Thinker | Writer | Storyteller | Community Builder | Doer

WHY DO JEWISH?
A MANIFESTO FOR 21ST CENTURY
JEWISH PEOPLEHOOD

Let's talk TACHLIS!
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Zack Bodner is a seeker, writer, storyteller, community organizer, and above all else, a doer. In his role as the CEO of the Oshman Family JCC, the organization created the Center for Social Impact, which is committed to helping repair the world through initiatives that address poverty, disaster relief, racial justice, civic responsibility and more. Zack also oversaw the launch of the Taube Center for Jewish Peoplehood, which hosts the Architects of the Jewish Future Series and the Kol Isha Women’s Leadership Development Program. Additionally, under Zack’s leadership the OFJCC created the annual Zionism 3.0 conference, which became The Z3 Project, a global effort to reimagine Diaspora-Israel relations.

Before joining the JCC, Zack served for 14 years as the Pacific Northwest Regional Director of AIPAC. Zack holds a Master’s degree in Philosophy of Religion and Theology from Claremont Graduate University and a Bachelor’s degree from Yale University, where he played varsity soccer. Additionally, he studied at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Ohr Somayach Yeshiva, and Stanford Business School.

 

Zack is an accomplished speaker, including as a MOTH storyteller and TEDx presenter. He writes regularly for publications including The ForwardTimes of IsraelThe J Weekly, and eJewish Philanthropy. He is a member of YPO, was in the Executive Leadership Seminar at The Aspen Institute, served as an iFellow Mentor for the iCenter, and is an Amitim Fellow for JCC Global

Zack lives in Silicon Valley with his wife and three children. 

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LET'S TALK TACHLIS! 

How do I live a more meaningful life? How might I feel more connected to others, to the world around me, to the past and the future? In an era when we can choose our own identities, why might we choose to identify as Jews?

These are just some of the questions Zack Bodner addresses as he thoughtfully shifts from asking “Why be Jewish?” to “Why do Jewish?” After laying out a compelling answer to that question, he goes on to explain what Jewish Peoplehood is and why he believes we are in the throes of an evolution to the next era: Jewish Peoplehood 4.0. He also provides a road map for how to do Jewish in the twenty-first century—including proposing “the next big Jewish idea.” 

Insisting that taking action is what matters most, Bodner proposes a creative new framework for doing Jewish based on an acronym from the Yiddish word TACHLIS, which means “getting down to brass tacks.” 

T – Tikkun Olam (repairing the world)

A – Art and Culture

C – Community

H – Holidays and Rituals

L – Learning

I – Israel

S – Shabbat and Spirituality​

Through a combination of personal stories, insights from some of the world’s greatest teachers, and contemporary analysis, Why Do Jewish? takes one of our oldest wisdom traditions and provides an accessible guide for anyone looking for answers to life’s most important questions.

 
 

ADVANCE PRAISE

“Why Do Jewish is the book so many of us were waiting for. I am confident that it will become the main guidebook on how to practically connect Judaism to dynamic life in the 21st century.”

 

Micah Goodman,

Israeli author

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“Writing from the front lines of the Jewish encounter with the 21st century, Zack Bodner offers a wise and courageous road map to navigating the challenges and opportunities of this time. Bodner presents a vision of a Jewish community that embraces diversity and experimentation, even as it rediscovers the essentials of a timeless Jewish life. There is no better guide to the Jewish future than Zack Bodner; and as he makes clear in this compelling book, the future is now.”

 

Yossi Klein Halevi,

Senior Fellow at Shalom Hartman Institute, author of Letters to

My Palestinian Neighbor

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“Zack Bodner has done that rare thing — written a book that makes those of us who love being Jewish want to revisit the tradition anew, and those who have written off Judaism want to take a second look. Why Do Jewish explains our magical inheritance in concrete, accessible, relevant terms, and gives us a roadmap to explore it, understand it, practice it, and pass it on.”

 

Abigail Pogrebin,

author of My Jewish Year:

18 Holidays, One Wondering Jew

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“Zack Bodner brings to all his work – on behalf of Israel, American Jewish communities, now, his writing – both an infectious love for Judaism and the Jewish people as well as a deep intelligence. His passion, his wit and his devotion to life rich with meaning make this book a wonderful read.”

 

Daniel Gordis,

author of Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn,

Shalem College in Jerusalem

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“Why Do Jewish? A Manifesto for 21st Century Jewish Peoplehood is brilliant and required reading for anyone who wants to explore why Jewish wisdom is so relevant and important for living a good life and building a good society.”

 

Tiffany Shlain,

Emmy-nominated filmmaker,

author of 24/6: The Power of Unplugging One Day a Week

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“Zack Bodner is one of the most innovative leaders in today’s American Jewish community, and this book is packed with ideas - about where we’ve come from, where we are headed, and what from our tradition can help us - in service of a vibrant Jewish future.”

 

Dr. Yehuda Kurtzer,

President of The Shalom

Hartman Institute of North America

Yehuda Kurtzer

“Judaism isn’t a spectator’s sport. In a friendly, down-to-earth, passionate tone, with humor and depth, Bodner is giving fresh answers to the ancient questions Jews have been always asking: why, how, and what makes them Jews.”

 

Ruth Calderon,

Founder and Director of

ALMA Home for Hebrew Culture, author of A Bride for One Night: Talmud Tales

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“Why Do Jewish is a reflective and prophetic, engaging and insightful, delightful and important book. Zack Bodner writes from his perch in the Silicon Valley where he is eye-witness to the tectonic changes that will shape what he perceptively calls Jewish Peoplehood 4.0. In a winning combination of personal anecdote and observation, he reviews from whence we came, spotlights where we are, and posits important questions that both individuals and institutions must answer as we craft the Jewish future. A must read for leaders of all Jewish organizations who seek to engage the next generation of entrepreneurial, creative, and DIY Jewish influencers.”

 

Dr. Ron Wolfson,

Fingerhut Professor of Education at American Jewish University,

author of Relational Judaism: Using the Power of Relationships to Transform the Jewish Community 

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“Zack Bodner’s Why Do Jewish speaks to this moment with humor, kindness, eloquence, and honesty – precisely the ingredients necessary if we are to build a Judaism that is meaningful, relevant, and joyous. In this thoughtful exploration of Jewish identity and tradition, you will find an invitation to one passionate and loving writer’s soul. But what’s even more precious is that this mentch has made room for our curiosity and disagreement along the way, proving that this unprecedented Jewish moment - a strong Jewish homeland and a strong Jewish diaspora - is blessed with leaders whose hearts and minds are big enough for us all. It doesn’t get more Jewish than that!”

 

Rabbi Menachem Creditor,

Scholar in Residence at UJA-Federation

New York, editor of 

When We Turned Within:

Reflections on COVID-19 (Vols. 1 & 2)

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“It’s no surprise that a bold manifesto for rethinking the future of Judaism should come from the leader of the Jewish Community Center in the heart of Silicon Valley. I expect that each reader will agree with some of Zack Bodner’s diagnoses and prescriptions and disagree with others, and Bodner would have it no other way. Bodner is asking the right questions, illustrated with compelling stories from his own efforts to live a meaningful Jewish life and from many years of Jewish communal leadership. Why Do Jewish? asks these tough questions openly and fearlessly, inviting readers to engage with the questions and vigorously debate the answers—and that is one Jewish tradition we can all agree must remain central no matter what the Jewish future brings.” 

 

Dan Libenson,

co-host of the

Judaism Unbound podcast

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“Since the Shoah, the Jewish world has been understandably focused, somehow, on ensuring the survival of our people.  Now that continuity appears increasingly firm, at least for a while, more and more of us, around the world, allow ourselves to yearn for what lies beyond the existential objectives that have occupied our families for generations.  Why Do Jewish is an important map to that more enlivened future.  Excitingly, Zack Bodner locates some of the waypoints to this future in our distant past, weaving tradition, hands-on ideas, and a fearless sense of what is and should be possible for the Jewish people.”

 

Michael Fertik,

NYT bestselling author & Jewish philanthropist

Michael Fertik

“Bodner's fresh and bold manifesto is a compelling synthesis of some of the most innovative ideas in the field, as well as his own insight and creativity, about how to reshape and revitalize the American Jewish community. This should be a must-read for any Jewish leader who seeks to make Jewish life and identity relevant and to bring them into alignment with today's worldview and zeitgeist.”

 

Rabbi Niles Goldstein,

spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Shalom of Napa Valley, author of Gonzo Judaism:

A Bold Path for Renewing an Ancient Faith

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“A great read and a very important contribution to the discussion on how to ensure the continued significant renaissance of the Jewish People. The Jewish People will not BE if the Jewish Person does not DO. This message coming from someone so rooted in the Jewish Community Center Movement is a much-needed breath of fresh air. Thank you, Zack.”

 

Avraham Infeld,

President Emeritus at Hillel International, author of

A Passion for A People

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“Bodner offers a personal and heartfelt call for an active, vibrant and meaning-filled Judaism in the contemporary era. His focus on the lived experiences of Jews, in the United States, Israel, and throughout history, testifies to the dynamic nature of Judaism and the possibilities that Jewish peoplehood offers. In Bodner’s book we read a manifesto for twenty-first century Jewish life.”

 

Professor Marc Dollinger, Goldman Chair in Jewish

Studies and Social Responsibility at San Francisco State University, author of Black Power, Jewish Politics: Reinventing the Alliance in the 1960s

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“Bodner poses the most relevant question in Judaism today, and he brings practical answers from the trenches of the fight for Jewish continuity. Bodner’s insights will bring energy and perspective to an expanding and vital conversation between parents, educators and Jewish community leaders.”

 

Tal Keinan,

author of God Is In the Crowd

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“Zack Bodner's "Why Do Jewish?" is filled with love for the Jewish people, Israel and Zionism. It charts an optimistic course for future Jewish life that is in tune with the spirit of the times. It addresses many challenges from changing family structures to technology and approaches them with a can-do attitude that exudes faith in the Jewish people and their ability to thrive.”

 

Einat Wilf,

Former Member of Knesset, author of Telling Our Story: Essays on Zionism, the Middle East and the Path to Peace

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“Why Do Jewish is required reading for serious Jewish professionals and lay leaders thinking about the future of our people. Zack boldly explores the underlying challenges facing our community today and architects a meaningful, joyous and relevant operating system meant to sustain generations to come.”

 

Avi Jorisch,

author of Thou Shalt Innovate:

How Israeli Ingenuity

Repairs the World

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“Bringing together historical and sociological insight, text analysis and his vast personal experience in Jewish leadership, Zack Bodner offers a fresh response to the age-old question: "Why do Jewish?”

 

Ruby Namdar,

author of The Ruined House

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“Zack Bodner has written an important manifesto for our times. I liked it when I agreed with it - and loved it when I disagreed with it. His level-headed, deep-hearted, thoughtful and thought-provoking ideas about why be Jewish and how to do Jewish in the twenty-first century are just the right spur for the kind of debate we need about who we are -and what we must become.”

 

Professor Gil Troy,

author of The Zionist Ideas

and Why I Am a Zionist

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“This is a work grounded in research, but also highly accessible. With the spirit of an explorer, Bodner examines foundational questions around Judaism, anchoring his study in real world examples drawn from a lifetime of working across Jewish experiences. His open-minded approach offers a lively, readable guide to anyone looking to re-examine how they "do Jewish.""

 

Anne Kornblut,

Pulitzer Prize winning journalist

Anne Kornblut

“Fusing personal reflections with the sophisticated wisdom of SIlicon Valley, Zack Bodner charts the future application for the 5,000 years old “operating system” of Judaism.  This thoughtful book offers a compelling case for the critically called for leaps ahead, towards the co-creation of a better balanced, bold and brave new era for global Jewish life.”

 

Rabbi Amichai Lau Lavie

Rabbi Amichai Lau Lavie

“In Why Do Jewish?, Zack Bodner offers a compelling roadmap for the future of Jewish life. By sharing personal stories and deep insights from Judaism’s greatest thinkers, he answers the burning question of how the Jewish people can thrive in the modern world. This book is a must-read for anyone looking for how to live a meaningful life with Jewish values as their guide.” 

 

Saul Singer,

co-author of Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel's

Economic Miracle

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WRITINGS, MUSINGS
& PONTIFICATIONS

– PUBLISHED WORK –

Image by Emily Morter

‘Why do Jewish?’ And why is that question so hard to answer?

 

DEC.

2021

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