Loving Israel

This was written in early November from my hotel in Jerusalem where I attended the JCC Global Conference and JCC Innovation Summit with approximately 500 other global JCC leaders. It was before the horrific terror attack in Paris, and, most recently, in San Bernardino. These reflections feel even timelier now.

I was invited to give a J Talk to my colleagues, a Jewish TED Talk. My topic was “Breaking Glass”—a Jewish version of the Silicon Valley notion of “Move fast and break things.” People were impressed with all we’re doing here. However, I was also asked to lead a breakout session where I learned some striking things about the state of world Jewry. The Director of the JCC in Paris told me that just a few years ago, the French Jewish population was 750,000 but today it’s 500,000 and by next year they expect it to be 400,000. Their population is fleeing out of fear. She has no idea what to expect in the next five to ten years. The Director of the JCC in Athens told me that there are only 5,000 Jews in all of Greece and their greatest concern is making sure teens stay connected to Judaism.

The Director of the JCC in Mexico said they have a massive compound—a 500,000 square foot facility where most Jews spend their spare time. They are completely insular, interacting little with the non-Jewish world.

More than ever, I realized that we in the U.S. may be the only Jewish community outside Israel growing in vibrancy. We are the only other country where it feels safe to have a political voice and where Jews participate as equals in society. We may be the only Diaspora community capable of having an impact on what happens in Israel. That is a blessing. And a responsibility.

We have a responsibility to connect as deeply as possible to our cousins in Israel, to learn about their challenges and to build bridges. We need to empathize, embrace and understand them. This is a central part of discovering one’s own Jewish journey.

At the OFJCC, we are offering more and more opportunities to do just that.

  • On Sunday, November 22, we hosted Zionism 3.0 with Israel’s Haaretz newspaper. This landmark conference is our featured program highlight and I hope you’ll read it.
  • On May 12, we will host our exciting annual Yom Ha’atzmaut Festival
  • From June 26–July 5, 2016, we are leading the first Silicon Valley Community Trip to Israel. My family is going and I hope yours is, too!
  • Our film series, Israel for Reel, is helping our community understand the complexity of Israel.
  • Our Beged Kefet Hebrew Language School is now offered in three locations: the OFJCC, Fremont High School and the Los Gatos JCC.

All of these wonderful Israel programs are made possible by your ongoing generosity to the OFJCC. Your donations are helping so many find their way on their Jewish journeys. And we believe that journey must always include a vibrant Israel.

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Zack Bodner

Written by Zack Bodner

Zack Bodner spends his days as the CEO of the OFJCC and his late nights waxing poetic on the Live Fully Blog. During the in-between hours, he and his wife ro-sham-bo for who does the dishes and who puts each of their three kids to sleep. On the weekends, Zack schleps his brood from soccer to baseball to drama to dance and then back to soccer. He can often be found asleep in one of his kids' beds after reading bedtime stories to them.

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