Statement on the Attack on the United States Capitol

Organizations of the Conservative Movement of Judaism are appalled by the violence that took place at the United States Capitol Wednesday afternoon. We call on all American political and religious leaders to condemn in unequivocal terms this attack on democracy and its institutions. We also demand that, having been certified by the respective states and in the courts, all political leaders, including President Trump, defend and uphold the Constitution of the United States, affirm the results of the recent elections, and speedily return to the peaceful transfer of power that has been the hallmark of American democracy for over 200 years.

We are grateful to law enforcement for ejecting the rioters and re-establishing control of the Capitol, and pray for their safety and the security of Congressional leaders.

As a minority within American society, the Jewish people appreciate the democratic principles enshrined in the US Constitution. Civil liberties, and those of other minorities and marginalized groups, are guaranteed only when all leaders affirm the rule of law. The sight of a noose and Nazi symbols at the Capitol was sickening. Since the riot in Charlottesville in 2017, we have been concerned about both the danger posed by white supremacist and other extreme groups, and the weak response to those groups by some US political leaders. It is time for all political leaders to unequivocally denounce such beliefs and behaviors. As we remember each Passover, our people’s historical experience reminds us that every generation must respond to the challenge of bigotry and rise to the defense of freedom.

The basis for democracy stems from the Torah’s belief that every person is created equally in God’s image and is therefore entitled to equal representation in government and equal protection under the law. Each week we pray during our Shabbat worship to “uproot from our hearts hatred and malice, jealousy and strife. Plant love and companionship, peace and friendship, among the many people and faiths who dwell in our nation.” This prayer is more than an expression of faith. It is a call to action, and we have much work to do to heal the deep wounds and divisions which afflict the United States and society.

May the new US leaders, who are coming to power this month at every level of government, rise to the responsibility the voters have entrusted to them to bring healing and exercise responsible governance.

The Rabbinical Assembly
American Jewish University – Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies
The Cantors Assembly
Mercaz USA
North American Association of Synagogue Executives (NAASE)
Jewish Educators Assembly
The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ)
Women’s League for Conservative Judaism

Read the Rabbinical Assembly’s Resolution on Voting in the 2020 US Elections here.

MERCAZ Presents … Tu B’Shevat 5781: A Celebration with the Cantors Assembly

MERCAZ USA, MERCAZ Canada, and MERCAZ UK presents

Tu B’Shevat 5781: A Celebration with the Cantors Assembly
Wednesday | January 27, 2021
3:00 p.m. EST (New York)

20:00 (8:00 p.m.) GMT (London)
4:00 p.m. AST (Halifax)
2:00 p.m. CST (Chicago)
1:00 p.m. MST (Denver)
12:00 noon PST (Los Angeles)

We are delighted to announce that MERCAZ USA we will be partnering with our fellow English-speaking MERCAZ organizations, Mercaz Canada and Mercaz UK (United Kingdom) on a number of initiatives. It is our hope that this arrangement will enable all of us to provide a wider variety of educational and engagement opportunities for members of the Conservative/Masorti community we collectively serve.

The first of these programs will be held on Tu B’Shvat (Wednesday, January 27 at 3:00 p.m. EST) in collaboration with the Cantors Assembly. We are delighted to be able to celebrate this Zionist chag (holiday) together, which draws our attention to the land of Israel and our connections to it!

Zoom login information will be displayed after you submit this form. Please be certain to copy, paste, and save the Zoom meeting information before closing this browser tab!

You may need to scroll up to the top of the page after you click submit in order to see the Zoom login information!

You may need to scroll up to the top of the page after you click submit in order to see the Zoom login information!

Tu B’Shevat, Mercaz, & the World Zionst Congress

A Resource for For Educators & Youth Group Directors:

This guide was designed to help young people in 4th-12th grade make the connection between Tu B’Shvat, the World Zionist Organization, and the the World Zionist Congress election – which will next take place in 2025. The guide includes both an overview of these connections and activities to help students think through these issues. It is our hope that this guide will encourage clergy, educators, students, and life-long learners to reflect on the connection among Tu B’Shvat, trees, land, and the government of Israel … and how they can personally make a difference by supporting Masorti Judaism and MERCAZ.

Download this resource

MERCAZ USA Board Votes to Accept IHRA Definition of Antisemitism

A component of Mercaz USA’s mandate to foster engagement opportunities between Israelis and those in the Diaspora is combating antisemitism, anti-Zionism & BDS. In support of those objectives, and to align ourselves with the greater Jewish community, our board voted on December 1, 2020 to accept and adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism:

“Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

To guide IHRA in its work, the following examples may serve as illustrations:

Manifestations might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic. Antisemitism frequently charges Jews with conspiring to harm humanity, and it is often used to blame Jews for “why things go wrong.” It is expressed in speech, writing, visual forms and action, and employs sinister stereotypes and negative character traits.

Contemporary examples of antisemitism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere could, taking into account the overall context, include, but are not limited to:

  • Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.
  • Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.
  • Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.
  • Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust).
  • Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.
  • Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.
  • Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.
  • Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
  • Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.
  • Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
  • Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.

Antisemitic acts are criminal when they are so defined by law (for example, denial of the Holocaust or distribution of antisemitic materials in some countries).

Criminal acts are antisemitic when the targets of attacks, whether they are people or property – such as buildings, schools, places of worship and cemeteries – are selected because they are, or are perceived to be, Jewish or linked to Jews.

Antisemitic discrimination is the denial to Jews of opportunities or services available to others and is illegal in many countries.

You can learn more about how the IHRA’s working definition of antisemitism is being used by governments and organizations here, and download a recently released FAQ in PDF format here.

MERCAZ USA Joins ADL Coalition to Support Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act

MERCAZ USA is a proud signatory on this letter – drafted by the ADL – sent to every U.S. Senator, urging each of them to work in partnership to enact the Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act

 


Download a PDF version of this letter to share via email or print

December 17, 2020

Re: Support for Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act, S. 2043

Dear Senator:

We, the undersigned 26 Jewish organizations, write to draw to your attention the urgent, worsening need, further illuminated by the FBI’s recently-released 2019 Hate Crimes Statistics report, to meaningfully address hate-motivated criminal behavior. We urge the Senate to take swift action to enact the Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act (S. 2043), in response, to demonstrate Congress’s commitment to fighting hate crimes and understanding of the paramount importance of documenting as accurately as possible the nature and scope of this problem, which continues to threaten the security, health, and prosperity of too many marginalized communities in our country today.

The Khalid Jabara and Heather Heyer National Opposition to Hate, Assault, and Threats to Equality Act of 2019 (NO HATE Act) would significantly enhance the accuracy, and therefore increase the utility, of the FBI’s hate crimes statistics by authorizing new streams of funding and technical support from the Department of Justice to state and local governments to improve their collection of hate crimes data and ensure their robust participation in the FBI’s data compilation. This legislation would also secure DOJ’s active encouragement of and support for state and local initiatives to prevent hate crimes and mitigate their destabilizing effects on victims and the social fabric of communities. If enacted, the Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act would move DOJ beyond simply compiling information and toward the crucial next step of analyzing the conditions that produce and forestall hate crimes, promoting proven interventions to eliminate the multifaceted harm that hate crimes cause.

For nearly three decades, the FBI’s Hate Crimes Statistics program has improved our understanding of hate crimes. Although it excludes some incidents that are not recorded or reported as hate crimes, and is affected by year-to-year changes in participating agencies, the program has consistently provided the most comprehensive snapshot available of bias-motivated criminal activity in the United States. As you know, data drives policy: we cannot hope to fix a problem that we have not quantified and measured over time.

Our review of the 2019 Hate Crimes Statistics report validates our view that Congress must prioritize combating hate crimes. According to FBI data, reported incidents increased by 2.7 percent from 2018 to 2019, and included the highest number on record – 51 – of hate crime murders. Consistent with the national reckoning with anti-Black violence that accelerated after George Floyd’s murder, anti-Black hate crimes accounted for a majority of race-related reports in 2019. Bias on the basis of race was the most common motivating factor in the 7,314 incidents reported. We were particularly alarmed to find that crimes directed at Jews/Jewish institutions increased by 14 percent in 2019, and all religion-based crimes increased by 7 percent. Absolute numbers of reported hate crimes motivated by gender identity bias and anti-Latinx bias likewise increased in 2019 by 18 percent and 8.7 percent, respectively. If 2 unaddressed, these trends will continue to exacerbate the alienation of many millions of individuals who already feel singled out for negative attention by policies, including bans on the entry of nationals of certain majority-Muslim countries, and the 2017 prohibition on transgender individuals’ service in the military.

The International Association of Chiefs of Police, as the world’s largest professional association for police leaders, recognizes the importance of effective law enforcement response to hate crimes, and that strong policies and the implementation of those policies can help build trust between police and the communities they have sworn to serve and protect. The attention and efforts to combat hate crimes by many in the law enforcement community are appreciated and constructive. Nonetheless, it remains clear that the FBI’s hate crimes statistics understate the true number of hate crimes committed in our nation: for example, in its 2019 report “In the Name of Hate: Examining the Federal Government’s Role in Responding to Hate Crimes”, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights noted that “massive underreporting” remains a major barrier to effective redress of bias-motivated violence. Our organizations are dismayed that for the second year running, the number of law enforcement agencies that contributed data to the FBI’s report declined. In addition, in 2019, 86 percent of participating agencies, including police forces from 71 cities with populations over 100,000 people, affirmatively reported that no hate crimes had occurred in their jurisdictions. Underreporting is attributable to many reasons, including a failure by some agencies to prioritize hate crime tracking and to comprehensively identify and record the bias element of some reported crimes, as well as the barriers in place that cause victims to fear coming forward.

The damage done by hate crimes cannot be measured solely in terms of physical injury or dollars and cents. Hate crimes can make members of targeted communities afraid, angry, and suspicious of other groups – and of the power structure that is supposed to protect them – thereby exacerbating tensions and fragmenting communities. Attacks on the Jewish community and Jewish institutions are especially frightening to our people who carry the memory, and are acutely aware of the enduring painful consequences, of centuries of vicious antisemitic sentiment and actions. At this pivotal moment for our national conversation about the meaning and importance of justice for communities of color, religious minorities, the LGBTQ+ community, and other targets of prejudice-driven attacks, we simply cannot tolerate hate, nor fail to demonstrate with words and actions that combating hate crimes is a top priority. We appreciate your attention to this critical matter and your support for responsive legislation that expresses Congress’s strong condemnation of hate crimes and commitment to ending their malign influence on our communities.

Sincerely,

National and International Organizations

Agudath Israel of America
ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal
American Jewish Committee American Zionist Movement
Anti-Defamation League (ADL)
Aytzim: Ecological Judaism
B’nai B’rith International
HADASSAH The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc.
J Street
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
Jewish Federations of North America
Jewish Labor Committee
Jewish Women International Keshet
MERCAZ USA
Moving Traditions
National Council of Jewish Women
Rabbinical Assembly
Reconstructing Judaism
Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association
T’ruah
Union for Reform Judaism
The Workers Circle

State-Based Organizations

Jewish Community Relations Council of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation (Wisconsin)
Jewish Community Action (Minnesota)
Kavod Boston (Massachusetts)

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), a member of the American Zionist Movement, disagrees with portions of this letter and has certain concerns regarding the act, and accordingly is not signing this letter.

MERCAZ Delegates reflect on the 38th World Zionist Congress

MERCAZ delegates from across the globe represented the Conservative/Masorti movement during the 38th World Zionist Congress. What follows are personal reflections from a selection of our delegates:

Rabbi Jacob Blumenthal, CEO of the USCJ and the Rabbinical Assembly, North America, MERCAZ USA

“Even in its virtual form, being a part of the Masorti/Conservative delegation to the World Zionist Congress was a remarkable experience. Our WhatsApp group allowed us to be a true delegation, communicating often minute by minute on the experience with representatives from all around the world. We each embraced a role in lobbying our potential partners in each of our countries to ensure a wall-to-wall coalition agreement was reached. In some ways we were more present with each other digitally than we might have been in person, and it created a true sense of being a global, unified Masorti/Conservative movement”

Benjamin Sigal, Delegation Member, MERCAZ USA

“I was struck by how, virtually, we gathered the four corners of the world together. With delegates in North America, South America, Europe, and Australia at the conference, we crossed cultural boundaries through our shared love for Israel and passion to make it the best it can be.”

Tom Sudow, International President, Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs, MERCAZ USA

“The World Zionist Congress was an exhilarating experience as we stood together to support pluralism in Israel and the Zionist movement. I was proud to stand side by side with leaders of MERCAZ and Masorti from around the globe to make sure that our voices and the voices of Masorti Jews were heard and respected. The WZO is a very important forum for decisions that affect Masorti Judaism in Israel and around the globe. As we look to the future, it is vital that we continue to educate on the importance of this event, held every five years, and make sure we enlist broader support, including in the Zionist elections, within our communities. I also want to thank Marilyn Wind and Sarrae Crane for their leadership of MERCAZ USA. They understand the importance of our work and how fragile pluralism is, if we do not stand up and fight for it. Kol HaKavod.”

Eric Leiderman, Executive Director of Masorti On Campus / Board Member of MERCAZ USA

The following is an excerpt of Eric’s reflections on the 38th World Zionist Congress, from an article posted on The Times of Israel blogs:

“After many months of campaigning, these three days in October, filled with passionate Zionists across every time zone, working hard to make sure their community’s interests were represented, were extraordinary. I am encouraged by the changes afoot, and by the unity and strength of the center-left Zionist community. For those of us who view the values of Zionism to be not only those of Jewish nationalism and peoplehood but also of a shared pluralistic nature, there is hope. With the new “wall-to-wall” collective agreement in place, hopefully the next five years will inculcate the principles of transparency, quality, and accountability much needed in our national institutions.”

Heidi Schneider, Masorti Foundation Board Member, MERCAZ USA

Mario Grunebaum, MERCAZ Olami (Brazil)

“It was very interesting and at the same time the most frustrating Congress that I have ever taken part in. The virtual Congress limited our participation in most of the discussions, with most of them done backstage, remaining for us the delegates, often only approvals of our disapprovals. Although we fought a lot to revert the pre-decisions made by the right wing parties, the results were frustrating, giving to the non-orthodox Jews consolation prizes that won’t satisfy them in the long run. If we are not able to change how Diaspora Jews participate in the WZO and at its Congresses, it may result in a bigger gap between ‘us and them’.”

Rabbi Jennifer Gorman, Executive Director, MERCAZ Canada

“Though we were scattered around the world, our WhatsApp group kept us connected in a way we haven’t been before. The constant flow of communication among the candidates and alternates, kept us connected, and raised the energy in a way it could not have been, had we all been quiet in person. Nothing can take the place of being together, but the virtual Congress came very close.”

Howard Jurburg, MERCAZ Olami (Uruguay)

“The three days during which I participated in the virtual 38th World Zionist Congress was a great experience. It was my first time at the World Zionist Congress, but this was a first time for all participants in a virtual mode. The assistance and guidance by the MERCAZ team made participation simple and we made history. I am very thankful for having been part of this Congress and hope to meet the team next year in Jerusalem.”

From a virtual World Zionist Congress to a Real Zionism

Rabbi Mauricio Balter, Chairman of Mercaz Olami and Masorti Olami

In the few weeks since the 38th World Zionist Congress finished I have experienced several feelings I would like to share with you.

Firstly: The virtual World Zionist Congress was a major challenge. Generally speaking, and given the circumstances, it was successful. We were able to see each other and discuss some topics of concern for the Zionist world. This first Virtual World Zionist Congress in history was extremely challenging due to the limitations imposed by the coronavirus but it was still successful. All attendees from around the globe were connected with their personal devices, seeing one another and engaging in discussions about the most relevant issues for today‘s Zionist world.

Secondly: Following our WhatsApp group’s chats during the Congress truly moved me. Every day, the group organized a virtual meal in Jerusalem. Choosing the restaurant or the menu evidenced how strong the urge to be together and share was, and especially, each message beamed with everyone’s desire to be in Israel. The fact that it was impossible filled me with sadness as much as your every thought about Israel picturing you here overjoyed me.

Thirdly: I will not elaborate on the political agreements and what transpired at the Congress. However, it did lead me to deeply reflect on the differences between ideology and politics. The feeling I get when we engage in discussions with the Israeli political parties is that we, conservative/Masorti Jews, come from a different world, one with values and ideology that result in a different dialogue.

This Congress shone a light on how much Israeli politics tainted our Zionist world. David Ben Gurion always spoke of a “normal” State, just like every other. Is the fact that these institutions are politicized part of the normalcy Ben Gurion referred to?

This was my first Congress as Chairman of Mercaz Olami. I want to acknowledge our professional team: Nilli Glick Asaf’s dedication and her rapport with the different Mercaz chapters around the world. Tehila Reuben’s boundless capacity to help, bringing all of her years of experience with the National Institutions. I also need to mention the passion and dedication of the Mercaz Olami Board, headed by President Rabbi Alan Silverstein, treasurer Emily Levy Shojat and the Mercaz Olami Committee that devote limitless amounts of time, passion and wisdom to energize the Masorti Movement within the National Institutions.

The virtual Congress allowed us to fulfil the legal obligation of voting new authorities in and move forward with certain specific issues. Now we need to move past the virtual Zionism to a REAL one. We need it to be real and alive.

We need to strengthen the bond of the Masorti movement with the State of Israel, especially with the younger generations. Five years of mayor challenges lie ahead of us and our drive is the great love we have for the State and the People of Israel. We need to work together to build a REAL and LIVE Zionism.

Let’s remember Herzl’s words “if you will it, it is no dream.”

Download this article in PDF format.

The real drama these days: The Zionist movement almost split

Dr. Yizhar Hess, Vice Chairman of the World Zionist Organization (previously served as the CEO of the Masorti Movement in Israel)

This article originally appeared in Haaretz on October 29, 2020

October 22 marked the conclusion of the 38th Zionist Congress. Before you yawn, listen to what happened behind the scenes and why this Congress of representatives from all streams and parties was actually the most important since Israel’s establishment.

A crisis evolved that left us non-Orthodox streams and the center and left parties poised to leave the World Zionist Organization and establish a new entity. The split was prevented thanks to vigorous 48-hour lobbying by worldwide Zionist groups.

The World Zionist Organization has evolved over the decades. Imagine intense, sometimes even vicious, arguments among Jewish lawyers from throughout the world, who despite differences agreed on a basic principle that no one group could control the game. They insisted on a tent wide enough to include the variety of denominations and views within the Zionist movement.

An ethics code evolved under which the Congress would establish an executive cabinet (“government of the Jewish people”) only after forming a wall-to-wall coalition respectful of minority and majority voices.

To understand the drama, here’s some background. The Congress has 525 delegates: one-third from Israel (proportional to the Zionist parties in the Knesset), one-third from the United States (based on elections of different slates), and one-third from Zionist federations in the rest of the world.

However, 232 other delegates represent international Jewish organizations (Hadassah, WIZO, B’nai B’rith, Maccabi and others). The longtime practice has been that they do not participate in the vote approving the coalition agreement that determines the distribution of power in the WZO.

A few months ago worldwide elections to the Congress were held; the right came out slightly on top. The distribution of delegates could enable a coalition with a slight tendency to the right or left. Both were reasonable. Quickly, quiet coalition negotiations began, and thanks to the tradition of a final wall-to-wall coalition, we trusted that we wouldn’t be left out in the cold however things went.

Three days before the opening of the Congress, just before Shabbat, we were informed that an agreement had been signed. We were surprised, and when we saw the details we were dumbfounded. The agreement signed by the right-wing, ultra-Orthodox bloc was nothing short of a hostile takeover of the WZO national institutions.

Immediately after Shabbat we spoke with the international leadership of the Conservative and Reform movements. It became clear just how serious things were. If we didn’t have a seat at the table, we wouldn’t even enter the room. We would be forced to withdraw from this Zionist movement and its institutions. We would create a new Zionist framework.

Close to midnight on Saturday we held an emergency meeting with our center and left partners. Our fury turned into determination. We would overturn this unjust agreement. We would not give up, we would fight for a new agreement even at the cost of secession.

The next two days were volatile. The Congress was to ratify the agreement within two days. The narrow majority, the signatories to the agreement thought, would pass it. It turned out they hadn’t read the map accurately.

A bold campaign we initiated with the international Jewish organizations led to an action they had avoided for decades. Their leadership, backed by thousands of grassroots members, understood that their traditional voting policy couldn’t be maintained this time. They understood, and I applaud them, that the shattered norms obligated them to raise their voice to save the Zionist movement.

An unprecedented joint letter was sent by the heads of the organizations. The personal letter from Hadassah’s president was even more forceful. The Haredi-right-wing bloc still misread the map. On the Congress’ opening day, the agreement was up for vote. At the presidium, just before the opening, we proposed postponing the vote by two days to allow the parties to negotiate.

“No way, we’re the majority,” proclaimed representatives of Likud, Yisrael Beiteinu and Mizrachi. The Confederation adamantly objected, promising that despite our anger, the Congress would approve the agreement that evening. The presidium vote commenced, on Zoom, a roll-call vote by name. Each vote was recorded and tallied, piercingly reminiscent of the famous UN vote on November 29, 1947. We voted to delay the vote. The other side voted against.

Then, the Zionist organizations, one by one, joined the voice to delay the vote. The delay was accepted, 16 to 9.

In the negotiating room the next day it was clear the tables had turned. Everyone realized that there was no chance of passing the old agreement in the plenum.

This has been the hardest week of my professional life. But something good has come out of it. The final agreement isn’t ideal, but it’s decent and respectable.

No less important: I sincerely feel that we have awakened the liberal side of the Zionist movement. In many places over the years, the word “Zionism” has become toxic, best avoided.

Some of you may ask, “Why bother, who cares about the Zionist movement?” My answer: Zionism has always been a political movement whose borders aren’t the geographic borders of the State of Israel. Zionism was born in the Diaspora. It was, and must continue to be, a thought-provoking movement leading a discourse about the future of the Jewish people.

We need to bring it back to the audiences that over the years have chosen to stay away. This roundtable of the Jewish people is too important. The Zionist movement was born in the Diaspora, and the future of Zionism must also be decided not only in Israel but outside its borders.

Download a PDF version of this article.

Success at the World Zionist Congress, Your Votes Mattered!

Rabbi Dr. Alan Silverstein, MERCAZ Olami, President

At the once-every-five years World Zionist Congress, our movement is represented by MERCAZ Olami, with 15 chapters around the world. Thanks to the campaigning during the Congress Election Campaign, we achieved 37 mandates, 18 from the USA and 19 from the rest of the world, meaning we were the fourth largest faction at the Congress.

The results of the Congress affect the next 5 years in ‘The National Institutions’, these being the World Zionist Organization, Keren Kayemet LeYisrael, Jewish Agency for Israel, and Keren Hayesod (United Israel Appeal), all crucial to the well-being of Conservative/Masorti institutions in Israel and throughout the Diaspora.

Negotiations at the Congress seek to form a governing coalition that affects the next 5 years of policy, budgeting, salaried positions and unpaid decision making positions at the National Institutions. The negotiating goal is to yield a fair coalition around Jewish unity in which all parties receive a respectful and fair amount of positions, influence, and allocation of vital resources.

This year’s Congress faced a divisive challenge. Ultra-Orthodox parties ran for office, gained influential swing votes and attempted to deprive center-left parties and non-Orthodox religious streams of influence, positions and budget.

Fortunately, because of our numerical strength, we were able to join with the Reform representatives, Artzenu, and rallied the center-left parties such as Blue and White, Yesh Atid, Labor and Meretz. Together, our delegates successfully lobbied neutral organizations such as Hadassah and B’nai Brith amongst others. Their willingness to join us in opposing the Haredi-inspired narrow coalition agreement proved decisive. The effort to renegotiate a coalition agreement continued down to the final hours of the Congress. A reasonable and respectful wall-to-wall coalition agreement eventually was signed.

Thanks to your votes, global Jewish unity was preserved and important benefits were gained for our movement:

  • Budgets for the all streams of Judaism were increased
  • MERCAZ received an important Paid Professional position: Yizhar Hess becomes Deputy Vice Chair in the World Zionist Organization. Yizhar will have a budget and department responsible for Israel-Diaspora relations. Yizhar will have various other responsibilities at WZO, to be determined next week.
  • Masorti gained a Vice Chair unpaid position at Keren Kayemet LeYisrael (KKL) MERCAZ retained a place on the Jewish Agency nomination committee
  • In a rotation, MERCAZ will receive the unpaid Chair Position of the KKL Environment committee
  • Additional unpaid lay leadership positions will be allocated soon, based upon our number of seats at the Congress

Our political partnership with the Reform Movement enabled our success at the Congress. Our 105 delegates, alternates and observers worked brilliantly in lobbying organizations and leaders to support a respectful outcome for everybody.

However, rather than rest on our laurels, now we must commence to plan for the Congress of 2025. We need to strengthen our 15 chapters as well as grow new ones. We must engage our talented young adults age 35 and under as our future leaders and we need to better ‘brand’ MERCAZ and educate as to its importance for all organizations within our world-wide Movement.

Our collective goal is to serve Am Yisrael: Combatting Assimilation, Anti-Semitism, Apathy, Jewish Illiteracy, and Indifference – Promoting Zionism, Aliya, Jewish Identity, and Jewish Continuity.

To all of these ends, MERCAZ Olami has established a crucial Strategic Planning Committee, chaired by Rabbi Steve Wernick and Co-Chaired by Emily Levy-Shochat, along with a professional firm. We must remain determined to enter the 2025 Congress with a much stronger number of delegates and a greater capacity to shape the future of the Jewish People world-wide.

Our negotiating Team proved to be cohesive and outstanding:

Yizhar Hess, Rabbi Mauricio Balter and Emily Levy-Shochat, assisted ably by Nilli Glick Asaf and Tehila Reuben, and at times by me as President of MERCAZ, by Rabbi Phil Scheim as President of Masorti Olami, by Rabbi Jacob Blumenthal as CEO of the RA and the USCJ.

Download a PDF version of this article.

This #GivingTuesday, Join MERCAZ USA’s cause supporting Masorti Judaism and Pluralism in Israel!

Tuesday, December 1, is #GivingTuesday, and we are asking that you consider MERCAZ USA to be among those organizations you choose to support this year!

MERCAZ USA has been fulfilling its mission during a unique and unpredictable 2020.

Despite the challenges, we have committed ourselves to an ambitious plan to increase our reach and provide engagement opportunities with Israel and her people, including:

  • Continued support of our delegates and agenda at the 38th World Zionist Congress over the next four years
  • Growing our ‘MERCAZ READS ISRAEL’ book club, featuring 3-4 book club meetings a year with the authors
  • Building out our social media footprint on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and USCJ’s The Commons to provide information and resources to the broadest possible audience on Masorti concerns in Israel and worldwide
  • Developing and disseminating materials that synagogues, camps, and other organizations can leverage to educate and excite the next generation of Jewish leaders on the importance of supporting Masorti Judaism in Israel …
  • … and in supporting our movement’s North American engagement programs – such as USY Pilgrimage, Nativ, Camp Ramah, the Conservative Yeshiva, and Schechter Institutes – that connect our communities in the U.S. to our communities in Israel.

These combined efforts are critical to raising awareness about the role MERCAZ plays in the World Zionist Congress – and electing a strong MERCAZ slate in the 2025 Congress election – to the current and next generation of Jewish leaders (remember, individuals who are 13 today will be able to vote in the next World Zionist Congress election)!

Many of you have been long-time supporters of Mercaz by becoming members, donating, or working on the VOTE MERCAZ campaign. For all of your support, we thank you!

As we approach our celebration of freedom – Hanukkah – we ask that you continue to be our partner in fulfilling the mission of Mercaz.

And, if you have never supported us before, this is a great year to become a part of our Mercaz community! There are two ways you can become a supporter of Mercaz:

Despite the many challenges ahead, we are optimistic and excited by our vision for how Mercaz can impact the lives of Masorti Jews in Israel, here in the U.S., and across the globe. We hope you will join us!

With best wishes for a joyous Hanukkah,

Marilyn L. Wind
President

Sarrae G. Crane
Executive Director

If you prefer to contribute membership dues by check, you can download and print the PDF membership form, and mail it to our office.