Israeli popular TV actor Dean Miroshnikov takes a selfie with WSU SFI students.

Jewish@edu – Actor Shares Hard-Won Lessons

Israeli actor and former IDF soldier motivates students.

Israeli actor visited Hillel of Metro Detroit on Feb. 6, where he spoke to Wayne State University students about growing up as an immigrant in Israel as part of Students for Israel (SFI) Cultures of Israel program. 

WSU SFI student Isaac Weiss with Israeli popular TV actor Dean Miroshnikov

WSU SFI student Isaac Weiss with Israeli popular TV actor Dean Miroshnikov

As one of today’s popular Israeli TV actors, his presentation focused on his struggle of being of minority background and his desire to fit in, and touched on formative points in his life, including his military service and experience as a soldier in the 2010 Gaza flotilla incident.

Miroshnikov was born in Ukraine with the first name Dmitri. In his presentation, he compared his experiences before and after his family made aliyah: In Ukraine, his peers at school taunted him as “dirty Jew,” and in Israel, they called him “dirty Russian”— which didn’t even make sense because, he explained to the students, he was Ukrainian.

The desire to abandon that aspect of his identity and the advice of a modeling agency motivated him to legally change his name to Dean Martin, which he at first concealed from his mother. Later in life, more comfortable in his own skin, he embraced his roots and changed his surname back to Miroshnikov. His ultimate goal was to be an actor.

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In the IDF, Miroshnikov served in an elite commando unit analogous to the U.S. Navy SEALs. His very first mission, in May 2010, was the operation to halt the ships attempting to break Israel’s naval blockade around the Gaza Strip. He was not mentally prepared for the violent resistance his team encountered; he was the fifth soldier to rappel onto the Mavi Marmara and suffered serious injuries. 

He described a funny situation during this traumatic military operation. While being medically evacuated by helicopter with life-threatening injuries, including a broken arm and head injuries, he was mostly aware of a desperate need to go to the bathroom (possibly exacerbated by the fluids medics administered to him). The moment the helicopter landed at a hospital in Haifa, he staggered out and proceeded to do so. 

In a moment that prompted laughter from the WSU students, he revealed he then discovered a crowd of journalists and photographers had been standing behind him, and he shared one of their photos (taken from a safe angle).

Israeli popular TV actor Dean Miroshnikov takes a selfie with WSU SFI students.

Israeli popular TV actor Dean Miroshnikov takes a selfie with WSU SFI students.

Miroshnikov concluded his presentation on a more positive and motivational note. When he unexpectedly found himself regarded as a hero after the 2010 incident, he explained, he “finally stopped running away” from who he was and now regrets that it took him so long. 

After recovering from his wounds, he turned to pursuing a childhood dream of becoming an actor and continues to make a successful career in Israel television and films. He maintains that everyone can realize their dreams and emphasized the importance of unwavering commitment to those dreams. He said he is rejected for roles 90 percent of the time, but he does not let that discourage him from attempting the 10 percent of auditions that are successful.

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He recommended writing goals down on a sign visible when waking up as an exercise for sustaining motivation.

The event was hosted by Hillel of Metro Detroit and Wayne State University Students for Israel. @

Isaac Weiss of Ann Arbor is a sophomore at Wayne State University. He is a member of the WSU Students for Israel and an active member of Hillel of Metro Detroit.


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