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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2018 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


April 24, 2015  RSS feed
Rabbinically Speaking

Text: T T T

In this upcoming Israeli election, American Jewry’s vote counts

By RABBI DANIEL TREISER Temple B’nai Israel, Clearwater

Many of us watched the elections in Israel with great interest, but as Americans we watched from the sidelines. As Prime Minister Netanyahu works to form his coalition, there is another election happening right now, an election of incredible importance for the State of Israel, and we all have a vote that helps control part of the future for Israel. To understand this vote, however, we need a little understanding of history as well.

In 1897, the Zionist Organization was founded by a vote of the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland. Organized by Theodore Herzl, the goal of the Zionist Organization was to provide support and raise funds for the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Representatives of Diaspora communities from around the world gathered to support their work. To raise funds for land purchasing and development, an organization was founded in 1905 known as Keren Kayemet L’Yisrael, or the Jewish National Fund. The League of Nations, hoping to create both a Jewish and Arab state within the British Mandate land of Palestine, recognized the WZO as the legitimate Jewish Agency for the creation of the Jewish State in 1922. So, the Jewish Agency for Israel was formed as well as a partner to the WZO. With the establishment of the State of Israel, the purpose of the World Zionist Organization evolved to a system of support to promote education, development, internal social support systems and funding for programs aimed at preserving the Jewish identity in Israel. Both the Jewish Agency and the JNF continue to raise those funds today. The direction of the WZO, and the disbursement of hundreds of millions of dollars is established by the World Zionist Congress. Every four years, the congress is held, a convention of 500 Jewish organizational and community representative delegates. The 37th Congress will meet this October.

Other than Israel, the United States sends the second largest delegation, with 145 delegates. And as American Jews, we have the opportunity to elect representatives to the World Zionist Congress. The election of those delegates is taking place right now. The election, however, is not for an individual, but rather for an organized coalition that presents a slate of delegates. In this election, there are 11 slates from which to choose. The Reform and Reconstructionist movements are both represented by ARZA, the Association of Reform Zionists of America, and the Conservative movement is represented by Mercaz USA: The Zionist Arm of the Conservative Movement. Both these slates promote an agenda of religious and gender equality and freedom for all Jews living in Israel among other issues. There’s the Religious Zionist slate, the Sephardic slate, a Green Party slate, and so on.

If you will be over 18 years old by June 30, an American citizen, and identify as Jewish, you are eligible to vote. To make your voice heard, all you need to do is visit the election website at You can view the platforms for each slate of delegates, and when ready, click on the “register and vote online” box. There is a $10 fee to help cover the administrative costs of the election. But you need to hurry: the election period closes on April 30.

It took me about three minutes to cast my vote. But I know that this will help shape the future of the Jewish State. I hope that you will join with me in making a loud, strong Jewish voice heard in Israel.

The Rabbinically Speaking column is provided as a public service by the Jewish Press in cooperation with the Pinellas County Board of Rabbis. Columns are assigned on a rotating basis by the board.

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