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Former ‘How I Met Your Mother’ Star Talks About Jewish Upbringing, Spirituality and Its Connection to His Acting Career

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Josh Radnor. Photo: Vagueonthehow via Wikimedia Commons.

Josh Radnor, star of the former hit CBS sitcom “How I Met Your Mother,” spoke to a group of students at Cornell University on Wednesday about his Jewish background and its connection to his acting career, the Cornell Daily Sun reported.

During his talk — which was part of Cornell Hillel’s Major Speaker Series — the writer-actor said he attended an Orthodox Hebrew day school when growing up in Ohio and that being raised Jewish gave him a “minority perspective” on American life, which he believed helped him develop writing skills of observing as a “perennial outsider.”

The 43-year-old also explained to the audience, “I never thought much about being Jewish because I was so saturated in it.”

Radnor’s connection to Judaism emerged as a more important part of his life as he got older, he said, and was a factor in deciding where he would go for college. He told Cornell students that his spirituality pushed him to enroll in Kenyon College, a liberal arts school in Ohio, over Cornell, where he was accepted. He said, “I was driving home from school one day and I heard this voice one day and it said — ‘If you go to Kenyon, you’ll be an actor.’ Then I was fully intoxicated by the theater.”

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Radnor later attended New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts to pursue an MFA in acting. During his time at NYU, he said, he took a “transformative” trip to Israel that made him doubt his decision to be an actor. He explained, “I was seized with this idea that being an actor was a narcissistic or solipsistic thing. I couldn’t locate anything altruistic in wanting to be an actor and I just couldn’t figure out if I really wanted to be one.”

A rabbi at NYU ultimately reminded him that an acting career could be compatible with Judaism and Radnor realized years later that his chosen path had connections to his Jewish faith. “Reading a play and reading the Talmud are exactly the same,” he noted. “You’re reading the surface words and digging underneath them.”

“How I Met Your Mother” ended in 2014 and since then Radnor has tried to meditate and pray every day. He said on Wednesday, “I’ve been saying this Jewish prayer that I learned as a kid every morning” (the prayer he referred to translates to: “Thank you for returning for my soul to my body”).

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  • MorganCourtenay

    Wow– I didn’t know Radnor was Jewish. I just thought the comment about Ted Mosby having a “Jewfro” in HIMYM was just part of the humour. One of my favourite lines was “the kids from Hebrew School stole it [the basketball] and wouldn’t give it back…”