Jewish community of Tidewater gets down to the Tachlis—the brass tacks

by | Feb 2, 2023 | Trending News

Zack Bodner, CEO of the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto, Calif., spends much of his time reflecting on how to ensure that Jewish life remains meaningful, relevant, and joyful for future generations.

Through reflections and conversations with colleagues and friends, Bodner concluded that too much time is spent thinking and talking about “being” Jewish when the conversation should be about “doing” Jewish.

“Judaism lives in the actions,” says Bodner. “Who your parents are, who converted you, when you converted to Judaism to ‘join the family,’ isn’t nearly as important as the choices you make in life. Don’t keep your Judaism in the closet. Wear it proudly and DO Jewish.”

Bodner’s book, Why Do Jewish: A Manifesto for 21st Century Jewish Peoplehood, is one part “how to” and one part love letter to Jewish peoplehood. The book was selected as part of the Lee and Bernard Jaffe Family Jewish Book Festival. Community members who have read it have shared how the book’s stories and framework are adding richness to their Jewish life.

The Konikoff Center for Learning of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater welcomed Bodner to Virginia Beach for a very busy 24 hours last month. Bodner spent his first evening in town with local Jewish parents who are also Jewish professionals or lay leaders. Over dinner, they discussed how each family “does” Jewish in their homes and reflected on how the varied experiences and values make Judaism beautiful.

Bodner spent the entire day before his community program leading discussions with many of Tidewater’s Jewish professionals and lay leaders. He met with UJFT and JCC staff members, synagogue clergy and presidents, Jewish agency executives and lay leaders, and local Jewish educators. Finally, he shared a community presentation on his framework for doing Jewish in the 21st century.

One day of discussion around the “doing” of Jewish, the Tachlis, the purpose, and the brass tacks was not enough. “Why Do Jewish?” is a question that the Jewish people must continue to ask themselves. Whether connecting to Judaism through Tikkun Olam, the arts, cooking, community, holidays, rituals, learning, Israel, or spirituality, Jews must identify their values and live in the actions of doing Jewish.

For more information about the Konikoff Center for Learning or opportunities to “do” Jewish in Tidewater, contact Sierra Lautman, senior director of Jewish Innovation at the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater, at or visit

-Sierra Lautman