Welcoming Words | A Message from the President

Dr. Marilyn Lishnoff Wind, President, MERCAZ USA

Sarrae and I hope that you have come through this past year plus with no illness and with your families healthy. We recognize that it has been a difficult time for all of us and we hope that you have been able to get your vaccinations and are ready to start the return to normality.

One of the things we have learned during this past year is that we can connect on Zoom. While meeting in person clearly has many advantages, many of you who wouldn’t normally be able to attend meetings have been able to participate in meetings on Zoom. We hope that you were able to participate in our “MERCAZ Reads Israel” program as well as our Tu B’Shevat program. Having programs on Zoom has not only allowed more people to attend but has enabled us to partner with MERCAZ Canada and MERCAZ UK, as well as other arms of the Conservative/Masorti Movement. In addition, it has enabled us to host speakers from outside the United States. We will continue with online programming since it enables more of you to participate. I would note that our programs are recorded and can be found on our website – please share these programs with others!

As I write this, the cease fire has been put in place and missiles from Gaza have stopped targeting the Israeli civilian population. We grieve for all those Jewish Israelis, Arab Israelis, and Palestinian civilians who have lost their lives, been injured, and have had their homes destroyed.

We grieve for the violence that has broken out between Arab and Jewish Israelis in cities where they formerly lived together in peace. We joined with the Rabbinical Assembly and other Conservative Movement organizations before the cease fire expressing our concerns (mercazusa.org/standinginsolidarity/). The war between Israel and Hamas has resulted in an outbreak of anti-Semitism in the United States and throughout the world. Our Movement has joined with the Reform and Reconstructionist Movements to speak out against these incidents (https://urj.org/press-room/north-american-jewish-groups-denounce-antisemitic-attacks-wake-hostilities-between).

In addition, we are faced with a crisis in the Zionist arena. In the last World Zionist Congress elections, ultra-Orthodox right-wing groups ran for the first time. They succeeded in getting a significant number of votes and have viewed this as a mandate to ignore the precedent of an across-the-board consensus including all the Zionist bodies. This would have resulted in a loss of funding and support for our Movement projects in Israel and around the world, as well as for other groups. This was dealt with at the World Zionist Congress where legacy organizations, such as Hadassah, understood what was happening and helped to ensure that the leadership of the National Institutions would continue to be broad-based.

Unfortunately, this kind of behavior has continued here at the American Zionist Movement (AZM). As in the past, MERCAZ USA in coalition with ARZA, Ameinu, Hadassah, Naamat, and PPI, has argued for a big tent approach to Zionism. These behind-the-scenes efforts have, unfortunately, consumed our time and energies for the past several months. While we have not always been content with the results, we continue to work in this arena because we believe in the values of democracy and pluralism and will continue to fight for them for the good of Israel and the Jewish people everywhere. This is what it means to be a Conservative/Masorti Jew.

We are proud of the growth of the Conservative/Masorti Movement in Israel and around the world. The increase in kehillot and membership shows that we serve an important purpose. We need you to be active players in our work by redoubling your efforts to recruit members for MERCAZ and paying your dues for 2021-2022 (new dues year begins on July1). With your active involvement we can grow from strength to strength.