Reprinted from The Canadian Jewish News
The Canadian delegation to the World Zionist Congress (WZC), to be held in Jerusalem in October 2015, should include a strong progressive Zionist voice, maintains Ameinu Canada, an organization formed several years ago that describes itself as a multi-generational community of progressive Jews in Canada.
An offshoot of the U.S.-based group Ameinu, established about a decade ago by alumni of the labour Zionist youth movement Habonim Dror, Ameinu Canada launched an online petition last month to qualify as a member of the Canadian Zionist Federation (CZF). According to the World Zionist Organization, which consists of Zionist groups from around the world, a Jewish Zionist organization becomes eligible to join a local Zionist federation when it has at least 300 signatures from Jews over the age of 18.
Ameinu Canada gathered 320 signatures in time for the CZF’s Sept. 30 deadline.
CZF members then get to determine who comprises the Canadian delegation to the WZC, either through an election or, if the members can reach an agreement, by deciding internally which groups comprise what percentage of the total 19 seats the WZO allocates to Canada, said Norman Stern, national president of the CZF.
Other CZF members include the Zionist bodies representing the three main streams of Judaism: Mizrachi, representing the Orthodox movement, MERCAZ, representing Conservative, and ARZA, representing Reform.
“We believe the delegation should reflect all segments of the Canadian Jewish community, including those who identify with progressive Zionism and are supportive of [its] Zionist youth movements,” said Trilby Smith, one of Ameinu Canada’s founders, who lives in Vancouver.
Smith explained that, although, at the last Congress, held in 2011, ARZA “was kind enough to give Ameinu, on a one-time basis, a delegate out of its allocation,” Ameinu Canada would really like, this time around, to “take the organizational steps necessary to qualify on our own.”
In 2011, Ameinu Canada sent Issie Lyon, co-chair of Canadian Friends of Peace Now (CFPN), a group whose membership overlaps with Ameinu Canada’s, to the WZC on its behalf.
Since the end of World War II, the WZC, initiated in 1897, has met every four or so years in Jerusalem. It decides the policies of the WZO, whichcaps the total number of delegates at 500.
The agenda typically consists of resolutions related to Jewish life in Israel and the Diaspora and allocating relevant funds and appointments to Zionist organizations and activities worldwide.
Because decisions made by the congress inform how much money the World Zionist Organization spends on Jewish summer camps, Zionist youth movements and subsidies for Israel programs, Ameinu Canada is eager to send a representative who will advocate for expanded support for progressive Zionist youth activities.
“We have a particular focus on developing the next generation of engaged Jews,” the petition read. “To do so, we operate the Kibbutz Program Center [in Israel] and provide support for our youth movement Habonim Dror and their [affiliate] summer camps [Camp Miriam in British Columbia and Camp Gesher in Ontario].”
The WZC has previously dealt with issues related to the West Bank settlements, and Ameinu, which is dedicated to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, hopes to “influence WZC policy on religious pluralism, democracy in Israel and the pursuit of peace with the Palestinians,” Smith said.
Lyon, on behalf of CFPN, has been helping to publicize the petition to other liberal Zionist groups in Canada.
“It’s important to show both Israel and global Jewry that there is a significant portion of the Jewish community in Canada that has a progressive Zionist perspective on what’s best for Israel in the long run,” he said. “It was really heartwarming to meet Zionists from around the world who want Israel to prosper in peace and security and are very concerned about some of the specific policies the Israeli government is pursuing, like building settlements [in the occupied territories] that the Israeli government is pursuing.”