Winter 2002-2003

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MERCAZ USA Newsletter — Winter 2002-2003

From the President's Desk

Dear Friends,

I am honored to have been selected as the President of MERCAZ USA. I thank the Nominating Committee and the members of MERCAZ USA for the confidence and trust that they have placed in me and my officers. There are many challenges ahead of us and I am convinced that with the ongoing support of our members, we will be successful in our endeavors.

I wish to express my personal thanks as well as those of the organization to Evelyn Seelig for her leadership and her great dedication to the cause of MERCAZ. Evelyn, along with her officers, Executive Committee members and Board members has set a standard of leadership which my administration will attempt to build on as we go forward in the coming years.

I wish to share with you selections of my speech to the General Council:

"In the letter that I sent out to the current members of MERCAZ, I quoted a 1906 pamphlet entitled Zionism: A Statement in which Solomon Schechter wrote: 'The rebirth of Israel's consciousness, and the revival of Israel's religion, or to use a shorter term, the revival of Judaism are inseparable.' This must be the clarion call of MERCAZ — Zionism and Judaism are inseparable.

When I was growing up there was a popular song whose words echo this thought: 'We have come to the land to build it and to be built up by it.' This is a good theme for this General Council Meeting and for MERCAZ, the Zionist organization of the Conservative Movement. We have, more correctly, returned to our ancient homeland, to the land that was promised to Abraham our Patriarch and we vow never to leave again. I am privileged to state that my generation is the first in 2000 years that does not know a world without the State of Israel. While that is a great privilege it is also an immense responsibility. It is our task to insure the safety, security and viability of the State of Israel. It is our task to create a partnership with the citizens of the State and to be its emissaries wherever we may live around the Diaspora. It is our great privilege to be involved in the sacred work of building the land through our political and financial resources, our visits and our studies, our prayers and our personal attachments to friends, family and brothers and sisters in Israel.

It is the role of MERCAZ to be involved with all of these activities. As the Zionist organization of this Movement MERCAZ must articulate why it is important for individuals to join its ranks, be involved in the Zionist Movement and express their ongoing support for the State of Israel. It is MERCAZ' responsibility to help create educational endeavors which promote Israel, Hebrew and personal ties between Jews of the Diaspora and the citizens of the State. It is MERCAZ' responsibility to encourage congregational and family visits to the State of Israel, study missions and ultimately Aliyah as a viable alternative in Jewish life. It is MERCAZ' responsibility to create an atmosphere in our Movement whereby the cornerstones by which we have always stood, ongoing Talmud Torah, Hebrew, Zionism and spiritual growth are elements of every synagogue in the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, in Koach chapters throughout our campuses and in the organizations of our Movement — be they the Rabbinical Assembly, the Women's League, the Cantors Assembly or the Federation of Jewish Men's Clubs — as we work with our partners in each of these organizations. MERCAZ is to be a catalyst to create partnerships with each of the major affiliates of our Movement to encourage this program of involvement, concern and activity.

But we are more than just another Zionist organization. We have an important agenda of working on behalf of our Movement in the State of Israel. This involves our gaining more members so that we become a force in the Zionist Movement, the Zionist Congress and Jewish Agency work in order to implement our philosophy of religious pluralism, educational pluralism, tolerance and adherence to Jewish values and Halacha with a sense of reverence for the past and the need to adapt to modern life. We have a role to play in the ongoing spiritual needs of our people in the State of Israel. We must be advocates on behalf of Masorti Judaism with close relationships to the Masorti Movement, Schechter Institute for Jewish Studies and the many indigenous programs of our Movement in the State. Israel needs us to be builders of religious tolerance and spiritual strength and we have an important role to play in the continuing battle in the political arena and the public media.

At the very same time we are privileged to say that as part of a Zionist Movement 'We have come to the land to be built up by it.' We are strong in the Diaspora because today there is a State of Israel not merely as a haven for refugees but as a beacon for world Jewry. We are strengthened in our work on its behalf and it is the role of MERCAZ to invigorate our Movement to take advantage of that strength and that agenda.

Therefore, MERCAZ should be an advocate for the Fuchsberg Center and the Conservative Yeshiva among the many programs of our North American based Movement to enhance the educational programs of our congregations and our day schools, our camps and our college programs, our youth groups and our religious schools. It is the role of MERCAZ to advocate on behalf of every program that enhances Jewish identity both in Israel and the Diaspora.

How do we set out on this ambitious agenda? The first order of business will be the gaining of more members. We must work with our partners throughout this Country gaining more members for MERCAZ so that it will be a strong and viable organization within the Zionist Movement. We will work with the national and regional structures of our constituents. We will propose a check-off campaign for our congregations and a membership outreach for our professionals. We will work to make MERCAZ a truly national organization We will look again at our By-Laws which have not been changed since 1987 as a way to enhance our relationship with our partners in the Movement and the members of our organizations. We will continue to partner with the Jewish Agency and the Zionist Movement to encourage study programs, synagogue missions and Aliyah endeavors for the members of our Movement and their families. We will work together to create Israel education programs, Hebrew language programs and Jewish identity instruments to enhance the programs in our congregations and in the many arenas in which we find Conservative Jews. We will promote buying Israel products as a significant way of supporting the State of Israel. We will work together for Israel advocacy in this Country where we have a significant role to play politically in our individual communities. Finally, we will work with Conservative leaders throughout the country promoting our agenda at the local level of Federations and the national level of The United Jewish Communities to stress religious pluralism and the enhancement of our programs in Israel and the Diaspora.

An ambitious program. Yes, to be sure it is but, as Theodore Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism, said: "If you will it, it is no dream."

As Psalm 26, which we recite as part of Birkat Hamazon on Shabbat and festivals states: "When the Lord restored our exiles to Zion, it was like a dream. We are part of that dream and it is our responsibility to make it a continuing reality for the many generations which follow us. I thank you for your support now and in the future as we set out this ambitious agenda."


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