MERCAZ USA Newsletter — Fall 2010
Mercaz Celebrates Success at Zionist Congress
Four years in the making, the MERCAZ USA delegation arrived this past June for the 36th World Zionist Congress. And when, after five days of intensive meetings, the Congress ended, the Conservative Movement leaders in attendance could depart with the satisfaction in knowing that they had succeeded in bringing significant benefits for the growth of Conservative/Masorti Judaism in Israel and around the world.
The first achievement was in fielding a Conservative/Masorti delegation that was the largest ever recorded. From the United States and across the world, 59 MERCAZ Olami delegates, 15 Masorti Olami delegates and 20 or so alternate delegates and observers were assembled, a Conservative Zionist party commanding more than 11% of the elected Congress mandates. And with our partners from Kadima-HaNoar HaZioni, we represented the second largest faction, behind the combined Arzeinu (Reform)/Labor/Meretz faction but ahead of the Mizrachi/Yisrael Beitenu and Likud/Shas groupings.
The Congress festivities started off with 1 ½ days of preliminary MERCAZ orientation meetings so that those arriving from around the world could get to know one another and review the dozens of resolutions being proposed. During this first part, we also had site visits to Masorti institutions in Jerusalem and held a dinner to honor Rabbi Vernon Kurtz on the completion of his term as MERCAZ Olami president.
It was also during this time that the serious political negotiations in the proverbial smoke-filled rooms took place. The MERCAZ/Masorti representatives, including Dr. Stephen Wolnek, Dr. David Breakstone, Alan Silberman, Rabbi Vernon Kurtz and Rabbi Tzvi Graetz negotiated through the night on more than one occasion to secure the positions and budgets for the benefit of the worldwide Conservative Movement.
Among the successes, we could count:
1. Election of the first Conservative/Masorti leader to a top leadership role in the World Zionist Organization, with Dr. David Breakstone's election as the Deputy Chairman of the WZO. Together with the election of Avraham Duvdevani (Orthodox) as WZO Chairman, this marks the first time that both of the two top positions at the WZO have gone to individuals from the religious streams rather than from the Israeli political parties.
2. An increase in the allocation for religious services to the non-Orthodox, from $750,000 to $1 million annually, to be split between the Masorti and Reform Movements, for use in countries outside of North America and Israel. This funding will be administered under the direct control of the Deputy Chairman.
3. The creation, together with our colleagues in the Arzeinu/Labor/Meretz faction, of a center-left majority for religious pluralism with more than 60% of the delegates vs 40% to the rightwing Orthodox coalition. This 60% automatic majority succeeded in:
Commenting upon his return from Jerusalem, Dr. Stephen Wolnek, President of MERCAZ USA and newly elected President of MERCAZ Olami, said, "We did a yeoman's job at the Zionist Congress and now starts the preparation for the next Congress four years from now."
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