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.
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 graduated last year from Tulane University last year with a Bachelor’s Degree 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.
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.
Jesse 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.
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.
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.
Sarene 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.
The North American participants have been selected!! You can’t compete but you can witness the competition that will select the finalizsts to be sent on to Jerusalem. You can attend, but you must register!!
Honoring the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem, this year’s theme is:
The Land of Zion and Jerusalem
The winners of the online competition will come together to compete at the US Finals on Sunday, June 19, 2016/13 Sivan 5776, 3:00 PM at West Side Institutional Synagogue, 120 West 76th Street, New York, NY 10023.
The winner and runner-up will advance to the International Bible Competition Finals in Jerusalem on the 5th night of Chanukah – Wednesday, December 28, 2016.
If you’d like to attend the US Finals event, admission is free of charge, but you MUST RSVP in advance. We hope to see you there!
Please RSVP here: www.azm.org/bible-contest
It was standing room only on Thursday evening, June 2 at BDS: The New Antisemitism? Countering a Global Movement. Over 250 people gathered to learn more about the fight against BDS in the United States and globally. The idea was initiated by the World Zionist Organization and specifically its Vice Chairman Yaakov HaGoel. The program began with a rousing greeting from Israel’s Permanent Representative at the United Nations, Ambassador Danny Danon (pictured left) .
In the presence of twelve Israel mayors and deputy mayors, Malcolm Hoenlein, Brooke Goldstein and Yuval Abrams spoke about efforts to delegitimize Israel and what is being done to counter those efforts.
Brooke Goldstein spoke brilliantly about using the US Constitution and the legal system to thwart efforts to silence students and others. She also spoke about the successful efforts to halt Kuwait Air’s illegal restrictions on passengers. Yuval Abrams spoke about the impact in the academic arena and challenges he faces as a member of the CUNY Graduate Center Student Council.
While BDS has minimal economic impact on Israel, on campuses there can be a serious impact on the hearts and minds of young Jews. BDS is a movement designed to undermine and destroy Israel’s existence as a Jewish state. Everyone, regardless of their perspective, agreed that we cannot simply respond, but we must be proactive. Young people on campus today are the leaders of tomorrow, and it is important that they engage with Israel in a positive way, and do not learn and grow in a hostile environment.
As proud Zionists that care deeply about Israel and its right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state. It is paramount that we unite together against the common threat that is BDS. We strive to empower students to feel confident in their abilities to stand up for Israel and against the baseless hatred driving the BDS movement, particularly on college campuses.
We are proud to have co-sponsored such an engaging evening of dialogue that truly provided meaningful answers and tools to countless members of the community, to combat Israel hatred.
You can find the video of the event here.
A collection of resources for teaching and learning about Israel.
Please find below a collection of different resources for Israel educators and individuals wishful to learn more about Israel.
Beit Haam – Israel Education Resources from the World Zionist Organization. You can access guides especially made for educators here, or access the general resources here.
Zionist News of Interest – Several news stories, articles, and web sites that can serve as an additional source of material for Zionist organizations and supporters.
Israel Education Programs – Several innovative programs that encourage dialogue about Zionism, created by Zionist organizations from all over the religious and political spectrums. It includes The Third Narrative, a progressive initiative from Ameinu.
Posters of pre-state Israel – An important historical record, this collection also provides a fascinating insight into the atmosphere and spirit of the times. It also serves as a source of inspiration for carrying on with the vital mission of continuing to work for the fulfilment of the Zionist dream.
The Beit Ha’am – House of the Nation – program was developed by the Department for Diaspora Activities of the World Zionist Organization to encourage discussion on the subject of Zionist identity and attitudes to the State of Israel.
The program includes diverse traditional and modern texts on a range of subjects. Through encounter with these texts, we hope to encourage lively discussion of Zionist identity among Diaspora Jews in general, and the younger generation, in particular. The discussion will address what binds the Jewish people, wherever they may be, as well as what divides and separates us.
We will consider the meaning of Jewish political independence of the people dwelling in Zion and the reciprocal relationships between Jews living in Israel and those who live in the Diaspora. This represents an opportunity for everyone, irrespective of prior knowledge, to get to know and enhance their knowledge about the significance of Zionism in the 21st century, to engage in discussion, reflect on its substance and the extent of its relevance to our lives.
Below, you can find resources from the Beit Ha’am program. You may have to scroll down to the last page in order to find the beginning of the English booklets.
All links in purple are guides for educators and leaders. The guides are tools to teach about Israel through different activities.
The establishment of the State of Israel
The concept of Zionism
About Israeli society
Identity Issues : Jewish and Zionist identity
The Israeli Political System
Women in Israeli Society – FeminIsrael
Female Figures in Israeli History
Israeli Literature and Poetry
Beit Ha’am monthly anthologies
Beit Ha’am’s Tribute to Leonard Cohen
Please join AZM and march with us in the 2016 Celebrate Israel Parade
March with us and thousands of supporters of Israel up Fifth Avenue in NYC on Sunday, June 5, to stand up for and honor Israel.
This year’s theme is “Zionism: The Spirit of Israel”. Israel was built on the core values of Zionism and still proudly carries these values today. We are thrilled to be celebrating this beautiful country of ours during the Parade, along with other Zionists from all over the Tri-State area and other North American cities.
Please register HERE if you would like to march with us. The gathering spot, time and other details will be communicated as soon as we have them.
We hope you will join us this year for this wonderful event.
Join AZM and the WZO at a conference titled “BDS – the New Antisemitism? Confronting a Global Campaign” on June 2, 2016, in NYC. It will address the resurgence of global antisemitism and provide our community with tools to tackle and confront it.
A delegation of Israeli Mayors and Knesset members will participate in this symposium to learn more about what is happening on this front. Danny Danon, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, will also partake in the panel. It will be a great opportunity to hear about the joint efforts of Israeli MK’s and American Jewish leaders to understand and combat the BDS movement.
Please register HERE.