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Joshua Malina, sporting a new role on NBC's
"The West Wing," takes his charitable work seriously.
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hen Joshua Malina
arrived at his first Jewish
federation event, a 2001
pro-Israel rally in L.A.,
he received an unpleasant surprise.
The boyish, 36-year-old actor —
now a regular on NBC's White House
drama The West Wing — had a
respectable career going.
"But I was appalled that bigger stars
hadn't turned out to support Israel,"
he said, sounding as passionate as his
new West Wing character, campaign
manager Will Bailey.
"It just drives me nuts that there are
so many high-profile Jews in
Hollywood, yet we can't get anybody
to say, 'Yes, I defend Israel.'
"It's not that I expect people to sign
off on everything the Israeli govern-
ment does. I just don't think it should
be considered a radical thing for
celebrities to say that the Jewish state
has a right to exist in peace.
"But I think the general feeling is,
`God forbid I should associate myself
with such a political firecracker.'"
friends such as Hank Azaria and
Rebecca Romijn-Stamos to serve as
Other celebs scheduled to attend
included Christina Applegate, Mili
Avital, Evan and Jaron Lowenstein and
"I'm not deluded enough to consid-
er myself an actual celebrity," he said
matter-of-factly. "What I consider
myself is a conduit to bring bigger
stars to an event."
Malina grew up in a kosher home in
New Rochelle, N.Y., where charity was
One of his earliest memories was
dropping coins into his first grade
tzedakah box, savoring the "plunking"
sound as his teacher encouraged him
to recite the phrase "mitzvah gedola
latet tzedakah" ("It's a big mitzvah to
Meanwhile, his parents, Robert and
Fran, founding members of their
Young Israel shul, read to the blind
and donated bags of food to the poor
and a significant amount of their
income to charity.
"My father never walked past a
[panhandler] without giving him
something," Malina recalled. "I
Malina, who grew up in an observant,
Zionist household, doesn't mind being remember once suggesting that a par-
ticular man might not make the best
a firecracker for Israel or other Jewish
use of the money.
"My father quoted the Talmud, stat-
He's served on a young leadership
ing that if a person is reduced to ask-
committee of the New Israel Fund,
ing for money, you don't ask ques-
devoted to enhancing democracy in
Israel. He's read to kids at an L.A.
Robert Malina, who has worked as
library to support Koreh L.A., the fed-
an attorney, investment banker and
eration's literacy initiative. And, just
this week, he served as a celebrity chair Broadway producer, said his son was a
of a fourth annual "Vodka Latka"
"Joshua was always sensitive to other
event, benefiting federation-supported
feelings," he said. "I remem-
services for children-at-risk in Los
when he was at camp
and he befriended children who were
"I like being associated with a
not befriended often. He very quickly
Jewish group that addresses the needs
took to the notion that Judaism is an
of the entire community, regardless of
race or religion," he said of the federa- action-oriented religion."
tion in Los Angeles.
For Vodka Latka, which took place
The Sorkin Connection
at the Hollywood Palladium and
During Joshua Malina's childhood,
included a fashion show by Sharon
Robert Malina's best friend was Neil
Segal of Fred Segal (clothier to the
Simon's producer, Manny Azenberg;
stars) and a performance by musical
Josh grew up attending Simon's
group Pink Martini, Malina convinced