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August 30, 2016 3:01 pm

Jewish ‘Scandal’ Star Says He Remains True to Religious Ritual, Despite Scheduling, Dietary Conflicts

avatar by Shiryn Solny

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Actor Joshua Malina. Photo: 'Scandal' promo.

Actor Joshua Malina. Photo: ‘Scandal’ promo.

A star of the hit TV show “Scandal” told the community website that, throughout his acting career, he has remained faithful to his Judaism, even when it has caused him to forfeit gigs.

Joshua Malina, who plays the character of David Rosen on the ABC political-thriller series, reminisced about his early days in Hollywood, when he had no agent and could only go to open-call auditions. At one of these — a try-out for a commercial — he said he waited on a line that was “maybe a city block long,” only to discover that the audition involved eating a slice of pizza on camera.

“This ordinarily wouldn’t have been a problem for me,” he said. “But it was Passover. Can’t eat leavened bread on Passover. Oy. I got to the front of the line and explained that as an actor, I could pretend to eat the slice of pizza, but as a Jew I could not actually consume it. The woman handing out the pizza was unmoved, explaining that if I didn’t want to eat the slice, I couldn’t audition. So I left. I figure it’s the closest I’ll ever get to channeling Sandy Koufax, who famously refused to pitch in the World Series on Yom Kippur.”

He described having a similar thing happen to him when he discovered that his first day of filming for the “The West Wing” — the Emmy-award-winning television series in which he starred from 2002 to 2006 — was set for the second day of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

He said that though landing the role of Will Bailey on the NBC drama was a “huge deal;” that he had “needed the work badly;” and that he had been “pretty bummed” to encounter such a conflict at the outset, he nevertheless would not work on a high holiday. He recounted:

I took a deep breath and called one of the producers, thinking “I wonder if I’m about to lose my job before it even begins.” I told the producer about my situation, and I’ll never forget what she said:

“There’s a SECOND day of Rosh Hashanah??”

I explained that indeed there was. She laughed — she was Jewish, as I recall — and to my relief, told me she’d rearrange my schedule.

Malina said these sorts of situations have occurred more than once, but his employers have “always been extremely good about working out dates.”

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  • Tina

    My son used to work for Outback Steakhouse which year after year, held their proprietors’ conference during Pesach!

  • MIK

    I can point only to the late, great Steven Hill, considered by many to have been at least the equal of, if not greater than, his Actor’s Studio classmate, Marlon Brando. R. Shlomo gave up a starring role on Mission Impossible (where he was the team leader for the first season) and a role opposite Steve McQueen in The Sand Pebbles to become an extremely observant Jew.

    He is an example to all. You can remain true to yourself and your faith and still succeed at what it is you are best at.

  • In several jobs I had situations where non-Jewish co-workers would question me as to why some other Jewish staffers did NOT observe holidays. In general I found that non-Jewish co-workers were often sympathetic to observance. However, most bosses and co-workers were not familiar with Succot or Shevuot. They did know Passover and the High Holidays. And they usually thought Hanukah was a much more important holiday than it actually is.

    I did have some problems with the fact that I wouldn’t work on Shabbat at a workplace where there were several other Jewish staffers and board members who did not observe anything. I was very happy when a woman who was a Seventh Day Adventist joined the staff. She, also didn’t work on Shabbat and it made it much easier to have support on this issue. It was not a work
    situation where it was essential for staff to sometimes work on Friday night or on Saturday.

    Yasher Koach to Josh–another observant Jew who is successful in the tv world is Mayim Bialik.

  • Naomi

    My experience, especially in the public sector, is that employers usually accommodate without questions or hassle when we communicate clearly that we are unavailable to work on our holy days. Let’s be confident and positive, stand firm, and keep our tradition.

  • Please do not use my family name only my first name.

  • I had he same “problem” in the U.S. Army and our Mess Sgt knew exactly what I could substitute and acocmmodated me.
    Later on as a public school teacher my school district had a policy for “religious leave.”

  • Rachel Cohen

    Most religious Jews–are frauds–they go through the outward motions–but their hearts are devoid of God.

    • Yehuda

      Where do you get your statistics from? Most religious Jews are frauds? You speak for “most religious Jews”?

    • Elchanan

      That’s just untrue. (based on the hundreds of religious Jews I know) You should be ashamed of yourself for propagating hateful lies.

  • Monica

    Kol Ha Kavod! You are a great Actor and a proud Jew! May you and your ancestors merit. An Aliyah in this world and in the world to come! Wishing you and your loved ones Shana Tova v Mitukah!

  • racy we

    I respect you as a great actor, but I respect you even more as a proud Jew who knows that when it comes to God and religious issues there is no compromise. You will be successful in all your endeavors.

    • Dennis


  • Steve

    A great actor and a great Jew.

  • dante

    Josh is great. we’ve loved him since “The West Wing.” wonderful actor, wonderful person.

    • Michael

      “West Wing” was of course great, but let’s never forget “Sports Night”! Josh’s comic timing and delivery were darn near perfect.

  • Yaakov

    More likely to create a conflict for Jews is Judaism’s most important holiday, because it occurs once a week.

    • Naomi

      True. My opinion is, state your availability clearly upon hire, and if the employer cannot accommodate, it is not the job for you.