ARZA, the Australian Reform Zionist Association, is the organisation of Progressive Religious Zionists in Australia. ARZA works to stimulate Zionist interest and activities in Progressive communities throughout Australia.
Working closely with the Union for Progressive Judaism, and its numerous constituents, we aim to further the interests of Progressive Zionism within the congregations of the UPJ as well as The King David School, Emanuel School and Netzer. Through these organisations we try to add to the knowledge, love and commitment of progressive Jews in Australia to the Zionist ideal. We promote not only an interest in matters relating to Israel, but also travel to Israel for pleasure, study or aliyah.
During the past year we have endeavoured to interest a younger cadre of members to take over the leadership of ARZA Australia. This has been assisted by the initiative of Arzenu in its new leaders seminar held in January of this year. We sent Claire Cyngler and Yaacov Legarda from Melbourne and Nicola Ossher from Sydney. Nicola has been most active in recruiting the younger age group who have gone through the Netzer experience and are ready for more communal participation. She has established a branch of TaMaR in Sydney which has received assistance from ARZA. A similar initiative is occurring in Melbourne without using the TaMaR brand name. With the return of Janet Granek from maternity leave I hope that the great work that Nicola is doing will continue to develop.
We have revamped the website and after a number of years of attempting to communicate with the membership more effectively we are emulating the work of Pro Zion and are sending out emails to our members every fortnight with updates from Israel. This, when joined with the UPJ’s popular ProjeNews means that in our region a lot of information is reaching our progressive communities.
ARZA has traditionally worked through the constituents of the UPJ, organising joint programmes like seminars, Israel trips and religious services. It has continued to do so in the last year. ARZA provides subsidies to Netzer for its programming, to assist with the employment of shlichim and to help young people enjoy the Israel experience through the Shnat leadership programme. We assist The King David School and Emanuel School with their Zionist activities, especially the Zionist seminars for years 9 and 10 as well as the annual Yesh trip organised by The King David School for year 10 students.
Externally, ARZA continues to be involved in the activities of the Zionist Federation of Australia and the State Zionist Councils. We are represented with office bearing representation on the Zionist Federation of Australia and especially the Zionist Council of Victoria. I see a large cadre of younger people coming through in Sydney.
This year the work of ARZA is being recognised in the fundraising work that is done for the UIA Progressive Trust. Last year we raised over $1,200,000 for the work of the WUPJ and the IMPJ in Israel. This year we hope to raise as much as last year. I believe that the success of our appeals is helped immeasurably through the hasbara work of ARZA.
On my return from Israel I hope to assist with the establishment of an ARZA New Zealand. Whilst the progressive Jewish community of New Zealand is small it is a vital part of our movement in the region. It is vital that they are imbued with the same love of Israel as we have been able to achieve in Australia.
Finally I have to thank two other groups of professionals in our community who so wonderfully assist in our work. The first is our shlichim. Sharon Shteinbock our shaliach in New South Wales and Yossi Cohen who until August was our shaliach in Victoria. We have been delighted to welcome Yossi’s replacement, Dan Bar-Zuri the new shlicha in Victoria. We keep saying that no one can be better than the shaliach who has left. Once again Dana has proved that to be incorrect. She is continuing the sterling work that has been carried on by her predecessors. For ARZA both she and Sharon, who is leaving shortly, have been invaluable for the work they do for ARZA.
The second group is the rabbis of the Moetzet ha Rabbanim, the UPJ rabbinical Council. We are really fortunate to have such a wonderful group of rabbis so committed to progressive Zionism and to the work that we are trying to achieve.
With up to 40 high school graduates coming to Israel in 2010 for the shnat programme next year ARZA’s challenge will be to assist Netzer to get all of the candidates to Israel and to assist their re-integration into Netzer’s leadership on their return. It is a wonderful testament to the vitality of our Zionist community that we have so many people ready to be leaders for our youth and ultimately our progressive community.