Rosh HaShanah Message 5775 – Rabbi Vernon Kurtz

vernon featured imageAs we approach the new year, Rosh Hashanah 5775, there are many challenges for the Jewish people. Our thoughts are with our brothers and sisters in the State of Israel. After Operation Protective Edge, Israelis feel vulnerable to the many terrorist organizations that surround them. We mourn with those families who experienced loss during this past summer. We pray for a full recovery for those who suffered physical and psychological injuries and we pledge to work together on their behalf.

Throughout Europe and on social media, anti-Semitism was again a major issue. We understand that it is legitimate to criticize the policies of the government of the State of Israel. However, it is not acceptable to de-legitimize the State. Anti-Zionism has become merely another code-word for anti-Semitism. Not only is the physical security of Jews around the world in danger, our spiritual well-being is also being challenged. We must work to strengthen knowledge of the Hebrew language, to promote a meaningful Jewish identity, to secure the next generation’s positive ties to the State of Israel, and to exhibit support for the Jewish people throughout the world.

In truth, every year has been a challenging year for the Jewish people from the moment that Abram began his long journey to the Land of Canaan. We have met those challenges throughout the ages and we will meet them currently as well.

As President of the American Zionist Movement I pledge to work together with our officers and our Board to find solutions to our challenges and to create a strong, vital and vibrant Jewish community in the Diaspora and in the State of Israel.

Shana Tov U’Metuka to you, your families and the Jewish world,

Rabbi Vernon Kurtz
President,
American Zionist Movement

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Defining Zionism – An Online Speaker Series

Defining Zionism

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A program on defining Zionism–an online speaker series

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Café Israel – Broadening the Conversation

In early March, the American Zionist Movement kicked off its Café Israel – Broadening the Conversation, a series of round-table discussions about Israel, with Shahar Azani, Consul for Media Affairs, Consulate General of Israel in New York. After a light lunch, Azani gave brief remarks and then opened the floor to a Q&A session.

Israel activists and supporters from all backgrounds shared their concerns about how Israel is treated in the media, how to fight against critics and how to engage people who are not knowledgeable about Israel’s full history and society.

Azani stressed the importance of being positive in interactions about Israel and urged participants to discuss Israel in contexts unrelated to politics and the Middle East. It’s vital, he said, to share less-publicized information, such as high tech developments, with the uninformed and to help paint a more comprehensive perspective about Israel. Doing so, he emphasized, will lead them to make more associations about politics as well.

Café Israel is a monthly series about topics related to Israel. The next event will be Tuesday, April 29, with Gil Hoffman, Chief Political Correspondent and Analyst at the Jerusalem Post.

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Mishloach Manot from AZM Brighten Up Purim

To spread the joy of Purim, the American Zionist Movement helped collect donations to send mishloach manot (traditional Purim gift baskets) to Israeli children and soldiers who might otherwise not have received any.

AZM donated more than 450 mishloach manot to those most in need in Southern Israel. Children at the Kehillat Netzach Israel Preschool in Ashkelon received approximately 140 mishloach manot. The baskets were a welcome surprise and cheered up the children, who were staying in shelters because of Code Red sirens from rocket attacks.

AZM also distributed approximately 80 mishloach manot to Neve Hanna, a children’s home in Kiryat Gat, and 70 to Ethiopian children at the Beit Canada Absorption Center in Ashdod. More than 350 mishloach manot were additionally sent to 1st and 2nd graders at AMIT schools in Kiryat Malachi.

As always, AZM was proud to include Israeli soldiers in this campaign. A special intelligence unit received 140 mishloach manot packages and even visited preschoolers during rocket attacks to reassure them and to participate in Purim activities.

Special thanks to AMIT, Mercaz USA, Temple Sinai in Tenafly, New Jersey, for their generous donation, and to everyone around the country who helped make this a special Purim for so many.

To help AZM continue its mission of supporting and promoting Zionism, donate here.

 

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A Chanukah Message of Thanks

The coincidence of Thanksgiving and Chanukah has generated a great deal of conversation in the American Jewish community. It has even created a new holiday known as “Thanksgivukkah.” However, when we examine the themes of these two holidays more closely, we can see that they have much in common.

Thanksgiving is a unique American holiday in which all of us can participate. It is an opportunity to give thanks for the freedom of this country, for our ability to live as Jews in an open society even with all of its challenges, and for the special gifts with which we have been presented by the wider American society. It is appropriate for each of us to give thanks and not to take these gifts for granted.

Chanukah can also be seen as a time of Thanksgiving. Rabbi David Chaim HaLevy, a former Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv, writes that the Al HaNissim prayer appears in the Amidah in the section of Thanksgiving. He states that this is most appropriate, for on Chanukah we should give thanks not only for the victory of the Maccabees in ancient times, but also for its continuing message of spiritual and physical freedom for which we have fought and for which all nations crave. He reminds us, after the birth of the State of Israel, never to take this occurrence for granted.

We are privileged to live in a land of freedom and, at the same time, to express our solidarity with the State of Israel. Like the Maccabees of old, the people of Israel have stood up to tremendous physical and spiritual challenges. Israel remains for us not only a homeland, but also a beacon of light in a tumultuous Middle East.

As we light our Chanukah candles, as we sit down at our Thanksgiving tables, let us recognize not only our gratitude for the past, but also our dedication to making sure that the American dream and the Zionist dream shall live forever.

 

Rabbi Vernon Kurtz

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Conference on Anti-Zionism and Antisemitism

On December 8, join the American Zionist Movement, the World Zionist Organization and the Consulate General of Israel in New York City to explore Antisemitism today, how it manifests itself and ask whether anti-Zionism is the new antisemitism. Featured speakers include author Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, US Special Envoy Ira Forman, Deputy Minister of Defense MK Danny Danon,  and Israeli actress Mili Avital.

To see the program: DRAFT PROGRAM 

To register: REGISTER (no longer accepting online registrations. You can register on Sunday at 130 E.59th Street) conference@azm.org

This program will be live streamed. Visit the iZionist site for more details on the day of the program.

 

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AZM Hosts Critical Conference on Zionism

As part of its ongoing mission to strengthen American Jews with Israel, the American Zionist Movement hosted a two-day conference about Zionism, designed to create dialogue and drive action. The conference, “Zionism: From Ideology to Action, Israeli and North American Perspectives,” was held on October 20-21 at the DoubleTree Hotel at Newark Airport in Newark, New Jersey.

The conference joined representatives from many of AZM’s diverse constituent groups with members of the local Jewish community to debate, discuss and deliberate the meaning of Zionism. Several elements related to Zionism were addressed, with each session based on a theme: what Zionism means to me, how to make it relevant today, if and how Israel is still central to Jewish lives and creating and sending a message about Zionism to others.

Attendees were roused by the many distinguished guests who spoke at the conference, providing varied but comprehensive views about their approach to Zionism. Ambassador Ido Aharoni, Consul General of Israel in New York, opened the conference. Several Zionist thinkers, including renowned authors Professor Gil Troy and Yossi Klein Halevi, provided stimulating discourse in discussions and participated in panels. Professor Steven Cohen shared the results of the 2013 Pew Study on Religion in Public Life, illuminating the procedures of the study as well as what the results mean for the Jewish community.

“It was an outstanding, remarkable, valuable, educational experience,” said Judy Shapiro, Coordinator of Jewish Heritage, New York.

 

 

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Parashat Noah

Beautiful-Water-Clouds-21 The Torah portion Noah describes how Noah, at God’s commandment, builds an ark to save his family and two of each animal as God send a flood to purge the world of its violence. Green Zionist Alliance considers Noah to be the first environmental activist, and has numerous resources about how to use Jewish teachings to help improve the planet, available here.

Read more about Green Zionist Alliance’s take on Shabbat Noah here.

 

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Cafe Ivrit Yoga Edition – Alef Bet Yoga!

Register now!

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Register today

Join the American Zionist Movement for Cafe Ivrit Yoga Edition. A Professional Yoga instructor will give a yoga class in Hebrew. All levels of Hebrew welcome. No special knowledge of Hebrew or Yoga is required.

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Zionism: From Ideology to Action: Israeli and American Perspectives

Program in Development  ||  Register Now

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Please visit our registration page

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Zionism: From Ideology to Action, Sunday-Monday, October 20-21, 2013

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