Fall 2000

MERCAZ USA Newsletter — Fall 2000

MERCAZ Backs WZO Decision On Youth Representation

Meetings Marred By Arson Attack In Ramot

Guaranteeing the future of the Zionist Movement, MERCAZ USA delegates to the World Zionist Organization's annual Zionist General Council (Vaad HaPoel) voted unanimously to require full representation from the "Young Generation", ages 18-30, at all future functions. The constitutional change setting aside 25% of all mandates to young people will go into effect starting with the 34th World Zionist Congress scheduled for June 2002.

"As we begin the new century" remarked Evelyn Seelig, MERCAZ President, "It behooves us to empower a new generation of Zionist leadership who will carry forward the message of Zionism and adapt it to the needs of today's and tomorrow's Jewish world. Young people cannot be forced to wait until there is a free seat at the table for them. We, who have been sitting here, have to make room for them now to bring them in. MERCAZ, with its sponsorship of the Conservative Movement's Student Zionist alliance, Marom/Koach, is already well under way towards fulfilling this requirement."

Marom/Koach is the North American affiliate of Marom, the international movement for Masorti/Conservative students and youth adults. Founded in Israel, with chapters in Europe and South America, Marom was established in the United States two years ago by Hezi Nir, the Shaliach to the Conservative Movement, who recently completed his third and final year of service.

The impact of this decision will be seen immediately in the character of the slates of candidates that will be presented in the Zionist elections for the next Zionist Congress. Whereas in the past, the Conservative Movement's slate was liberally sprinkled with past organizational presidents and retired rabbis chosen for name recognition, the new slate will see one out of every four places set aside for youth representatives, such as Marom/Koach activists, students at the Jewish Theological Seminary and University of Judaism and graduates of the NATIV program.

Beclouding the annual meetings of the World Zionist Organization's General Council and Jewish Agency's Assembly was the arson attack against the Masorti congregation in the Jerusalem suburb of Ramot. On the Saturday night between the two sets of meetings, vandals threw burning rags through broken windows into the synagogue's sanctuary. While the ark with its Torah scrolls was spared, prayer books and chairs in the Yaar Ramot congregation were burned and damaged occurred to the ceiling and heating/air-conditioning system.

The violence against Kehillat Yaar Ramot produced immediate denunciations from Prime Minister Ehud Barak, Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi Israel Lau and numerous other Israeli political and religious leaders. The Knesset held a special session on violence to non-Orthodox institutions, while the Jewish Agency's Chairman Sallai Meridor, whose daughter had celebrated her Bat Mitzvah at Yaar Ramot, convened the Agency's Committee on the Unity of the Jewish People at the synagogue with the acrid smell of smoldering fire still present. Three Orthodox men were arrested several weeks later on suspicion of being involved in the arson attack.

As Avraham Burg, Speaker of the Knesset, noted, "The attack against one of our synagogues is perhaps the clearest indication that the Masorti Movement is no longer a peripheral 'Anglo-Saxon' import but is becoming an important indigenous succeeding Israeli movement." "Despite cutbacks in other areas, the decision of the Jewish Agency to continue the 'stream' funding at the present $5 million level, with nearly $2 million going to the institutions of the Masorti Movement, is indicative of Masorti's importance in the lives of Israelis," added Evelyn Seelig.


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