May 2007

Hag Shavuot Sameah

Sivan 5767

WELCOME to the new MERCAZ USA E-Letter being sent to MERCAZ members and supporters from the 2006 World Zionist Congress elections. 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 (re)join for the new 2007-2008 fiscal year. For questions about membership, contact the MERCAZ office: 212-533-2061 or



Looking to join an organized trip to Israel? Click here for a list of upcoming Conservative Movement synagogue trips for 2007.

Over the past five years, the southern community of Sderot has lived under an unyielding barrage of Qassam rocket fire from the Gaza Strip. Hundreds of missiles have struck its homes and businesses, destroying lives and completely robbing families of any sense of normalcy in this once placid southern Israeli town.

The children of Sderot have suffered in particular. They cannot even go outdoors to play. This constant tension has led to post-traumatic stress, trauma, and other long-term problems.

MERCAZ has now joined with the American Zionist Movement to bring the children of Sderot a special reprieve in the form of a "Yom Kef," or Fun Day. Families will travel to Jerusalem, see the Knesset, visit museums and picnic in tranquility. Beneficiaries will include many single-parent families, new immigrants and Ethiopians — many of whom have never before seen Israel's capital.

MERCAZ has pledged to sponsor at least one bus ($1800) for this important project and, with your help, we can do even more to bring a little "ora" and "simcha" to the families of Sderot.

Click here to help support this special effort organized by MERCAZ and the American Zionist Movement.

. . . to Professor Alice Shalvi for receiving the prestigious Israel Prize during recent Yom HaAtzmaut ceremonies in Jerusalem. Prof. Shalvi, who established Schechter's Center for Women in Jewish Law and the Center for Judaism and the Arts, served as the Schechter Institute's academic rector (1997-2000) and president (1999-2000) and now sits on both the rabbinical and graduate school boards. She was cited for her lifetime achievement and special contribution to society and the State of Israel. In addition, Ada Karmi-Melamede, architect of Israel's Supreme Court building who has designed the new Schechter Institute campus in Jerusalem, was honored with an Israel Prize.

A documentary on Michael Levin z"l, the young oleh from the Philadelphia area who was the only American-born soldier to be killed in last summer's war in Lebanon, has aired on Israeli television. Entitled "A Hero In Heaven", the documentary is a heartbreaking and inspiring portrait of a young man, a graduate of the Conservative Movement's USY and Camp Ramah programs, who fell in love with Israel as a teenager and dedicated his life to making aliyah and serving in the Israeli army. For more information or to obtain a free copy of the film and study guide, contact Harriet Levin c/o the Michael Levin Memorial Fund for Israel at

In order to dramatically increase the number of participants on long-term Israel programs, all participants in MASA-affiliated programs, effective Fall 2007, will be eligible to receive new MASA universal grants. The grants run between $2,000 and $4,500, depending on the age of the participant and the length of the program. Additional needs-based scholarships will also be available. Conservative Movement MASA programs include USY's NATIV program for post-high school youth and the Conservative Yeshiva for post-college students. For more information about the new MASA grants, visit

MERCAZ has joined with the leadership of 20 Diaspora Jewish communities and 66 organizations in an International Rights and Redress Campaign whose goals are: 1) To conduct public education programs on the heritage and rights of Jewish refugees from Arab countries; and 2) To register family histories, and catalogue losses, suffered by Jews that fled from Arab countries. This campaign is supported by the Government of Israel. At you can download copies of various guidebooks, which will allow Jewish groups to participate in this important international Jewish communal effort. They include tools to help with dealing with the media, making representations to government officials or for running synagogue programs. For further information, contact Shelomo Alfassa at 917-606-8262 or via



The environment has found a strong voice at the Keren Kayemet L'Yisrael (KKL-JNF Israel), through the MERCAZ-Green Zionist Alliance partnership at last year's 35th World Zionist Congress.

Working together, MERCAZ and the GZA, passed a series of broad reaching environmental resolutions directing policy at the KKL and World Zionist Organization (WZO), and appointed three leading Israeli environmentalists to fill key leadership roles on the KKL board.

Dr. Alon Tal, recipient of the 2006 Charles Bronfman Prize and co-founder of numerous Israeli environmental organizations including the Israel Union for Environmental Defense and the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, now serves as Co-Chairperson of the KKL Land Development Committee. This committee, which is in charge of an annual budget of 380 million shekels, oversees such programs as forestry activities, river restoration, reservoir projects and development activities.

Dr. Eilon Schwartz, Executive Director of the Heschel Center for Environmental Learning and Leadership, will rotate into the position of Chairperson of the Education Committee in a year and a half. In this capacity he will be able to redefine KKL's educational program and influence programming at 24-affiliated JNF offices around the world.

Orr Karassin, a leading environmental attorney and a doctoral candidate at Bar Ilan University, will serve as Chairperson of the Sustainable Development Subcommittee, to review the policies and practices of the KKL.

In addition to these three positions, the Green Zionist Alliance and MERCAZ passed a series of environmental resolutions directing policy for KKL and other Zionist organizations.

The first resolution will make Sustainable Development a stronger objective of JNF/KKL projects and direct millions of shekels to environmental restoration and education projects.

The second resolution will lead to the creation of environmental impact statements for World Zionist Organization (WZO) and KKL projects. The third resolution requires the use of recycled paper in all World Zionist Organization offices. This latter decision should lead to the production of office-recycled paper in Israel for the first time in Israel's history.

"Putting sustainable environment on the map of the KKL, in terms of policies and leadership positions, is a remarkable achievement, and thanks should go to the thousands of people who voted for the Green Zionist Alliance or MERCAZ USA in last year's World Zionist Congress elections" said Rabbi Michael Cohen, GZA Co-Founder. "We now look to furthering our partnership with MERCAZ on educational programs here in the United States.

For more information about the Green Zionist Alliance, contact Noam Dolgin, Chairperson, Green Zionist Alliance (917) 434-7859,,


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