75 Years after Historic Biltmore Conference, AZM Launches “Year of Zionist Anniversaries”

Seventy Five years ago this week, in early May 1942, hundreds of American Zionists convened in New York City in Manhattan’s then-famous Biltmore Hotel for an extraordinary gathering (photo below). This assembly, at the time the horrors of the Holocaust in Europe were becoming fully known, has been recognized as the “Biltmore Conference” and as a seminal moment in Zionist history.   On this occasion, The American Zionist Movement (AZM), the federation of Zionist organizations in the United States, created from among those who convened the Biltmore Conference, launches a “Year of Zionist Anniversaries”.

Richard D. Heideman, President of AZM and Herbert Block, Executive Director of AZM, in a joint statement said: “From May 2017 until May 2018 AZM will mark a series of important milestones in Zionism and help inform Jewish communities and the general public about the history, relevance and importance of Zionism and its connection to the independence and vibrant democracy of the State of Israel.”

This “Year of Zionist Anniversaries” includes recognizing:

  • 50 years since the reunification of Jerusalem following the Six Day War in June 1967;
  • 120 years since Theodor Herzl convened the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland in August 1897;
  • 100 years since the Balfour Declaration was issued in November 1917 by the British Foreign Secretary;
  • 70 years since adoption of the United Nations Partition Resolution in November 1947; and, culminates with celebrating the…
  • 70th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel in May 1948.

Through this upcoming “Year of Zionist Anniversaries” AZM will conduct programs and events across the country about Zionism in partnership with its 25 constituent agencies and in cooperation with the broad spectrum of Jewish communal agencies.  There will be programs related to Zionism held with public officials, schools, synagogues, summer camps and with many community institutions and organizations.

It was at this historic Biltmore Conference 75 years ago, addressed by Chaim Weizmann and David Ben-Gurion (who would later in the decade become Israel’s first President and Prime Minister respectively), that 600 American Zionists issued the Biltmore Declaration which formally called for the founding of a “Jewish Commonwealth” in the land of Israel, then under the British Mandate.  This declaration also expressed the solidarity of the Jewish people around the world, especially with those suffering under Hitler in Europe, and expressed a desire for a future Jewish state to live “in full cooperation” with its Arab neighbors.  Just five years later, also in New York City, the United Nations adopted the Partition Resolution which lead to the end of the British Mandate and the creation of the independent State of Israel a few months later, immediately recognized by the United States and freedom loving nations of the world.

One hundred and twenty years ago the Zionist movement formally came together under the leadership of Herzl. Zionism is rooted in a belief stretching back thousands of years that the Jewish People have a right to sovereignty in their ancestral and indigenous homeland. It was at the Biltmore Hotel, then located on 43rd Street & Vanderbilt Avenue across from Grand Central Terminal, that the movement united in seeking the “fulfillment of the original purpose of the Balfour Declaration” to form the Jewish Commonwealth, now the modern State of Israel.  

Richard D. Heideman, President and Herbert Block, Executive Director of AZM said in their joint statement: “As we mark important milestones this year for Zionism, the Jewish people and the State of Israel, AZM has launched a platform of ‘Zionism Forward’ with the goal of reenergizing Zionism in America. It is a call to those in America who are committed to a better future for Israel, the Jewish people and Zionism to participate in a new effort to guide American Jewry to speak and act in unified support for Zionism and Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. In this Year of Zionist Anniversaries AZM will both recognize our roots and build towards the future.”

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AZM Fact Sheet

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The American Zionist Movement

The mission of the American Zionist Movement (AZM) is to bring the American Jewish community closer to Zionism.  AZM, based in New York City, is composed of organizations and individuals representing a broad array of Zionist perspectives and engaging in a variety of philanthropic, educational and advocacy activities on behalf of Israel and the Jewish people. In this capacity, the AZM carries out activities and programs in the US in cooperation with the World Zionist Organization and represents American Zionists within the National Institutions of Israel.  AZM strives to provide services and programming for member organizations, as well as serve as a catalyst for new Zionist ideas, a convener of Zionist discussions, an incubator of new initiatives, and is committed to the providing of quality Jewish and Zionist education to the next generation.

Known as AZM since 1993, the organization is the Zionist federation in the United States.  Twice in each decade, AZM organizes and sponsors the United States election of delegates to the World Zionist Congress, a process in which tens of thousands of American Jews participated and vote.  AZM is the successor to the American Zionist Federation (founded in 1970) and to the American Zionist Council which started in the 1940s.

At the AZM Biennial Assembly in March 2017, Richard D. Heideman of Washington DC was elected President of AZM and Herbert Block was appointed as Executive Director.   A theme of “Zionism Forward” as the goal and vision of AZM was launched in an effort to reenergize Zionism in America.  It is a call to those in America who are committed to a better future for Israel, the Jewish people and Zionism to participate in a new effort to guide American Jewry to speak and act in unified support for Zionism and Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.  

In 2017 AZM will be leading commemorations in the United States of major Zionist Anniversaries, including 120 years since Theodor Herzl convened the first Zionist Congress in Basel; 100 years since the Balfour Declaration; and, 70 years since the United Nations vote on Partition.

AZM sponsors the American Zionist Youth Council, which aims to bring youth together from across religious, cultural, denominational, political, and social divides to deepen the collective identity of the Jewish People and strengthen their relationship with Israel.

AZM’s has as its constituent agencies over twenty five member and affiliated organizations and youth movements.

View the AZMFactSheet as a pdf

Richard D. Heideman Elected President of AZM

HEIDEMAN INTRODUCES “ZIONISM FORWARD” PROGRAM CALLING FOR A RENEWED SPEAK FOR ZIONISM AND A UNIFIED AMERICAN JEWISH VOICE IN SUPPORT OF ISRAEL


Richard Heideman AZMNew York, March 6, 2017.
Richard D. Heideman was elected the new President of the American Zionist Movement (AZM), the American federation of Zionist groups and organizations, at the AZM Biennial Assembly in New York. 

Heideman, an acclaimed Washington, D.C. lawyer who defends victims of terrorism and has successfully won or settled cases worth billions of dollars against Libya, Syria, the Islamic Republic of Iran and banks accused of funding terror. Recently named Public Justice Trial Lawyer of the Year for 2016, and a former President of B’nai B’rith International, Heideman launched his tenure with a program to improve attitudes towards Israel and Zionism in North America.

“‘Zionism Forward’ is my vision as AZM President. It is not about redefining Zionism, it is about reenergizing Zionism,” Heideman said in his installation speech. “We must return to the basics of Zionism, that which unites us all in this hall here today, and make it relevant to our families, our communities, our synagogues, our schools and beyond.”

“I call upon each of you and the organizations you lead – consisting of perhaps millions of people in the American Jewish community – in your way and through your leadership to join with me to work together, hand in hand, in the spirit of unity, solidarity and pride, to accept the task of rebuilding the good name of Israel, the good name of the Jewish people and the good name of Zionism.”

Heideman also spoke about practical steps that must be taken, beginning with a conference to combat those who seek to demonize Israel and Zionism.

“Our students must be equipped with the knowledge and confidence to defend Israel’s honor in the face of slander,” Heideman continued. “While Iran and its allies may fantasize over a ‘World Without Zionism’, we must strive for a ‘World With Zionism’, an ideology and cause to be celebrated.”

Heideman also drew attention to the United States’ upcoming decision whether to continue funding the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) when its current mandate ends on June 30, 2017. He criticized UNRWA as having “interfered with Israel’s efforts to build a safe and peaceful country for all of the people residing within her borders and her efforts towards regional development and security.” Heideman called for “presenting truth, evidence and proposing solutions” as mechanisms for change.

The AZM Assembly was jam-packed with discussions about Zionism and the State of Israel and its relevance to American Jewry, with Jewish and Zionist organizational leaders, diplomats, academics and religious leaders speaking on panels such as “Why Zionism is not a four-letter word”, “Talking about Israel: How to conduct an inclusive conversation”. “Israel: Center, partner or theme park” and “Effective Responses to Anti-Semitism, Anti-Israelism and Anti-Zionism”

During the AZM Assembly, Herbert Block was announced as its new Executive Director, succeeding Karen Rubinstein, who has provided decades of outstanding leadership and was named Executive Director Emeritus. Block was formerly an Assistant Executive Vice President of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (“JDC”) from 1999 to 2015, where he was responsible for the Government Affairs and Property Restitution portfolios for JDC, considered the world’s leading Jewish humanitarian organization. Since 2011 Block has served as a Presidential Appointee as a Member of the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad, a position he will continue to hold.

Other AZM elected officials at the Assembly were:

  • Chair of the National Board, Dr. Francine Stein, Englewood, New Jersey
  • Vice President for Programming, Rabbi Paul Golomb, Poughkeepsie, New York
  • Vice President for Inter-Organizational Relations, Dr. Marilyn Wind, Bethesda, Maryland
  • Vice President for WZO Relations, Alan Silberman, Chicago, Illinois
  • Vice President for Development, Marlene Post, New York, NY 
  • Treasurer, W. James Schiller, Boca Raton, Florida
  • Secretary, Shelley Sherman, Great Neck, New York

Heideman succeeds Rabbi Vernon Kurtz, of Chicago, Illinois and was installed into office by Seymour D. Reich, Past Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Past President of B’nai B’rith International and Past President of the American Zionist Movement.

For more information, requests for photos, interviews and video link, contact Alicia Post at apost@azm.org

The American Zionist Movement, based in New York City, is composed of organizations and individuals representing a broad array of Zionist perspectives and engaging in a variety of philanthropic, educational and advocacy activities on behalf of Israel and the Jewish people. In this capacity, the AZM carries out activities and programs in the US in cooperation with the World Zionist Organization and represents American Zionists within the National Institutions of Israel. AZM strives to provide services and programming for member organizations, as well as serve as a catalyst for new Zionist ideas, a convener of Zionist discussions, an incubator of new initiatives and is committed to the providing of quality Jewish and Zionist education to the next generation.

New President of AZM, Richard D. Heideman, at Biennial Assembly 2017

Incoming AZM President Richard D Heideman, Incoming Executive Director Herbert Block, Outgoing Executive Director Karen Rubinsten and Outgoing President Rabbi Vernon Kurtz at AZM Biennial Assembly 2017

(From Left to Right: Karen Rubinstien, Executive Director Emerita, Rabbi Vernon Kurtz, outgoing President, Richard D. Heideman, incoming President, and Herbert Block, incoming Executive Director) Photo Credits: Michelle Claire Gevint

Seymour, thank you for your leadership and for your special and most meaningful words today. I am honored to be your friend and so pleased, on behalf of all of us, that you are with us here today both as a Past President of the AZM, Past President of B’nai B’rith International, Past Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, but also as our installing officer.

Karen, for four decades you have served American Zionism and put together a remarkable Assembly. You are a pillar of the AZM’s history and future, as last night showed us all. Your leadership will be missed.

Vernon, I pay tribute to you and your administration and look forward to our working together for many years.

To my wonderful wife, Phyllis, and our very special daughters, Stefanie, Elana and Ariana, our sons in law, Ben, Jano and Joseph; our grandchildren Max, Eytam, Noam, Ayelet, Theo and Jake, to Grandma Esther, Geri and our entire family, to my law partners Noel and Tracy and to the many friends who are with us here today, I have been blessed with your love and support and thank you for the life we have together. I thank all of you for being here today as we embark upon this new journey.

We gather today in the spirit of a renewal of Zionism to honor the outgoing leadership of the American Zionist Movement and to install the newly elected leadership. I am honored to accept the responsibility to serve as your President and look forward to working with each of you and each of the organizational members of the AZM as we strive, together, to establish a new and more unified path forward for Zionism in America particularly in this time of increasing attacks upon our community, and upon the good names of Israel, the Jewish people and Zionism itself. 2017 is indeed a year of multiple celebrations, commemorations and dates to remember, too numerous to mention but some of which are worthy of notation:

120 years ago, in 1897, Theodor Herzl gathered the Zionist leadership together in Basel at the First Zionist Congress and said

“At Basel I founded the Jewish State. If I said this out loud today l would be greeted by universal laughter. In five years perhaps, and certainly in fifty years, everyone will perceive it.”

If you will it, it is no dream.

100 years ago, in 1917, the Balfour Declaration was issued by the British government, clearly stating:

“His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” This declaration was subsequently adopted by the international community at the League of Nations as its primary goal in establishing the British Mandate for Palestine.

70 years ago, in 1947, the United Nations General Assembly fulfilled Herzl’s vision and passed Resolution 181, known as the Partition Resolution, calling for the establishment of a Jewish State in the ancient, indigenous and ancestral homeland of the Jewish people.

A year later, in 1948, the State of Israel declared its independence as the nation-state of the Jewish people, proclaiming in the opening paragraph of Israel’s Declaration of Independence

“ERETZ-ISRAEL was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. Here they first attained to statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance and gave to the world the eternal Book of Books.”

But while the United States of America and other countries recognized Israel’s admission into the family of nations, Israel’s Arab neighbors rejected the hand of peace she extended. And Israel endured and prevailed in her War for Independence, while losing precious lives, many of whom had only narrowly escaped the Nazi gas chambers.

Fifty years ago, in 1967, Israel faced another war upon her sovereignty and another attempted annihilation. She secured one of the most stunning victories in modern warfare when, in six days, she defended the State and people of Israel against five Arab country armies again seeking to extinguish the Jewish State. The Six Day War brought about the reunification of Jerusalem, the home of the historic and biblical heartland, treasure and focus of the Jewish People for thousands of years.

Indeed, this year in coordination with the World Zionist Organization and under the banner of L’Chaim Yerushalayim, we celebrate fifty years of the unity of Jerusalem. Jerusalem, Zion, the center of the Jewish world, the place where our hopes, tears and joy were centered for countless generations, reestablished as the capital of Israel.

In the land of milk and honey, the people of the book have built the State of Israel to great technological, scientific, cultural, democratic and human achievements. Her nation’s contributions in Chemistry, Literature, Peace and Economics, have been rewarded with Nobel Prizes. Advancements in medicine have helped those suffering from autism, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and other infirmities. She has fueled the innovation age by introducing to the world the CPU, the central processing unit and the flash drive. Today, no one in the world who has access to a computer or smart phone does not utilize Israeli technology throughout their day.

In her enduring quest to provide safety and comfort for her people, she has created an arsenal of military defense systems that preserve life in the face of those who seek to destroy life. Many nations, including our own, are indebted to the defensive and intelligence innovation of the Israeli people.

Israel is the first to send aid and advanced medical teams to every corner of the globe…at least to those countries who will permit Israel to provide aid and assistance in times of tragedy.

Israel is by many indices a financial and economic success, committed to the betterment of life for all people.

However, since her reestablishment Israel has barely known peace. Time and time again, she is forced to respond to the demonization and both subversive and overt attempts to destroy her vibrancy, her passion, her commitment to good and her dedication to peace and security for all people in the region.

From the moment of Israel’s re-establishment, she has faced a constant barrage of military threats and she has responded to every occasion to defeat them on the battlefield.

Israel’s enemies have targeted her economy, with a series of Arab initiated boycotts aimed at financially crippling the Jewish State.

Today, Israel is a full member of the OECD, an organization of high-income economies. It has found economic success through a commitment to the betterment of life for all people. Today, many of the countries that have agreed to boycott Israel do so because they are controlled by dictators and haters who oppress people out of self-interest and see Israel as a part of the threat to their control and power.

Israel’s enemies, particularly the PLO, took to terrorism where they hijacked planes and cruise liners, murdered Israeli athletes at the Olympic Games and assassinated Israeli diplomats. The assault has continued unabated, and Israel and her people – our people – suffered multiple Intifadas, or civil uprisings over the past thirty years, with lives lost and families torn apart by terror attacks which courts have found to be sponsored by the Islamic Republic of Iran and Palestinian and foreign terror organizations.

Over the past decades, Israel’s enemies, and indeed our enemies, have moved from twhe battlefield to the terror field and into diplomatically and politically internationalizing the conflict, at the United Nations and other international institutions, in parliaments around the world, on campuses and in the court of public opinion.

This battle is markedly different from tank warfare, but just as potent.

The frontlines of this battle, the assaults on Israel’s legal right to exist as a nation-state, are ongoing in our schools and universities, online and in the court of public opinion. We, Zionists, supporters of Israel, are to a large extent the foot soldiers, and we must be the leaders, in this battle, this assault upon our people.

Indeed, here in America, we need to do better.

Today, the proud vision of Zionism and the good name of Israel and the Jewish people is largely today viewed in disrepute.

Focus groups would indeed tell us that the negatives far outweigh the positives. Anti-Semitism around the world, and here at home, is rampant. Our young people are intimidated and threatened. Speakers are barred or boycotted. Israeli businesses, particularly those from beyond the Green Line, are experiencing organized assaults upon their companies, their products, their reputations. Israel suffers not only at the UN, but in the court of public opinion, viewed by too many as a criminal state allegedly in violation of international law.

From the UN, itself, came in 1975, barely 42 years ago, the adoption of a resolution equating Zionism with Racism. It is truly difficult to imagine: the visionary dream and commitment of the Jewish people to reestablish national sovereignty in our ancestral and indigenous homeland was maligned by the world’s nations as racist. Israel is the target of countries in the Arab and Islamic bloc at the United Nations, where they hold an automatic majority in the General Assembly on the basis of one country one vote. I have seen and experienced first-hand how these nations, in their desire to promote an oppressive vision of social hierarchy, have manipulated the United Nations into a platform of shameful hypocrisy on issues of human rights.

As the American Zionist Movement, each of us is committed to our organizations, our communities and our families; and each committed to the safety and security of Israel and the Jewish people, it is time – it is necessary – it is incumbent, that we work together in a spirit of unity refocusing ourselves upon not just the dream, not just the words, but the reality of both our accomplishments and also our challenges.

We need to walk together, to speak together, to work together, on the same page as we strive to restore the good name of Zionism, the national movement of the Jewish people in our ancestral homeland, the State of Israel.

In our time, we are unlikely to repair all the difficult challenges in this world. But, to paraphrase a most famous saying: neither are we free to desist from the effort.

Indeed, let us, together, move Zionism Forward.

The theme ‘Zionism Forward’ is my vision as your AZM President. It is not about redefining Zionism, it is about reenergizing Zionism. We must return to the basics of Zionism, that which unites us all in this hall here today, and make it relevant to our families, our communities, our synagogues, our schools and beyond.

We need to reclaim the spark which drove a few visionaries to achieve the impossible and win the acclaim and support of the international community and sympathy of the world. The AZM Constitution lists as its purpose,

“to motivate American Jews to accept the Zionist principles that the Jews the world over are one people, united by a common history, heritage, and destiny, with Israel as the center of Jewish life everywhere.”

We must work together to teach our proud history to our next generation and to train leaders, teachers, and families to understand our rich history, to take pride in our rich contributions to the world and to humanity, to applaud and support our democratic way of life and to coalesce around those values we hold so dear – the study of the lessons of Jewish teachings and traditions, the love and respect of life and of each human being – children, women and men, and the dignity of all beings.

I call upon each of you and the organizations you lead – consisting of perhaps millions of people in the American Jewish community – in your way and through your leadership to join with me and your new officers, Cabinet and Board, to work together, hand in hand, in the spirit of unity, solidarity and pride, to accept the task of rebuilding the good name of Israel, the good name of the Jewish people and the good name of Zionism.

Our children must be proud to stand by the Israeli flag on their college campuses and must be equipped with the knowledge and confidence to defend Israel’s honor in the face of slander. While the Islamic Republic of Iran may fantasize over a World Without Zionism, as it has been suggested to me, we must strive for a World With Zionism, an ideology and cause to be celebrated. A conference by that name highlighting all the good that Israel and Zionism have contributed to the world is worthy of our support.

We must improve the dialogue here in America and participate in a new effort to guide the American Jewish people to speak in a unified voice of support for Israel.

The People of Israel have given us so much. They instill in us pride at their achievements against the odds and defend the Jewish homeland. They are counting on us to defend them, especially as they continue to repel enemies still obsessed with their destruction. Let us be positively proactive with the World Zionist Organization and in the Zionist congresses and councils with new levels of engagement. If we stand united for Israel, we will push Zionism Forward. There must be no doubt that here in the United States “Am Yisrael Chai!”

Let us work to strengthen Israel’s position in the global family of nations. The AZM Constitution calls on us “to collect and disseminate such information as may help safeguard the State of Israel and protect Jewish rights everywhere.”

On March 29, the AZM is cosponsoring Ambassador Danny Danon’s program “Ambassadors Against BDS,” here in New York at the United Nations. We hope that as many of you as possible will attend. The current US leadership acknowledges that the UN has been unfairly harsh to Israel for too long and will soon decide whether to continue funding programs like UNRWA, which has interfered with Israel’s efforts to build a safe and peaceful country for all of the people residing within her borders and her efforts towards regional development and security. We can shape our future by presenting truth, evidence and proposing solutions.

Zionism Forward is our plan to take back that which is dear to us. Zionism has become a misunderstood and maligned term. However, there has not been a movement in modern history which achieved so much with so little, which returned an oppressed and harassed people from the four corners of the earth to their ancient, ancestral and indigenous homeland after a two thousand year wait.

We must anchor ourselves in the past as we look to the future.

Let us build upon the proud tradition of the Jewish people, and let us do so with a vision for the future, a vision embodied in Zionism Forward.

Thank you for this honor, privilege and opportunity to make a difference in our time.

WATCH FULL VIDEO OF REMARKS »

Herbert Block Named Incoming Director of AZM

AMERICAN ZIONIST MOVEMENT ANNOUNCES HERBERT BLOCK AS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR TO SUCCEED KAREN RUBINSTEIN, RETIRING AFTER DECADES OF SERVICE

 Herbert Block photoNew York, March 2, 2017. The American Zionist Movement (AZM) announced today the selection of Herbert Block as its new Executive Director.   Mr. Block will join AZM following the organization’s Biennial Assembly which will take place on March 5-6, 2017 in New York.  He will succeed Karen Rubinstein who is retiring after 40 years with AZM, has served as Executive Director since 1981 and will be honored at a dinner at the AZM Biennial Assembly on Sunday, March 5, 2017.   Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations will be the keynote speaker at the dinner.

Rabbi Vernon Kurtz, President of AZM said “We feel very fortunate to have recruited such an accomplished professional to succeed Karen Rubinstein, who has served AZM and Zionism with such distinction and dedication for nearly four decades.   Herbert Block comes to AZM from a long career in Jewish communal life and public service and will build on Karen’s work as the organization moves forward.”

Mr. Block was formerly an Assistant Executive Vice President of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (“JDC”) from 1999 to 2015, where he was responsible for the Government Affairs and Property Restitution portfolios for JDC, considered the world’s leading Jewish humanitarian organization.  Most recently he has been serving as a consultant, advisor and project manager for private and non-profit organizations in the areas of government relations, public affairs and international Jewish communal issues.  Since 2011 Mr. Block has served as a Presidential Appointee as a Member of the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad, a position he will continue to hold.

Previously Mr. Block served as Assistant Director for Intergovernmental and Public Affairs for the New York City Independent Budget Office from 1996 to 1999 and was Deputy Director for Intergovernmental Relations at the federal Corporation for National and Community Service from 1994 to 1995.  He was Assistant to the Mayor of the City of New York from 1990 to 1993 and a Special Assistant to the Manhattan Borough President from 1986 to 1989.

Mr. Block is a member of the Board of Directors of the Hebrew Free Burial Association and the Community Alliance for Jewish-Affiliated Cemeteries. He is the Mayor’s Representative on the Board of Trustees of the NYC Museum of Jewish Heritage—A Living Memorial to the Holocaust.   Mr Block represents the World Jewish Restitution Organization on foundations in Poland and Lithuania addressing Jewish communal property restitution.  He received a B.A. from Columbia University and a J.D. from Brooklyn Law School.

The American Zionist Movement, based in New York City, is composed of organizations and individuals representing a broad array of Zionist perspectives and engaging in a variety of philanthropic, educational and advocacy activities on behalf of Israel and the Jewish people. In this capacity, the AZM carries out activities and programs in the US in cooperation with the World Zionist Organization and represents American Zionists within the National Institutions of Israel. AZM strives to provide services and programming for member organizations, as well as serve as a catalyst for new Zionist ideas, a convener of Zionist discussions,  an incubator of new initiatives and is committed to the providing of quality Jewish and Zionist education to the next generation.

Meet the HBR Scholarship Spring 2017 Recipients

The American Zionist Movement is pleased to announce the winners of the Spring 2017 Helyn B. Reich Memorial Scholarship Fund. The recipients are talented young Americans and passionate Zionists, who are excited and thrilled to spend more time living and working in Israel this year.

 

Aaron Friedman-Heiman

Aaron graduated last year from Tulane University last year with a Bachelor’s DegreeAaron Headshot (1) in Political Science and Environmental Studies. As a student on campus he was involved with AEPI and Hillel, where he volunteered his time to start and lead a community garden initiative on campus. A passionate Zionist, Aaron is excited to spend a semester in Israel and experience daily life firsthand before possibly making Aliyah in the future. He will be interning at the Arava Institute of Environmental Studies in the south of Israel. Aaron says “Israel is much more than our religious and cultural capital. To many, including myself, Israel is our voice.” He has advanced Hebrew language skills and is eager to improve his Hebrew even more.

Read Aaron’s essay on his connection to Zionism

Chelsea Manoff

photo (1) (1)Chelsea graduated with a Master of Science in Globalization and Development Communication from Temple University. She will also be interning at the Arava Institute in Kibbutz Ketura in southern Israel.

She sees the transformation in Israel, particularly in sustainable agriculture, as an extremely fascinating and focal study point. She is very excited to learn more from the guiding professors at Arava. She wishes to use this internship as a stepping point towards a career in agricultural development and of personal development by connecting with her Jewish heritage. She plans to combine her interest in sustainable development with her background in horticulture, by helping farmers in developing countries become more sustainable and successful.

Read Chelsea’s essay on her connection to Zionism

Jesse Medina

Screen Shot 2017-02-15 at 7.37.11 AMJesse hails from Michigan, and holds a B.A in Science, Technology and Society from Pomona College. A strong advocate for Israel in many spheres. He was actively involved through his work with Hillel on campus, and with Magen David Adom, where he volunteered in Israel in the summer of 2012. He has also been an attendee at AIPAC policy conferences. Jesse writes that Israel “is a wonderland of spirituality and innovation alike, with Jews from all walks of life that accept each other as brethren. This is a type of acceptance and love that is incredibly difficult to find replicated outside of the international Jewish community. This is the true Zionism definition of Zionism and why it is so important.”

He will be interning for Social Finance Israel, an innovator in the implementation of Social Impact Bonds to drive socioeconomic progress in areas of social and economic crises. He hopes to gain insight from this internship to learn and understand more about Israeli innovations and policies, and is greatly looking forward to being able to bring back new skills to the United States.

Read Jesse’s essay on his connection to Zionism

Jon Atkins

02/10/2016 - Medford/Somerville, Mass. - Carer Fair LinkedIn Headshots on February 11, 2016. (Evan Sayles for Tufts University)

Jon attended Tufts University where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. He visited Israel on a Birthright trip during college, which served as a catalyst for developing a strong connection to the land and its culture. Upon his return, he became much more involved with Jewish life and Zionist conversations on campus. He worked with Tufts Hillel to help make Birthright trips more appealing to fellow students. He was also actively involved with JStreet’s chapter at Tufts. Though he recognizes the complexity of Israel, he mentions that “ the issue of Zionism is integral to any Jewish community and I know it will forever be a part of my life and everyday discourse.”

He is extremely excited to return to Israel and will spend 5 months in Jerusalem interning at Achvat Amim – Solidarity of Nations, part of Hashomer Hatzair. The program aims to help participants understand and work to bridge divides that exist in Israeli communities.

Read Jon’s essay on his connection to Zionism

Lynette Hacopian

Me (1)Lynette hold a B.S. In Environmental Economics and Politics from U.C. Berkeley, and was very involved with Tikvah Students for Israel on campus, as well as Chabad. She interned for almost a year at the Israeli Consulate in San Francisco. Lynette’s connection to Israel grew much stronger following Gaza war of 2014. Having witnessed extreme anti-Israel sentiment on campus, she led Zionist activities through Tikvah, participated in campaigns, and silent protests such as “Cut the Tape” against those promoting BDS on campus. She will be interning at the Arava Institute and is excited to get a better understanding of the conflict and the region, and especially to learn more about environmental issues in Israel. She is also excited to improve her Hebrew.

Read Lynette’s essay on her connection to Zionism

 

Sarene Shaked

Screen Shot 2017-02-16 at 7.29.47 AMSarene is currently a student at Cornell University and will be spending her spring semester at Tel Aviv University. At Cornell she served as the Israel Awareness Chair of Hillel’s Executive Board, AIPAC Liaison, as well as a CAMERA Fellow and Israel Intern. Through these positions, she organized numerous events on campus while doing her best to serve as a “symbol of Israeli and Jewish pride.”

She hopes to develop a greater connection to Israel on a personal level, and find professional opportunities to weave her interest in psychology with social justice and conflict resolution.

 

Read Sarene’s essay on her connection to Zionism

A Purim to Remember: Celebrating Life With Holocaust Survivors

azm purim social mediaMarch 2017/ Adar 5777

Dear Friends,

It is almost Adar which means Purim is a close at hand.  Purim is a celebration commemorating one of many stories of Jewish survival against all odds.  The recent surge in antisemitism has us reflecting on the past, reinforcing the urgency to remember the 6,000,000 Jews murdered in the Holocaust and learn from those who went on to build inspiring lives.  “Never forget” was our commitment, so this Purim we ask you to join AZM’s campaign to remember and celebrate life with some of the Shoah’s last survivors.

Please dedicate this Purim to helping survivors feel cherished, join the American Zionist Movement (AZM) in “A Purim to Remember: Celebrating Life with Survivors of the Holocaust”.

The “Purim Connection”, initiated 30 years ago by AZM was a trailblazer program designed to bring Purim joy to often neglected soldiers.  Past recipients of this initiative included the Jerusalem border patrol, children under missile fire in Sderot, Ethiopian olim, and women and children in shelters.  This year Children in costume on Purim in the Landsberg DP camp, Germany, 1947-1948the AZM has partnered with The Israel Forever Foundation and Yad Ezra V’Shulamit to build a bridge between American Jews and Holocaust survivors.

On March 8, 2017, we will host  festive Purim events in Jerusalem and around the country for survivors and volunteers.  Together, we will package mishloach manot (Purim baskets) to be delivered to survivors.

Every gift of $18 will provide one Holocaust survivor with a basket.  How many baskets will you sponsor? Each gift counts and even a small donation will help a survivor feel supported.

As always, all components will be purchased from small Israeli businesses.  Please order your mishloach manot baskets today.

Donate online and include a personal message for survivors https://www.azm.org/purim2017 or mail a check to: American Zionist Movement, 40 Wall Street, Suite #706, New York, NY 10005.

Please help us make this Purim a special one for Israel’s survivors and help us build bridges of understanding between our communities.

We thank you for your support.

Prof. David Passig– Leading Israel Futurist– To Headline Biennial

passigProfessor David Passig, leading Israeli futurist, received his degree in anticipatory anthropology from the University of Minnesota. He specializes in technological futures, as well as social and educational futures. An Associate Professor at Bar-Ilan University, Passig heads the Virtual Reality Laboratory at the School of Education.

In what promises to be a challenging and exciting presentation, Passig will pose questions such as “does Israel need to establish a new national mission in order to survive?” Much of what he will say defies the usual expectations of those who prognosticate the future of Israel and the Jewish People.

Later, Sunday afternoon, the Assembly will grapple with critical issues facing the Zionist Movement.  Dr. Sylvia Barak Fishman will address the questions ” Israel: Center, Partner or Theme Park,” and Rabbi Josh Weinberg on “Why Zionism is Not a Four-Letter Word.”

The evening will feature a celebratory dinner honoring Karen Rubinstein who will be ending her nearly forty years of service to American Zionism.

On Monday, the Assembly will turn inward, inviting people to imagine the implementation of AZM’s new strategic plan and struggling with the ways to give substance to the plan to address major issues facing Zionism.

A thanks and farewell to Rabbi Vernon H. Kurtz for his four years as president of AZM in which he guided the organization through the future planning and the selection of a new Executive Director.

To see the draft program, please visit here

 

 

 

 

AZM Biennial Assembly and Celebratory Dinner- March 5-6

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AZM’s 12th Biennial Assembly,March 5- 6, 2017, is just around the corner.   A new president and a new administration will be installed.  AZM will say its thanks to Rabbi Vernon Kurtz and the other officers who served over the past 4 and half years. In addition, AZM will say “farewell” to Karen Rubinstein after almost 40 years of service.

Leading Israeli future, Dr. David Passig of Bar Ilan University, will present a challenging and provocative address to set the stagepassig for the Biennial; and for the future of the Zionist Movement in the United States.  Dr. Passig got his PhD in Anticipatory Anthropology at the University of Michigan. He is the author of 2048  (English) published in May 2010 and Forcognito (Hebrew only at this time.)  In addition to Dr. Passig there will be ample opportunity to sample program offerings from Departments of the WZO, and to debate and discuss the AZM Strategic Plan and directions for the future.

The dinner will feature Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations., as well as others who have worked with Karen over the years.

Member organizations are asked to send representatives, but this event is open to the public and anyone who wishes come for the entire biennial, or for the Sunday night dinner alone is most welcome.  Please visit this page to make your biennial reservations.  

To register for the dinner and place an ad in the journal, visit this page.

As more details are available we will post them.  We urge you to register now and participate in what promises to be an exciting, informative and fun event.

To download and print outAZM Journal and Dinner Pledge Form

Have the Courage to Dream This Hanukkah

“All human deeds begin with a dream, and dreams they shall become.”

– Theodor Herzl

azm-flyerFrom the Maccabees, to modern Zionist heroes, national pride and sovereignty has marked the path of Jewish history.

2017 will mark numerous significant Zionist Movement anniversaries. In the coming year, the modern liberation movement of the Jewish people celebrates the 120 anniversary of the First Zionist Congress, the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, and the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War.

American Zionists played a major role in realizing these contemporary milestones, and continue to work on behalf of the people and nation of Israel. Our mission today is more heavily focused on building bridges of understanding and support between the global Jewish community and Israel.

As we begin the Hanukkah season, help us rededicate ourselves to our vital mission by making a generous year-end contribution. Please donate today.  We thank you for your support.  Happy Hanukkah