Actor Josh Malina, who played President Martin Sheen’s speechwriter Will Bailey on West Wing and the shrewd sports analyst Jeremy Goodwin on Sports Night, is also a good guy politically, and wants a better profile for Israel and for Jews in Hollywood.
The Sun Sentinel reports that Malina told donors and leaders of the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County that the fact that there aren’t positive Jewish role models in Hollywood might be behind the sad phenomenon of so many Jewish college students experience little or no “feeling for Israel and sometimes their own Jewishness.”
Malina was speaking to more than 600 people during “The Event” at Boca West Country Club. The co-star of the new ABC series “Scandal” criticized his fellow Hollywood actors for not embracing Judaism or publicly supporting Israel.
He told his audience about sitting on the dais at a Los Angeles Jewish Federation rally for Jerusalem about 10 years ago, where very few Jewish celebrities on hand.
“Los Angeles is a town where you cannot shake a lulav without hitting a famous Jew,” Malina said. “How could they not be at this rally?”
He said he was appalled when he was told, “If it has anything to do with Israel, they won’t show up.”
He told the audience that his own Jewish identity came from growing up in a Jewish home, going to yeshiva and visiting Israel with his family.
Josh Malina was born in New York City. His parents, Fran and Robert Malina, were founding members of Young Israel of Scarsdale in New Rochelle where he grew up. Josh told an interviewer that the name “Malina,” which sounds more Hispanic than Jewish, is Polish for “raspberry.”
Malina said he and his wife, a convert to Conservative Judaism, raise their children in a Jewish home and with Jewish values.
His support for Israel “isn’t blind or inflexible,” Malina said.
“There are aspects of Israeli society, as there are for any society that could be improved. I think we do our own kids a disservice if we paint everything black and white, right or wrong, us or them,” Malina said, adding that he doesn’t keep those sides of Israel that appear in the news from his children.
Malina told the young parents in the audience to talk at home about all the issues that have to do with Israel, to support Israel and to visit with their kids.
Malina applauded the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County’s support of Jewish education, for sending teenagers to Israel through the Birthright program, and for their work within the community.
In Hollywood, “the instinct is to avoid controversy,” Malina said, meaning that because Israel is a controversial topic, it doesn’t get covered. He added: “I just think it’s a shame.”
He said he regularly speaks to Jewish groups around the country, and used do a lot of it during his stint on West Wing.
Rabbi Robert Silvers of Congregation B’nai Israel told the Sun Sentinel he was encouraged by Malina’s words. “He said acting is what I do and I have to be true to who I am,” Silvers said. “We can all stand up for Israel.”