My trip to Israel last month was a whirlwind. Part of the reason was unavoidable: I was traveling between one Shabbat and another at Beth David, so I was only in Israel for four and a half days. But part of the reason my trip was a whirlwind was because our group wanted to hear from leaders and thinkers based in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, but we also wanted to see with our own eyes the areas closest to the Gaza border, and therefore most heavily affected by this summer’s war – and so we also drove south to the Negev Desert. But another part of the reason that my trip was such a whirlwind was the head-spinning array of ideas, visions, hopes, and initiatives we encountered during our short trip. I wrote about these experiences on four earlier blog posts.
More than anything else, what I took away from this whirlwind was an excitement over what is possible for Israel’s future, and a sense of our responsibility, even from afar, to help ensure a secure, democratic Israel rooted in Jewish values. Most of us at Beth David are not Israeli citizens, so we cannot participate in the democratic process inside Israel’s government. But because Israel is the state of the Jewish people globally, we can have a voice – or rather, we do have a voice, but we can choose whether or not we use it.
The World Zionist Congress, a “parliament of the Jewish people” first convened by Theodore Herzl, the founder of political Zionism, is the highest legislative body of the World Zionist Organization. The WZO provides a forum for all the world’s Jews to come together and deliberate about issues affecting both Diaspora Jews and the state of affairs in Israel, and the decisions that the WZC makes influence financial and policy realities in Israel. Because the global Reform Movement, like other denominations, is included as part of the World Zionist Organization, every Reform Jew is eligible to vote in the WZC elections.
I will be voting for the ARZA slate, representing our Reform Movement and our values of gender equality, religious equality, and a yearning for a solution to the conflict, and I invite you to join me. As my colleague Rabbi Bennett Miller, the chair of ARZA, wrote recently, “these elections are the strongest way for North American Reform Jews to promote and encourage the progressive ideals of social justice, equality and democracy in Israel itself and help build the kind of Jewish state we all know is possible. A Jewish state that holds true to the ideals of religious pluralism, the growth of Reform Judaism in Israel, women’s equality in all areas of life, democracy, a solution to the ongoing conflict and so much more.” While there are other slates that share our values, the significant size of ARZA’s representation in the WZC allows us to be one of the strongest advocates for our views – but only if Reform Jews actually vote. Here is what we hope you will do in the next few months:
- Pledge to vote online at https://www.reformjews4isreael.org.
- Spread the word: Right now, teams are forming in Reform congregations throughout the country to get out the vote. Let me know if you want to help at Beth David!
- Vote: Register with the American Zionist Movement and vote for ARZA-Representing Reform between January 15thand April 30th.
Together, we can build a secure and bright future for Israel. As our ancient sage, Rabbi Tarfon, once taught:
Lo alecha hamlacha ligmor – it is not up to you to complete the task,
V’lo atah ben chorin l’hivatel mimena – but neither are you free to ignore it.