The World Zionist Congress (WZC) has been described as the “Parliament of the Jewish People”. The Congress meets every five years to decide on a range of funding and policy issues, including the heads of the Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (Jewish National Fund), Keren Hayesod-UIA (United Israel Appeal),and the Jewish Agency. Bodies which not only distribute a billion dollars, but are responsible for policy decisions across Israel and the diaspora.

Traditionally the balance of roles within the WZC has been distributed between the orthodox and non-orthodox groups, in recognition of the diversity across the Jewish world, with each group receiving votes based on the number of their members. This year in America, a new ultra-Orthodox party emerged – Eretz Hakodesh (“The Holy Land”), receiving enough support to tip the balance of WZC votes to the right. Eretz Hakodesh champions “traditional religious values and Jewish rights in the entire Land of Israel” (implying support for Israeli annexation of the West Bank). Eretz Hakodesh is no friend of Reform Judaism, making attacks against us the focus of its campaign.

On Friday, a coalition of right wing ultra-orthodox parties created an alliance to ensure control over the funds and appointments of the WZC, excluding all non-orthodox groups. This included the Haredi parties, who hold almost no votes, but are manipulating the situation.

In direct response to the demands of the Haredi parties within this coalition, the representatives of the pluralist religious streams will be excluded. Unless this can be stopped, their unprecedented and completely unacceptable political and ideological challenge to our values will result in the loss of our voice in Israel. This a disaster for the National Institutions, and completely ignores the role of Diaspora Jewry in the World Zionist Organization.

Tomorrow night, Tuesday 20 October, the delegates to the WZC will vote to fill the leadership of the Congress, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (Jewish National Fund), Keren Hayesod-UIA (United Israel Appeal),and the Jewish Agency. The Reform and Conservative movement is currently seeking a coalition with centrist and centre left parties and organisations to stop these from falling into the control of the right and ultra-orthodox parties.

Traditionally organisations such as Hadassah, Bnai Brith, WIZO, Maccabi Olami, and Naamat attend the WZC but do not vote. We are urging all members of these organisations to assist in agitating their leaders to vote against this ultra-orthodox takeover of the WZC, and its constituent organisations.

More details can be found in the following articles:

From ARZA Australia & UPJ