Archives for 2012

Top Chef Chanukah: Chicago Sizzles

On December 10, ViZion Chicago, the American Zionist Movement’s Young Leadership division in Chicago, partnered with Temple Sholom’s 20’s and 30’s group to present Top Chef Chanukah. Two teams, the McAbees and the Oilers, competed to cook the most delicious latke this side of the Atlantic.  Well known for their expertise in food and Jewish holidays, Rabbi Shoshana Conover, Temple Sholom’s assistant rabbi; Bryan Gryka; chef at Milt’s BBQ for the Perplexed; and Guy Hollingsworth, President of AZM Chicago, judged the latke entries.

Teams were provided with the secret ingredients zucchini, sugar, and cayenne pepper, and they wasted no time being creative in their recipes. Though the McAbees impressed everyone with their latkes topped with crème fraiche, sautéed onions, and balsamic vinegar, the Oilers won over the judges with their Shnitke, a combination of schnitzel and latke, and their menorah-shaped latkes. Winners received a gift certificate to new, local kosher restaurant Milt’s BBQ for the Perplexed and the runners-up received free entry to the December 14 Shabbaton in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago.

Next month, ViZion Chicago hosts stand-up comedian Joel Chasnoff as he discusses the many sides of Zionism. And keep an eye out for an upcoming film series! Click here for more information.

New Leaders Elected at AZM Biennial Assembly

Marlene Post and Bill Hess

Marlene Post, departing Chairman of the AZM Board with outgoing President Bill Hess in a relaxed moment at dinner.

The room was full to capacity. Hurricane Sandy had caused a change in both date and venue for AZM’s Biennial Assembly in New York, but it hadn’t diminished enthusiasm levels. On December 17, the audience was eager to hear the different perspectives offered by speakers about Zionism and our role in it.

The short program packed a good punch, providing serious substance as Conference of Presidents Executive Vice Chairman and CEO Malcolm Hoenlein, Ameinu National President Kenneth Bob and World Zionist Organization Vice Chairman David Breakstone presented “Gaza, the UN Vote and the Aftermath.” American-Israeli comedian Joel Chasnoff then lightened the mood with his pitch-perfect

Francine Stein

Francine Stein addressing the biennial

rendition of Israelis and their attitudes. AZM Executive Director Karen Rubinstein was impressed with his ability to characterize so many kinds of Zionists so well. “Joel’s program offers a unique and entertaining way to open conversations about Zionism with North American groups,” she said. Chasnoff also modeled a new program promoted by AZM and the WZO to help Americans explore the meaning of Zionism today.

The AZM Biennial also serves as a meeting to elect new offices for the organization. Completing five years as President of AZM, Bill Hess passed the torch on to Rabbi Vernon Kurtz, rabbi of the North Suburban Synagogue, Beth El of Highland Park, Illinois. Rabbi Kurtz is a well-known figure in the Zionist world from his many roles in Mercaz and Mercaz Olami and thanks to his deep involvement with the Jewish Agency for Israel. In his acceptance speech, Rabbi Kurtz touched on the pillars of Zionism suggested by Solomon Schechter and urged attendees to work even harder to promote and support Zionism. “I believe that we at AZM must lead the way … and be a partner with others who are already doing fine

Rabbi Vernon Kurtz (left) Rabbi Bennett Miller (right)

Two New Presidents: Newly-elected president of AZM, Rabbi Vernon Kurtz, pictured with the new president of ARZA, Rabbi Bennett Miller.

work,” he said. “We can only do so if we work together, put aside our differences and see the greater whole, the more noble purpose, the grand challenge. We may not complete the work, but neither are we free to desist from it.”

Also elected were Kenneth Bob as Chairman of the Board; Harvey Blitz of the Religious Zionists of America, David Newman of ARZA and Leonard Petlakh of the American Forum of Russian Jews as Vice Presidents; Judy Shereck of Hadasssah as Treasurer and David Krantz of the Green Zionist Alliance as Secretary.

At the conclusion of the business meeting, participants gathered for a dinner honoring Bill Hess. Several speakers toasted Hess and extolled his contributions to AZM, and he was presented with a tzedakah box as a gift of appreciation for his dedication to the Zionist Movement.  The evening was also full of surprises, with a performance by singer Lisa Berman and a sing-along at the end of her set.

Bill Hess pictured with AMIT leadership

The top leadership of AMIT took time to pose with outgoing AZM President Bill Hess.

Joel Chasnoff Presents the Schizophrenic Zionist in Chicago

Make your reservation now for a Comedy Event to be remembered!

Regular entrance: $10

Students: $5

Or, email Chaya Segal, AZM Chicago

Rabbi Kurtz of Chicago Elected to Head American Zionist Movement

(New York, NY – December 17, 2012)

The American Zionist Movement announced the election of its new officers who will serve over the coming two years. The election took place on December 17th in New York City with the slate of officers being unanimously accepted by the delegates.

Rabbi Vernon Kurtz

Rabbi Vernon Kurtz

The new slate of officers is headed by Rabbi Vernon Kurtz, who will serve as President of the American Zionist Movement (AZM). Rabbi Kurtz, the Rabbi of North Suburban Synagogue Beth El in Highland Park, Illinois, was born in Toronto, Canada. His election to the position of President of the American Zionist Movement is only the most recent in a number of key positions he has held in the Zionist world, including President of MERCAZ USA and President of MERCAZ Olami, the world-wide Zionist organization of the Conservative/Masorti movement. He has held numerous other positions of communal responsibility on the local, national and international level including serving as president of the Rabbinical Assembly, the international association of Conservative/Masorti rabbis. Rabbi Kurtz is an associate member of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency for Israel, has been elected to its Executive, and serves as deputy chairman of its Russian Speaking Jewry Committee. Rabbi Kurtz will be succeeding William D. Hess of New Orleans as president of AZM.

Elected to the position of the Chairman of the Board of the American Zionist Movement was Kenneth Bob, who is the president of Ameinu. Bob is also a member of the Executive of the World Zionist Organization, and the Jewish Agency for Israel Board of Governors. In his professional life, Kenneth Bob is an experienced entrepreneur and currently serves as President of RenewTricity, a solar energy development company.

Others elected to office were: Harvey Blitz, David Newman and Leonard Petlakh, Vice Presidents; Judy Shereck, Treasurer; and David Krantz, Secretary.

AZM Biennial Assembly Rescheduled To December 17th


Join AZM on December 17, 2012, as we review our achievements and plan for the next two years. We will bid farewell to our outgoing officers and elect a new officers and a new administration.

The date and location are set, and we are now hard at work developing the program for the AZM December 17th Biennial Assembly and dinner.  The meeting and business sessions will be at UJA-Federation, 130 East 59th Street.  Registration will open at 1:30 PM and the program will begin at 2:00 PM.  Immediately following the meetings, around 5:30 PM, we will move directly across the street to The Lighthouse Conference Center for a festive dinner, including musical entertainment, honoring our outgoing president, Bill Hess.

The cost of full registration remains at $180, which includes: the meeting, the festive dinner, and a  name listing in the journal honoring Bill (a $75 value).  The meeting-only price is $36; the dinner-only price is $125. Tickets already purchased for the dinner, will of course, be honored.

The program will review many of the major issues facing the Jewish people and the Zionist movement today, including a diplomatic briefing, a preview to the forthcoming Israeli elections, an interactive look at some of the faces of Zionism today, modern day anti-Semitism and its relationship to BDS We will conclude with an response from the WZO as to how today’s Zionist movement is addressing these issues.  Of course, we will also have a business session, including the election of our new officers.

We urge each of you to plan to join us for the entire day. It is a way of showing your solidarity with Israel and her people still reeling from the recent onslaught of rockets in the south. It is also a unique opportunity to get information to use in your home communities to help defend and build the Jewish state. Lastly,  you will be inspired by the relevance of the renewed and growing Zionist Movement through the World Zionist Organization.

Register Now


AZM and WZO to Host Exclusive Space at General Assembly

On Sunday, November 11, through Tuesday, November 13, the American Zionist Movement and the World Zionist Organization will join Jewish organizations from across North America at the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly, held this year in Baltimore, Maryland. For the first time, WZO, together with AZM, will be hosting a major area in the exhibit hall.

The General Assembly serves as a marketplace of ideas and trends in the Jewish community, and so it is fitting that WZO chose to highlight Zionism as its main theme. WZO and AZM’s exclusive space will feature three unique ways to engage with Zionist ideas. Visitors are invited to drop by and listen to Israeli music, read the Israeli press, play a game of Sheshbesh or Hebrew Bananagrams, and have a slice of Hebrew with their coffee. “Touching Israel” is an interactive smart wall that will allow users to learn more about the history of Zionism and its relevance today. And, as an innovative way to explore these ideas in more detail, comedian Joel Chasnoff will perform stand up as a part of a facilitated discussion about Zionist identities.

AZM’s unique addition to the 2012 “Tribefest” program, QUIZRAEL, a trivia bonanza about Israel, global Jewish communities, and the impact of the Israel Action Network and the Federation movement overseas, will be reintroduced as a special event on Sunday evening at 8:00 PM. There will be prizes, giveaways and lots of fun.

We invite you to join us for all of this and more. Every year, the GA proves to be the premier event for Jewish organizations. WZO and AZM look forward to being a part of it and to connecting with the Jewish community.


AZM Shabbat Dinner on Long Island

On October 19, 2012, ViZionYLD, the young leadership division of the American Zionist Movement, sponsored a unique Shabbat dinner for 18 young professionals at a private home. The meal, hosted by the Associate Director of Young Leadership, was located on Long Island to provide new opportunities to local Jewish young professionals who live outside Manhattan. Attendees came from all over the Tri-State area, attracted by the intimate setting and the learning opportunities. Annie, a native Long Islander, was glad she could attend a Shabbat meal near her home and not worry about traveling to Manhattan.

The dinner featured Shabbat traditions as well as networking and a structured discussion about Zionism. Participants exchanged views on what Zionism means to a young generation as well as related recent events in the Israeli news to the perception of Zionism. “Zionism gives my generation the opportunity to be the future dreamers and achievers of Israel,” said Alli, a ViZionYLD board member.

We thank all our guests for joining us and look forward to seeing you soon!

To get more involved with ViZion, please “like” us on facebook at





A Post-Holiday Greeting from the WZO Chairman Avraham Duvdevani

After the Holidays is Now

The expression “after the holidays” connotes the period following the holidays in the month of Tishrei, when the work week goes back to its regular routine.  “After the holidays” is a very common and useful phrase.

The holidays are a sort of time-out.  A period that transcends time, in which a person becomes introspective and concentrates on himself and his family.  The time for action and creativity, and the time of renewal comes “after the holidays.”

These three words have become a reason and explanation for the “tradition” that has evolved over the years, whereby there is a period during which important meetings are postponed, decisions are not reached, and ideas remain on paper.

We use the phrase ‘after the holidays’ to project the present in our lives to a particular point in the future, and so for many years, the phrase “after the holidays” has become an expression for pushing things off.  On the other hand, it also has become an expression of renewal, as written by the late songwriter, Naomi Shemer,  in her song “Renewal”:


“After the holidays, everything will be renewed.

Ordinary days will return…”

 And the late Ehud Manor in his song “After the Holidays”:

“After the holidays

We will correct the mistakes

And start from the beginning”

After the holidays is already here.  We have turned the clock back one hour and this is an opportunity to remember the ideas and tasks we have put off, to rest for a moment, to gather our strength and continue at the place we left off before the holiday began.

We can use this time for introspection, maybe with a different outlook on things, on goals, directions and paths we are on, to bring about an awakening, added motivation and new life and to continue with greater strength after the holidays.

We have said farewell to the year that has passed.  It will not return, and it will join the previous year before it.  We will remember the past two years, as good ones.  However, these years have also included a lot of effort, distress and difficulties, but what we have accomplished will grow and become in our memory blessing, greatness and goodness.

We have reached the “after the holidays” period, packed with positive energy that we have amassed during the first two years, and the organization’s employees and managers are imbued with team spirit and a sense of mission.  We are all ready to move forward, to revitalize things, to renew and become renewed.

In this way, we will welcome the new year with a sense of happiness and satisfaction, giving special meaning to the continuum of the coming days and added significance to simple everyday activities.

Following the last Zionist Congress, when we embarked on a path of renewal and revitalization at the World Zionist Organization, we adopted a number of missions and challenges that are based on classic Zionist goals, which have yet to be completed, while updating and adapting them to our time and place.

At the top of the list is promoting aliyah from prosperous countries as part of the ‘Habaita’ Program.  Olim making aliyah of their own free choice, from a sense of Zionism and ideals, where there is no Zionism without aliyah.  That is its realization.

We are ‘cultivating Zionism’ in order to develop and strengthen Zionist awareness and education in the Diaspora, through ‘Israel Families in the Community’, ‘Batei Am’, encounters between youth from the Diaspora and the Galilee and Negev, etc.   We have assumed the responsibility of strengthening and cultivating the Hebrew language as the language of the Jewish people. This is the language that builds Jewish and Zionist identity.   We have taken upon ourselves to lead the struggle against rising anti-Semitism. We are ‘connecting’ with hundreds of thousands of Israelis living in the Diaspora and the Russian-speaking community, bringing them Hebrew culture and language and Zionism.

We have also accepted the responsibility for engaging in Zionism in the State of Israel as well, based on the idea that the country is not a goal, rather a tool for something much bigger:  creating a model ethical society, known for equality and justice, integrity and morality, “a light among nations” as envisioned by the prophets.

As the years go by, and we approach Israel’s 65th year of independence, it becomes ever clearer that we cannot live in the State of Israel without the ‘good old’ Zionism. Only ideological Zionist commitment can ensure that young families won’t pack their bags and leave in times of trouble.

As our reality here in the Middle East becomes more complex, it becomes obvious that Zionism is critical in order to provide meaning to our existence as a Jewish State, and it ensures that we will not stop believing and convincing others that the State of Israel can and will be better, more humane, civilized, enlightened – a country that demands justice, tolerance, and respect for others.

Through the Rural Settlement Division, we work to settle the length and breadth of the land of Israel through ‘Culture for Israel’, we strengthen cultural life and enrich the periphery.  We assist the Herzl Center and the Zionist Council, in order to create a younger generation that will be imbued with belief and Zionist values, and which will foster leadership that will assume the responsibility for national missions.

Yes, since the Congress, we have witnessed success in our endeavors, and significant indicators of young people returning to the Zionist movement have been seen and our reputation has improved.  We need to bring this outcome to public attention this year, convince and enlist as many Jews, as individuals and groups, youth and adults, in communities and organizations, in Israel and the Diaspora.  We will do this by gathering together – at conferences small and large, international and regional, according to topic and sector, in Israel and overseas, while continuing the momentum in implementing all we have begun.

“After the holidays” – how many times have we used those words without noticing how we perceive or even disparage the dimension of time?

Before Rosh Hashanah, we held an educational tour in Europe – ‘Leadership Looks Ahead to the Future’ – in the steps of Theodore Herzl, which was very successfully organized by the Department for Activities in the Diaspora.  We were once again awed by Herzl’s amazing personality and enormous contribution.  Most of all, we were impressed by how he did all this is such a short period of time.

All of Herzl’s activity, from the time he realized that the only solution to the Jewish problem was a Jewish state, and until his death, took place during a period of less than nine years.  This single man managed to accomplish so much in such a short period of time!  His actions were essentially the cornerstone for the founding of the State of Israel, reminiscent of the words of Victor Hugo:  “As short as the time is, it’s enough to change everything.”

We must also see this subject as part of Herzl’s heritage.

“Time travels, because that is what time is supposed to do,” sings Ehud Banai, one of Israel’s contemporary young musicians.  Time waits for no man.  And just as we must properly and optimally utilize our budgets, we must also not waste or lose time.  Only recently, we saw in the Olympics the value of a millisecond.

Therefore, my friends, we will adopt the expression “after the holidays” in order to work with greater strength and effort to move with the pace of time, in order to promote all the challenges and tasks that are gaining momentum and stability, along with creative renewal and innovation.  This is reflected in the verse from Ethics of our Fathers:  We must complete the work, and in any event, we are not free to ignore it.






William Hess Concluding His Term as President

William  Hess (known by all as “Bill”)  is a dedicated Zionist.  There is no doubt about his passion, his dedication, and his unbounded love for Israel.  In 2007, Bill was elected President of the American Zionist Movement and he has not rested a day since in his efforts to make AZM bigger, better and more effective. As Bill leaves office this November we know that he will still be working hard to secure Israel’s and the Zionist Movement’s future.

Friends and colleagues of Bill are invited to join AZM as we honor him for his achievements.  There will be a dinner in Bill’s honor at the conclusion of the AZM Biennial Assembly on November 18, 2012.  If you cannot join us that evening, please consider expressing your good wishes in our dinner journal.

Seeds of a State: A Staged Reading of Zionist Texts

photo from the first Zionist CongressSeeds of a State: A Staged Reading of Zionist Texts

 Since you probably missed it the first time….

Join AZM Chicago for a Zionist Congress redux

Sunday, August 19 | Temple Emanuel*

6:30 PM| $12 in advance/$15 at the door

Buy your ticket now

*Temple Emanuel, 5959 N. Sheridan Road, Chicago, Illinois

Parking Available at the Temple Parking Lot