Winter 2006-2007

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MERCAZ USA Newsletter — Winter 2006-2007

President's Column — Rabbi Vernon Kurtz

presidentAs I move towards the end of my term as President of MERCAZ USA, I would like to reflect back on four years of activity. I am pleased that we have moved forward the Conservative Zionist agenda and that it has become the focus of many activities in our Movement. In the United Synagogue, Women's League and Men's Clubs, programs on Israel and Zionism now play a very important role. On college campuses through KOACH and in Camps Ramah, Israel and Zionism are one of the main focii of programming. While our vision of the State of Israel in peace with its neighbors is not yet at hand, nor our stance on behalf of an Israeli society fully infused with the value of religious pluralism; nevertheless, more people have been sensitized in and out of Israel to our issues, and we can be proud of the role that we have played in that process.

At the same time, much is still left to be done. More members of United Synagogue congregations should become dues-paying members of MERCAZ. If it is appropriate for the Conservative Movement, through MERCAZ, to participate in the World Zionist Organization and demand access to appropriations from the Jewish Agency, then we deserve more than 4% of United Synagogue members to belong to MERCAZ and thereby express their formal approval and support for the WZO's Jerusalem Program.

More of our congregants should be traveling to Israel on a regular basis, and there should be greater awareness of the needs, programmatic and financial, of our Masorti Movement in Israel. Moreover, while the support for activities such as NATIV and the Conservative Yeshiva has been dramatically improving, more of our youth should take advantage of these wonderful opportunities for study and living in Israel. From the pulpit and in our religious schools, Israel should be high on the agenda, not merely in times of crisis but as an important part of our spiritual treasure and our political action.

Additionally, while the MERCAZ/Conservative Movement Aliyah Committee has made advancements in programming with our shlichim on behalf of Israel, such as with the current Parashat Lech Lecha/November is Link to Israel project, more needs to be done. And the next time the Zionist Congress goes to elections we, as MERCAZ USA and members of the Conservative Movement, must do better in registration and voting in order to promote more effectively our agenda in the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency for Israel.

While I will be turning over the reins of office within MERCAZ USA to those who will be elected and installed at the December 3rd General Council, as President of MERCAZ Olami, the worldwide Zionist organization of the Conservative Movement, I will be working closely with MERCAZ USA and its next set of officers. I look forward to their vision for the organization and for moving forward our Israel and Zionist agenda in the Conservative Movement. We have come a long way but much more needs to be done.

I want to thank our Executive Director, Rabbi Robert Golub, who has a passion for Israel, Zionism and the Jewish people and with whom it has been a pleasure to work. I want to thank Ahuva Oko and Shelly Grossman of the MERCAZ office who were always ready to fulfill my requests and to support our organization. I want to express my gratitude to my fellow officers and Board members who led the way these past four years and I want to thank you, all the members of MERCAZ USA, who showed your confidence in me by electing me as your President. I look forward to continuing to work on behalf of Israel and the worldwide Conservative/Masorti Movement in the years to come.


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