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MERCAZ USA Newsletter — Winter 2015-2016

New Teen Essay Contest: A Critical Defense of Zionism

The new MERCAZ USA/MERCAZ Canada/Women’s League for Conservative Judaism Essay Contest is underway. Five scholarships, from $250-$1000, are available for use towards Conservative Movement sponsored Israel trips taking place from June 1, 2016 on.

This year’s question connects to the 37th World Zionist Congress that recently took place. Entitled “A Critical Defense of Zionism,” teens participating in the essay contest will be expected not only to answer the question of what Zionism means to them, but also to defend their answers in the context of our modern world. For example, we note that the Zionist Congress has taken place during a time of conflicting and often noisy political challenges. We have seen the rise, particularly on the college campuses, of the “BDS” movement. These challenges often leave members of the worldwide Jewish community confused about their own expressions of Zionism.

At the same time, we have seen statements and actions by the current Israeli government and the Chief Rabbinate that limit the expression of Jewish religious freedom in the Jewish State. As Conservative/Masorti Jews, we are keenly aware of the lack of separation of religion and state in Israel, dictated by an ultra-Orthodox rabbinate. There are too many instances in which our Masorti
Israeli counterparts and Conservative Jewish visitors to Israel feel like second-class citizens.

Based on this background, teens will answer the following question: What does Zionism mean to you? In developing your essay, please take into consideration the following questions:

  • Does a defense of Zionism mean that we must defend every action of every Israeli government?
  • Does Zionism call for a reciprocal relationship with Israel?
  • Can we support the legitimacy of Israel and still criticize about religious pluralism?

In your response, please consider what you hope to experience or learn during your expected visit/tour/program in Israel to help you develop even more fully your thoughts about Zionism and Israel.

The contest is opening now and will run through to March 1, 2016. No essay will be accepted that arrives after that date. All entrants will be notified by May 6, 2016. Winners will be announced publicly during the next Women’s League convention.

Rabbi Jennifer Gorman, Director of MERCAZ-Canada, will once again be overseeing the essay competition. For a full explanation of the rules governing eligibility, essay format and deadline, click here.







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