Jason Harris is a Jewish educator and former politico with a passion for teaching Jewish and Israeli history. He is currently the Associate Director of HAMAQOM|The Place.
He is a graduate of the University of California, Davis, with a B.A. in International Relations, and the Hornstein Program for Jewish Professional Leadership at Brandeis University, with master’s degrees in Near Eastern & Judaic Studies and Jewish Communal Service.
Jason spent seven years on Capitol Hill as a senior congressional staffer to a U.S. Member of Congress. He specialized in speechwriting, drafting legislation, and advising on national and foreign affairs. He traveled the world in that official capacity and once got to meet Beyonce, which was really cool.
Eventually Jason decided it would be more rewarding to lead Birthright Israel trips, where sleeping is rare and falafel is plentiful. A Bay Area native, he plays guitar decently, sings terribly, stand up paddleboards frequently, loves Pearl Jam fervently, travels habitually, and keeps up on Israel and Jewish history incessantly.
LEARN WITH JASON
Jason teaches on a variety of topics relating to Jewish and Israeli history. Below is a partial list and all presentations are customizable for your audience. Presentations can be lecture-based or hevruta-style involving text study, facilitated discussions, and group learning. Please contact at the above email to inquire about availability.
Zionism — history, ideas, leaders, ideologies
Zionism and the Arabs
Beginnings of the Arab-Israeli Conflict
Jewish Resistance in Palestine
Israel — 101 history and deeper dives
The Israeli Declaration of Independence
Current Events: One State, Two State, Red State, Blue State?
Jewish Identity in a Changing World
Millennial Whispering — talking to younger generations about Judaism and Israel
… plus anything covered in the podcast!
American Jewish Committee, “Amplifying the Latino Voice” conference
Birthright Israel trips (14 of them!)
Cafe by the Bay, Jewish Family & Children’s Services
Congregation Sinai, San Jose
ENGAJ, Oshman Family JCC, Palo Alto
Limmud Bay Area
Marin County Holocaust Commemoration
Shavuot Tikkun, East Bay JCC
THE JEW OUGHTA KNOW STORY
I’ve led 545 Jewish young adults (ages 18-26) on fourteen Birthright Israel trips the last several years. This podcast was born out of my interactions with them, primarily on those Israel trips when I would get asked more questions than I had time to answer. I ended every trip feeling slightly guilty that I wasn’t able to fully address everyone’s questions about Judaism, Jewish history, philosophy, culture, traditions, current events, and modern Israel. What to do?!
Jew Oughta Know is my attempt to answer every question I’ve ever been asked on an Israel trip in an organized, accessible, and entertaining way, with the primary lens on Jewish and Israeli history (because that’s my favorite topic). So many people tell me they want to learn about Jewish history but don’t know where to start. Start here! Beginning thousands of years ago with the story of Creation (Season 1 on the Book of Genesis), I design each episode around something that I think people really ought to know. I try to both relate the “Jewish 101” for those who lack the basics, while also going beyond the basic story to appeal to those who are already familiar with the main narratives around Judaism and Israel.
But there is also a deeper purpose to Jew Oughta Know. Too many of my Israel trip participants admitted that they didn’t feel they could fully participate in Jewish life without grasping the basic knowledge around Jewish history, narrative, and especially modern Israel. Jews and non-Jews alike tell me they want to understand why history speaks so loudly to the Jewish people, why Israel is so important to the Jews, and how the past informs what we read in the news today.
A lack of knowledge shouldn't be a barrier to developing a meaningful connection to Judaism. Jew Oughta Know is here to help you begin or continue the lifelong journey that is Jewish learning. This isn’t THE history, and as many topics as I cover in a given episode, there are surely others I don’t fully address. And of course the perspective shared here is mine — there are innumerable other valuable voices out there, too. But to the extent that this podcast and its accompanying website help you find the knowledge you’re looking for in a way that strikes you as impactful, meaningful, fascinating, and fun, then it has served its purpose.
So jump on in! Each season is organized around a certain time period or theme so you can explore what most interests you at your own pace. Enjoy!
© Jason Harris 2019