Summer 2003

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MERCAZ USA Newsletter — Summer 2003

From The President's Desk

As I write this note, I am back but two weeks from a quick Mission to Israel sponsored by a number of Zionist organizations, which landed at Ben Gurion Airport a week after the first American bombs hit Baghdad. I lost two nights of sleep in order to spend fifty-five hours on the ground. The purpose of the Mission, which brought thirty-five people to Israel, was to show solidarity with our brothers and sisters in that initial period of insecurity for Israelis as the war in Iraq began to heat up.

While we were given gas masks as soon as we boarded our buses, we felt quite secure. Life goes on in Israel even under the most extraordinary of circumstances and, despite our time limitations and an unusual mid-March Jerusalem snowstorm, we were able to conduct meetings with Amram Mitzna,the Chairman of the Labor Party, Benny Elon, the Minister of Tourism, Uri Lupoliansky, the new Mayor of Jerusalem, and Tzachi Hanegbi, the Minister of Internal Security, among others.

It is always good to be in Israel, and I encourage you to make plans to visit as soon as possible. MERCAZ USA helps to facilitate tourism by serving as a clearinghouse for synagogue trips. If your community is not visiting Israel over the next six months, I urge you to consider traveling with one of the trips listed herein. Israelis need not only our dollars but also our bodies to know that we are with them.

As the advocate for Zionism and Israel within our Movement, MERCAZ is involved in a number of projects that support Israel and, in particular, the status of our Movement there. First of all, we have a commitment to continue the joint MERCAZ-USCJ Team Israel Education Missions that are bringing back Israel programs to our congregations and institutions in the Diaspora. Additionally, our work at the Jewish Agency on behalf of the safety and security of the citizens of Israel and the continued funding of the programs of the Masorti Movement, Schechter Institute, Fuchsberg Center and Conservative Yeshiva is ongoing.

Moreover, we are carrying on the work of promoting Aliyah as part of the agenda of the Conservative Movement. In early June, we will be devoting a full day to the issue of the place of Zionism and Israel within Conservative Judaism. The impetus for this seminar came from our Shlicha Karni Goldshmid-Lahav, who has done a wonderful job of speaking out for Israel over the past 2 1/2 years. We wish her "kol tuv" in all her future endeavors as she completes her shlichut this summer and returns to Israel.

Along with the other members of the Leadership Council of Conservative Judaism, MERCAZ is currently actively involved in attempting to raise money for the Masorti Movement. I hope that you will respond generously to the fundraising letter that you have received. At the same time we must insure that the membership of MERCAZ USA grows. We are able to carry on our ambitious programs and serve as leverage at the tables of the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency only if we have a strong and active membership. Please reach out to your friends, to your congregations and to your professional organizations and impress upon them the need to become members of MERCAZ USA at this particular moment.

As I travel around the United States and to Israel as your President, I have become more impressed than ever of the need for a strong MERCAZ USA. Your support is appreciated and necessary. Clearly, we need Israel's strength and Israel needs our involvement. MERCAZ is committed to both.


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