Spread Some of the Joy of Purim in Israel

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Dear Friends,

Believe it or not, Purim is right around the corner! As we prepare for our parties and plan out our costumes, we also have a special opportunity to spread some Purim joy in Israel.

Please join our campaign to send Mishloach Manot to the members of the Jerusalem Border Patrol, and police officers stationed in Jerusalem’s Old City, a unique combination of IDF soldiers and police officers tasked with ensuring the security of our sacred capital. Over the past few months, a disturbing number of vicious terror attacks have changed the daily reality in Israel – primarily in Jerusalem. This new wave of violence was just starting to become the frightening norm as we attended the 37th World Zionist Congress in Jerusalem this past October. Tensions could be felt throughout the city, and country. Jerusalem businesses have suffered, tourism has decreased, and parents don’t leave their homes with their children without carrying handheld items for self-defense.Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 11.36.39 AM

While tragic news spreads quickly, what we don’t see or hear about in the US are the numerous attacks thwarted. Over the past six months, border patrol and police forces have seized countless weapons and prevented on average 2-3 terror attacks per day in the greater Jerusalem area. Just last week, Hadar Cohen Z”L, a 19 year-old border policewoman was killed in a terrorist attack at the Damascus Gate. Brave young men and women apprehend criminals and stop terror in its tracks; heroes we rarely hear about and don’t recognize enough.

Please join us in thanking them. As the Jewish nation, we have a responsibility to protect Israel, our Homeland. Though we may not be there personally, we can support those on the front lines who work tirelessly to keep our eternal capital safe so that Jerusalem’s civilians can walk the streets safely.

Imagine the pride and joy of a young officer receiving a show of appreciation from the global Jewish community this Purim.

Your gift of:

  •  $36 will provide one policeman with a basket;
  •  $180 will ensure an entire team will receive baskets.

In addition to this important initiative, and as in years past, the American Zionist Movement’s Purim Connection
program will continue to celebrate Purim with children in Ashkelon and other Israeli towns and villages.

  •  A gift of $300 will provide mishloach manot for an entire class.

Every gift counts and even a small donation will help an officer or Israeli child to enjoy the holiday. All gift baskets are purchased in Israel, therefore providing critical support to small Israeli businesses. Our friends and colleagues in Israel will hand deliver your gift basket.

Mishloach manot can be easily ordered via our website, please include a personal message that will be delivered with the basket.

This year’s campaign will be dedicated in memory of our dear friend and colleague, Marty Davis, who was instrumental in ensuring the success of this program in Israel. Marty made a difference and is sorely missed.

Amidst the latest wave of terror, we reflect on the meaning of Purim, a celebration to commemorate one of many stories from our collective history that exhibits our unique ability to stand up to our enemies, and unite as a people to overcome danger. In these difficult times, the American Zionist community, whose members are from vastly different backgrounds and perspectives, must join together to boost the morale to those who protect and serve, Israel and world Jewry. In doing so, we send the crucial message to Israel that we stand by her side, now during this difficult period, and always.

This Purim, join this initiative to do something different, do something special. Please order your mishloach manot baskets today or mail in a check to:

American Zionist Movement
40 Wall Street, Suite #706
New York, NY 10005.

The AZM, the American arm of the World Zionist Organization, is committed to the strengthening of Israel – locally, and around the world. JOIN US in uniting as a people, overcoming fear, and making this Purim a very special one for Israel’s quiet heroes.

We thank you for your support.

Rabbi Vernon Kurtz                                                           William D. Hess

President                                                                          Chair, Purim Connection

Sig Will + Vernon

 

 

 

 

P.S. We ask that you make your gift by March 9, 2016.

 

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Helyn B. Reich Scholarship Recipients, Spring 2016

We are delighted to announce the recipients of the Spring 2016 Helyn B. Reich Scholarship. They have been chosen for their impressive involvement in Zionist causes in the United States, ranging from activism on their university campuses, to their commitment to Tikkun Olam, and to relentlessly fighting anti-Semitism. We are proud to support the future Zionist activists of our country.

Isabel cropped Isabel Schneider will be attending Saving The Stones, in Acre, northern Israel. The practical training program is designed to give the foundation  needed to begin a career in conservation of built heritage and historic preservation. Isabel  graduated cum laude from the University of Georgia with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, and spent a year in Israel as a  Community Development Fellow, teaching English to Israeli students through small group tutoring and creative  projects. The granddaughter of Holocaust survivors and having experienced anti-Semitism personally, Isabel is a  proud and passionate Zionist. Isabel writes that “Zionism is the acknowledgement that Jews not only deserve to  exist, but also to thrive, and in order for that dream to be realized they must have a place of their own. That place is Israel.” While in Israel, Isabel curated art shows and was able to build strong connections with Israeli artists and writers. Following the program, she plans to keep working in museums in both conservation and curatorial capacities, to be able to impact the international perception of Israel as a cultural leader, and perhaps even make Aliyah in the future.

 

Read Isabel’s essay on her connection to Zionism
Ella CroppesElla Ozer, a current undergraduate student at the University of Arizona, will be attending Tel Aviv University this upcoming Spring. Despite Tel Aviv University not being part in the semester abroad program of her university, Ella decided to spend her semester in Israel. Born in an Israeli family with very strong Zionist values, Ella has participated in various programs in Israel and was a proud member of the Israeli Scouts. She is also extremely involved in Jewish and Zionist life on her university campus, partaking in Hillel and Chabad events, co-founding the IAC Mishelanu chapter, and advocating for Israel on a day-to-day basis. Having her cousins serve in the Israel Defense Forces has had a great impact on Ella and incited her to get involved in a program dedicated to helping IDF soldiers. She hopes that her semester abroad will help her decide whether she wants to make Aliyah upon graduation. She is, regardless, looking forward to creating strong and meaningful relationships during her Israel experience, that will last a lifetime.

Read Ella’s essay on her connection to Zionism

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Hebrew Comes to The Forefront of Jewish Education

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 The American Zionist Movement has been  striving for over 100 years to strengthen the connection of American Jews to Israel. From the Tachles program to Cafe Ivrit, AZM has long held the belief that  Hebrew is an essential component of Jewish identity and attachment to Israel. For this reason, we are extremely proud to be partners in the new American Jewish initiative – The Council for Hebrew Language and Culture – to promote the teaching of Hebrew all across the United States.

The Council for Hebrew Language and Culture convened last week in New Jersey for its annual conference. The organization, established in 2013,  aims to connect people to the Jewish culture, religion and language through Hebrew. This November the Council attained one of its initial goals —  the establishment of professional network of teachers, which aims to “address the needs and professional growth of the tens of thousands of people teaching Hebrew in schools, synagogues, community centers and youth movements in North America, and to unite them under one parent organization to advance the study of the Hebrew language.(JPost article)..  

Speaking Hebrew is a way to strengthen one’s connection and attachment to Israel, Israelis, Jewish and Israeli culture, and even helps promote connections with other Diaspora Jews. Hebrew is a great way to bridge the cultural divide that can be felt between American Jews and Israelis.  The founding conference, established by the HLC, gathered 120 Hebrew teachers from all across North America, who were able to discuss and experiment with innovative approaches to teach Hebrew, and discuss the role of language in Israel education. The excitement and passion conveyed by the participants was palpable, and all were thrilled to be the educators that will hopefully transform and advance the teaching of Hebrew in the United States. 

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Israel Programs Expo — Education Reimagined

 

EXPO Logo EYEThe first edition of the Israel Programs Expo will be showcasing the latest educational, academic, cultural and other innovative programs available to enrich Israel initiatives in your community. The exhibitors  in the Expo, will be either tabling to present their offerings, or doing short presentations as previews for their programs. They will be covering every aspect of Israel programming from instructional materials, technology products, language learning, and more. It will be the perfect chance to find out about all of the different Israel related initiatives available to local communities in the Tri-State area.

The Expo is intended for people active in their communities and professionals who are responsible for creating Israel-related programming in their schools, communities, synagogues, or other institutions. Attendees will be able to experience the innovative programs available to them, while engaging one-on-one with the sponsors and exhibitors.

 

To take part in this great opportunity, please register here.

 

 

Israel Expo 11:30:15

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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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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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