This past Shabbat, we reached the end of the Book of Genesis. We read about the death of our patriarch Jacob. Jacob dies not in his homeland (modern-day Israel), but, instead, far away in the land of Egypt. Before he dies, Jacob’s sons swear to return his body to the land of Israel for burial. Four hundred years later, Moses fulfills this promise, taking Jacob’s bones with him as he leads the children of Israel out of Egypt toward the Promised Land.
Much like our forebears, as Reform Jews, the modern State of Israel, despite all its complexities, occupies an important place in many of our hearts. We appreciate that Israel is home to a vibrant and growing Reform (also known as progressive) movement, despite the deeply entrenched forces of the Orthodox establishment.
Although we do not live in Israel and do not have a vote in the Knesset (parliamentary) elections, all of us can have a say in important aspects of Israeli society. We can do this by supporting Vote Reform, the Reform movement’s slate, in the upcoming elections for the World Zionist Congress. The World Zionist Organization (WZO) has been around since the 19th century and makes important decisions about how millions of dollars of Diaspora support will be allocated in Israel.
We can vote and in doing so ensure the allocation of WZO funds to the Israeli Reform Movement. Voting begins on Jan. 21 and is open to everyone who self-identifies as a Diaspora Jew (someone who lives outside Israel).
Voting Reform is a tangible opportunity to advance progressive values in Israel, including acceptance of diverse expressions of Jewish identity; combatting racism, discrimination and hatred and supporting equal treatment for all, including minorities, men, women and the LGBTQ community; as well as support for long-term peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
It’s easy to vote, and we will help you. Watch this space for information over the next few weeks about how you can vote, and if you have any questions, be in touch with either of us.
Scott Birnbaum is the immediate past president of Temple Shalom of Newton. Rabbi Berry is Co-Senior Rabbi at Temple Shalom of Newton.
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