Summer 2000

MERCAZ USA Newsletter — Summer 2000

Course for New Century Set at MERCAZ General Council

Challenged to help shape "The Jewish Character of the Jewish State", the MERCAZ USA General Council, meeting on Sunday, March 26th, set the course for Conservative Zionism for the new century and installed the leadership, headed by President Evelyn Seelig, who will take the organization to the next World Zionist Congress in 2002.

Chaired by Evelyn Auerbach, the General Council provided an opportunity to look back to the past in order to prepare for the future. As Evelyn Seelig noted in her vision for the future, "MERCAZ USA . . . must awaken all Conservative Jews to the changing Zionist world . . . [where we have] a responsibility to the rest of the Jewish world and especially to our burgeoning Masorti Movement everywhere." [See "From My Vantage Point" column for the full text of Evelyn Seelig's remarks].

The idea that Conservative Zionism has a role in the future was conveyed repeatedly during the meeting. It was enunciated in the Dvar Torah offered by Ezra Wanetik, who is one of more than a half dozen student leaders of Marom/Koach, the North American student Zionist association, elected as first-time members of the MERCAZ Board of Directors.

Keynote speaker Rabbi Ehud Bandel, President of the Masorti Movement of Israel, also pointed out the important role still ahead. He called on Diaspora Zionists to help shape a more humane, more pluralistic and more open Jewish society. If the first 100 years of Zionism were devoted to creating the physical reality of the Jewish State, with the peace process moving forward, the task for the next century was just as important - to shape Israel's spiritual reality. This meant, as he noted, addressing the status of the non-Jew, bridging the growing gaps between the "have's" and "have not's", and grounding the Jewish character of Israel on education, not coercion.

In addition to Evelyn Seelig who was installed for a second term as president by Rabbi Michael Greenbaum, Vice-Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary, the following leaders were elected for the 2000-2002 term: Vice Presidents - Renee Glazier, Sidney Katz, Dr. Saul Shapiro and Rabbi Alan Silverstein, together with Leonard Gimbel, Rabbi Vernon Kurtz, Janet Tobin and Stephen Wolnek; Treasurer - Robert Levine; and Secretary - Richard Skolnik.

While looking ahead, the General Council also gave a moment to reflect on the past. Given that MERCAZ USA was established in November 1979, at a founding conference held at the Jewish Theological Seminary, this was the opportunity to celebrate the organization's 20th anniversary. Rabbi Joseph Wernik, Head of the Department of Zionist Activities in the World Zionist Organization, paid tribute to the four men and one woman ÑRabbi Stanley Rabinowitz, Si Schwartz, Goldie Kweller z'l, Rabbi Matthew Simon and Roy ClementsÑwho served as MERCAZ presidents, during the first twenty years. Each leader was presented with a framed Mizrach poster.

The General Council is the biennial general membership meeting for the Conservative Movement's Zionist organization. This year's gathering, which took place at Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel in Philadelphia, was planned to maximize participation, with the MERCAZ event being held in coordination with the annual convention of the Rabbinical Assembly and the quarterly Board meeting of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.


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