The Right Reasons to Join MERCAZ
We are often asked, “Why join MERCAZ? What’s in it for us?”
A strong MERCAZ within the WZO and JAFI is vital to the development of our Movement around the world. It is also critical to our ability to influence the agenda and the distribution of resources of these organizations, which together have a tremendous impact on world Jewry – particularly in the areas of Israel-Diaspora relations, Jewish Zionist education, and aliyah.
Please read the separate list of the benefits (below) that we have received as a result of our involvement in the WZO and Jewish Agency. Our strength is a function of our representation within the Zionist Congress, which in turn is a direct result of our ability to “turn out the vote” during elections to the Zionist Congress, as well as our involvement in Zionist Federations throughout the Diaspora, by virtue of which we gain representation to Congress.
At present, we are not as strongly represented as we should be, given the number of Masorti/Conservative Jews around the world and their fundamental commitment to Israel. In order to rectify this situation, the first step is to engage our constituency in meaningful and ongoing activity.
The importance of a forceful MERCAZ presence within WZO/JAFI must be effectively conveyed to the entire membership of our kehillot. The totality of what we have already achieved is as impressive as it is exhilarating. One can live as a Conservative Jew today in more places around the world than any of us could have imagined just 10 years ago, and more Jewish communities are now being revived through our efforts than many of us would have believed possible just one generation ago.
To witness the development of our kehillot, NOAM (our youth movement), MAROM (our young adults’ group), our camps, and of so many other of our institutions and initiatives, should leave us all feeling full of admiration and appreciation for all of those whose efforts – locally and internationally we have created this exciting infrastructure. Only because of what we have already achieved collectively is there now so much still to do. And the record of those achievements should inspire us to believe that what remains to be done is indeed doable.
Dr. Stephen Wolnek, President
Rabbi Tzvi Graetz, Executive Director
Dr. David Breakstone, Vice Chairman of the World Zionist Organization and International Vice President of MERCAZ Olami.
Benefits to Masorti/Conservative Judaism Worldwide Conservative/Masorti Jews around the world profit directly in numerous ways as a result of our involvement with the World Zionist Organization (WZO) and the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI).
The following are among the benefits accrued as a result of the efforts of MERCAZ Olami (the worldwide political Zionist organization of Conservative Judaism) and Masorti Olami – the World Council of Synagogues:
- $1.7 million of direct allocations to Masorti institutions in Israel every year The various branches of Masorti / Conservative Judaism in Israel receive direct allocations from the Jewish Agency’s Allocations Committee of more than $1,700,000 each year for a wide range of some 17 projects. These include the Conservative Yeshiva, the Nativ program, the TALI Educational Fund, the rabbinical program at the Schechter Institute, Midreshet Yerushalayim, and an outreach program for increasing pluralism and tolerance in Israeli society.
- Hundreds of thousands of dollars of grants over the years to Conservative / Masorti educational projects around the world The Pincus Fund and the Joint Program for Jewish Education have allocated hundreds of thousands of dollars for a variety of educational projects initiated by branches of MERCAZ and Masorti / Conservative institutions around the world. Most recently, these include grants of $126,000 to MERCAZ USA and USCJ for enhancing the role of Israel in synagogue life, $35,000 for the establishment of a Lehrhaus and $12,500 for the establishment of a kindergarten in Berlin, $7,500 to the Masorti movement in England for developing lay leadership (bringing to $25,500 the total JAFI allocation for this program), and $25,000 to our kehillah in Montevideo for the establishment of a Bar/Bat Mitzvah family education program.
- Shlichim for our youth movements and kehillot throughout the Diaspora Shlichim have been critical to building up our NOAM and USY youth movements as well as a number of our fledgling kehillot. They of course also bring them a vital element of Israel programming. We currently have shlichim in England, Argentina, Poland, and the United States, with additional postings being negotiated.
- A commitment of over $200,000 to meet the religious needs of Masorti/Conservative Jews outside of Israel through a special unit of the WZO that is in the process of being established.
- Nearly $100,000 for developing Zionist programs for our constituency throughout the world Official representation on key decision-making bodies of the Jewish Agency and WZO MERCAZ Olami and Masorti Olami together have 3 members on the Executive of the WZO, as well as 9 representatives on the Zionist General Council, and 3 on the Zionist Presidium.
We also have 3 representatives on the directorate of Keren Kayemet Le-Yisrael. MERCAZ Olami and Masorti Olami also have 1 member on the JAFI Executive, 6 representatives on the JAFI Board of Governors, and 10 members of JAFI committees. Our JAFI committee appointments include the Budget and Finance Committee, the Committee for Jewish Zionist Education and its subcommittee on Engagement with Israel, the Joint Program for Jewish Education, the Pincus Fund for Jewish Education, the Allocations Committee, the Personnel Sub-Committee of the JAFI Education Department, the Committee on the Former Soviet Union, the Committee for the Unity of the Jewish People, and the JAFI Assembly Planning Committee. All of these appointments allow us direct influence in the decision-making process regarding WZO and JAFI policy and the distribution of millions of dollars in areas that are of direct concern to us.