Message From Rabbi Luxemburg and Rabbi Pokras
Following the conclusion of the first World Zionist Congress held in Basil, Switzerland in August of 1897, Theodore Hertzl, the founder of the organization and father of modern political Zionism, wrote the following:
“At Basel I founded the Jewish State. If I said this out loud today, l would be greeted by universal laughter. In five years perhaps, and certainly in fifty years, everyone will perceive it.” (Hertzl, September 3, 1987)
In the whole of Jewish history, this statement is one of the most prophetic. On May 14, 1948, just a bit more than fifty years after his prediction, the modern state of Israel declared its independence. After 2000 years, our people were once again established among the family of nations, a people free and sovereign in our own land.
We often wonder what Hertzl … bold journalist and political visionary … would think about Israel, 2019. We imagine he would be puzzled by its politics, proud of its many accomplishments, and be challenging the Israel of today to realize the vision and values that were put forward at that first momentous meeting in 1897 and enshrined in Israel’s Declaration of Independence:
“The State of Israel … will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”
The 38th World Zionist Congress will convene in Jerusalem in October of 2020. In order for Hertzl’s vision and the values of the Israeli Declaration of Independence to be both protected and promoted we, Reform Jews from North America and from around the world must be represented by a large, strong, vocal and influential delegation.
To promote in Israel religious pluralism, gender equality, and minority rights; to advocate for asylum seekers and sound environmental policies; to put forward initiatives that nurture civil society, economic justice and prospects for peace; to gain access to vital resources to support Reform Judaism in Israel and around the world … we all must vote in the upcoming World Zionist Congress elections!
Each adult member of our congregation … any Jewish person over the age of 18 … can vote. By doing so, you, too, can have a voice in the only Israeli political arena where Jew communities outside of Israel have a real opportunity to influence Israeli society and policies.
Temple Beth Ami has always been a leader in these election efforts. We have generated significant numbers of votes each time. Rabbi Luxemburg has represented us at two previous WZCongresses. Once more, we need to step up and be counted … in even greater numbers than before.
Elsewhere in this edition of the Chadashot you will find information regarding the upcoming election that begins in late January and extends into March. Please take time to read the article (provided by ARZA – the Association of Reform Zionists in America, and the URJ – the Union for Reform Judaism) to become familiar with the background and the reasons why our success is so important. Later in the month, every household in the congregation will receive instructions how to vote at home and about opportunities the congregation will provide to vote during various congregational events and activities. We want to make it as easy as possible for all to participate.
This may feel like a big effort and the goals sometimes feel out of reach. Nonetheless, past experience demonstrates that a successful election campaign does translate into meaningful influence in Israel, significant progress on the issues that concern us, and measurable benefit for our Movement. Hertzl himself, thinking about what seemed unattainable in his day – the establishment of a Jewish state – said, “If you will it, it is no dream”. Let’s take that spirit of commitment, combined with our vision and values, and turn our dreams for Israel into a reality we can all celebrate.