What is MERCAZ USA?
MERCAZ USA is the American Zionist Organization of the Conservative Movement. It promotes and supports Zionist education and programs within our Movement, and it represents the interest of Conservative/ Masorti Judaism in the World Zionist Organization and in the Jewish Agency for Israel, the international bodies which serve as the parliament of the Jewish people. Click here to read our Mission Statement.
What Does “MERCAZ” Mean?
MERCAZ is the Hebrew word for “center”. It is a particularly appropriate name for two reasons:
- Zionism is central to Conservative Judaism.
- Conservative/Masorti Judaism can play a central role in enhancing the quality of religious life in Israel, which is currently resented and rejected by a large part of Israeli society. Masorti Judaism offers meaningful religious alternatives which, until recently, were missing from the landscape of Israeli life.
What is the Difference Between MERCAZ, MASORTI, and The Foundation for Masorti Judaism?
MERCAZ is the Zionist Organization that serves the interests of the Conservative/Masorti Movement around the world. It is the Zionist conscience of our Movement and the guarantor for proper recognition and funding for Conservative/Masorti programs and institutions around the world. Among other things, MERCAZ is the advocate and the force which guarantees religious stream funding that is so vital to our Movement.
MASORTI is the name of the Conservative Movement in Israel. It is derived from a Hebrew word that means “tradition”, and represents a modern and non-coercive approach to traditional Jewish life.
The Foundation For Masorti Judaism In Israel is the organization responsible for raising funds to help support the Masorti Movement, its congregations, youth and camping programs, absorption projects, Kibbutz Hannaton and other social, legal, and religious efforts.
Why Do We Need a Conservative Movement Zionist Organization?
Our Movement needs a Zionist organization for two reasons: For what we must do for Israel and for what we must do in the United States.
In Israel: Unlike other religious movements, the Conservative Movement, from its inception, embraced Zionism and the centrality of Israel in Jewish life. Perhaps that is why we did not originally feel the need for a separate Zionist organization. However, as the Modern State of Israel developed, the very powerful Religious Affairs Ministry did not sanction Conservative/Masorti Judaism, and disqualified its institutions from recognition, authority, and funding. In order to help these institutions enrich the lives of those Israelis who have been disenfranchised and alienated by the “religion of the state”, it became necessary to create a new entity that would represent the interests of Conservative/Masorti Judaism and allow it to make its unique contribution to the quality of religious life in Israel.
In the United States: MERCAZ must serve as the Zionist conscience and Zionist resource for all arms of our Movement. Since the Conservative Movement believes that Israel and Zionism are essential components in Jewish life, we maintain an organization whose mission is the promotion of Zionist education and activities, Israel programs for youth and adults, and aliyah.
What are the Goals of MERCAZ?
MERCAZ is committed to bringing Conservative Jews closer to Zionism and to Israel, helping to promote Conservative/Masorti Judaism in Israel, and working with the constituent arms of our Movement to achieve the following goals:
- Creating and disseminating Zionist educational materials, promoting the study of the Hebrew language, and raising the Zionist consciousness of Conservative Jews.
- Increasing Zionist activities and promoting short-term and along-term programs to Israel for youth and adults.
- Promoting and encouraging Aliyah to Israel.
- Representing the interests of the Conservative/Masorti Movement in the World Zionist Organization and in the Jewish Agency for Israel, where we serve as a voice and a force for guaranteeing religious stream funding.
- Promoting Conservative/Masorti Judaism and religious pluralism in Israel.
Why Do We Need a Voice and a Presence in the World Zionist Organization?
The only religious institutions which have been recognized and funded by the Israeli government are Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox inistitutions. And so, the only alternate source for recognition, funding, and support for our Conservative/Masorti synagogues, schools, youth programs, rabbis, teachers, and mohalim, was and is, the World Zionist Organization. Since representation in the World Zionist Organization is based upon the number of members in each organization, it is critical that MERCAZ continue to increase its membership to assure itself a significant representation in the World Zionist Organization, and significant allocations and funding from that body.
The World Zionist Congress is akin to the Convention for the Parliament of World Jewry. Every 4-5 years, the World Zionist Organization holds its international Congress at which elections are held and Department appointments are made. Based on the strength of its membership, MERCAZ is allocated its number of voting delegates and positions of authority within the World Zionist Organization. From one Congress to the next, those Delegates and Department Heads determine the status, funding, and programs granted to our Conservative/Masorti Movement in Israel, and around the world.
How Does a Strong MERCAZ Benefit Israel?
Only with more programs and resources can the Conservative/Masorti Movement touch and inspire the lives of so many Israelis who are indifferent to or alienated from their Jewish heritage. Masorti Judaism can play a meaningful role in bringing Israelis closer to their tradition and their sources. MERCAZ is an advocate for Masorti institutions and individuals in all of their efforts, projects, and campaigns. It is the voice and force that promotes proper funding for Teacher training and innovative religious programming in Israel, as well as teacher and counselor training for programs and camps in the former Soviet Union.
MERCAZ utilizes its position to promote the rights of Conservative/Masorti individuals and institutions, among them: Rabbis, mohalim, synagogues, youth programs, schools, camps, candidates for conversion, none of whom are currently recognized or funded by the government.
How Does a Strong MERCAZ Benefit Our Movement in the United States?
MERCAZ USA works closely with the other arms of the Conservative Movement to bring Zionist education and Israel programs to Congregations, Sisterhoods, Men’s Clubs, Rabbinical groups, Seminary students, Day School and Hebrew School students, Camping and Youth groups. MERCAZ encourages and promotes programs such as USY Pilgrimage, Ramah Seminar, Nativ, Summer Semester in Israel, Tnuat Aliyah Masortit, and various leadership missions to Israel. MERCAZ USA represents our Movement in the American Zionist Movement, the federation of Zionist organizations in the United States.
Is MERCAZ a Political Organization?
If you mean: Do we tell the Israeli government how much to spend — NO, we are not political.
If you mean: Do we encourage the Israeli government to recognize all Jewish religious streams, do we pressure the World Zionist Organization to give our programs and institutions a fair share of funding and opportunity — then YES, we have a political as well as ideological mission.
If I Already Belong to a Zionist Organization, Should I Still Join MERCAZ?
Absolutely! There are many worthy Zionist organizations that do fine work. But only MERCAZ has as its dual purpose the promotion of religious pluralism in Israel and the protection of Conservative/ Masorti Judaism in Israel and throughout the world. If these are important issues for you, you must join MERCAZ annually, and you should identify as a proud MERCAZ member. Click here for our secure online membership page.
I Already Contribute to Masorti Institutions in Israel. Do I Need to Join MERCAZ Also?
Yes! Continue to contribute to those institutions. But join MERCAZ as well. Only by joining MERCAZ do you work for the recognition and welfare of the entire Movement, and only as a MERCAZ member can you make a difference in the deliberations and decisions of the World Zionist Organization, and World Zionist Congress. Click here for our secure online membership page.
Can You Tell Me Briefly Why I Should Join?
Membership in MERCAZ USA is the only way you can:
- Have a Conservative voice and vote in the World Zionist Organization, where decisions critical to Israel and Diaspora are made.
- Identify with the Conservative/Masorti Movement’s efforts to enhance the quality of Jewish life in Israel.
- Bring Conservative Jews closer to Zionism and to Israel.
- Increase Zionist activity, Israel programs, and Aliyah, within the Conservative Movement.
- Click here for our secure online membership page.