November 2014 Mercaz USA Fall E-letter Heshvan 5775 

WELCOME to the new MERCAZ USA E-letter being sent to MERCAZ members and supporters. Information to Unsubscribe is available below.

MERCAZ USA is the Zionist membership organization of the Conservative Movement, the voice of Conservative Jewry within the World Zionist Organization, the Jewish Agency for Israel, the American Zionist Movement and the Jewish National Fund to support religious pluralism in Israel and strengthen the connection between Israel and the Diaspora. Click here to see the MERCAZ Mission Statement. Click here to (re)join for the current 2014-2015 fiscal year.

NEWS

SYNAGOGUE TRIPS TO ISRAEL
Looking to join an organized trip to Israel? Click here for a list of upcoming Conservative Movement synagogue trips for 2015.

SCHECHTER CELEBRATES 30!
With the start of the current academic year, the Schechter Institute will be celebrating 30 years of sharing pluralistic Jewish education with all Israel. Join Schechter's friends and supporters in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, June 8-14, 2015 to celebrate this milestone together. Visit the website at http://www.schechter.edu/.

MASORTI OLAMI'S TRIBUTE EVENT
Masorti Olami is celebrating its annual "Evening of Solidarity and Celebration" at the Park Avenue Synagogue on Sunday, November 16th. This year's honorees include Rabbi Gerald Skolnik, immediate Past President of the Rabbinical Assembly and Vice-President of MERCAZ USA, Cantor Randy Herman from Congregation Bet Torah and Adam Schonberger, Director of MAROM Budapest (http://masortiolami.org/). Visit the website at www.masortiolami.org.

CONSERVATIVE YESHIVA's NEW COLLEGE STUDENT WINTER BREAK PROGRAM
Are you looking for a way to access Judaism for yourself? Come "taste and see" at the new Fuchsberg Jerusalem Center's winter break program "Ta'amu U'r'u" running December 21, 2014 to January 4, 2015, at the Conservative Yeshiva. For just $400, which includes airfare, housing, learning, two Shabbatot and more, you can have an experience of a lifetime. Application deadline is November 19th. Visit the website at http://www.conservativeyeshiva.org/winter-break-college-students.

SKILLED VOLUNTEERS' DECEMBER “JERUSALEM ENCOUNTER”
Have you done the mission trip, the family trip and the bar mitzvah trip? Get to know Israel from the inside. Join Skilled Volunteers for Israel's Jerusalem Volunteer Encounter, December 3-23, 2014. Spend 3 weeks in Israel that include an individualized volunteer placement, day tours focused on social justice themes, cultural events, hotel bed and breakfast and more. Visit the website at http://skillvolunteerisrael.org/opportunities/jve/.

KIBBUTZ HANNATON OPENS NEW GAP YEAR PROGRAM
Kibbutz Hannaton, the first and only kibbutz affiliated with the Masorti movement, has announced the opening of Mitzpeh BaGalil, a new gap year program for North American high school graduates scheduled to begin in September 2015. The educational mission of Mitzpeh BaGalil is to create a meaningful lifelong bond between Diaspora teens and Israel by actively creating "community" between US and Israeli teens within a pluralistic Jewish environment. The Israeli teens on the program are members of the very successful pre-army Mechina program at Kibbutz Hannaton.

The core values of the new program are Jewish learning, pluralistic religious expression, developing Jewish leadership, community service and "yedi'at ha-aretz", a familiarity with the Land of Israel. For more information, contact Rabbi Shawn Simon, Coordinator for Mitzpeh BaGalil, ravshawn@echannaton.org.

UGANDAN CONVERTS FORCED TO CANCEL STUDY PLANS DUE TO VISA BLOCK
A group of Jews from the Ugandan Abuyudaya community who had been invited to study this fall at the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem was forced to cancel its plans because of questions raised by the Israeli government about the legitimacy of non-Orthodox conversions performed abroad. The group of about 20 members of the community, which had undergone conversion to Judaism under the auspices of the Conservative Movement back in 2002, had planned to spend a year studying in Israel as part of MAROM Olami, the world organization of Conservative/Masorti young adults.

However, while students applying to degree-conferring institutions, such as universities, do not need to prove that they are Jewish in order to receive their student status, only Jews are eligible for the special student visas required for participation in programs offered by non-degree programs, such as yeshivot. Since the Abuyudaya, who do not claim to have any historic Jewish roots, underwent Conservative conversions, the Interior Ministry is balking at granting the visas, fearing that the act would lend full legitimacy to all non-Orthodox conversions and would allow such converts, once in Israel, the right to stay in the country and make Aliyah under the Law of Return. For more information on the fight of the Abuyudaya or of other "Jews of color" on whose behalf the Masorti Movement in Israel has been battling, contact Rabbi Andrew Sacks, Director of the Rabbinical Assembly in Israel, raisrael@masorti.org.il.

FEATURE STORY

SUPPORT FOR MERCAZ OLAMI ELECTORAL CAMPAIGNS

As we prepare ourselves for the 37th World Zionist Congress, we should note that over the course of the past year, the following resolution of support for the MERCAZ Electoral Campaign for the Zionist Congress was passed at several national Conservative Movement conventions. As we count down the days to the start of the Zionist elections here in the United States, scheduled to begin in mid-January, reviewing this resolution will help us understand what is at stake for MERCAZ and the worldwide Conservative/Masorti Movement in this campaign.

RESOLUTION IN SUPPORT OF MERCAZ OLAMI ELECTORAL CAMPAIGNS

WHEREAS the worldwide Conservative/Masorti movement is represented in the World Zionist Organization and Jewish Agency for Israel by MERCAZ Olami; and

WHEREAS the participation in the World Zionist Organization and Jewish Agency has produced since 1987 an annual allocation to the programs and institutions of Conservative/Masorti Judaism in Israel which today reaches more than $1 million in direct funding and a similar amount in program grants for the Conservative/Masorti movement throughout the Diaspora including Europe, South America and the former Soviet Union; and

WHEREAS policies and allocations in the World Zionist Organization, Jewish Agency and Keren Kayemet Le'Yisrael are determined by the size of elected delegations to the World Zionist Congress; and

WHEREAS the 37th World Zionist Congress with its 500 elected delegates will be taking place in October 2015, preceded in every Diaspora country by special Zionist elections to determine the composition of the national delegation; and

WHEREAS there are MERCAZ branches throughout the world, including Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, England, France, Hungary, Mexico, Uruguay and the United States, which will be competing in local Zionist Congress elections taking place over the next 12 months.

AND WHEREAS the Zionist elections in the United States will determine the composition of the American delegation of 145 mandates, the largest group at the Zionist Congress after that from Israel,

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the affiliated arms of the Conservative Movement call upon its members to support actively the MERCAZ electoral campaign in their respective countries by joining MERCAZ as members themselves, by encouraging others to join MERCAZ and by voting for the MERCAZ slate in order to increase the power and influence of the Conservative Movement in the World Zionist Organization and Jewish Agency; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that in countries like the United States, where a special registration will be a prerequisite to voting in the Zionist elections, the Conservative Movement strongly encourages voter registration drives in every Conservative institution and pledges to work with the other arms of the Conservative Movement to insure maximum voter participation.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this resolution be sent to the other institutions and organizations of the Conservative/Masorti Movement encouraging them to join us in this endeavor.