March 3, 2024 -
This post on If Not Now, When?, the interactive blog of Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple, is shared by Senior Rabbi Robert Nosanchuk and our Past President Dr. Tom Abelson. We encourage you to share comments below, or to post the link to this post on social media such as Facebook or Twitter, or to share with others by email, to continue the conversations it engenders.
A little history – In 1897, the First Zionist Congress was convened by Theodor Herzl in Basel, Switzerland, with the participation of some 200 delegates representing 17 countries. Together, the delegates established the World Zionist Organization and endorsed the ideals of Zionism, to establish a home for the Jewish people to be secured under public law with international recognition in what was then the Ottoman-ruled territory of Palestine. It was immediately after this Congress that Herzl wrote, “In Basel I founded the Jewish State. If I were to say this out loud today, I would be met with universal laughter. But in five years perhaps, certainly in fifty, the whole world will know it.”
It is now 2020, almost 72 years since the establishment of the modern State of Israel, and the whole world knows what Herzl made possible in Basel. Any of you who have traveled to Israel have seen both the challenges and the blessings of our having a Jewish and democratic nation where the Jewish people can be safe and determine our own destiny. Although this past year has included challenging elections for Israel in deciding its Knesset members and Prime Minister, there is another election regarding Israel in which we, the Jews of America, get a vote.
Every five years, Jews worldwide are invited to personally vote in the election of delegates to the World Zionist Congress (WZC), heirs to the decision-making body that Herzl started in 1897. The World Zionist Congress meets in Jerusalem and of the 500 delegates, 145 of them are determined by the WZC elections. The World Zionist Congress is the only body in which all of World Jewry is represented democratically. It determines policy and makes decisions that influence hundreds of millions of dollars including decisions that affect the status of Reform Jews in Israel and across the world. We encourage you to vote for the Reform Jewish movement’s slate (ARZA) with includes us as nominees of our Reform movement (ARZA – the Association of Reform Zionists of America).
In order to vote in the WZC elections, one must be 18 years old by June 30, 2020, self-identify as Jewish, and pay a nominal fee when voting, which helps support the sending of delegates from places like Cleveland to Jerusalem to participate in the World Zionist Congress meetings in the fall, 2020.
By voting for ARZA, you are increasing the power of the Reform Movement in the World Zionist Congress, and sending the message in Israel that you want leaders in the Reform Jewish Movement, like us, to represent your Jewish values in matters that affect the entire Jewish people. If you’ve ever felt dismayed by the fact that Reform Jews are often treated as second class citizens in matters of egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall or that in some parts of Israel women are forced literally, on some routes, to sit in the back of the bus, then you know there are important stakes to our movement in this election. By voting for ARZA, you will be sending your own leaders to help make crucial decisions on how our communal dollars are spent in Eretz Israel.
To vote, simply go to arza.org, the website of our Reform Jewish movement’s Zionist organization. There you can fill out a form to get actual online ballot for voting which began on January 21 and continues until March 11, 2020.
The World Zionist Congress elections are here. Each and every vote from our congregation is crucial to maintaining a strong Reform presence. This is our chance to combat the discrimination the Reform Movement faces in Israel. Together we can make progress on the issues we care about: religious freedom, women’s equality, peace and co-existence, and much more.
Rabbi Robert Nosanchuk, Senior Rabbi
Dr. Tom Abelson, Past President, Fairmount Temple