This week Alice Alphandary, chairman of South London Liberal Synagogue, selects the actress Mayim Bialik
A Jewish hero in 2016 should be someone who shows how to be religious in contemporary society, by embracing the traditions that are still relevant while recognising how the world has changed.
That’s why Mayim Bialik, the actress most famous for playing Amy Farrah Fowler in The Big Bang Theory, is a fantastic role model – epitomising some of the best aspects of being Jewish.
She chooses to dress according to her interpretation of tzniut (modesty) and, in fact, this was something she made a condition when accepting her role in the popular American sitcom. Some criticise women dressing modestly as the result of pressure within their community and I am naturally cautious of men, who seem exempt from similarly stringent requirements, making arguments in its favour.
But when I hear well-reasoned arguments for a modern interpretation, such as using it as a way to push back on societal pressures to live up to a feminine body ideal, the rationale holds more sway with me, even if I’m not personally about to commit to a lifetime of below-the-knee skirts.
Bialik also uses her platform as a television star to answer the prophetic call to defend the oppressed. She recently set up a blog – www.groknation.com – and has already written on it about LGBT rights, mental health and feminism. Her openness about her Judaism helps to dispel myths around our religion today.
She shows that we are a much broader family than solely the men in traditional Chasidic clothing that some mainstream media choose to show to accompany any story about Judaism.
When I read Bialiks articles on Jewish festivals, I feel a sense of connection between the generations. Inevitably, they invoke happy memories for me of spending Rosh Hashanah crowded around my great aunt and uncle’s dining table.
Put simply, Mayim Bialik embodies a relevant, inclusive form of Judaism that I find hard to ignore.