I have learned Orthodox actor is not an oxymoron

I have learned Orthodox actor is not an oxymoron

As an aspiring actor in Australia, being a religious Jew was a huge barrier for JAKEY PARRY. In Israel, it has proved an advantage.

When I came to Israel about a year and a half ago, I certainly didn’t think I would be acting – let alone having a leading role in a professional streaming series. In Australia, acting was always something that I considered a school subject and a hobby.

Sure, I loved it – and I was also pretty good at it, but acting in school was quite stressful; every movement I did was being graded. Every word I said. How I said it. The way I said it. Every facial expression. My gait. My tone. My pitch. Everything. Baruch Hashem, in the end, I did really well in my final Drama examination at the end of 2021, but I still felt like I needed a break.

On top of the stress of being graded, I had the additional challenge of being a religious Jew. I did audition for some roles in musicals outside of high school, only to be let down by the follow-up email: “Rehearsals will take place Saturday morning.” Unfortunately, I had already committed to a meeting with God that morning, and every Saturday afterwards, so that wasn’t going to work out.

One of my fondest memories of acting in Australia was with my Year 10 drama class. Our drama teacher had entered our class into a competition against a myriad of drama classes throughout Western Australia. In this competition, we were required to write, direct and act in our own 20-minute production. Being the only Jewish school in the state, we decided to create a piece entitled Echoes of Yesterday, focusing on the Holocaust. The non-Jewish crowd appreciated our play and we made the finals. Unfortunately, as we expected, the final would take place on Saturday night about 50 minutes from where we lived – and with Shabbat coming out so late, we weren’t going to make it in time.

Jakey Parry, centre, on the set of ‘Live to Give’ (Torah Live)

But we didn’t let this stop us. We decided to use what was basically the following year’s theatre budget to rent a condo on the beach right next to the venue. Our drama class spent a lovely Shabbat together. The school catered and provided us with Siddurim and instead of board games, we played improvisation games. We placed second in the state, which was a huge achievement.

Despite how fun the weekend was, it drove home for me just how hard it would be to be a religious actor in the Diaspora.

After school, I took a gap year in yeshiva in Israel. My family moved to Israel the same year so I stayed on and recently began the process of making aliyah. Staying in Israel meant I could be with my family but it also made my life easier as a Jew – and it turned out it made it possible for me to be an actor.

I discovered the “kosher entertainment” site Torah Live through an online advertisement looking for teenage actors for a new series about chesed (kindness) entitled “Live to Give.”  I casually sent a headshot and a couple sample videos without much thought. From there, things escalated pretty fast. After a series of video auditions, an in-person audition and a lot of American accent practicing, I was cast in the role of Yair Steinberg. The American accent proved unnecessary. I play the character as an Australian.

The process has been so much fun. I’ve met such incredible people, visited so many interesting locations, and learned so much – from improving my craft to picking up a lot more Hebrew from the crew on set.

To be a part of a religious show is a genuine dream come true. Judaism and acting are two things that I hold very dear to my heart, and to be able to combine both these passions has made this job not feel like work at all.

Since filming, I have participated in community theatre throughout Israel and my passion for acting has well and truly reignited. Unlike in the Diaspora, being a religious actor in Israel is not a limitation, it is a strength.

Top image: Jakey Parry in Live to Give (Torah Live)