Participants in the upcoming Orthodox Union Biennial National Convention in Jerusalem will engage in a pair of highly visible activities in the streets of Jerusalem designed to send a message to the government of Israel and to the newly elected President of the United States that Jerusalem must remain the eternal, undivided and indivisible capital of Israel.
The OU is at the forefront of a coalition to keep Jerusalem united. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that the Convention – to be held Thanksgiving Week, Wednesday, November 26-Sunday November 30 – will go beyond the speech-making and touring that is the usual component of such gatherings, to include hands-on activities in which those attending will make their presence felt on the issue of Jerusalem.
The Convention Co-Chairs – Aron Raskas of Baltimore and Jerusalem; Jonathan Mell of Teaneck, NJ and Ari Fuchs of Bergenfield, NJ – called on OU synagogues to send as large delegations as possible, so as to increase the impact of the Jerusalem events by maximizing the number of people participating.
The OU scheduled the Convention for Jerusalem to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the State of Israel. The Conventions in 2004 and 2006 were also held there.
“Once again we return to Jerusalem to show our support for the people of Israel,” declared OU President Stephen J. Savitsky, who is expected to be elected to his third two-year term as a Convention highlight. “This time, however, we will go beyond mere rhetoric and take to the streets in a dignified and respectful way, to get our point across that no government of Israel, or the United States, for that matter, should consider the possibility of dividing Jerusalem in negotiations with the Palestinians.”
Two specific activities have been scheduled regarding Jerusalem. On Wednesday, November 25, the OU will deliver a petition on the indivisibility of Jerusalem and containing the names of thousands of North American Jews to Israel’s President and Prime Minister. The petition, which calls on the government of Israel “to undertake all efforts that are necessary to secure and maintain the status of Yerushalayim, and to oppose and reject any proposal or plan to relinquish any part of Yerushalayim to any foreign authority,” may be signed at www.ou.org/convention.
Mr. Savitsky is calling on all OU shuls to urge their congregations to go online and sign the petition. “This would produce tens of thousands of signatures with a huge impact,” Mr. Savitsky said.
On Thursday, November 26, Thanksgiving Day, there will be a distinctly American component to the activities, as the OU visits the site of the proposed location for the United States Embassy in Jerusalem. Although American presidents and candidates for the office routinely support moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, it never happens. “We propose to send a message to the new American President, whether John McCain or Barack Obama, that it’s time to make actions match promises and to move the embassy to Israel’s capital, where it belongs,” Mr. Savitsky said.
Going beyond the Jerusalem-related activities, the Convention will feature distinguished rabbis, including Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom; noted lecturers; fascinating excursions in Jerusalem and around the country; and a most memorable Shabbat – not to mention Thanksgiving dinner. In conjunction with Touro College, the OU will arrange for parents of high school juniors or seniors to visit yeshivot and seminaries in Israel; there will also be an onsite Job Fair for those thinking of making aliyah to Israel and who are seeking employment there.
Pre-Convention activities, including touring, will take place Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, up to the formal opening of the gathering, Wednesday evening. As in the past, the Convention will be held at the Ramada Hotel, Jerusalem – formerly the Renaissance.
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