A treasure chest for Jewish ideas and values

A review of Why Do Jewish? A Manifesto for 21st Century Jewish Peoplehood by Zack Bodner

Gefen Publishing House, 241 pages, $18.00

The title in some measure does a disservice to this fascinating and highly individualized account. 

Yes, this book does offer a “manifesto” but if one merely saw this text as a guide to living Jewishly, you may actually miss its more significant and poignant contributions. 

Zack Bodner shares a series of deeply meaningful stories and personal reflections. This is as much about the author and his own Jewish journey as it is a futuristic statement on Judaism. Zack’s saga is significant and inspiring. On the one hand, Bodner unravels the contemporary Jewish scene, while on the other, this book introduces us to an array of creative possibilities inherent within Judaism. 

In no small measure this must be seen as a treasure chest introducing us to the ideas about Judaism, its values and traditions, just as it provides us with a gateway to sharing our community’s innovative platforms and alternative expressions of personal and collective engagement. This text offers us a pathway forward, allowing Jews to flourish in this new moment in time.

Zack pays special tribute to his dad who infused him with a profound belief in the positive nature of the human spirit. To his credit, Zack has been able to draw close to him a wide assortment of the best and brightest rabbis, educators, funders and activists as his thought partners. The imprint of these extraordinary folks is reflected in his own thought leadership and through his own creative communal activism.

Steven Windmueller is an Emeritus Professor of Jewish Communal Studies at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion Jack H. Skirball Campus, Los Angeles.

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