Winter 2004-2005

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MERCAZ USA Newsletter — Winter 2004 - 2005

From The President's Desk

As I write this column, I am running from one conference to another, having just returned from the Biennial Assembly of the American Zionist Movement in Los Angeles and on my way to the thrice-annual meetings of the Jewish Agency's Board of Governors in Jerusalem.

The American Zionist Movement is the umbrella organization of active Zionist groups in the United States. From those on the left — MERETZ USA and Labor Zionists/ NA'AMAT — to those on the right — Herut and Friends of Likud — and those representing the synagogue movements — ARZA (Reform), Religious Zionists of America/AMIT (Orthodox) and MERCAZ (Conservative), we all gathered on the West Coast to re-examine the meaning of Zionism in our day and explore various paths before us to fulfill Herzl's vision.

Dr. David Breakstone, the elected MERCAZ Olami representative on the WZO Executive and Head of the WZO's Department for Zionist Activities, was the chief presenter, challenging us to bring Zionism and Jewish Zionist education into every facet of our programs and our lives. Among the new directions that we are examining is the possibility of including a regular Hebrew column in our MERCAZ quarterly newsletters.

And now on to Israel! As members of the Jewish Agency's Board of Governors, we have general responsibility to oversee the financial well-being of this institution to insure its ability to meet the crucial needs of the Jewish People. At the same time, as the official representatives of the Conservative Movement, I and my fellow MERCAZ USA "Governors" - Roy Clements, Rabbis Jerome Epstein and Joel Meyers, and Evelyn Seelig - have the additional charge to lobby on behalf of "Stream Funding", the annual $1.7 million "affirmative action" allocation that, as described in the cover story, is directed to the programs and institutions of Masorti Judaism in Israel.

This time, however, I am pleased to report that we have another job at hand. As I described in the last MERCAZ newsletter, the WZO at its meeting in June passed a revised Jerusalem Program which outlines the foundations for Zionism in our day. Next week, at the October Jewish Agency Board of Governors meetings, a new strategic plan will be adopted. The Agency, in which MERCAZ has an important role to play, has decided to update its strategic plan in order to focus its work, upgrade its performance and substantially increase the resources it brings to the table.

As stated in the proposed Mission Statement, its tightly focused goals include: "Bringing a substantial number of Jews to live in Israel and insuring their successful integration; connecting the next generation with Israel and with Jewish peoplehood as a core part of their Jewish identity; and involving world Jewry with Israelis in shaping the future character of Israeli society." When we compare these goals with the revised Jerusalem Program, it is clear that the new definitions of Zionism pervade the Jewish Agency as well.

The objectives behind these goals include promoting Aliyah, expanding Israel- focused Jewish Zionist education, developing connections and commitments of the young generation of World Jewry and young Israelis to the Jewish World, and initiating and facilitating collaborative projects that address critical issues in Israel while strengthening the relationship between Israel and Jews worldwide.

These are lofty goals and objectives but they are worthy to be those for which we strive. MERCAZ USA is ready to do its part. We are engaged with our partners in our Movement in making our young people more aware of Israel experiences and encouraging them to visit, study and spend time in the Jewish State. We work together with our partners in the Movement to promote and publicize Aliyah opportunities. And it is our specific task to support the Masorti Movement and the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies in helping to shape the future of Israeli society.

Are these lofty goals attainable? On the 100th anniversary of the death of Theodor Herzl, we remember his words: "If you will it, it is no dream."


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