Pro-Zion Country Report for Arzenu 2009
Dear Arzenu friends,
First of all apologies that neither of us are able to make it to the Vaad this year. Daniel a busy teacher only gets holidays when the kids do and Charlie is busy with his job (been on holiday too much already) and cannot take the time off. We hope to be next year in Jerusalem and if not we would gladly welcome you all to the UK. We are very excited to be sending Kathryn our newest activist to the Vaad. Many of you will recognise her through her work with the European region of WUPJ and we are delighted to have her on board with us at Pro-Zion.
Since the last Arzenu gathering we have had all sorts going on.
We started with our Zionist Federation's Biennial Conference. Estelle Gillston fabulously dealt with all the politics and lobbying bringing out Pro-Zion members in force. Pro-Zion, as a result of being the largest political group in our ZF and as a result of Estelle's work held the deciding vote at the conference. All of our preferred candidates were elected into positions though officially our Pro-Zion representation is at a low as we did not have the people to put forward. We also fought hard to get our resolution on conversions to the debating floor. This was apparently the first time in 20 years that our ZF had had a political debate at their conference. We believe that this is a sad state of affairs as the debate was educational and intense for all and we hope for more in future. In the end we chose not to have a vote on our resolution for the sake of shalom bayit but this was done with guarantees that the issue will be raised again this year by the ZF. As our "rival" political parties disappear from the scene (some reappearing every 4 years in time for congress!) we are seeing our ZF morph into an organisation that is no longer interested in Zionist politics. This is an interesting problem and we will see how it develops. Rest assured though, it is something that we recognise is an important problem to solve, and we will be turning our attention to it in the next couple of months.
At the end of March we held our annual general meeting. We were delighted to welcome young Israeli Attorney Sarah Lewis from IRAC in Beer Sheva who spoke very well on issues affecting Olim in Israel especially those from Ethiopia. As always it was inspiring to hear about Sarah's work, as well as that of all at Irac; we are proud to be associated with such an organisation. As well as speaking at our AGM Sarah visited 2 synagogues, a meeting of LJY-Netzer madrichim and 2 cross communal meetings of young adults and students.
At our AGM we proposed an exciting new change to the structure of Pro-Zion. Over the next few months we will be working hard to set up this new structure which we hope will see more people join us in a more active role. Over the last few years with increased membership and activity we have become well placed both financially and practically to have more of a positive impact on Progressive Judaism in the UK. We hope that by setting up this new structure we will be able to take better advantage of our position, and allow Pro-Zion to continue going from strength to strength.
We are building up the work we are doing with the UK's Netzer Snifim. Sarah Lewis spoke at LJY-Netzer's madrichim seminar. Their theme was "The Hidden Jew", and they found Sarah's talk insightful and relevant. Charlie sat on a panel at RSY-Netzer's Veidah, alongside a representative of the ZF and a non-Zionist. The Chaverim from RSY-Netzer were very engaging and demanding through their questions and as a result an excellent discussion was had. After the panel, a motion was passed at the Veidah both clarifying and reaffirming RSY-Netzer's position as a Reform Zionist youth movement. Pro-Zion also worked with both RSY-Netzer and LJY-Netzer to produce and disseminate a Haggadah insert for Pesach. The theme was "We were once slaves in Egypt" and was intended to reflect upon the perceived dangerous forces in Israeli society that has seen a shift to the right in the Israeli electorate. We got great feedback from people about this resource, we even learnt that Rabbi Tony Bayfield, the head of the Movement for Reform Judaism, used the insert at his family seder! As well as engaging with young people from Netzer, we have recently been asked to speak at an event for Habonim Dror which we are looking forward to do.
In May we had a stand at the Celebrating Liberal Judaism Conference at the beautiful new Midlands Centre for Liberal Judaism in Birmingham in the Midlands. Aside from many useful conversations with Rabbis and participants it was great to see many Israel related sessions at the conference.
Although we are still working on our communications we are pleased that our weekly e-mail updates to members continue, compiled by our ex-Chair Ralph Stern (to subscribe e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org). We are still sending out 2 yearly issues of our magazine, "Shema" and would welcome articles from Arzenu groups worldwide. We are working on increasing our web presence, as well as our website we have a blog and youtube and twitter accounts though we're still working on producing content to add.
Wishing you all a successful vaad.
Daniel Needlestone & Charlie Gluckman