Between April 19-21, 2023, the World Zionist Organization hosted the Extraordinary Zionist Congress in Jerusalem to mark the 75th anniversary of the independence of the State of Israel.
Reflections on Israel | The Extraordinary World Congress
LtoR: Nancy Kauffman (Chair, NY Jewish Agenda), Sheila Katz (CEO of NCJW), SooJi Min-Maranda (ED of ALEPH), Rabbi Deborah Waxman (President and CEO of Reconstructing Judaism, and Nomi Colton-Max (Chair of the Executive Committee and Vice President, Ameinu).
Back in 2020, a number of Jewish Renewal leaders were elected to the progressive Haktivah slate (https://www.hatikvahslate.net/) to attend the World Zionist Organization (WZO) Congress. Due to COVID, the 2020 WZO Congress was held online, with the possibility for a smaller future in-person gathering. Earlier this year, six (6) seats were available for members of that original slate to attend an Extraordinary World Zionist Congress in Jerusalem. ALEPH’s executive director, SooJi Min-Maranda, was fortunate enough to be offered one of those seats as a delegate for Brit Etz.
SooJi traveled to Israel in late April and was joined by another Jewish Renewal delegate, David Berson, Chair of the Ameinu Canada and a member of Or Shalom Synagogue in Vancouver. Along with 2000 delegates representing 40 countries, we convened to vote in person on important resolutions that would provide direction and guidance for $2 billion dollars in funding on the ground in Israel.
Working in committees, the Brit Etz delegation helped pass all of the resolutions of the center left coalition. These important resolutions supported conversion from all religious streams, increased the number of females delegates to the congress to forty percent, promoted LGBTQ+ programs, including the WZO celebrating Pride week, demanded that the WZO will not carry out activities that contradict the values of the Declaration of Independence and opposed Judicial Reform. We also defeated all resolutions from the right, including opposing amending the Law of Return to impose restrictions on the automatic right of all Jews to immigrate to Israel.
Significant highlights were organized demonstrations held both inside and outside of the Congress. Ameinu and Brit Etz organized a demonstration of 250 people from over 12 countries and representing ten slates. We marched together, with the support of Israelis, including UnXeptable and Brother and Sisters in Arms, to the Supreme Court where we held a short ceremony that included a message about our delegation and a prayer for the State of Israel. Our demonstration energized the Israelis to push to demonstrate at the General Assembly held a few days later in Tel Aviv. In addition to our committee work, we stormed out of a plenary session when some of the right-wing delegates were meeting with MK Simcha Rothman. Here, we sang together and chanted “boosha” (shame), forcing Rothman to exit the Conference Center from an employee exit.
Israel is more than a physical place. It is also a faith, a people, and a light unto other nations. What happens in Israel impacts every Jew, no matter where we live. And Israel must remain a democratic state with freedom and liberty belonging to all its inhabitants. We sent a clear message to the Israeli government that the majority of Jews throughout the world do not support this extreme right-wing government. We were thanked by Israelis for our work, and repeatedly asked that diaspora Jews to continue to demonstrate our vocal opposition to the ultra right-wing faction of the Israeli government. We must not stand idly by.
PC: Gili Getz
SooJi with David Berson