Why We Need to Support ARZA and Vote in the Zionist Elections

Posted on November 5, 2019 by Rabbi Arnie Gluck

On Yom Kippur, I urged us to remember that we Jews are family. We are bound to one another by history and destiny, so what happens to any one of us should matter to each and every one of us. At the same time, we are also extremely diverse. We are Reform and Ultra-Orthodox, religious and secular. We are American, Israeli, Moroccan, Argentinian, Uzbeki, Australian, and more. We are Sephardi, Ashkenazi, Ethiopian, and Mizrachi. We speak almost every language on the planet. We are colorful and contentious, different in so many ways, and yet, we are also the same because we are Jews, one family, through thick and thin, through bitter and sweet.

As Reform Jews, our vision for Israel and the Jewish people is one that embraces our diversity as a positive value. We want a Jewish world and a Jewish state where every Jew can feel at home and express themselves fully and freely. This vision was shared by Israel’s founders, who pledged in their Declaration of Independence that the Jewish State would “guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture…” Unfortunately, Israel has failed to live up to this promise, by maintaining an official state rabbinate that gives Orthodoxy a virtual monopoly on Jewish religious life.

Orthodox Jewish institutions in Israel receive approximately $1 billion of funding from the government each year, while the Reform and Conservative movements combined receive only a little over $3 million. This needs to change, and we can help make that happen by supporting ARZA, the Association of Reform Zionists of America, which every member of this congregation has the opportunity to do through our annual giving to TBE. Our gift to ARZA helps to grow and sustain our Israeli Reform Movement by providing funding for its synagogues and schools, to make up for some of what they don’t receive from the government.

This year, we have a huge opportunity to advance our values and claim our place in the Jewish family by voting in the elections for the World Zionist Congress, the Parliament of the Jewish people. Four years ago, the Reform movement won 39 percent of the American Jewish vote, which translated into real power, influence, and $4 million a year in funding for our institutions in Israel and around the world. Our goal this time is to double that amount, and we can do it if… if we vote!

It is time for our fellow Jews to understand that we Reform Jews are not stepchildren in our shared Jewish family. We deserve to be treated as equals, and our Jewish way of life deserves respect, here and in Israel. Polls consistently indicate that a majority of Israeli Jews want religious freedom and pluralism, and many of them are voting with their feet.

This year, on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Reform services were held in 70 locations throughout Israel, exposing more and more Israelis to a beautiful and meaningful egalitarian Jewish practice. Our growing Israeli Reform Movement now numbers 50 congregations, and our Hebrew Union College campus in Jerusalem has ordained more than 100 Israeli Reform rabbis. They need and deserve our support.

Voting for the World Zionist Congress will take place online starting January 21, 2020 and will continue until March 11, 2020. All Jews over the age of 18 are eligible and it takes less than 90 seconds to cast your vote. Our campaign team will be providing detailed instructions to guide you.

I urge you to support ARZA as part of your annual giving to TBE, and to stand up for Reform Judaism and religious pluralism in Israel by voting in the World Zionist Congress Elections. I will be on ARZA’s slate of candidates, and with your help I look forward to representing you next October in Jerusalem, when the 38th World Zionist Congress convenes. This is our moment to stand up and be counted; to stand with and for our fellow Reform Jews in Israel and throughout the world. Together we can make a difference!


Rabbi Arnold S. Gluck

This article was originally published in the November-December 2019 issue of the Shofar. An archive of Shofar issues can be found here.