We write to you today about a critical election that is about to take place that greatly affects Israel. No, not the upcoming election for Prime Minister in Israel. This particular election is one in which you can have voice and influence the course of Israel’s development and growth whether you are an Israeli citizen or not. This election is for the World Zionist Congress.
In 1897, Theorod Herzl organized the first World Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland and it had been convened regularly ever since. Every five years the World Zionist Congress elects officers and decides on the policies of theWorld Zionist Organization. Most importantly, the World Zionist Congress allocates money through the Jewish National Fund and the Jewish Agency and not just a little money—a lot of money! Your vote in the World Zionist Congress election impacts the allocation of over $12,500,000.
Today, we are personally asking you to support the MERCAZ slate in the current World Zionist Congress Election.
What is MERCAZ?
MERCAZ is the Zionist arm of Conservative Judaism around the world and the body through which we gain representation in the World Zionist Organization, the Jewish Agency and the Jewish National Fund. That representation translates directly into more than $2,500,000 annually in allocations, program subsidies and services. These resources support Masorti institutions in Israel (such as the Schechter Institute, TALI schools, Masorti congregations and Kibbutz Hannaton) and represent a significant part of Masorti Olami’s annual budget to assist Masorti congregations in South America, Europe, Australia and elsewhere. In addition, these funds support American Conservative Movement programs, such as USY’s NATIV and Pilgrimage, Ramah Seminar and the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem. A partnership of Conservative –Masorti organizations are working together on this campaign on behalf of Conservative Judaism. For more information go to votemercaz.org.
The MERCAZ Platform Promotes
- Religious Pluralism and Religious Freedom
A vote for MERCAZ is a vote for official recognition in Israel of all the major streams of Judaism along with the right of their rabbis to officiate in regard to all issues of personal status, breaking the stranglehold of the ultra-Orthodox Chief Rabbinate on such matters as marriage, conversion, divorce and burial.
- Ties between Israel and Jews around the world
A vote for MERCAZ is a vote for strengthening the bonds that bind our people everywhere, particularly through Hebrew, Jewish and Israel education and promoting opportunities for Israel travel and aliyah.
- Peace and Security
A vote for MERCAZ is a vote for keeping Israel safe, promoting advocacy on its behalf, advancing a two-state solution to our conflict with the Palestinians, combatting anti-Semitism, and countering campaigns to delegitimize the very idea of a Jewish state.
- Environmental Progress
A vote for MERCAZ is a vote for strengthening ecologically sound “green” policies, particularly through the active participation of MERCAZ leadership in the governing boards of the Jewish National Fund in the United States and Israel.
- Support for Conservative/Masorti Judaism in Israel
A vote for MERCAZ is a vote for strengthening the institutions of Conservative/Masorti Judaism and those of other non-Orthodox streams in Israel, and fashioning it as a society that reflects our Judaism. The State of Israel directly supports the Orthodox community in Israel by paying for its synagogues, rabbis, yeshivas and much more. Other movements, including our own, do not benefit from these funds. A vote for MERCAZ is a tangible way for you to say Israel is for ALL Jews, and that things need to change.
- A contemporary Zionist agenda
A vote for MERCAZ is a vote for a 21st century Zionism that takes pride in all that has been achieved by those who have come before us, while recognizing the many challenges that lay ahead for a next generation that is ready to embrace them.
Why is this election important?
The American delegation to the Congress is the largest delegation from outside of Israel, with 145 delegates. The decisions of the Congress influence hundreds of millions of dollars in funding. The Conservative movement currently receives more than US$2,500,000 million each year. Because the election is held every 5 years, the results of the election could impact over US$12,500,000 million for Conservative/Masorti institutions in Israel and the United States. In addition, the Congress will help determine the leadership of the major global Jewish organizations, budgetary decisions, and policy in Israel and worldwide.
How do you vote?
To vote on line, go to votemercaz.org and click on the vote now button, through April 30, 2015. The cost is $10.00 (charged by the American Zionist Movement to cover the cost of the election system); $5.00 for voters age 18-30. You can also apply for a paper registration and ballot.
If you value a Jewish pluralism in Israel, stronger ties between Israel and Jews around the world, an ecologically oriented Israel, and a secure Israel we hope that you will join us in supporting the MERCAZ ticket to strengthen the voice of the Masorti/Conservative movement in the World Zionist Congress. VOTE TODAY!
Rabbi Philip Ohriner
Rabbi Leslie Alexander