The World Zionist Congress Begins This Week – and the Reform Movement is There!

I am sure that over the past couple of weeks you have watched the news coming out of Israel with grave concern. These new terror attacks are both difficult to deter and impossible to predict: One Israeli friend of mine commented, “It feels like 2002 all over again, except all the lessons we learned about suicide bombers aren’t helpful in preventing someone stabbing you in your neighborhood.”

It is no doubt a trying time for the people of Israel, for the Palestinians, and for all of us who feel emotionally connected to the situation.

Much has been discussed about the failures of leadership on both sides and about how this current outbreak of violence is an indication of the feelings on the Palestinian street – especially among the younger generation – and that the current status quo is unsustainable. This is worrisome and only reinforces the need for a real commitment by all parties to revive serious peace negotiations.

At this moment, many of us are flying to Israel to represent ARZA and the Reform Movement at the World Zionist Congress, and I want to thank you. Because of you, we’re able to bring the largest delegation from abroad. You organized your communities, you got out the vote, and now it is finally time for us to translate that victory into something meaningful on the ground. We ran a campaign for gender equality, religious freedom, and the importance of a two-state solution, and we plan to follow through.

In this upcoming Congress, there will be 509 delegates representing the Jewish people worldwide, of which 145 are from the United States. We will debate cutting-edge issues confronting the State of Israel and the Jewish people. Your vote helped make us the largest delegation, making up nearly 40% of the delegates from the United States, and we look forward to reporting back to you on our successes.

We are excited to support, among others, resolutions calling for:

  • Treatment of African refugees and asylum seekers by the Israeli government that conforms to both Jewish ethics and Israeli and international law;
  • A Truth and Reconciliation Commission to mend divisions between Israeli Jews and Arabs and build peace in a troubled time;
  • Reforms to the system of national Zionist Federations, to bring them into the 21st century in terms of gender equality, efficacy and transparency, and;
  • Greater oversight and control by the WZO of the Settlement Division and its activities.
  • Now is an important time to be going to Israel, and I am exceedingly proud to be joined by our 64 delegates (and alternates) of the Reform and Reconstructionist movements, who have not been deterred from joining us in Israel despite the current situation.

Next week, we will stand proudly with the people and leaders of the State of Israel and with Zionists from around the world to say that terror and violence will not lessen our resilience. The body of Israel must be protected, even as we work to mend her soul and fight for peace. We will ask difficult questions, challenge those in positions of power, and be forceful about which Jewish values should be applied to the only Jewish state we have.

Please make sure you follow our postings and updates here and by following ARZA on Twitter and Facebook. You can get to know our delegates and our alternates by checking out this Facebook album introducing them. We also encourage you to read the URJ’s press release about our delegation for further information.

I look forward to continuing the work that we all began together, both now and for the years ahead.

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Rabbi Josh Weinberg

About Rabbi Josh Weinberg

Rabbi Joshua Weinberg is the President of ARZA, the Association of Reform Zionists of America. He was recently ordained from the HUC-JIR Israeli Rabbinic Program in Jerusalem, and has is currently living in New York. Josh previously served as the Director of the Israel program for the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and as a faculty member of NFTY-EIE High School in Israel teaching Jewish History. Josh is a reserve officer in the IDF spokesperson’s unit, has hiked the Israel-trail, and came on Aliyah to Israel in 2003.

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