MERCAZ Delegates Reflect on the 38th World Zionist Congress

MERCAZ delegates from across the globe represented the Conservative/Masorti movement during the 38th World Zionist Congress. What follows are personal reflections from a selection of our delegates.

Rabbi Jacob Blumenthal, CEO of the USCJ and the Rabbinical Assembly, North America, MERCAZ USA

“Even in its virtual form, being a part of the Masorti/Conservative delegation to the World Zionist Congress was a remarkable experience. Our WhatsApp group allowed us to be a true delegation, communicating often minute by minute on the experience with representatives from all around the world. We each embraced a role in lobbying our potential partners in each of our countries to ensure a wall-to-wall coalition agreement was reached. In some ways we were more present with each other digitally than we might have been in person, and it created a true sense of being a global, unified Masorti/Conservative movement”

Benjamin Sigal, Delegation Member, MERCAZ USA

“I was struck by how, virtually, we gathered the four corners of the world together. With delegates in North America, South America, Europe, and Australia at the conference, we crossed cultural boundaries through our shared love for Israel and passion to make it the best it can be.”

Tom Sudow, International President, Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs, MERCAZ USA

“The World Zionist Congress was an exhilarating experience as we stood together to support pluralism in Israel and the Zionist movement. I was proud to stand side by side with leaders of MERCAZ and Masorti from around the globe to make sure that our voices and the voices of Masorti Jews were heard and respected. The WZO is a very important forum for decisions that affect Masorti Judaism in Israel and around the globe. As we look to the future, it is vital that we continue to educate on the importance of this event, held every five years, and make sure we enlist broader support, including in the Zionist elections, within our communities. I also want to thank Marilyn Wind and Sarrae Crane for their leadership of MERCAZ USA. They understand the importance of our work and how fragile pluralism is, if we do not stand up and fight for it. Kol HaKavod.”

Eric Leiderman, Executive Director of Masorti On Campus / Board Member of MERCAZ USA

The following is an excerpt of Eric’s reflections on the 38th World Zionist Congress, from an article posted on The Times of Israel blogs:

“After many months of campaigning, these three days in October, filled with passionate Zionists across every time zone, working hard to make sure their community’s interests were represented, were extraordinary. I am encouraged by the changes afoot, and by the unity and strength of the center-left Zionist community. For those of us who view the values of Zionism to be not only those of Jewish nationalism and peoplehood but also of a shared pluralistic nature, there is hope. With the new “wall-to-wall” collective agreement in place, hopefully the next five years will inculcate the principles of transparency, quality, and accountability much needed in our national institutions.”

Heidi Schneider, Masorti Foundation Board Member, MERCAZ USA

Mario Grunebaum, MERCAZ Olami (Brazil)

“It was very interesting and at the same time the most frustrating Congress that I have ever taken part in. The virtual Congress limited our participation in most of the discussions, with most of them done backstage, remaining for us the delegates, often only approvals of our disapprovals. Although we fought a lot to revert the pre-decisions made by the right wing parties, the results were frustrating, giving to the non-orthodox Jews consolation prizes that won’t satisfy them in the long run. If we are not able to change how Diaspora Jews participate in the WZO and at its Congresses, it may result in a bigger gap between ‘us and them’.”

Rabbi Jennifer Gorman, Executive Director, MERCAZ Canada

“Though we were scattered around the world, our WhatsApp group kept us connected in a way we haven’t been before. The constant flow of communication among the candidates and alternates, kept us connected, and raised the energy in a way it could not have been, had we all been quiet in person. Nothing can take the place of being together, but the virtual Congress came very close.”

Howard Jurburg, MERCAZ Olami (Uruguay)

“The three days during which I participated in the virtual 38th World Zionist Congress was a great experience. It was my first time at the World Zionist Congress, but this was a first time for all participants in a virtual mode. The assistance and guidance by the MERCAZ team made participation simple and we made history. I am very thankful for having been part of this Congress and hope to meet the team next year in Jerusalem.”

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