The 37th World Zionist Congress (WZC) will take place, E”H, in October, 2015 in Israel.
We call upon the entire Orthodox community to organize and to register and vote for the Vote Torah slate. The voting period ends as of April 30, 2015, and we need to register and vote prior to that deadline.
First the facts: 525 delegates representing Jewish communities from around the world will assemble at the Congress, the parliament of the Jewish people. 145 of the delegates will come from the United States. These delegates and their alternates, will be elected and the ongoing election period will continue until the end of April, 2015. The WZC will, in turn, elect the leadership and determine policies for the World Zionist Organization (WZO), the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) through the election of 50% of the JAFI Board of Governors and 50% of the JAFI General Assembly, the Keren Hayesod (KH) and the election of the General Assembly and leadership of the Keren Kayemet L’Yisroel (KKL). Through its control of these agencies, it will have a major impact on the more than one billion dollars of funding that these agencies are able to allocate. The allocations will be proportionate to the strength of the various Zionist factions that are present at the WZC. All told, there are 11 slates competing for votes in the United States and the Orthodox community is represented by the Religious Zionist slate, whose position as slate # 10 on the ballot was determined by a lottery. This slate is running under the banner of Vote Torah.
This slate is headed by Rabbi Hershel Schachter, Rosh Yeshiva at Yeshiva University. The slate includes local community leaders from Orthodox institutions and communities throughout the United States. On Long Island, the slate includes, among other leaders, Rabbi Hershel Billet, Rabbi Kenneth Hain and Lawrence Mayor Martin Oliner. In New Jersey, the slate includes, among other leaders, Rabbi Shmuel Goldin and Rabbi Shlomo Rybak and in Westchester County, Amit National President Deborah Isaac. In New York City, the slate includes Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, YU President Richard Joel, RZA President Rabbi Yosef Blau, OU leaders Rabbi Steven Weil and Allen Fagin, Touro College President Dr. Alan Kadish and YU Vice President Rabbi Kenneth Brander. In the Chicago region, the slate includes Rabbi Gedalia Dov Schwartz, RCA President Rabbi Leonard Matanky, Rabbi Jerold Isenberg and past RZA president, Bert Kahn. There are Orthodox leaders from the West Coast, including OU President, Martin Nachimson on the slate. This is a national slate which is supported by the RZA, Amit, Emunah, YU, Touro, the National Council of Young Israel, the Orthodox Union, RCA, Bnei Akiva and the Torah MiTzion Kollelim. Each of these organizations has representatives on the official slate. Furthermore, in full compliance with the rules of the WZO, 25% of the delegates are “Youth Delegates” between the ages of 18 and 30. They are among the finest examples of the vibrancy of Orthodoxy and they all deserve our full support.
So, what are the allocations and why should our communities be concerned?
The reasons are many. Here are just a few.
There is a Department of Religious Affairs for the Diaspora, funded through the WZO budget. It supplies Torah based educational materials, without cost, to yeshivas and day schools. In our local Long Island communities, that has been of benefit to HANC, HAFTR, SKA, Rambam, TAG and South Shore, as well as to other educational institutions in our community. In the New Jersey region, the list of schools that benefit includes Moriah, Yavneh, Noam, Ben Porat Yosef, Frisch, TABC and Maayanot. The current leadership of the department is its chair, Rabbi Yechiel Wasserman and its Director General, both of whom come from the Religious Zionist faction, and were appointed to their positions by the Religious Zionist faction at a prior Congress. The Reform and Conservative movements have tried for years to gain control of this key department. They would like to impose their own form of educational materials and literature for distribution to our yeshivot and day schools and only our continued strength at the Congress can help prevent that from happening.
Orthodox communities throughout the United States benefit from Schlichim (Emissaries) sent by the WZO and JAFI, to help local Jewish communities, especially the smaller Jewish communities. Schlichim give shiurim, serve as role models and are often the glue that helps build up these smaller communities. Religious Schlichim and their families are recruited and trained by the WZO and JAFI, and in order to sustain this program, we must turn out and support the Vote Torah slate, which is the only slate committed to maintaining the strength and numbers of these religious schlichim.
The WZO is the agency that allocates the funds that support Jewish communities in Israel. The Vote Torah slate is the only slate committed to maintaining that support for all Jewish communities, including those established across the 1967 cease fire lines in Israel. J Street is pouring money into this election, supporting the slates that will seek to cut off all such funding and services. Heaven forbid that they succeed, and established Jewish communities lose this important funding source from the Settlement Division. In 1948, the total Jewish population of the 4 kibbutzim in the Etzion Bloc totaled about 500, when Israel was forced to evacuate that area. Today, the Jewish population in that area approaches 90,000. Imagine if they were forced out of their homes and communities because the funding and services needed were cut off. One way to help prevent that from happening is to register and vote for the Vote Torah slate.
The registration fee is $5.00 for those between the ages of 18 and 30. All others pay a $10.00 fee, and the fees pay for the services of supervising the elections by Election America.
It is not too late to seize the moment and vote for the Vote Torah slate. Please go to VoteTorah.org and follow the links until you have received confirmation that your vote for VoteTorah has been recorded. In this way, your voice will be heard at the Congress.
By Isaac Blachor and Dr. Francine Stein