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Mark Zuckerberg’s Star Wars bar mitzvah, Yom Kippur apology and other Jewish things about the Meta CEO

With his new app Threads, the tech titan is in the news again. Here a few things to know about his background and what he’s said about being Jewish

With the launch of Threads, the new social media app, Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg is back in the news. More than 10 million people signed up for Threads within hours of its launch. With Twitter losing users and credibility under Elon Musk’s tenure, Zuckerberg’s timing was impeccable. 

And because users of Facebook-owned Instagram can seamlessly join Thread with a few clicks, Zuckerberg has taken all the pain out of building a profile on a new platform. 

The stock market validated Zuckerberg’s triumph with a share price Thursday of nearly $300, up from the 52-week low of $88 in November. Whether the new platform will be more successful than Twitter and Facebook at quelling hate speech and conspiracy theories remains to be seen.

Most people probably recognize Zuckerberg as a Jewish name. Here are some facts about the man himself, his family, what he’s said about being Jewish and other connections to his heritage. 

His upbringing — and bar mitzvah theme

Zuckerberg had a Star Wars-themed bar mitzvah at Temple Beth Abraham in Tarrytown, New York, near Dobbs Ferry, the Westchester village where he grew up. His father Edward was a dentist, his mother Karen was a psychiatrist, and he has three sisters. 

His father computerized his dental office shortly after Mark was born in 1984 and the “kids all grew up around the office and were all exposed to computers,” the senior Zuckerberg said in a 2011 radio interview. Dad also had an early Atari that “came with a disk for programming. I thought Mark might be interested and I imparted that knowledge to him. From there it took off.” 

He added that he and his wife tried to recognize and support the things their kids were “passionate about” rather than trying to steer them in any direction. 

College, a Jewish fraternity and tikkun olam

Zuckerberg launched Facebook in 2004 with his Harvard roommates as a website for students at select colleges. He was also a member of Alpha Epsilon Pi, a Jewish fraternity whose notable alumni include Sheldon Adelson, Paul Simon and Frank Gehry. 

But he dropped out of Harvard after his sophomore year, took Facebook public and at age 27 and became the world’s youngest self-made billionaire. 

Zuckerberg returned to Harvard in 2017 to give a commencement speech in which he said that whenever he faces a “big challenge” or sings to his daughter Max at night, he quotes from the Debbie Friedman prayer “Mi Shebeirach.”

“And it goes,” he told the graduates, “‘May the source of strength, who’s blessed the ones before us, help us find the courage to make our lives a blessing.’ I hope you find the courage to make your life a blessing.”

His speech also referenced tikkun olam, the concept of repairing the world, which he said he’d learned in Hebrew school. “Let the Harvard class of 2017 be leaders in the world by leading in tikkun olam, in tzedakah, in not taking from, but rather giving back to humanity, each in your own way.”

On bigotry and being Jewish

In 2015, Zuckerberg wrote on Facebook that he hoped Muslims would not be singled out in retribution for terror attacks that extremists had carried out in Paris. “As a Jew, my parents taught me that we must stand up against attacks on all communities,” he wrote. “Even if an attack isn’t against you today, in time attacks on freedom for anyone will hurt everyone.”

And following the 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, he wrote: “It’s a disgrace that we still need to say that neo-Nazis and white supremacists are wrong — as if this is somehow not obvious.” 

Zuckerberg also posted a Yom Kippur apology in 2017 after Facebook was accused of allowing hackers to post thousands of ads influencing the election that led Donald Trump to become president. “For the ways my work was used to divide people rather than bring us together, I ask forgiveness and I will work to do better,” he wrote.

In December 2016, he wished his followers a merry Christmas and happy Hanukkah. When a commenter asked whether he’s an atheist, he replied: “No. I was raised Jewish and then I went through a period where I questioned things, but now I believe religion is very important.”

Marriage, children and the next generation

Zuckerberg married Priscilla Chan, a pediatrician turned philanthropist, in 2012. They have three children.

In 2017, he posted photos of Shabbat candles and challah and said that he and his wife had given their daughter Max “a kiddush cup that has been in our family for almost 100 years.” 

The couple also founded a philanthropy, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, to address health care, education and other issues. They launched it with a letter to Max, saying: “We love you and feel a great responsibility to leave the world a better place for you and all children.” 

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