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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

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Character actor Malina kicks off Ottawa campaign

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From left, Charles Schachnow, Leiba Krantzberg, Joshua Malina, Cindy Smith, Nathan Smith

OTTAWA — He claims that most people who think they recognize him ask if they went to high school together.

Undeterred by his apparent lack of star power, Joshua Malina nonetheless continues to rack up credits in Hollywood in both television and film.

On Aug. 25, Malina appeared at the National Arts Centre as keynote speaker for the 2014 campaign kickoff of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa. In spite of his modest and self-deprecating air, he was warmly received and enthusiastically welcomed by the audience members who had come to hear him explain “How to make it in Hollywood and Remain a Mensch.”

Malina, a graduate of Yale University, began his professional acting career in the Broadway production of Aaron Sorkin’s A Few Good Men. Having the good fortune to be a close friend of Sorkin’s was, said Malina, a great boost to his career and led to such parts as Jeremy Goodwin in the TV series Sports Night, as well as the popular Will Bailey in The West Wing and many other well-known characters. He told an amusing anecdote of having saved Sorkin from choking by performing the Heimlich manouevre, leading – he said – to an ongoing selection of choice roles.

 “Good evening Jews and friends thereof,” said Malina as he opened his remarks. “I have been a professional actor for 25 years now. I have been a professional Jew for 47. A Jew is who I am, the cornerstone of my identity. An actor is what I do,” he said.

Although he was brought up in a Conservative Jewish home in New Rochelle, N.Y., Malina attended a yeshiva day school, for which he is eternally grateful to his parents. His day school education has allowed him to feel comfortable in any synagogue and enabled him to feel at home in whatever Jewish community he finds himself in.

“It was crucial to my Jewish education that what I learned at school was reinforced at home,” he said, and he made sure to do the same with his own two children.

His background has given Malina a love of Judaism and a very strong love of, and connection to, Israel. He laments the fact that many young people today don’t have that connection to Israel and is distressed by the fact that although Hollywood is filled with Jewish actors, directors, producers and musicians, it’s almost impossible to find anyone to stand up publicly and declare that Israel has the right to exist.

Because of this, he spends time “on the road,” speaking to people such as the Ottawa audience about the importance of Israel and Judaism.

Several members of the Israel Defence Forces Band performed at the event, which was chaired by Cindy and Nathan Smith and attended by several local dignitaries as well as MPs Pierre Poilievre and Irwin Cotler.

The 2013 campaign raised $4.5 million and this year’s drive hopes to meet or exceed that amount.

The 2014 campaign is being chaired by Charles Schachnow and Leiba Krantzberg, who is also the Women’s Campaign chair.

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