows one can even be an actress on a popular television sitcom or a scientist and still make challah, observe Shabbat and keep a kosher kitchen. However, for those who think that Orthodox Judaism is going to become the newest celebrity fad, Mayim Bialik says, not so fast. “I think in general it is never going to be trendy to be observant or religious in Hollywood circles. There are a lot of people I know of faith, and we tend to congregate together. I study Jewish texts weekly. That’s something really positive to me when you’re a person of faith. It stays with you all the time,” she told Fox, and added, “Being a scientist and a person of faith, people want to know how that is. It leads to a lot of interesting conversations that I welcome, but a lot of people want to open up a conversation just to tell you you’re wrong.”