As you know, I am strongly attached to the land, the people, and the State of Israel; last year I was there no less than four times. In my late 20s, I was so close to making aliyah that I was interviewing for full-time jobs in Israel. When I decided instead to go to cantorial school, and realized that there was no way to make a living in Israel as a hazzan, I opted to remain here in the Diaspora, although Judy and I are still keeping an eye out for that ideal retirement apartment in Tel Aviv.
As an American Jew, I can’t vote in Israeli elections, and the internal workings of Israeli politics are one degree removed from my immediate sphere of political awareness. However, Israel is different from every other nation in that we Jews who choose to live in Diaspora still have a voice in some of the operations of the ongoing endeavor of building the Jewish state. Our voice is the World Zionist Congress, which will convene next fall in Jerusalem, and the interests of the Conservative movement are represented by our party, MERCAZ (literally, “center”).
First, a crash course on the World Zionist Congress: This is the same body that was first convened by Theodor Herzl in Basel, Switzerland in 1897. There will be 500 delegates from around the world, and 145 of them will be sent from the United States. Any person that belongs to one of the member organizations of the WZO, and that includes the Conservative movement and hence Temple Israel, may vote. The last vote was held in 2010, and we were allotted 33 seats, as compared with 56 for the Reform movement and 35 for the Religious Zionist (Orthodox) slate. It is notable that Reform’s ARZA claims that Reform-affiliated programs in Israel received $4.3 million in World Zionist Organization funding in 2013, as a direct result of those 56 seats.
Second, why you should vote for MERCAZ: Our platform is available at votemercaz.org, but the major points include support for religious pluralism and freedom in Israel, ties between Israel and Diaspora Jewry, peace and security in Israel, environmental progress, and of course Masorti and Conservative-affiliated programs and institutions. These are all things that we stand for, in Israel and here in Great Neck, and as such it is imperative that we Conservative Jews turn out the vote.
Voting is through April 15th at votemercaz.org. It costs $10, but the potential return for Israel and the Conservative/Masorti movement is much more valuable. (Added bonus: TIGN member Marty Werber is 35th on the slate of delegates. If MERCAZ receives enough votes, he goes to Jerusalem in October to represent us.) If you need a paper ballot, please contact me at Temple Israel. I am a member of MERCAZ and have already voted. Have you?
Rabbi Seth Adelson
(Originally published in the Temple Israel Voice, March 12, 2015.)