Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Want to transform your Shabbat table conversations into “boots on the ground?” Many voices are being heard locally on behalf of the Orthodox Israel Coalition (OIC, formerly the Religious Zionist Coalition), which is advocating for a vote for the World Zionist Organization’s Slate #4 between January 21 and March 11. Through a simple online registration and a small administrative fee of $7.50, each American Jew can be part of a larger voice advocating for the distribution of a significant portion of the allocated $3 billion in Israel and the Diaspora supporting causes and institutions close to the Orthodox Jewish heart.

Following in the tradition of the First Zionist Congress convened by Theodore Herzl in Basel, Switzerland in 1897, the World Zionist Congress convenes every five years in Israel to establish the policies of the World Zionist Organization (WZO). This year, American Jews have the opportunity once again to have their voices heard regarding the most pressing issues facing Israel and the Jewish people worldwide. These issues, which are crucial to the lives of religious Jews, include religious education, aliyah, fighting anti-Semitism, halachic conversion, empowerment of women in secular and religious spheres and advocating for children at the periphery.

The community’s pulpit rabbis will be dedicating their upcoming Shabbat drashot to the importance of this vote by each and every adult in our communities aged 18 and above.

Rabbi Yosef Adler, morah d’asra of Congregation Rinat Yisroel, strongly echoes these sentiments. “It is critical to vote in the upcoming Zionist Congress elections. Our active participation will enable us to represent a devoted Torah life in a more palpable manner to the secular segment of the Israeli public. It will also afford us practical advantages. One of the sources of financial support for our children studying in Israel is MASA, which is financed by this Congress. In years past, they allocated $1,000 per student looking to study in Medinat Yisrael. Recently, due to poor Orthodox representation, the allocation dropped to $200. So implore one and all to register and vote for Slate #4.”

The American vote will elect 152 representatives to the 38th World Zionist Congress, which is the largest delegation outside of Israel. The vote breakdown will help determine which group of American representatives will have the greatest impact upon setting future policy and how the $3 billion budget of the World Zionist Organization, the Jewish Agency, Keren Kayemet (The Jewish National Fund) and Keren Hayesod is spent. Will the money be spent on sending more shlichim to schools throughout the U.S., running more Jewish summer camps in the Soviet Union or ensuring more security at Jewish institutions in Latin America? Or will it provide funds for progressive Jews to help lobby against Birthright Israel?

Slate #4 of the OIC comprises AMIT and the Religious Zionists of America (RZA), which is the U.S. branch of the World Mizrachi Movement, and represents the interests of Bnei Akiva, National Council of Young Israel, the Orthodox Union, Torah MiTzion, Touro College, Yavneh on Campus and Yeshiva University—institutions and organizations that represent the broad swath of the American Modern Orthodox community.

There are four core issues at stake that the OIC believe provides the impetus for the orthodox community to vote in large numbers. First is the frightening issue of physical safety. Security funding can be expanded to protect shuls, schools, community centers and organizations. Next, those who wish to stand up for a strong, Zionist Jewish identity by combatting BDS and anti-Semitism wherever it rears its ugly head, have an opportunity here. Votes for the OIC will empower college students to stand up safely to hateful, divisive rhetoric. Third, self-determination is key, through supporting the proliferation of Jewish settlements in the Golan Heights, Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley. Lastly, the OIC overall purpose is fighting for funding to perpetuate Torah values. The continuing and increased funding for our children to study in gap-year programs in Israel and expand the global network of shlichim, campus leaders, educational programs and joint U.S.-Israel programs hang in the balance.

Teaneck resident Chana Shields, who serves as the VP of strategic planning for National AMIT, is a local representative of the WZO Election Committee. She is passionate in her call for all to vote Slate #4 within the next few weeks. “The Orthodox Israel Coalition (OIC), led by Mizrachi and AMIT, has been representing centrist Orthodoxy and Torah Judaism in the WZO for over 100 years. We have initiated key programming, gained influential leadership positions and developed strong relationships with key agencies, while always advocating for halachic Judaism. If you care about the future of Israel, place your vote for OIC-Slate #4, the slate that represents the major Orthodox Zionist organizations and has a multinational delegation that will have greater influence at the upcoming Congress.”

OIC shared these five simple steps to ensure it five years of increased influence.

1. Go to www.zionistelection.org

2. Click the Voter Registration button on the bottom left of the page.

3. Fill in your information and submit the form.

Note: To cover the costs of the election there is a $7.50 fee or $5.00 fee for 18-25 year olds.

4. Check your email or SMS to receive your verification number and enter it.

5. Vote OIC-Slate #4.

By Pearl Markovitz