Shaping Israel’s Soul is Up to Us



by Rabbi Bennett Miller

Earlier this month, Jews the world over poured into synagogues to “afflict our souls” on the holy day of Yom Kippur – to search within ourselves to atone, forgive, and ultimately emerge renewed.

K’lal Yisrael (the community of Israel) is afflicting its own soul right now, too. Both real and existential struggles are being fought on many fronts, and the outcomes will determine much about the future of Israel and the Jewish people. Will gender equality be the norm – where men and women can pray and live as equals? Will our society respect and treat fairly all denominations, regardless of our level of observance? Will we see lasting peace – security and stability for Israel?

Together with our congregations and families, Reform Jews in the United States are doing everything we can to support our brothers and sisters in Israel. At the same time, we must prepare to return to the daily work of ensuring that the Israel we see on the other side of this conflict is the one that you and I envision – one in which the ideals of pluralism, equality, and peace help to secure prosperous, fulfilling Jewish lives for us all.

Just one year from now, the next World Zionist Congress (WZC) will convene in Jerusalem. This “Parliament of the Jewish People” will debate critical issues in helping to fulfill the dreams of the founders of the Zionist Movement—a pluralistic and democratic Jewish State in Eretz Yisrael, our people’s homeland. This debate, too, will be a deciding moment for the shape of Israel’s soul.

Luckily, the democratic process allows each one of us to have a voice in that discussion. ARZA, representing Reform Judaism, selects delegates for the WZC based on the proportional outcome of the WZC elections conducted by the American Zionist Movement (AZM). The composition of the WZC has both financial and policy implications in Israel, as resources are allocated based on the number of seats a party holds and the policy positions of those parties.

In short, these elections are the strongest way for North American Reform Jews to promote and encourage the progressive ideals of social justice, equality and democracy in Israel itself and help build the kind of Jewish state we all know is possible. A Jewish state that holds true to the ideals of religious pluralism, the growth of Reform Judaism in Israel, women’s equality in all areas of life, democracy, a solution to the ongoing conflict and so much more.

ARZA, representing Reform Judaism, is asking every North American Jew who holds these values dear to stand with us. The WZC Elections are vital to the future of Progressive Judaism in Israel and to the relationship between Jews of North America and Israel. Here is what we hope you will do in the coming weeks:

  • Pledge: Take the pledge to vote for ARZA-Representing Reform. Tell your friends and family to pledge their support as well.
  • Spread the word: Right now, teams are forming in Reform congregations throughout the country to get out the vote. Get in touch with your synagogue campaign team today, or form one if it doesn’t yet exist.
  • Vote: Register with the American Zionist Movement and vote for ARZA-Representing Reform between January 15th and April 30th.

The fate of Israel and the soul of K’lal Yisrael are not yet sealed. Let us join together, and let our voices be heard.

Rabbi Bennett Miller, senior rabbi of Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple in New Brunswick, NJ, is the national chair of ARZA, and also serves on the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency for Israel. He also earned his doctorate from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1988.

 

 

 

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