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Israel Engagement

The security, vitality, and improvement of the State of Israel and Jewish communities worldwide are essential to us as Jews and Americans. 

We are committed to helping our members  especially our youth  connect with our Jewish family in Israel through a variety of programs, education, culture, advocacy, and travel. We welcome your participation in the important work of our committee throughout the year.

Why I Am a Candidate on the ARZA Slate

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By David Astrove, URJ Board Member and WHC Past President

Like many American Jews in recent years, I often find myself struggling with the policies and decisions of the Israeli government, wincing at comments made by Israeli ministers and leaders who align with the country’s ultra-Orthodox, right-wing factions. These actions and words are objectionable because they ignore and discredit the fundamental Jewish values we are taught: justice, equality, humility, and embracing the stranger. But as American Jews, is there anything we can do about this?

We actually do have a political presence in Israel – the World Zionist Congress (WZC), which meets every five years to provide the Diaspora a means through which we can express our views and influence the policies and government-sponsored programs in Israel. Our voice and our strength at the WZC is ARZA, the Association of Reform Zionists of America, which represents the Reform Movement and works to promote a more equal, democratic, and pluralistic Israel. 

Like all parties vying for the support of American Jews in the 2020 WZC elections, ARZA has presented a slate of potential delegates and a platform for how they will advocate for our values when the Congress convenes later this year. The percentage of the votes cast for a particular party will determine how many members of such party’s slate will serve as delegates at the WZC. Rabbi Susan Shankman and I are both on the ARZA slate.

You might be wondering why I – an American Jew who has spent a total of 10 days of my life in Israel – believe I have the right to be included on the ARZA slate and serve as a delegate at the 2020 Congress. Well, I want to ensure that the Reform movement in Israel receives its fair share of funding for the next five years and that government-sponsored programs will represent progressive Jewish values alongside the most traditional viewpoints. Being on the ARZA slate as a delegate to the WZC provides me with an opportunity to do just that.

When the WZC considers dozens of resolutions later this year, we need to “ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex” and to “guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education, and culture.”    These are not foreign concepts to Israel. In fact, they are a direct quote from the Declaration of Establishment of the State of Israel that was adopted in 1948 – and they are wholly in line with the goals and positions of ARZA. 

Five years ago, ARZA had 56 out of the 500 total delegates at the WZC.  With your vote for the ARZA slate, we can increase our representation, which would strengthen the Reform Movement in Israel and enable Israel to fulfill its destiny to be a “light unto the nations” by embracing pluralism, equality, and freedom for all of its inhabitants.  I would be humbled to play a small part in that effort and participate as a proud member of the ARZA delegation.

Please “Vote Reform” for the ARZA slate and encourage others to vote ARZA too at ZionistElection.org.