February 17, 2009
From Hollywood to Hashem: Observant Jews in Tinseltown
Leading a religious life may be the toughest job in Hollywood. Almost everything about the business – from the power lunches to the endless work schedule to the idolatry of ratings and box office – seem antithetical to traditional Judaism. Leave it to LimmudLA to find two observant Jews with the chutzpah to satisfy both their ambitions in Hollywood and their religious commitment.
Jeff Astrof, a sitcom writer, and David N. Weiss, a screenwriter, both became Orthodox after they had started their careers. In both cases, the transformation was met with resistance – “What do you mean you can’t work Friday nights or Saturday? Do you have to have kosher food on the craft services table?” If it sounds trivial, these guys will tell you it’s not. Finding God, in fact, provided a spiritual outlet for feelings of envy, greed and insecurity, despite the sacrifices it required. In order to get Shabbat off, Astrof promised a producer he’d work harder than anybody else every other day of the week—though that didn’t stop his writing partner of 14 years from leaving him.
“Just when you get comfortable, you get thrown a curveball,” Astrof said. Just then, an Orthodox woman in the audience gave him a jolt.
“How do I discourage my daughter who has caught the acting bug from pursuing the life of an actress?” she pleaded.
Astrof wished her luck.