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This Hanukkah, Commit to Shaping a More Progressive Israel

This Hanukkah, Commit to Shaping a More Progressive Israel

Soon, Jews around the world will gather in our homes and our synagogues, even in public places – to light the hanukkiyah (menorah) and celebrate the festival of Hanukkah. The holiday commemorates a victory of light over darkness, of freedom over tyranny, of religious liberty over oppression. In our day, it is fair to say that Hanukkah celebrates democracy and equality and pluralism. In a world that has become darkened in so many quarters, where religious zealotry now permeates and where religious oppression is on the rise – we need to see and feel the bright lights of Hanukkah and be inspired by their meaning, both for ourselves and for the next generation.

Existential struggles are being fought on many fronts in Israel and throughout the world wherever Jews reside. The outcomes of these struggles will determine much about the future of Israel and the Jewish people. How we live our lives as Jews among our neighbors is at stake, and how Jews and people of all persuasions live in the Jewish State is also an issue of major consideration. Will gender equality be the norm – where men and women can pray and live as equals? Will our society respect and treat fairly all denominations and religious sects, regardless of our level of observance? Will we see lasting peace – security and stability for Israel?

In recent months, Jews in the United States have been doing everything we can to support our brothers and sisters in Israel. Our love for Israel and its people is unconditional, and we should be unapologetic about it. At the same time, we now need to return to the daily work of ensuring that the Israel we see is the one that we envision – one in which the ideals of pluralism, equality, and peace help to secure prosperous, fulfilling Jewish lives for us all.

In October 2015, the next World Zionist Congress (WZC) will convene in Jerusalem. This “Parliament of the Jewish People” will debate critical issues in helping to fulfill the dreams of the founders of the Zionist Movement – a pluralistic and democratic Jewish State in Eretz Yisrael, our people’s homeland. This debate, too, will be a deciding moment for the shape of Israel’s soul.

Luckily, the democratic process allows each one of us to have a voice in that discussion. ARZA, representing Reform Judaism, selects delegates for the WZC based on the proportional outcome of the WZC elections conducted by the American Zionist Movement (AZM). The composition of the WZC has both financial and policy implications in Israel, as resources are allocated based on the number of seats a party holds and the policy positions of those parties.

In short, 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.

ARZA, representing Reform Judaism, is asking every North American Jew who holds these values dear to stand with us. The WZC Elections are vital to the future of Progressive Judaism in Israel and to the relationship between Jews of North America and Israel. Here is what we hope you will do in the coming weeks:

  • Pledge: Take the pledge to vote for ARZA-Representing Reform. Tell your friends and family to pledge their support as well.
  • Spread the word: Right now, teams are forming in Reform congregations throughout the country to get out the vote. Get in touch with your synagogue campaign team today, or form one if it doesn’t yet exist.
  • Vote: Register with the American Zionist Movement and vote for ARZA-Representing Reform between January 15th and April 30th.

The soul of Jewish people is at stake. Let us join together, and let our voices be heard.

Rabbi Bennett Miller, senior rabbi of Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple in New Brunswick, N.J., is the national chair of ARZA, and also serves on the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency for Israel. He earned his doctorate from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1988.

Rabbi Bennett Miller
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