Thursday, November 23, 2023

Thankful: The Year I Became a Public Speaker

 Or: Gratitude, Past, Present, and Future

I. The Recent Past

Hi! I'm thankful today for the year I've had since launching Zaidy's War. My publishing ambitions took a quantum leap forward the moment the book was released. It took no time at all for it to a) become my best-reviewed book, b) spider to libraries faster than anything I'd published before, and c) get gobbled up by reviewers, bloggers, and TikTokers with immediacy.[*]

While that steamboat was rollin' down the river, I paused to launch The Shakespeare Haggadah, and give it the attention it deserved. The book certainly did so (Hiring a publicist certainly helped. Thank you, Judy!). There wasn't a major article about the year's crop of new haggadot that didn't feature mine, and I got coverage in some major press, including the UK's Jewish Chronicle, and Yahoo!, which syndicated everywhere. I also received a book award from the New York Shakespeare group. On top of that, I was invited to participate in a few podcasts, namely New York Shakespeare Live, and the Cindy Grosz Show.

While *that* fire was burnin', I garnered speaking gigs of all kinds, in all places, in front of all kinds of audiences - with big assists from my publishers, publicist, and fellow Amsterdam Publishers authors. I delivered in-person talks, podcasts,[**] zoom sessions, book club drop-ins, book club zoom sessions, other forms of engagement, with many more of each forthcoming.

Now the award I received for The Shakespeare Haggadah (Which, BTW, is now my second-best selling book behind The Emoji Haggadah) was only the appetizer. For the entrée, Zaidy's War has scored three awards,[***] and is still in play for more.

I'm grateful to you for getting behind me and supporting me all the way.

II. The Immediate Present

The big wheel keeps on turnin', because I have talks scheduled I) in libraries and classrooms all around Jersey, II) at several Yom HaShoah engagements, and III) in my own Teaneck, NJ neighborhood, finally, which I'll be sure to keep you informed about.

III. The Awesome Future

Two more things I'm thankful for today, and then I'll let you get to stuffing yourself with turkey: 1) I just completed my 7th - and final - draft of my next haggadah. 2) I started the groundwork for my next Holocaust-themed book. There is a time to weep, and a time to laugh, says Ecclesiastes, and I'll continue plying my trade in both.

Happy Thanksgiving, from a heart that's happy to give thanks. I'm also thankful today for the hostages that are coming home, but I want more. I want them all.

And now, for some reason, I think I'm going to queue up Proud Mary...

[*] A sampling:

My own contributions:
[**] The podcasts, thus far:

[***] The awards:
1. Finalist, International Book Awards, General History.
2. Bronze medal, The BookFest Awards, Memoirs-Portrait.
3. Winner, International Impact Book Awards, Memoir.

Monday, June 26, 2023

Zaidy's War Wins its First Award!

I am delighted - nay, overjoyed - to inform you that Zaidy's War has garnered itself an award from the International Book Awards. It beat out hundreds of competitors in the "General History" category, which was quite a crowded field.

This accolade follows the wonderful recognition I received earlier this year for The Shakespeare Haggadah from the prestigious New York Shakespeare Group. I have quite a streak going.
Additionally, my colleague Roni Kayne Robbins received a Multicultural Fiction Award for her remarkable book Hands of Gold, which you should read.
Also, our publisher - Amsterdam Publishers - should be feeling really good. It does important work, and I'm proud to be associated with such a well-recognized house. These awards are just for this round. They garner other awards around the clock all year.
Now if you'll excuse me, I do have to speak with said publisher about putting my little ribbon on my book cover. That will be quite nice.
Finally, some folks get the honored distinction of having certain titles before their names, such as Sir, or Dr., or Reverend, or World Renowned, etc. I wouldn't mind it at all if "Award-winning" was affixed before mine. That will be cool in certain contexts.
Have a GREAT day!

Tuesday, April 04, 2023

Chag Kasher V'Shakesmeach!

 Table of contents

(jump to any section you like; I'm not twisting your arm to read *all* of this):

1) Insane, electric coverage for The Shakespeare Haggadah
2) An article answering why I do parody haggadot in the first place
3) My chag sameach wishes for you and yours
4) Zaidy's War, waiting in the wings.


You'll please pardon the silly wordplay in the subject of this e-mail. I've been giddy with the coverage The Shakespeare Haggadah has gotten this season. It's been in everything, everywhere, all at once.

Out of the blocks, it reached shelves in places no book of mine has ever reached before, including Walmart, Target, gift shops in Jewish Museums in the northeast, and get this, Harvard University's library. I'm an Ivy Leaguer!

The roster of articles and interviews, includes, but is not limited to (because I may actually have missed a few):
  1., picked up by The Jewish Exponent (Staten Island), Columbus Jewish News, Cleveland Jewish News, L'chaim Magazine (San Diego), Baltimore Jewish Times, the Jewish Ledger (Connecticut), and the wildest of them all, Christians for Israel International.
  2. The Jewish News of Northern California:
  3. Times of Israel:, picked up by,, Alberta Jewish news, and
  4. The Jewish Chronicle:
  5. Jewish Journal:
  6. The St. Louis Jewish Light:
  7. Jewish Rhode Island:,31943
  8. The Jewish Link:
  9. Yahoo:, picked up by Parade, Gossip Chimp, Clayton News Daily, Henry Herald, Kilgore News Herald, Tyler Morning Telegraph, Longview News-Journal, Victoria, Longview, Panola Watchman (they love me in Texas!), and The Rockdale Citizen.
  10. Finally, last night I was a guest on New York Shakespeare's Instagram Live show, which was a blast:
So if you're keeping track, The Shakespeare Haggadah was covered by press in 4 countries (U.S. Israel, UK, Canada), and 10 states.

I couldn't have done any of this without an enormous media push from my publisher, Wicked Son Books, and superhuman efforts by my Fairy Godpublicist, Judy Tashbook Safern. Thank you, guys!


I've been doing a lot of talking lately, and the number 1 question I get is: why? So I wrote a long-winded answer that I'm happy to present to you. I didn't send it to any news outlet because it's more of a personal response, so consider this an exclusive:

Ask Not Why I Write Parody Haggadot; Ask for Whom


Martin Bodek

I recently published the second folio of The Shakespeare Haggadah, and the question I’ve been most frequently receiving is, “Why?”

To this, I reply, “Can you phrase that in Elizabethan English, please?”

As the questioner stammers back with “Whyeth?” or “Whyfore?”, I then volunteer a little bit of history, so that they understand the full picture, and I launch into an elevator speech that goes something like this:

Deep breath, aaaaaaaaand:

A long time ago, in a galaxy right here haggadot were generally gorgeously-wrought masterpieces of artistic expression. This “era,” if you will, lasted for hundreds of years. This gave way to an era of less artistic – albeit highly useful – proliferation thanks to the godsend of the printing press. After this time came the next era of customized haggadot for all manner of movements, religious stripes, causes, activism, and advocacy. On the heels of this push came the late-20th century surge of scholarly works, which dove deeper into the text, and then deeper still. At the turn of the 21st century a new age began: the age of wildly creative versions of the classic haggadah, both those hewing to the original text and those departing, but with imagination and innovation.

Aaaaaaaaaand exhale.

I created The Shakespeare Haggadah in this era, which is still thriving, and looks like it will last a while. As a gentleman named Albert Einstein once said, “Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”

I estimate – and this is debatable – that this era kicked off in 2007, when both Sammy Spider’s First Haggadah and 30 Minute Seder: The Haggadah That Blends Brevity With Tradition were published. The former targeted children’s interests; the latter targeted anyone whose attention span was shrinking along with the rest of human culture. Both perpetually rank rather high on Amazon.

This was immediately followed by the publication of Joyous Haggadah: A Children and Family Cartoon Haggadah, which continued to lay the groundwork for including children, and pulling them back and towards the seder table.

More haggadot continued to get published over the next decade that specifically targeted children, tweens, and teens, but the years 2017-2019 experienced an explosion of creativity and inclusivity.

These were, by my count and opinion: The excellent The (unofficial) Hogwarts Haggadah, The all-encompassing Welcome to the Seder: A Passover Haggadah for Everyone, the fully-inclusive The Kveller Haggadah: A Seder for Curious Kids (and their Grownups), and the gobsmackingly- beautiful The Passover Haggadah Graphic Novel.

Each of these mightily served further to invite and urge and welcome the entire family back to the seder table, with eagerness aroused by the new creative expressions they could hold in their hands and inhale with wonder while the master of ceremonies carried on with his duties.

Into this window of opportunity, I like to think that my The Emoji Haggadah helped to usher this movement along. My purpose was the same that had been established with the rest of the excellent new expressions: get that seder table brimming again, and the family talking, and enjoying, and geshmak-ing. The Emoji Haggadah still does very well, and it remains – as of this writing – the first, and still only, book written entirely in emoji. If that doesn’t get your children’s attention, perhaps my next three haggadot will.

I then published The Festivus Haggadah, targeting Gen X’s interest, and, surprisingly, Gen Y, who love Seinfeld and Friends, for some wildly inexplicable reason that escapes me.

I then published The Coronavirus Haggadah, because humanity needed comic relief in a bad way.

Finally, I wrote The Shakespeare Haggadah specifically for teenagers and college youth, because, in my view, they remain the most underserved market for haggadot. The adults have been catered to for almost a millennium; the children for at least a decade and half; let’s do something for our teens.

I have more haggadot in the works, and the answer to the original question posed is now very simple, after all this has been explained. The sum of the matter is: I write parody haggadot to enrich everyone’s seder, to promote inclusion for everyone, to foster family harmony, and to create a fun, loving atmosphere for my Jewish people, to the best of my ability and the talent given me.

Chag kasher v’sameach!

Mar­tin Bodek is the author of The Emo­ji Hag­gadahThe Fes­tivus Hag­gadahThe Coro­n­avirus Haggadah, the recent­ly re-pub­lished The Shake­speare Hag­gadah, several future haggadot and seven oth­er books.


It's been an amazing season for me, as you can imagine. The Festivus Haggadah continues to benefit from its natural dual-holiday sales seasons (Festivus/Passover), The Coronavirus Haggadah still supplies comic relief, and The Emoji Haggadah is showing up in bookstores all over Israel (I know because friends keep sending "shelfies" with the book).

I'm thankful; I'm grateful; I feel accomplished.

I'd like to use this positive energy to wish you and yours an enriching and enervating, wonderful and winsome, innovative and imaginative, uplifting and upbeat, meaningful and memorable, invigorating and inspiring, familial and fantastic chag sameach.


P.S. Haggadah season is a wonderful diversion, but once Passover is over, I'm going to throw myself into continuing to push Zaidy's War into the public consciousness. It's my most serious and most important work.

It's done well out of the gate, with excerpts appearing in Jew in the City,, and FJJ, reviews pending in The Jewish Press among other outlets, more reviews on Amazon and Goodreads than I've received for any of my previous work, blogger and TikTok reviews, and talks in interesting places. I'm scheduled to speak to 5th and 6th graders on Yom Hashoah, and I'm looking forward to the meaningful experience.

So, thank you for making it this far, and I'd like to please ask you, if I may, to a) send me pics of my haggadot if they happen to adorn your seder table b) review my books online once this crazy season is over, and c) consider/recommend me as a speaker for fun things like haggadot, and serious things like Zaidy's War.

Thank you very much!

-Martin (Mordechi) Bodek

Monday, February 06, 2023

#1, Twice

 The Shakespeare Haggadah is #1 in 2 Amazon categories. This is a 1st for me and it’s very cool.

Sunday, February 05, 2023

I Have a Guardian Angel

 Well look at this lovely surprise I found in this week’s The Jewish Link - Expanded Edition! Somebody on the staff is my Guardian Angel, and I have no idea who that is. I do intend to find out…

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

My First Publishing Award!

I wonneth an award! an honest-to-goodness award! According to the prestigious New York Shakespeare group, The Shakespeare Haggadah is the most wondrous Shakespeare Giftable and Novelty of 2022. Not third most wondrous, not second, first! Oh, how sweet 'tis! I thanketh thee kindly for this recognition, and the flattering commentary.

A Milestone Number of Ratings

Well that's another nifty little milestone. I've cranked out 11 books over the past 13 years, and despite Zaidy's War being only 3.5 months old, it has already garnered more ratings than any of my previous efforts; 3 times as many as 2nd place, in fact.

I thank you all for your interest, and for your feedback. Please keep that coming.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Zaidy's Breathtaking Act of Kindness

 Tomorrow is Holocaust Remembrance Day. To honor the day in an appropriate manner, I shopped Zaidy's War's "Lovingkindness" chapter, and found a perfect taker at

Essentially, an organization known for promoting lovingkindness, practiced an act of lovingkindness by featuring a chapter of Zaidy's War called "A Tale of Lovingkindness." I'm loving kindness. Zaidy believed in it as a form of Tikkun Olam (Repairing of the World), and I believe in it too.
Please read it here:

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

My First Booktok Review!

I have finally joined the 3rd decade of the 21st century by actually having an in-the-flesh, gen-u-wine, for-realz TikToker review Zaidy's War. No FOMO, lolz:

Thank you for your Booktok, E.G., and for your thorough pen-on-paper review as well!:

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

A Siyum for Zaidy

Hadran aluch Maseches Nedarim! (We shall return to you, Tractate Nedarim) In honor of Zaidy.

Now why is this one in honor of Zaidy? Easy: he told me to, in a dream.
Not kidding, hear me out.
If you've read the introduction to Zaidy's War, you will have perhaps noted that during the process of finishing the book, Zaidy would visit me in dreams often. He would never speak to me. Instead, repeatedly, I would dream that we were walking down the street together, and he would get compliments from folks poking their heads out of their houses. The metaphor of this sequence of dreams is pretty clear.
However, on Thanksgiving night, Zaidy finally spoke to me after years of silence.
I dreamed that I was sitting at my desk, when Zaidy approached me, and we had this encounter:
Zaidy: I understand you're learning Nedarim.
Me: Yes.
Zaidy: Very nice. This one you can learn for me.
Me: I will!
And I woke! After morning routine, I checked a few calendars, and wouldn't you know it, Zaidy's 9th yahrzeit falls out on the same exact day as the end of the masechte! That day is today, and my learning is in honor of R. Benzion ben R. Aharon, because he adjured me to do so, and I did. He made me make a neder, after all, and I think that's very clever of him.
May his neshama have an aliyah.

Monday, January 09, 2023

My first DNF, or The Shortest Marathon Race Report I’ll Ever Write

 It should be obvious from the title of this article that I won’t be asking for your attention for an extended period of time. I didn’t finish the 2022 NYC Marathon, and I prepared for that inevitability going in, for reasons that will be clear very shortly. I’ve been through a lot.

This is what goes down:
3:30 AM: Wakey wakey!
3:35 AM: Dressy dressy!
5:00 AM: Pickup from my good man David and our annual chauffer de excellence, Michael.
6:00 AM: Arrive at Ford Wadsworth, locate minyan, hang out for a while, reminisce with old friends, take selfies and otheries, miss the biggest Marathon Minyan class photo ever because I was in the porta-potty.
8:20 AM: Enter my corral, find a seat on a curb, fret over how the day will unfold, wish the helicopters would stop hovering directly over the runners.
9:15 AM: While in position waiting for the start, a runner named Bridget approaches me to wish me luck as I try out a marathon for the first time on my new hip (that little factoid is on a bib on my back). I thank her, and she casually mentions that she broke her femur during a marathon two years ago, and this was her comeback race too. Aghast, I ask her how she knew it was broken. She says she knew. She heard the crack like a gunshot, and felt it too. Then it took too long for her to get medical help. Holy moly. I wish her luck, turn around, and right in front of me is the record-holder for most NYC Marathons completed: Mr. Dave Obelkevich. At the opening bell, he’s got 45; I’ve got 22. I make his acquaintance as I did last year, and advise him that I’m still coming for his record. He wishes me the best, but judging from his prima facie fitness, he’s not gonna stop doing this for years. Grrr.
Mile 0: Kerboom! And we’re off! I’m immediately surrounded by my little sub-club of Streakers (those who have done 15 or more NYC marathons). Matter of fact, I’m part of an even more exclusive club: Streakers on New Hips Now Resigned to Walking. There’s a lot more of us than you think. In Yiddish we’re called Alter Krachers. I’m a proud member at a young age. The numbers on the back of the Streaker bibs are video-game ridiculous and get lots of comments from the Non-Streaker contingent.
Mile 0.1: Mary Wittenberg herself comes up behind me and wishes me luck with my new hip. Awesome.
Mile 1: Already there are very few people behind me. We’re the back group of the first wave of the day. Anybody faster than a snail is long gone and already enjoying Brooklyn. Me and my slow lane people? We’re tight.
Mile 1.9: There’s this thing I like to do at this point in the marathon: I like to approach the first cheerleading person I find on the course and thank them for coming out. It’s usually a little kid who’s thrilled with the recognition. This year, at least 20 Gen Zers are lined up, but all are staring into their phones. I’ll reserve comment because it’s slander, but the first guy who’s actually not staring into his phone is holding up a sign that says “Welcome to Brooklyn.” I turn around to take a selfie with the sign, and he tries to dart out of the way, but I bid him to stay because he’s not staring into this phone, and he should be honored.
Mile 2.1: Somebody hollers “Rabi Nachman!” (I’m wearing my usual NaNach kippah) I swivel my head around to see who it was, and it’s a member of the NYPD. Now that’s interesting.
Mile 2.3: Best sign of the day: “No, you’re not almost finished.” Ha! Very good. The rest are vulgar (“**** Yeah!”) or praising the field for running better than the government. Some new creative infusion is desperately needed.
Mile 3.5: The obsession with Pete Davidson continues. A couple has carved out time of their day to fashion one sign that says, “How could you leave Staten Island?,” and another that says, “Pete Davidson lives there!” Mmmkay.
Mile 4.1: I jump into a porta-potty real quick, because my day is almost over and I’m not sure when my next opportunity will be. Upon exiting, I get panicky texts from my mom asking me where I am. I guess the tracker is finally working well this year!
Mile 4.65: A stranger chats me up. He’s curious about my new hip. Turns out, he lives in my neighborhood, and I’ll likely see him around after today! He slaps me on my back and wishes me well, when I look to the sidelines and see…
Mile 4.66: …my daughter? What’s she doing here? Everybody was supposed to stay home, and my mom and aba were supposed to bring me back home. I’m confused.
Mile 4.7: Wait, what? What’s my wife doing here? And everybody else? They’ve got signs for me and everything, but this wasn’t the plan! What’s going on??? Turns out, because of my plans to not finish, my wife put herself through the insane trouble to pick me up at my finishing point. And I mean a lot of trouble. I’m touched. This is the sweetest thing. We take tons of family pictures, along with pics with our old mailman (who lives on the block and camps out annually as tradition). I jump back on the course, because I have one more stop to make.
Mile 5.2: I pull up to the medical tent so I can officially check out. There’s a girl vomiting there. She’s having a worse day than me. Yikes. So my day is over, and as I walk back towards my family, a fella on a stoop hollers at me, and we have this conversation:
Stoop: “Hey buddy, done for the day?”
Me: “Yeah, sciatica. Can’t finish.”
Stoop: “Ooh, right side or left?”
Me: “Right.”
Stoop: “Oh man, I once had both sides. I know what you’re going through. Good luck to you, buddy.”
Me: “Thank you, man!”
I rejoin my family, and cheer on the runners from the beach chair my mom brought for me. We look for friends of ours we know to be on the course, and whom we’re tracking via the app, but the crowd is so thick now, that we see none of them. I then post the following, which should give you full detail of the why of my shortened day:
It had to happen at some point, and in my 252nd race, it finally did.
There was a high probability that today was going to be the day, however. For the past few months, I’ve been dealing with ever-increasing leg pain. It got so bad, I hauled myself into the ER, spent a night on a stretcher pumped full of pain meds, and got an MRI in the morning. Initial diagnosis was frightening, so I got a 2nd and 3rd opinion that concurred to be less scary, more manageable, and fixable without a scalpel.
So I huddled with my family, and we agreed that a DNF was less devastating than a DNS, and that my long-term health was most important of all. I would start, and, among many scenarios, if I experienced any distress, I would greet my Mom and Aba in Brooklyn, report to the next medical tent, have Mom and Aba scoop me up and bring me home.
A friend said it best to me: “I know how proud you are of your streak, and deservedly so. But it's just a race. You matter more. Take care of yourself.”
True. I am. I promise.
Then my wife shocked me. There she was at the Mom/Aba stop with all our children, supporting me. Everybody’s bringing me home. I’ll have my scheduled junk food meal, then I’ll begin the process of fixing what’s wrong here, and rebuild myself again.
This will be the first year since 1996 that I will not have completed at least one marathon. But that’s okay.
Because I’ll be back.
I’ll always be back.”
So home we all went.
Now my day wasn’t all sadness, as it finished in quite a positive and upbeat way.
As it happened, I had pending wedding invites from two cousins – one from my dad’s side; one from my mom’s - who were marrying off children, the night of the marathon, in Williamsburg, two blocks apart. Had I finished the race, it would have been impossible to attend.
I was a bit down, though, and wasn’t really in the mood. However, my wife – who doubles as my Good Inclination – convinced me to go. So I suited (and hatted) up, and I went. Adding some intrigue is that my mom and Aba needed a ride, as their car had broken down when they headed home from the marathon!
Interestingly, the marathon course was long cleaned up by the time I arrived with my folks in tow for mom’s-side wedding #1. My cousins were delighted to see me, and treated me as a bit of a celebrity, because my book about our grandfather ( recently launched, and the whole crowd had a million comments and questions for me. It was wonderful.
I then skipped over to dad’s side wedding #2 and was treated like a celebrity because I was confused for someone else!
Turns out, when I wear a suit and hat, and am surrounded by chasidim, and slump in a certain way, and have a bit of a five o’clock shadow, that I’m some kind of doppelganger for my dad.
On *two* occasions, ten minutes apart, complete strangers slapped me on the back and said, “Barry! I haven’t seen you in a long time!”
My name isn’t Barry.
That’s my dad’s name, and both back-slappers were mortified when I turned around and revealed a face they weren’t expecting. I asked them their names so I could give regards, but like the Joseph story where he reveals himself to his brothers, they were too “disconcerted” (Artscroll’s translation of “Nivhalu”) to respond.
After that I headed home, and I have to say, I had an interesting day overall.
I’ll be back, as promised, and at the moment, I think I have the sciatica under control, having done what I needed to go to have it all in order.
Just do me a favor, my dear cousins, no more weddings on marathon Sunday, please, even though I love you all, because I have to finish what I start.
You see, I’ve got to get halfway to Dave. Thanks!