Rav Bar Oz* (From Strength to Strength)
The World Zionist Congress – Vote Reform!
by Rabbi Jeremy Barras
One of the biggest topics at the Biennial of the Reform Movement this past December in Chicago was the importance of the World Zionist Congress Election currently taking place. Every self-identifying Jew 18 years or older is eligible to vote.
This election could not be more vital for the viability of the Reform Movement in Israel, and we have a chance to make a real difference. Our institutions in Israel are not funded by the State of Israel like orthodox institutions. However, the distribution of hundreds of millions of dollars from the World Zionist Congress aids our cause in Israel in ways that no other organization can. The elections are held every five years, and the number of votes any movement gets determines the amount of delegates that movement will receive at the World Zionist Congress in Jerusalem next October.
The Reform Movement has prepared a slate of some 200 leaders of the movement. We are hoping for a huge turnout so that we can get as many of our delegates to Jerusalem as possible. Currently I stand at number 62 on our slate, and it is my intention to go to Jerusalem to cast a vote in favor of the Reform Movement in Israel in October 2020. In order to better explain the goal of the Congress and its importance to our movement in Israel, I have included some of the FAQs from the website of the Association for the Reform Zionists of America (ARZA).
What is the World Zionist Organization?
The World Zionist Organization (WZO) was founded by Theodor Herzl at the First World Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland in 1897. Today, it serves as the Parliament of the Jewish People and designates representatives to The Jewish Agency for Israel, The Jewish National Fund, and other affiliates. The WZO utilizes the World Zionist Congress to establish its policies and internally elect leadership to the bodies that define executive policy, departmental direction and budgetary decisions.
What is the World Zionist Congress?
The Zionist Congress is the World Zionist Organization’s legislative body. The Congress meets every five years in Jerusalem. The Congress is the only body in which all of World Jewry is represented democratically. It determines policy, designates its course of action, chooses the leadership of the World Zionist Organization, as well as the Keren Kayemeth L’Yisrael (JNF Israel). These decisions influence hundreds of millions of dollars in funding and paid portfolios. Importantly, the Congress makes decisions that affect the status of Reform Jews in Israel and across the world and allocates considerable funding available to Progressive Jews in Israel.
Why is this important?
The American delegation to the Congress is the largest single delegation from outside of Israel, with 145 delegates. The decisions of the Congress influence hundreds of millions of dollars in funding and the Reform movement currently receives over $4 million each year. Because the election is held every five years, the impact of the election could impact over $20 million for Reform institutions and programs in Israel and the United States. In addition, the Congress will help determine the leadership of the Israeli national institutions, budgetary decisions, and policy in Israel and worldwide.
How Do I Vote?
Voting takes place now through March 11, 2020. All voting will be online and accessible by mobile devices. It is a simple process and should take 60–90 seconds.
Who is Eligible to Vote?
In order to vote, one needs to be:
• 18 years of age and older.
• Self-identified as Jewish.
• Agree to the Jerusalem Program.
• Agree to a minimal processing fee.
It is my hope that every Beth Am member will log on and vote. Please vote Reform. It only takes a few moments to vote, but the impact you will make in Israel is immeasurable!
* The Barras family name was created during the Ellis Island Experience. Originally it was Bar Oz, meaning strength in Hebrew.