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Wednesday 16 June 2010

The World Zionist Congress – Being part of a world movement

Another reflection from Rabbi Danny Burkeman, Pro-Zion and Arzenu
representative at the World Zionist Congress

The World Zionist Congress – Being part of a world movement
In our joint faction meeting with Labour we heard today from
representatives of our groups from across the world.

In Britain we Reform Jews are a minority within a minority – it can be
difficult and sometimes demoralising. Being part of the Arzenu
delegation at the World Zionist Congress is a reminder that we are
part of an international movement, with members spread across the
world. We have allies and supporters around the globe, and we need to
find ways to work more closely together and to strengthen our bonds
and cooperation. It is always refreshing and inspiring to see Reform
Jews from across the globe.

We all face a range of different challenges and problems as a result
of our different national contexts. But there are some challenges and
problems which we all face together. Through cooperation and the
sharing of ideas we can face the future together, and continue to
advance the international message of Reform Judaism and Reform

The World Zionist Congress – Arzenu, Labour and Meretz

Another post taken from

The World Zionist Congress – Arzenu, Labour and Meretz
This afternoon we had the first meeting of our new faction for the
Congress. Our Arzenu group have spent the last few years negotiating
with Labour to form a coalition, and more recently Meretz have joined
us. This means that we will together be the largest group at the
Congress, and it will further increase the influence we have.

This will be important for the work of the Zionist institutions,
however, it is equally, if not more important in relation to what it
means for our place in Israeli society. We in the Reform movement
remain a small percentage within Israeli society, but we are the
largest international stream of Judaism, and it is important that our
voice is heard within Israeli society. With Labour and Meretz we share
a broad vision of a Jewish democratic state, at peace with her
neighbours, and built on values of social justice and pluralism. It is
a partnership which is built on strong ideological foundations.

We in Arzenu have to use our voice, and strength, within the World
Zionist Congress to help our Israeli Reform movement. Through this
agreement we now have a formal partnership with two parties within the
Israeli Knesset, which can only help in the further establishment and
legitimisation of our movement here in Israel.

Monday 14 June 2010

The World Zionist Congress - It's complicated...

Another blog by Rabbi Danny Burkeman taken from

The World Zionist Congress - It's complicated...

This afternoon we had a really interesting discussion about the
different ways in which our national Reform Zionist bodies responded
to the flotilla incident. Different countries had felt the need to
respond in different ways, with different agendas determining that
response. I was very aware that my response to the flotilla (see the
sermon below) was very much a response to the British national
context. It was not about speaking to a Reform Jewish community, it
was about addressing the issue for a Reform Jewish community against
the backdrop of the British media's negative portrayal of Israel.

The difficulty which we face revolves around what we do when we don't
agree 100% with the position, or approach, of the Government of
Israel. Do we voice complete support publicly out of a sense of
responsibility? Or are we comfortable to stand up and criticise?

I think it is important to always remember that our movement is the
heir to the prophetic tradition. When we see injustive we have an
obligation to speak out against it. But in the case of the Israeli
blockade of Gaza and the flotilla, the issue is far too complex to
offer 100% support or to criticise.

For those of us who live in the Diaspora we have to recognise that our
children are not drafted into the army, our families do not live in
daily fear of Hamas rockets, and no world leader is calling for the
destruction of the country in which we live. And therefore we can
attempt to influence Israel, we can offer help and we can try to
support her. But at the end of the day she has to pursue a just and
safe path for her and her citizens - and when she falters, we have to
be there to help pick her up.

I keep thinking about Herzl's words (appropriately as it is 150 years
since his birth) 'Im tirtzu, ein zo agadah' - 'If you will it, it is
no dream'. As Reform/Progressive/Liberal Zionists, we have a dream for
the State of Israel - secure in its borders, at peace with her
neighbours, a Jewish democratic state, and a country which serves as a
shining light for the rest of the world. Our job is to help her
citizens and Government to pursue that dream and vision.

Saturday 12 June 2010

The World Zionist Congress - How does the Diaspora impact upon Israel

This post is by Pro-Zion delegate to the Congress, Rabbi Danny
Burkeman - it is taken from his blog at

The World Zionist Congress - How does the Diaspora impact upon Israel
In the car to Jerusalem, an Israeli friend and I spent the journey
discussing (arguing) about the relationship between the Diaspora and
Israel. She just wanted us, in the Diaspora, to make the point that
Israel has a right to exist. For me that did not go far enough; we in
the Diaspora should be doing more than that. We need to be the front
line of Israel's PR defence. We didn't agree on this issue, but we did
agree it's complicated, and it left me once again thinking about the
role of the Diaspora in relation to Israel.

It was a very appropriate conversation on the way to the Arzenu
pre-WZC conference.

As I arrived at Beit Shmuel and saw the international group that had
gathered together it was a reminder of the fact that Israel can serve
as a source of unity for the Diaspora.

The first session I participated in was on the subject of the impact
the Diaspora has on Israel and Israel on the Diaspora. Listening to
the groups present their varied perspectives, it was clear to me that
it is a two way street and it is important that we allow, and ensure,
the traffic flows smoothly in both directions. We in the Diaspora are
stronger for having a State of Israel and hopefully we in turn
strengthen our shared Jewish homeland - and maybe that impact is

Wednesday 9 June 2010

Pro-Zion Blog Update

Though our weekly e-mails have still been going out the Pro-Zion blog
has been much neglected recently. It is being ressurected this week to
keep people up to date with our delegates at the World Zionist
Congress - we look forward to hearing all about their experiences over
the next week.