Between October 20 and October 22, close to 700 representatives of world Jewry convened in Jerusalem for the 37th World Zionist Congress.
190 delegates from Israel attended the Congress, along with 145 representatives from the United States and 165 from the rest of the world.
Out of 30 countries represented in the World Zionist Organization (WZO), the Reform Movement has constituent ARZENU (International Federation of Reform and Progressive Religious Zionists) organizations in 14 countries. ARZENU is the umbrella organization for all Reform Zionist organizations worldwide.
The World Zionist Organization, Jewish Agency (Sochnut) and Jewish National Fund (JNF) play a vital role in determining policy related to education, Jewish identity for Israelis and Jews worldwide, and issues of religious freedom and gender equality.
“Unlike other groups in the World Zionist Organization, the Israeli Reform Movement has no formal representation in the Israeli Government. Therefore, it is ARZENU that provides the Israeli Movement with a conduit to power through the three national Zionist Institutions. On behalf of Reform Jews in Israel and throughout the world, we strive to promote our Reform values of democratic accountability, religious pluralism and pursuit of peace,” said ARZENU President Rabbi Lawrence Englander.
Before the official WZO Congress began, ARZENU organized a two-day program that began with a moving Havdalah service on the rooftop of Beit Shmuel/Mercaz Shimshon, the worldwide headquarters of the Progressive movement. Congress participants joined with members of Australasia’s Union for Progressive Judaism to pray, just a few feet from the Old City.
On Monday October 19, Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) Executive Director Rabbi Gilad Kariv delivered a captivating presentation about the current state of the movement in Israel.
Later in the day, WZO delegates visited Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, to witness the country’s vibrant democracy in action first hand. Participants also had the opportunity to meet and speak with Israeli government ministers about the current wave of terror that Israel is dealing with, among other issues.
On Monday evening, delegates recognized three longstanding Zionist activists from the Reform movement whose devoted service merited special recognition. Those honored were Menachem Leibovich, Nelson Kuperman and Rabbi Stanley Davids. WUPJ President Rabbi Daniel Freelander closed the evening with a heartfelt presentation covering the latest developments and changes taking place within the World Union.
On the evening of October 20, WZO delegates were able to take a short break from the frenetic events of the previous few days. The World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ), IMPJ, Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA), ARZENU, Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) and Beit Shmuel/Mercaz Shimshon sponsored a festive cocktail reception in honor of some of Israel’s best friends.
Representatives to the 37th World Zionist Congress joined old friends and new ones for good food, drink and conversation.
Reprinted from WUPJ website