Aug 20, 2009

MERCAZ USA New Year E-Letter 2009 - Elul 5769



August 2009

MERCAZ USA New Year E-Letter

Elul 5769

MERCAZ USA is the Zionist membership organization of the Conservative Movement, the voice of Conservative Jewry within the World Zionist Organization, the Jewish Agency for Israel, the American Zionist Movement and the Jewish National Fund to support religious pluralism in Israel and strengthen the connection between Israel and the Diaspora. Click here to see how MERCAZ represents our Conservative/Masorti Movement institutions in Israel and throughout the Diaspora. Click here to (re)join for the current 2009-2010 fiscal year.


MERCAZ USA Israeli Summer Camp Youths 2009

Children enjoying Netzach Israel's summer camp


Looking to join an organized trip to Israel or to Masorti communities around the world? Click here for a list of upcoming Conservative Movement synagogue trips for 2009-2010. Click here for a list of different short-term and long-term programs to Israel.

Click here to cover the remaining costs for the children of the southern region who attended the 3-week summer camp organized by Netzach Israel, the Masorti congregation in Ashkelon.

Mazal tov to Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt, who was named Head of the Rabbinical Assembly's new office of Israel Advocacy. Weinblatt, who is the founding rabbi of Congregation B'nai Tzedek in Potomac, Maryland, is active in a variety of local and national Jewish organizations, including AIPAC, Israel Bonds and the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.

Earlier this summer, the final building permit was issued for the Schechter Center for Jewish Culture, to be located in a renovated 19th century building in the historic Tel Aviv neighborhood of Neve Zedek, and two weeks later, construction commenced. Renovation work is expected to take ten months and be completed in advance of the planned dedication ceremony, scheduled for May 2010. The new facility will house the Masorti congregation Kehillat Sinai and the Midreshet Iyun study center, both led by Rabbi Roberto Arbib, as well as a coffee house and performing arts center. Click here for more information on the Neve Zedek center.

This fall, the Masorti Movement's youth movement "NOAM" will celebrate the 30th anniversary of its founding, with a special event planned for October 6th, during Hol HaMoed Sukkot. At that time, NOAM, an acronym for "No'ar Masorti" (Masorti youth) will pay tribute to five key advocates and founders: Rabbis Shlomo Fox, Michael Graetz, Claudia Kreiman, Lee Levine and Edward Romm. A souvenir fundraising journal is being prepared. Contact the Masorti Foundation for Conservative Judaism at (212) 870-2216 or for more information or to make a contribution.

Earlier this summer, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and Nefesh B'Nefesh launched a new joint initiative to encourage and promote Israel and Aliyah-oriented synagogue programming. The new "Maalot " Project awards grants, co-sponsored by Nefesh B'Nefesh and United Synagogue through its Israel Commission, to congregations for proposals that incorporate Israel and Zionist education in their communities and present aliyah as a realistic option for Conservative Jews. The revised deadline for submitting proposals is September 15th. For more information, contact Rabbi Paul Freedman at or go to


by Naomi Freedman, Aliyah Shlicha for the Conservative Movement in North America

(Ed: This Dvar Torah was originally delivered at the biennial MERCAZ USA General Council which took place on Sunday, May 3, 2009)

The first and most famous call to make Aliyah was made, long before the passage of the Law of Return in 1950, before the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 and even before the birth of the Jewish People, with the move of Jacob and his family to Egypt. The first call for Aliyah came from God to Abram in the very first words spoken to the first of the Patriarchs: "Go forth (Lech Lecha) from your country (me-artzecha), and from your kindred (mi-moladetcha) and from your father's house (mi-beit avicha) to the land that I will show you". (Genesis 12:1)

MERCAZ USA eLetter -- Rabbi Mark and Amy Robbins and family awaiting aliyah flight to Israel

Rabbi Mark and Amy Robbins and family awaiting aliyah flight to Israel

This first Aliyah that Abram and his wife Sarai made was one inspired by "pull" reasons, by the desire to go to a new land to start a new better life. Subsequently, and particularly during the first 100 years of the Zionist Movement, Aliyah was initiated as much by "push" reasons, the desire and need to leave an old land and the physical and financial problems of the old life.

Today, unlike during the past century, we can say that most Aliyah is once again based on "pull" reasons. It is Aliyah by choice. The new immigrants are not running from something bad; they are running towards something good, something perhaps even better, if not actually then at least potentially, than what they enjoy currently. And Israel now in its 62nd year of existence, is something good. It is a modern, beautiful, dynamic and successful state, and the new olim want to be part of it and want Israel to be part of them.

But even in this era of "pull", there are the same three challenges facing the olim as faced Abram. The newcomers must leave "artzecha" – the houses, jobs and income that they have enjoyed in the Diaspora and start all over again physically and financially; they must leave "moladetcha" – the culture, humor, traditions and ways of doing things in the 'old country' and learn new manners, new foods, a new language, etc; and they must leave "beit avicha" – their families and friends who, despite the presence of SKYPE, IM and Facebook, are still thousands of miles away, and create new supportive frameworks.

We who remain here in the Diaspora, whether temporarily or permanently, but who believe in the importance and value of Aliyah – we have to find ways to help the new olim overcome these challenges.

First of all, we must find ways to support the new olim physically and financially "be'artzam", in order to cushion their hard landing and provide help as they make the transition in a new land. The Yellow Pages at of the United Synagogue's Project Reconnect is an excellent way to create business and employment opportunities for new olim.

Secondly, we need to create a culture here "be'moladetam" in the Diaspora in which Aliyah is not a secret but a norm, a positive value which, even if acted on only by a minority, is celebrated publicly by all. The new USCJ-Nefesh B'Nefesh 'Maalot' Initiative and the Conservative Movement's special website are important positive steps in this direction.

Finally, we need to help the newcomers create new family frameworks "be'veit avichem" with "adopted" relatives and "instant" friends by linking the olim with fellow Conservative/Masorti Jews in the 50+ Masorti communities in Israel, so that the olim become a strong bridge between Israel and the Diaepora. To this end, we should salute the Jewish Agency's Aliyah Department for creating and funding a half-time position for an we should salute the Jewish Agency's Aliyah Department for creating and funding a half-time position for an Aliyah coordinator for Conservative/Masorti olim.

Three thousand years ago, Abram and Sarai, later known to us as the "first Jewish couple" Abraham and Sarah, answered the call. Let us, in our own day, do all we can to help and support all of our fellow American Jews who hear and respond to the same Lech Lecha!

[For more information about aliyah in the Conservative Movement, contact Naomi Freedman at 212-533- 2061 or To hear what motivates Conservative Jews to make Aliyah, go to]

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