World Zionist Congress elections: Association of Reform Zionists of America
The Forward invited the 15 parties contending for the World Zionist Congress elections, which end March 11, to write an article about why readers should support them. Eight responded by our deadline (we’ll happily publish the others; contact firstname.lastname@example.org). The parties are presented in alphabetical order.
The American delegates to the Congress help allocate nearly $5 billion to Jewish organizations and programs in Israel and around the world. Read more about the election process here.
Below is an op-ed provided by the Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA)
The World Zionist Congress serves the same grandiose purposes today as it did 120 years ago. It is our people’s global forum to discuss, debate, and actualize the potential of the Jewish people and the Jewish State. Our Reform and Reconstructionist Slate is strongly pushing for religious pluralism, equality, and democracy. As Reform and Reconstructionist Jews we feel strongly that the public funding going to Israel’s National Institutions should not be used to fund Settlements in non-consensus areas in the West Bank. This is critical, as we want to use our strength to ensure that the Jewish character and democratic character of the State of Israel remain as equal characteristics.
Israelis are waking up to the reality that the polarizing dichotomy between “Religious” and “Secular” no longer answers the needs of the mainstream and are looking for other types of religious experiences and expressions. That’s what we are providing, and our Movement, thanks to your vote is well positioned to make significant change in Israeli society.
Funding for Settlements:
The Jewish National Fund or Keren Kayemeth L’Yisrael (not to be confused with JNF-USA) was founded in 1901 to purchase land for Jewish Settlement in the Land of Israel. Since then, it has been the largest non-governmental procurer of land and today owns roughly 13% of the Land of Israel, with an over $400 Million annual budget. The question of purchasing land in the West Bank was never clearly defined as policy of the organization and is subject to the ideological position of its leadership. We, as the Reform Movement, are uniquely positioned to assert our leadership of this legacy institution and to ensure that your dollars no longer support this controversial policy.
Our commitment to the Zionist Movement is manifested in the significant role we play in these institutions. And, we expect that they will live up to the high ideals that they represent. We’ve already been successful. But we can’t stop, not now. Due to our strength in numbers, stemming from the WZC 2015 elections, we were able to blow the whistle on secretive land purchases, exposing behind-the-scenes funding of settlements.
We took action as soon as we were alerted to the circumvention of funds. But, let me be clear – we are not cutting ties with KKL. On the contrary. If we don’t have a presence there, this behavior would have continued, and will be used by others to invest heavily in the Settlement enterprise.
We, in the Reform Movement, believe deeply in a partnership between world Jewry and Israeli Jewry. That’s why we engage with the WZC; that’s why our leadership is so important, that’s why we need your vote.
Rabbi Josh Weinberg