Camryn Manheim has an Emmy, a Golden Globe, an Obie and a long list of television and film credits, but acting has nothing to do with her latest role: bar mitzvah mom.
Her son, Milo, will have his bar mitzvah in May, and so far, planning is “going pretty well,” Manheim says.
“I’ve never done anything the traditional way, and I am continuing that tradition by trying to be pretty low-key about his bar mitzvah. The people in our community (the Sholem Community in North Hollywood, Calif.) really like to go all out for bar mitzvahs, but I’m trying to keep it very haimish.
“It’s important to me that my son is turning 13, and this event is really about his Jewish identity, and how he feels connected, and not so much about hats and photographs and all the vendors at the party. I’m really hoping my son will have a wedding, and then we’ll go all out for that.”
Manheim is the guest speaker at the Jewish Community Association of Greater Phoenix’s 2014 Mega Event, which will be held Tuesday, Feb. 25 at the Arizona Biltmore (see Details box below).
Manheim’s fun and entertaining talk, titled “Mitzvah Therapy,” will highlight the work that the Association does and shows donors the good use to which their money has already been put.
“Instead of asking to raise more money, I like to talk about what [donors’] money has already done. I think it’s inspiring to hear how people’s commitment to the community has inspired and helped millions of people all over,” she says.
“It’s a general concept, but I definitely research each organization that I visit and look at what special fundraising efforts that they’re making and how they target their money.”
She also discusses the challenges and the value in finding the time and the money to do service for others, a lesson that she learned as a child.
“I grew up the daughter of two Jewish intellectual activists, very involved in civil rights and human rights, and it was an exciting time, being on the arm of my father as we picketed and protested for better rights for underprivileged people – workers, women – and I remember that very, very clearly. We belonged to a Jewish community center, and we participated in all the traditional holidays. We weren’t particularly religious Jews, but we were cultural Jews,” she says.
Manheim’s dedication to philanthropy also manifests itself in the section of her website (camryn.com) called Pay It Forward, where she lists charities she supports, and in the lessons she teaches up-and-coming actors, most recently at New York University.
“They think I’m going to come in and talk about agents and managers,” she says, “but the first thing I say to them is, ‘The most important thing you have to do is get involved with service. While you’re going out on auditions for things and being rejected, time goes on, and years go by, and you’re judging your worth by how other people choose you. There will be long periods of time when you aren’t chosen, and what are you going to do then? In the end, we all just want to matter, and giving service is what does it.’ ”
Besides teaching and speaking at special events, Manheim’s acting career is also keeping her busy lately. In addition to a recurring role on CBS’ “Person of Interest” crime drama, she recently began shooting “Extant,” a CBS sci-fi drama/thriller series produced by Steven Spielberg that is scheduled to debut in July. She is also developing a new TV show with Warner Bros.
“I just always have my hands inside pies hoping one thing will go, and right now, when it rains, it pours: I have several things going. I’m very grateful to have the work, and such exciting work to be a part of.”