Winter 2002-2003

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MERCAZ USA Newsletter — Winter 2002-2003

News From the Worldwide Conservative/Masorti Movement

Mazal Tov
To the following rabbis who have been elected as officers of the Rabbinical Assembly in Israel: President – Mauricio Balter; Vice Presidents – Zvi Berger, Shlomo Tucker and Valerie Stessin; Secretary – Shlomo Zacharov; Treasurer – Shira Israel.

To the newly elected officers of the Masorti Movement: Chair – Dr. Irit Zmora; Vice-Chair – Idit Lev; Treasurer – Rami Pinchover.

To Rabbi David Lazar who has been nominated to the Jerusalem City Council to fill out the term of one of the members of "Yerushalaim Achshav" party who recently resigned.

Masorti Congregations Need Torah Scrolls
Several Masorti congregations in Israel are in need of kosher Torah scrolls. For example, Kehilat HaYovel in Jerusalem has five "pasul" scrolls, while other congregations have only one kosher Sefer Torah. For information about how to donate a Torah scroll to a Masorti congregation, contact Rabbi Andy Sacks, Coordinator of the Rabbinical Assembly -Israel Region at 011-972-2-624-6510 or

USCJ Reconnects USY'ers
Project Reconnect-Israel is an exciting new initiative, sponsored by the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, to locate and identify alumni of USY, NATIV, KOACH, ATID, and PILGRIMAGE who have made aliyah and are now living in Israel. The new program aims at reconnecting former USY'ers with old friends and fond memories, with the hope of re-infusing the Conservative - Masorti Movement with the spirit and talent of the generations of alumni who may have gained their original inspiration for Israel from the Conservative Movement's youth activities.

Alumni groups are forming in both North America and Israel, and it is planned to expand the groups to include former "Ramahniks," JTS students and others who grew up in or were otherwise affiliated with the Conservative Movement. A Yellow Pages Directory is already being developed in Israel and a similar project is planned for North America.

Signing up oneself or one's children with Project Reconnect is as easy as sending an e-mail to Rabbi Paul Freedman, the International Liaison Chairperson, at

JTS & UJ Students Become Tourism Ambassadors
More than 100 rabbinical students from the Jewish Theological Seminary and the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the University of Judaism will be traveling to Israel at the beginning of 2003 as part of a special solidarity mission being subsidized by the Israel Ministry of Tourism.

Similar in structure to a student mission from Yeshiva University that took place in early 2002, the Conservative Movement students participating in the trip have pledged to become "ambassadors" for tourism. In exchange for receiving a $400 stipend which brings the already discounted price to $549, the students have agreed to take part in at least ten speaking or writing opportunities to promote travel to Israel. In fact, the students will be receiving training while touring to make them effective ambassadors for Israel.

While modeled generally on the YU mission, the January 8-12 JTS/UJ program will be tailored to the interests of the Conservative Movement and will include a visit to a Masorti synagogue, the Fuchsberg Center, the Conservative Yeshiva, etc.

KOACH's Birthright Group
Despite the fall-off in travel to Israel, KOACH, the Conservative Movement's college student association, has succeeded in signing up enough participants to sponsor a "birthright Israel" trip this coming January. The trip, which departs Jan 2, 2003 and returns Jan 13, 2003, is geared for Jewish students, ages 18-26 who have never been on a peer trip to Israel before. Safety and security remain of the utmost importance, along with providing an Israel experience couched in a spiritual and educational framework. Information about this or other KOACH sponsored birthright groups is available at

Conservative Yeshiva 2003 Summer Program
The Conservative Movement's Yeshiva in Jerusalem will be holding two summer sessions in 2003, providing students an opportunity to study the classic texts of Judaism, including Rabbinic literature, Bible, Tefillah, and Jewish Philosophy, with traditional hevruta and shiur learning.

Session I will run from July 6 to July 24, while Session II will go from July 27 to August 14.

The summer sessions also includes an intensive morning Ulpan to build up Hebrew skills. The program is appropriate for students of all levels, backgrounds, and interests, ages 18-80. For more information and a brochure, contact Rabbi Daniel Goldfarb, Director, or Rabbi Gail Diamond, Assistant Director at (tel) 011-972-2-622-3116, (fax) 011-972-2-624-6473 or

Prayer for Israel Campaign Succeeds
After printing and distributing a colorful laminated card with the Prayer for the State of Israel in English, Hebrew and transliteration, Karni Goldshmid-Lahav, the Shlicha to the Conservative Movement, is pleased to announce that more than 100 Conservative congregations have registered as members of the Tefillah LeShlom HaMedinah Campaign.

In order to join the campaign, being organized by Tnuat AM (the Movement for Masorti Aliyah), synagogues pledge to recite the Prayer for the State, in Hebrew or English, as an integral part of weekly Shabbat and holiday services.

To view the list of congregations who have joined the Prayer for Israel Campaign or to register your own congregation, visit the Tnuat AM website: In addition, the Tefillah Laminated Card may be ordered from the Shlicha's office: 212-533-7800 ext. 2021 or Quantities up to 500 cards are $1.50 per card; discounts are available for larger orders.

Tax Bill Advances
New immigrants are closer to getting most of their tax benefits reinstated, following the approval on a preliminary reading in October of a bill to repeal sections of the Tax Reform Law that was approved last summer.

Under the proposed legislation, new immigrants would be exempt from paying taxes on "passive" non-business overseas income, such as Social Security benefits and pension income, for ten years, instead of the five-year period as stipulated in the new tax law. Veteran immigrants from North America had warned dire consequences to aliyah from western countries if the new law was not amended.

PM Orders Immigration Basket for All Olim
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who holds the portfolio for the Ministry of Absorption, ordered that the full basket of immigrant benefits be expanded to include all new olim, even those from prosperous western countries. Originally, the basket which includes monthly payments of approximately $1,500 for a period of six months, was available for new immigrants only from places of distress like Ethiopia and the former Soviet Union. However starting in 2002, the benefits were expanded to include France, Argentina and Uruguay. The new plan aims to draw in immigrants from North America.


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