Fall 2014

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MERCAZ USA Newsletter — Fall 2014

Teens Explore Women in Zionist Leadership

One of the key goals of Zionism was to bring about a revolution in Jewish life and identity. As imagined by those who participated in the early waves of aliyah during the first quarter of the 20th century, the ideal “New Jew” was the productive individual rooted in the Land of Israel, working the land and contributing to the country and nation. But did this ideal include both Jewish women and Jewish men or was it limited to male Jews? Or, in other words, was Golda Meir, Israel’s first, and only, woman prime minister the exception or the rule? This was the question underlying this year’s MERCAZ USA-Canada/Women’s League Essay Contest.

The theme of this year’s competition, chosen to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the ordination of women as Conservative rabbis, was “Women in Zionism: Past and Present.” The topic asked high school students either to take two Jewish women, with at least one living and working in Israel today, to compare and contrast regarding the challenges that they faced in their advancement towards leadership or to analyze the difficulties facing Jewish women in Israel vis-a-vis religious status and leadership.

A record number of entries, nearly 30, were received by the MERCAZ USA and MERCAZ-Canada offices. And after two rounds of judging, five prize winning essays were selected, including four from the United States and one from Canada, to receive scholarships for use on Conservative Movement-affiliated trips to Israel.

Jackie Brenner from Congregation Ohev Shalom in Maitland, FL, and Jesse Gorman from Pride of Israel in Toronto, ON, are the fourth prize winners. They are both receiving a $250 scholarship.

Enjoying a $400 award of third prize winner is Aliza Sherman, from Congregation B’nai Israel in Millburn, NJ, while a $600 award is going to second prize winner Maayan Amiran, of Melville, NY, whose family belongs to the South Huntington Jewish Center.

The top prize of a $1,000 scholarship is going to Shari Boiskin, a ninth grader who goes to Cherry Hill High School East in Cherry Hill, NJ. Shari’s family belongs to Temple Beth Shalom, and she is planning to use her award to attend the Tichon Ramah Yerushalayim (TRY) high school semester in Israel.

Shari’s essay focused on the lives of two Zionist leaders, Emma Lazarus, the 19th century American Jewish poet, and Michal Modai who, prior to her death in 2012, served for a quarter-century as a leader and president of the Women’s International Zionist Organization (WIZO). As Shari noted, Modai established in 1983 Israel’s first shelter for abused women and also worked on building and expanding WIZO’s youth villages: “Modai spoke up for those who could not speak up for themselves . . . Her mitzvot continue to inspire others, like me, to take part in social justice actions today.”

As MERCAZ President Janet Tobin said, “We are proud to have helped shine a light, through this year’s essay contest, on the importance of Jewish women in the Zionist Movement and in the creation and development of the State of Israel. In recognition, the World Zionist Organization, in which Michal Modai served as a leader and role model for many years, has now mandated that one-third of all delegates to the 2015 World Zionist Congress must be women, and we in MERCAZ are confident that we will have no problem fulfilling this commitment.







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