Making Change Where it Counts: Voting for the Prophetic Ideals of Liberal Judaism in Israel

by Rabbi Jack Luxemburg

“And Moses assembled the entirety of the Jewish people …” (Exodus 35:1)

Whether a Tabernacle in the desert or at the Temple in Jerusalem, vast numbers of our people would gather to celebrate and experience Jewish life on a grand scale. This past February, I had a somewhat comparable experience. It was exhilarating (occasionally frustrating), and confirmed the critical importance of Reform Judaism having a strong, purposeful presence on the world’s Jewish and Zionist scene.

During the week of February 15, I met with representatives of the various Zionist Federations that are part of the worldwide Reform Movement — the Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA), ARZENU Canada, and ARZENU representatives from Western Europe, the former Soviet Union, South America, and Australia. Also present were the leaders of the Israel Reform Movement and prominent members of our “faction” (in Hebrew, si’ah) – who represent the Israeli political parties, Labor and Meretz. Together, we reviewed resolutions slated for a vote on in the Va’ad HaPoel, the “working committee” of the World Zionist Organization (WZO). Many of these resolutions addressed issues of major importance to all of us who are committed to seeing the prophetic ideals of our Judaism realized in the political culture and the character of Israeli society.

Because we had a strong Reform presence, we were able to pass significant resolutions. The resolution regarding oversight of the Settlement Division, which demands greater transparency regarding its projects and funding, drew worldwide attention, as did a resolution insisting that the WZO, itself, reflect the pluralism of Jewish life around the world.  These breakthroughs would have been impossible without the work of our si’ah. The resolution came out of committee due to the strong and vocal support from ARZA and our ARZENU partners, and thanks to our advocacy, it passed a floor vote.

This experience proved that when we are present to give voice and substance to our vision of Israel as just, democratic, egalitarian, and pluralistic, we Reform Jews can be agents for positive change. Our partners in Israel and from around the world are counting on us — members of URJ congregations across the United States — to be successful in our WZO election campaign. Smaller progressive Jewish communities expect us to be strong advocates on their behalf. Our partners in Israel are counting on us to support the ARZA slate with a strong vote so that the Israeli Reform Movement will get the support and recognition it deserves, in terms of both financial resources and appointments to positions of influence in Israel’s national institutions.

Not all of us will be able to attend the World Zionist Congress in person. But we can be participants. We can vote online for the ARZA slate and encourage others to do the same. With enough votes from supporters, we can send a large delegation that will have influence appropriate to being the representatives of the largest congregational movement in the Jewish world. We can do this. We need to do this. Let’s demonstrate to the world our movement’s Ahavat Zion – our loving concern for Israel — by voting in the World Zionist Congress elections. Let’s really get engaged and involved. This way, we can have a strong voice in shaping the future we share with all the Jewish people — in America, Israel, and around the world. VOTE ARZA!

Rabbi Jack Luxemburg is the senior rabbi of Temple Beth Ami in Rockville, MD and senior vice-chair of ARZA.

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