International Federation of Reform and Progressive Religious Zionists

Arzenu chair's report: Joan Garson, November 2010

I am delighted to share with those members of Arzenu who were not at the last meeting of the WZO and the Jewish Agency for Israel the results of those meetings. The meetings were, in many ways, the first report card on Arzenu's political activities since the Congress.
In my view, we should be very proud of our representatives in Israel and the extent to which they have moved our activities forward, at the same time as we remain frustrated at the need to fight and refight many of the same battles.
I will list highlights of our achievements below. We should all be aware that each of these achievements represents the fruit of committed cooperation and effort by all of our team in Israel, including of course, representatives of the IMPJ and the Israeli members of the World Union team, and working from a distance, of Arzenu and the World Union.
For all of us, I thank every member of this group and wish them all b'hatzlacha going forward. A special thanks to Dalya for her work in co-ordinating our meetings before and during the very hectic week.
We must not lose sight of our next steps. They include: the resolution of the KK”L issue in a way which supports that major institution; the continued restructuring of the WZO and reduction of its non-programmatic expenses; and implementation of a strategic approach to JAFI. In that regard, we addressed during the meetings, a restructuring of the strategic activities plan for our work in Israel. This will be circulated under separate cover shortly.
I often assume everyone is aware of all of the names of our ‘Israeli team’. Let me list them all here, as a reminder. Yaron Shavit, Gilad Kariv, Menachem Leibovic, Stanley Davids, Meir Azari, Gusti Yehoshua-Braverman, Doron Tamir, Mike Nitzan, Matthew Sperber, Ofer Lichtig, Shai Pinto, Tati Schagas, Dalya Levy, Paula Edelstein and Dick Hirsch. Present at these meetings in October from the Diaspora were Bob Orkand, Philip Meltzer, Didi Gilbert, Bill Hess, Shoshana Dweck, Danny Allen and Mike Grabiner.


World Zionist Organization (WZO)
1. Implementation of equal funding for the religious streams. This was one of our key goals in the lead up to the Congress and an item in the wall-to-wall coalition agreement accepted by all members of the WZO. I am thrilled to confirm that this principle was accepted in the budget for 2010 starting from, as we insisted, the Congress. This represents a major achievement by Doron Tamir, our chair of the budget committee, and by Yaron Shavit and the team in the WZO Hanhallah.
2. Improved Budget Process. The existence of consultation during the period of the presentation of the budget in the Hanhallah, including advance review and discussion of the budget, and inclusion of an agreed list of items for consideration and improvement in the 2011 budget, represents a triumph of tenacity and commitment by Doron and our team. We should also acknowledge the willingness of David Breakstone to address our concerns. Following the meetings, the Budget and Finance committee met to review the budget, and Doron received praise for his work from all quarters.
3. A more open WZO process. Regular contact and consultation is taking place between Duvdev as chair of the WZO and Yaron and the rest of our team in the WZO. Unfortunately this does not always result in the kind of openness and respect for process which we would like to see. Nonetheless the door is much more widely open to input and advance notice of issues. Next steps here will include distribution of a meaningful agenda in advance of meetings, and distribution of minutes following meetings.
4. Diaspora Activities. Gusti Yehoshua-Braverman, who holds the co-chair position (with Ofer Laufman of the Kadima-Hanoar Hatzioni and Masorti faction) on our behalf in the Department of Zionist Activities, will be reporting separately. Suffice it to say that her first few months have enabled her to seize control of her work and to create an agenda for the future. Her time to date has also highlighted the areas where significant battles remain to be fought for ensuring the control of her department over the activities of the WZO abroad. During my visit to Israel, I visited the Herzl Museum with Gusti (it is an area of her responsibilities) and was moved and inspired. We should make sure all of our membership visits this worthy institution when they are in Israel. We can also look forward to Gusti’s work on coordinating information on all shlichim around the world, who can provide support to our activities.
5. Outer Executive Committees. The first meetings of committees of the Outer Executive were held. We chair two of these committees and are deputy chair of another. We are delighted that the WZO appears to be sincere in its attempts to make the work of these committees meaningful. Separate reports on the meetings of each committee will follow.
6. Faction leadership. Our faction continues to dominate the Hanhallaha, and our faction’s internal activities continue to be well-coordinated, led by Yaron on behalf of Arzenu. We must ensure that we build on these relationships when we are together during the Va’ad Hapoel.
7. Political Cooperation in the WZO. As we are all aware, the WZO Hanhallah is comprised, in part, of representatives of the Israeli political parties. We have been, and continue to be, successful in working closely and cooperatively with these parties, not only Labour and Meretz, building relationships which will serve our Movement well in the political arena (including, we hope, if and when the Rotem Bill appears once again).
8. Positions for IMPJ members from Labour. The process of including representatives of the Reform Movement in national positions, as a way to include the Reform perspective in the Israeli mainstream, has begun. Led by Menachem, the process requires review of names submitted by the Movement by various appointing authorities. We will await news of actual appointments.
9. Close cooperation with the IMPJ. All of the above should highlight the close and productive working relationship which Arzenu is enjoying with the IMPJ.
10. Profile for the IMPJ. The leading roles which members of the IMPJ are taking in the WZO should serve to display, for a range of leaders from Israel and abroad, the strength and capability of our Movement in Israel and its leadership.

Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI)
1. Support for our Pluralism agenda. Prior to Natan Sharansky’s appointment as chair of the Jewish Agency Executive, we were very concerned to ensure he would be a supporter of pluralism. This has proven to be one of his major strengths. Both regarding the Conversion Bill specifically and in all other topics for consideration, he remains sensitive to our concerns and is a national leader in this critical area of activities.
2. Appointment of Rani Trainen as Interim S’gan/Deputy chair. It is hard to know if this achievement belongs in the WZO list or here. But the news itself is critical. We succeeded in achieving the appointment of a member of our faction, Rani Trainen, as interim deputy chair of JAFI. This will ensure a voice for our views in JAFI and information about JAFI flowing to us.
3. My role on the Executive: As chair of Arzenu, I have been appointed to the JAFI Executive. This will expand the voice of Diaspora Arzenu in that area of activities. It resulted immediately in my invitation to attend a small meeting with the Prime Minister and several cabinet ministers: not in itself a key event, but a symbol of the access our Movement is enjoying in the political realm.
4. Recognition of Paula’s achievements in the Aliyah and Israel departments. This was Paula’s last meeting and she was celebrated in her committee and in the plenum for the achievements during her tenure. Sadly, the restructuring of the Aliyah department, which is being proposed as part of the implementation of the JAFI strategic plan, seems likely to result in a dramatic down-playing of Aliyah by the Agency.

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