ARZA CANADA 2009 REPORT
ARZA Canada’s activities over the last year have shown that we can build unshakable personal bonds with Israel. This is based on two premises: first, Canadian Reform Jews share a strong Zionist commitment. Second, the relationship is strengthened and enhanced by the person- to-person connections in Israel which the Progressive Movement in Israel provides to Reform Jews in Canada. Additionally, we feel a strong sense of obligation to the IMPJ, a sense of personal responsibility which is part of our lives as Reform Zionists.
Our signature project is the support of new IMPJ nursery schools. Working with IMPJ, we are confident that this project will spread the word about IMPJ activities across Israel into communities that are hungry for meaningful programming. Starting with a nursery school has proven time again to be the road to involvement of parents and communities. We look forward to our first school opening this September with funding for more available as the project develops. In addition there is an opportunity to assist current IMPJ congregations to become more financially independent through the opening of nursery schools.
In support of the IMPJ, we have been the largest sponsor of the IMJP Ride4Reform bike ride in Israel every year for all five years led by the unrelenting Rabbi Sharon Sobel. Team ARZA Canada this year was comprised of 10 riders; we hope it will continue to grow.
We support travel to Israel, and especially travel which includes connections with the IMPJ. Many of you may have visited room 401 in Mercaz Shimshon, which was funded by ARZA Canada dues as a Visitors’ Centre when our congregants and others visit to learn about the IMPJ. Last year five congregations and ARZA Canada travelled to Israel - out of 25 active congregations. And many individuals travelled to Israel as well – ARZA Canada assists individuals with making connections to the IMPJ and we offer insights and advice for their trips.
We offer scholarships for young people spending extended time studying at Reform-Movement sponsored programs in Israel, whether for EIE or rabbinic or cantorial training at HUC-JIR through the Stroh Scholarships. We have also sent a representative to the Beutel Seminar at the Saltz Education Center at the WUPJ and benefit from the international connections which that creates. All this funded by dues and donations - about $80,000 in total.
Partnerships have been key to our work: programming with ARZA US, fundraising with the WUPJ and CCRJ, ensuring Zionist content with URJ Camp George and our youth by sharing in the funding of the Reform campus Shlicha, building deep and broad ties with the IMPJ, enjoying support from our congregations in publicity, bulletins, boards, checkoffs on their dues forms. The importance of these partnerships must be emphasized.
This last year ARZA Canada dues were also spent, at the request of the IMPJ, creating a program of study in Jewish Community Centres in Israel - putting the Jewish in the Community Centres. At the same time we were able to make a one time donation to meet the salary needs of a rabbi in a congregation which has just received a synagogue building but who could not be funded as a result of the challenges faced by the IMPJ.
We just concluded a Kallah for Canadian Reform leadership on Reform Zionism with speakers of international repute, and financial support for travel to attend it. We opened the discussion about Aliyah for Reform Jews with Rabbi Stanley and Resa Davids with a series of speaking engagements at large and small congregations. We continue to provided high quality Canadian and Israeli speakers to our congregations.
Our website has been revised and continues to be a work in progress to communicate to our membership across Canada. You can visit us at www.arzacanada.org
Recently, we have had a change in leadership as Joan Garson has moved on to more global aspects of Reform Zionism. Her devotion and high energy have truly ignited ARZA Canada over the 6 years of her tenure and we are proud to share her talents and devotion with all of you. As a result of the recent URJ reorganization, we have lost the leadership of our Executive Director, Rabbi Sharon Sobel. The Reform communities in Canada and Israel have been enriched by her good spirits, amazing energy and knowledge of human nature and the Reform world.
Looking forward, we are eager to continue to work in partnership with our congregations in Canada and with the many facets of IMPJ to enhance the Progressive Movement in Israel and connect Canadian Reform Jews to Eretz Yisrael.