With 2020 primary voting finally upon us in just a few weeks, and Israel’s unprecedented third round of elections coming up in six weeks, I want to draw your attention to another election that begins next week: the American Jewish vote for the 38th World Zionist Congress. Though this election, which begins on Tuesday, has generated noticeably less buzz, it represents an important opportunity for us to make our voices heard in shaping the future of Israel.
Every five years, as the largest Jewish community outside of Israel, we get to choose 152 of the 500 members of the World Zionist Congress, a body that sets priorities for important institutions in Israel, including the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Jewish National Fund. All told, the World Zionist Congress oversees the allocation of nearly $1 billion in funding in support of Israel and global Jewry.
Much ado is made in our community about what our appropriate voice is in addressing the challenges that Israel faces: is it our obligation only to support the policies of Israel’s elected government? Should we encourage our own government to pursue policies that are or are not aligned with Israel? How should we express our disagreements over visions for Israel’s future?
Whatever your view of these and other debates, the Zionist Congress is one place where there is over 100 years of consensus that we — and other Jewish communities around the world — should have a voice in at least some of those debates over vision and priorities. And this year, with fourteen American slates running, the diversity of American Jewish thought is on full display. Whether you are inclined to support a Jabotinsky-esque vision or a Progressive one, an Israeli-American, Sephardic, or youth movement voice, or if your preference is to be represented by leaders from Reform, Conservative, or Orthodox movements, there are slates for you.
Voting is open to any Jewish resident in the United States, 18 years and up, who ascribes to the “Jerusalem Program,” a platform of unity for the Jewish people, with a bond to our homeland in the land of Israel and the centrality of the State of Israel as our national project. Despite the loud voices proclaiming otherwise, the fact is that all polling and studies of American Jewry suggest that well above 90% of us are aligned with this platform, in all our diversity.
All you need to do is go to azm.org/elections starting this Tuesday, January 21st, register, pay an administrative fee of $7.50, and you have a vote. The voting remains open until Wednesday, March 11th.
Personally, I haven’t decided yet who I’ll be voting for. I have friends and colleagues whom I respect who are running on at least half of the slates, including many friends from Boston.
What I do know is the outcome of these elections will give us a snapshot of how diverse our American Jewish community is and what we think, broadly, about how we want our voices to be heard in a global Jewish conversation. The more of us who participate, the clearer and more representative our voice will be.
And, as someone once said: If you don’t vote, you can’t complain. And who would we be as a community if we don’t have the right to complain?