Op Ed Regarding World Zionist Congress Elections

20 Jan 2015

Some of you may be aware of the World Zionist Congress Elections currently going on through April 30 of this year. All of you, though, are able to participate by registering and voting. I am a candidate along with other OU personalities, such as Harvey Blitz, Rabbi Steven Weil, and Yehuda Friedman. I strongly encourage you to vote–please read an article that I just wrote, which explains in more detail about the significance of being involved and importance of voting, even if you do not reside in Israel.

“How can I refer to myself as a Religious Zionist when I reside in the United States?” I am sure that many of us occasionally ask ourselves this question. For, if we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that, despite our plans to “ultimately” make aliyah, those plans won’t be actualized in the near future.

However, we need not convince ourselves we are total hypocrites. There are many ways to actively express one’s Religious Zionist ideology even while living in the Diaspora. One way is to participate in the forthcoming elections of the World Zionist Congress.

For those of you who need some background, the World Zionist Congress was founded by none other than Theodore Herzl well over a century ago, in the year 1897. It was designed to be an umbrella organization for all those who believed in actively pursuing the return to Zion by political means. At its inception, its ambition was that it would be an umbrella organization for all religious and ideological segments of the Jewish people.

Those of us who call ourselves Religious Zionists today are the spiritual descendants of those Jews who long ago joined the World Zionist Congress and its programs, which finally resulted in the establishment of the State of Israel. We are the spiritual descendants of those who saw no contradiction between commitment to Torah observance and the active pursuit of the Zionist agenda.

Today, the World Zionist Congress continues to have delegates from across the religious and ideological spectrum. The party within the World Zionist Congress that advocates the melding of Torah values with Zionism is known as the Religious Zionist Slate. This party is composed of a variety of groups whose common interest is the advancement of the cause of Torah values, Torah education, and Torah institutions—for world Jewry in general, but especially in the State of Israel. These organizations include World Mizrachi, AMIT, Bnei Akiva, Orthodox Union, Rabbinical Council of America, National Council of Young Israel, Torah MiTzion, Touro College, and Yeshiva University.

Elections of delegates to the next World Zionist Congress will begin this coming January 13, 2015. The men and women who vote for those delegates will chart the path for Israel and world Jewry for the next several years. The elected delegates will direct the expenditure of a one billion-dollar programming budget.

If you consider yourself a Religious Zionist, you are, in all likelihood, eligible to vote in this election. A vote for the Religious Zionist Slate will give you a voice in the decisions of the World Zionist Congress. It will enable you to promulgate Torah values, to direct funds toward informal Jewish education and effective outreach, and to help define what it means for Israel to be a Jewish State as well as a democracy. Voting for the Religious Zionist Slate will involve you in the promotion of causes you surely believe in, such as aliyah, Jewish unity, and a unified Jerusalem.

Simply registering to vote and casting your votes for the Religious Zionist Slate will enable you to feel more comfortable in referring to yourself as a Religious Zionist. There is, of course, no substitute for making aliyah, residing in Israel, and more actively participating in the return of the Jewish people to our homeland. But until you make that “ultimate” move, the simple act of registering to vote for the group within the world Jewish Congress which best represents your own personal religious and Zionist viewpoint, is a most laudable act.

As time goes on, and as you will come to witness the effective achievements of the Religious Zionist Slate, you will be proud to say that your vote helped to make those achievements happen. To register, please visit http://votetorah.org/, and be sure to participate in this election. Your vote is urgently and especially needed at this “crossroads” moment in the history of our people.