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
Presented Live on Wednesday | January 27, 2021
3:00 p.m. EST (New York)

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 was 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 have been able to celebrate this Zionist chag (holiday) together, which draws our attention to the land of Israel and our connections to it!

If you missed the live celebration, you can watch the recording of our program below:

For those that wish to participate fully, you should bring to your Seder table:

  • White and red wine (or grape juice)
  • At least 3 kinds of fruit:
    • One fully edible such as grapes or figs
    • One edible outside with an inedible pit such as dates or olives, and
    • One edible inside with an inedible rind such as pomegranates or citrus
  • Prior to watching, download our Tu B’Shevat Seder packet

Feature Article: A Millennial Yankee in Theodor Herzl’s Court

Eric Leiderman, Board Member, MERCAZ USA

In late October, I was supposed to be in Israel attending the 38th World Zionist Congress, as a young adult delegate on the Mercaz slate. However, as with every other conference held since March 2020, we met in cyberspace instead of the International Convention Center in Jerusalem. The building initially built to house this Congress has done so every five years for the past six decades. Even though I could not be there in person, I was reminded of the importance of my participation in the Congress from my apartment thousands of miles away in the United States.

The World Zionist Congress – held every five years since 1946 – was established by Theodor Herzl in 1897 as the supreme organ of the World Zionist Organization (WZO). The purpose of the WZO is to set the agendas and budgets for several National Institutions: (1) The Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) – responsible for Zionist education in the Jewish Disapora, as well as recruitment and facilitation of Aliyah (immigration) to Israel, (2) Keren Kayemet LeYisrael/ Jewish National Fund (KKL/JNF) – responsible for fundraising throughout the diaspora to build and develop the Land of Israel. Examples of KKL/JNF’s work are Israel’s famous forestry projects, waterworks, and modern initiatives to build the economies of Israel’s peripheral communities, and (3) Keren Hayesod. This institution is probably the least familiar of the three organizations to American Jewry since, for us, many of this organization’s functions are handled by the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA); namely raising funds from the Jewish community allocated for Jewish education and programming.

At this year’s World Zionist Congress we voted on policy resolutions, an amendment to the WZO Constitution, and elected the officers who will implement these policy changes. These people will also be responsible for distributing the equivalent of nearly one billion U.S. dollars annually.

What makes the World Zionist Congress exceptionally Jewish is the sheer number of political parties and factions that make up its membership. At this year’s Congress, 521 delegates were seated, pulling from two dozen slates with the smallest slate representation coming in at just two delegates, compared to the 114 delegates representing Israel’s Likud Party and 97 from the joint list of the global Reform and Conservative (Masorti) Movements’ Arzenu/Mercaz Slates.

Now for the drama.

With hundreds of people representing the entire spectrum of Jewish backgrounds, priorities, and interests, you can imagine that there will be some tension. For those attending the Congress, or following closely, there was a rash of spicy tweets, sour misinformation, and dry Jerusalem Post articles. This year, the spectrum of representation grew even larger when a new Ultra-Orthodox slate made headlines by garnering enough support to be awarded 25 seats. With this new slate’s arrival, a new infamous plot twist was launched. In a break from over a century of tradition, a Right-Wing-Ultra-Orthodox voting bloc attempted to seize control of the National Institutions by trying to treat this Congress in much the same way as the Israeli Knesset functions; by forming a majority coalition government.

Yet, in what I can only see as the biggest miscalculation in Zionist Congress history, this immediately forced into existence an opposition bloc.

As it was quite frantically explained during a pre-Congress party caucus, the tradition of the World Zionist Congress is to overcome the stereotypes of overly opinionated Jews by forging a “wall-to-wall” or collective bargaining agreement. In which every faction – left, right, center, religious, secular – is represented and equitably allocated officers within the National Institutions.

After successful political maneuvering by the leadership of the global Reform and Conservative (Masorti) Movements, along with unprecedented pressure from the women’s Zionist organizations (Hadassah, Na’amat, WIZO), along with their centrist and left-wing Israeli allies, this Congress was no exception to the tradition of forming “wall-to-wall” agreements. For the first time since the position was vacated by Ehud Avriel in 1972, in addition to the Chairperson, there will be a President of the World Zionist Organization. In a doubly historic move, this seat will be filled by a woman from the center-left liberal Zionist party. This appointee will serve as a goodwill ambassador of the Zionist movement to every sector of the global Jewish community.

Other key contested roles included the Deputy WZO Chairperson and Deputy Head of the Jewish Agency (JAFI) and will be filled by representatives from the Reform and Conservative (Masorti) Movements. The centrist Blue and White Party, headed by Alternate Prime Minister of Israel Benny Gantz, will fill the Keren Hayesod Chair. A position much sought after by the new Ultra-Orthodox party, Chair of the KKL/JNF Education Committee, will be shared in rotation first by this new group and followed by Blue and White.

Additionally, this new Ultra-Orthodox party sought to create a new department within the WZO specifically for “Orthodox Spiritual Services.” Not only did this attempt fail, but the new collective agreement stipulates that all WZO departments must work with all sectors of Israeli society and diaspora Jewish communities.

Beyond the politics of the slates, delegates to the World Zionist Congress were assigned to various committees focusing on specific issues. Meeting over Zoom, each committee discussed resolutions submitted prior to the Congress to be modified or amended before being put to a vote. Not surprisingly, voting took place almost entirely along party lines. However, each committee member was free and able to contribute directly in these meetings, as it served their particular interests. There were five committees in all representing the primary policy concerns of the Zionist movement. Most importantly promotion of Aliyah (immigration to Israel), Zionist education, Hebrew language and culture, diversifying voices within the Zionist movement while working toward a united Jewish People, combating anti-Semitism/anti-Zionism, and empowering the next generation of Zionist.

It is this final point that brought me to this year’s virtual Zionist congress. According to Congressional rules, at least one fourth of each slate must be 35 years old or younger. As a co-founder of the grassroots organization Masorti On Campus, I ranked as an alternate delegate to the previous World Zionist Congress in 2015. This time around I am now President of Masorti On Campus and a board member of MERCAZ USA, the Zionist arm of the American Conservative Movement, and accordingly was placed as the highest ranking “young” person on their slate.

Rhetorical questions and snide comments aside as to what any of us could, should, or would do to empower the next generation of American Jews is a column for another week. Yet, for all the talk from Congressional veterans and party elders, it was the nonpartisan American Zionist Movement (AZM) who did the most for the young adults at this year’s Congress. Beginning with a pre-Congress Zoom meetup that included a succinct rundown of what to expect from the Congress, along with what we would be missing by not meeting in person. Following the initial program we were broken up into small groups that were purposefully mixed to allow members of different slates to meet each other for the first time. This event was coincidentally held at a crucial moment as rumblings of the alleged right-wing “power grab” were already abound. My breakout group included delegates and alternates from Arza (Reform), Eretz Hakodesh (Ultra-Orthodox), Hatikvah (Progressive), Mercaz (Conservative/Masorti), Mizrachi (Modern Orthodox), and ZOA.

As a direct result of this initial AZM young delegates event, a WhatsApp group was opened allowing for candid and sometimes heated dialogue between members of different parties. In an attempt to maintain civil discourse, the AZM team arranged an optional midweek Zoom call for young delegates to meet with Herbert Block, AZM executive director, to help share more of the history of the “wall-to-wall” agreements and the processes that were taking place behind closed doors. Aside from the in-person “wall-to-wall” negotiations at the National Institutions Building in Jerusalem, and official committee meetings over Zoom, sadly, it is possible that these few conversations were the only substantive interactions between members of different parties.

I would be remiss if I did not highlight our greatest strengths. Why did we fight tooth and nail to pitch the widest tent possible? It is our variety of opinions. Disagreements can be healthy and welcome, particularly when seeking to craft resolutions with the greatest impact. However, when we are nasty and deride each other, we not only create division but foster an air of Sinat Chinam (senseless hatred) – a destructive force that has gotten us into trouble before. If I were to boil down the true essence of the Mercaz platform it would be an unquenchable thirst for pluralism. One of the frustratingly beautiful aspects of the Conservative Movement is that no two Conservative Jews could ever agree on what it means to bear that label. We struggle in a polarized world, finding an us-versus-them mentality abhorrent, and thrive on the notion that amicable agreements can be reached.

After many months of campaigning, it was these three days in October filled with passionate Zionists across every time zone, working hard to make sure their community’s interests were represented. It was extraordinary to witness. 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, the next five years will hopefully inculcate the principles of transparency, quality, and accountability much needed in our National Institutions.

Eric Leiderman (@EricLeiderman) is a Deputy Member to the Zionist General Council, Founder & Creative Head at MASORTI X, President & Co-Founder of MASORTI On Campus (@MasortiCampus), and a board member of MERCAZ USA. Eric grew up in the New York Metropolitan Area, and has spent significant time in several North American Jewish communities as well as in Israel. He currently resides in Chicago, Illinois with his fiancé.

Masorti on Campus is a project of MERCAZ USA.

 

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 Reads Israel: Diving Into the Israel Experience

In the midst of the emerging pandemic and in the wake of the World Zionist Congress election campaign, MERCAZ USA launched an online book club featuring contemporary Israeli literature that provides insight into and understanding of the lives and concerns of our Israeli counterparts: MERCAZ READS ISAREL, a partnership between MERCAZ USA, MERCAZ Canada, MERCAZ UK, and the Israel Forever Foundation.

Our first book club meeting in June was with author Avigail Graetz. Nearly 150 book club members joined Avigail on Zoom to explore and discuss her book “A Rabbi’s Daughter.” This was followed in September with our second book club meeting, where we drew an equally large audience for our dive into “If All The Seas Were Ink” with author Ilana Kurshan.

In addition to our book club discussions with authors on Zoom, individuals can join our ongoing discussion of our book selections in our book club’s Facebook group.

This winter, we will be reading ‘All The Rivers’ by acclaimed novelist Dorit Rabinyan. This work, a controversial, award-winning story about the passionate but untenable affair between an Israeli woman and a Palestinian man, was banned from classrooms by Israel’s Ministry of Education. This remarkable novel is a bold portrayal of the strains – and delights – of a forbidden relationship.

In choosing this book, MERCAZ is not endorsing its position or its politics, rather we want to expose our readers to a different Israeli perspective. This book may be a challenging read for some but exploring the complex issues of Israeli life is at the heart of our mission with MERCAZ READS ISRAEL.

Learn more about MERCAZ READS ISRAEL and watch the recordings of past book club meetings.

Join our discussion group on Facebook.

Adding An Important Ingredient for MERCAZ’s Success: Salsa

It may not be sexy. Most likely, it will not be the topic of conversation on a Zoom call before your meeting is called to order. In fact, the impact this development will have on your day to day life will probably be zero. However, MERCAZ USA is in the process of making major upgrades to its digital infrastructure: Our objective is to effectively connect with and engage more individuals and synagogues, more widely disseminate educational materials to educators, youth directors, and camp staff, and involve greater numbers of people in initiatives such as MERCAZ READS ISRAEL to promote our mission and prepare ourselves for the next World Zionist Congress election campaign in 2025.

This winter, we are streamlining multiple database systems into one complete CRM system – Salsa. Salsa will allow us to consolidate all our contact lists and make those lists easier to update and maintain. Further, we will be able to send emails and post to social media directly from Salsa (and track analytics). Donations and event registrations will also be handled through this system. In the long term, this will make our operations more efficient and effect long-term cost savings.

We are very excited by this transformation in our communication and tracking capabilities and will share more information with you as the migration process moves forward!

Inspirational Stories From Israel: Like Dreamers

As the COVID-19 pandemic drives us physically apart, inspiration is here to bring us closer together. The Jerusalem Parliament has joined forces with entrepreneurs, innovators, artists, and social activists in a series of ‘boutique’ inspirational conversations about Israel’s new society yet to be seen. Enjoy fascinating conversations, hear compelling stories, and discover the new Israel from the comfort of your home. From the heart of Israel comes a powerful variety of speakers that will share their authentic story in the development of the new vision for Israel’s society.

For more information and to register for each of these free sessions, go to:
jerusalemp.org/like-dreamers/

MERCAZ Olami, along with the World Zionist Organization, and the Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (Jewish National Fund), are partnering with The Jerusalem Parliament to bring you this series of inspirational stories from Israel.

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.”