International Federation of Reform and Progressive Religious Zionists


Prof. Antony Arkin

Number of paid members: + - 1000

In the Cape region 620 members pay an annual optional contribution to Arzenu which appears on the Cape Town Progressive Jewish Congregation’s subscription invoice.

In the East Coast Region, in order to become a member of the Durban Progressive Jewish Congregation the Jerusalem Program must be signed. There are 285 adult members. A line item is included in the annual accounts.

In Gauteng the four individual congregations are still acquiring Arzenu membership on an ad hoc basis. Bet Menorah in Pretoria has introduced a membership drive, with 15 members, Bet Emmanuel has begun to put a system in place.


The stipend from Arzenu originating from the WZO is placed in the account of the South African Union for Progressive Judaism. The individual branches of the different congregations raise their own funds.


The main focus of the South African Union of Progressive Judaism’s biennial conference in Cape Town in June 2008 was the importance of Zionism and the centrality of Israel in our movement. Both our keynote speakers, Rabbi Joel Oseran, Vice-president of the WUPJ and Mrs Dalya Levy, the Arzenu Director in Jerusalem stressed the need to Zionise the Reform movement.

As a consequence, Arzenu South Africa was re-structured formally as the umbrella organisation of Reform and Progressive Religious Zionists. A new constitution has been drawn up, regional posts filled and branches established in each congregation. Our members have been elected to positions on the provincial and national executives of the Zionist Federation.

Certain branches such as the Durban Progressive Jewish Congregation organised unique functions to celebrate Israel’s 60th anniversary with a Shabbat dinner and Israeli evening. But in the main the branches do not hold their own specific Israel-focused functions in the words of N’tanya Gordon-Davis the past chair of the Cape Region, but “contribute significantly, publicise extensively and encourage participation and attendance at the myriad events organised by the Zionist Councils in 2008 celebrating Israel’s 60th anniversary”. Events included an Israeli Embassy Film Festival in each of the major centres, public lectures, an Ethnic Cooking demonstration and concerts by the Revital Dance Group. In Cape Town this was co-sponsored and hosted by the Cape Town Progressive Jewish Congregation as was “sailing together”, the Israeli Jewish and Arab Sailors group organised by the Jewish Maritime League.


As the main objective of Arzenu South Africa is “to encourage Zionist commitment among Reform / Progressive Jews and their adherence to the Jerusalem Program” , each congregation sets in action as many Israel-focused activities as possible which will enthuse their membership to recognise the centrality of the state of Israel to all Jews.

  1. Gaza War
    1. Israel solidarity meetings were held in all centres. The Reform movement has been an integral part of the community


  1. Special Shabbat services were held.
  2. Emails updates from IRAC, Pro Zion on the Reform perspective were circulated.
  3. Toys, gifts an dpuzzles collected through DIVOTE (Durban Israel Victims of Terrorism Enterprise)

  1. Tu B’Shvat

Together with the Kwa-Zulu Natal Zionist Council and the JNF the Durban Progressive Jewish Congregation hosted the indigenous members of the Similane Trust for a communal braai (barbeque) and tree-plan ting ceremony. Bet Menorah held a congregational picnic and Arzenu membership drive.

3. The highlight of Arzenu SA’s program was the Israel Now Tour specifically targeting the Progressive Jewish movement to

co-incide with the World Union’s Conference in Jerusalem. This was the fifteenth tour organised by Ms Reeva Forman, the

Gauteng Chairman of Arzenu who is also the President of Temple Israel in Johannesburg and vice-Chairman of the South

African Zionist Federation.

Arzenu continues to provide the leadership and manpower for many of the activities celebrating Yom Ha’atzmaut and Yom

Hazikaron. In Duban Rabbi Avidan will be the keynote speaker for Yom Yerushalayim.

  1. Our members continue to act as the support base for Netzer serving as the Parents and Friends of Netzer, co-ordinating

activities and fundraising for the camps, long-term programs and youth workers. In the current economic climate, where the South African Rand has fallen 40% against the dollar in the last year, this is essential if these activities are not to be out of reach for our youth.

  1. We recognise that the IMPJ (Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism) has a critical shortfall in its operating budget as a

consequence of the fall of the dollar against the shekel. Arrangements have been made with the Israel United Appeal that

the following project of the Progressive Jewish movement is approved by the Keren Hayesod. South African contributors to the project can specifically earmark their contributions Progressive Jewish pre-schools in Israel. These provide an alternative to the prevailing choice between Orthodox and non-religious kindergartens. The projects includes Jewish enrichment programs for 2 500 children in 44 pre-schools, joint activities with parents and special assistance for new pre-schools. A donation $ US 150 will support one child in the program for a year. To run a parallel project of the IUA is a totally new concept for South African Jewry and significant hasbarah effort must still be made.

  1. Our established Israel-orientated cultural and educational programs will continue and be extended.
    1. Israel film evenings
    2. Israeli book clubs.
    3. Regular discussion on the Middle East.
    4. Adult Hebrew Ulpan.

It is hoped to introduce the following:

  1. Lecture series on the history of Zionism.
  2. Video series – Pillars of Fire.
  3. Israeli food fare/cooking exhibition.
  4. Lecture series on Israeli art, architecture, archaeology.


Like many communities South African Jewry is facing a rising tide of anti-semitism. Calls to boycott Israel and break off diplomatic relations are wide-spread in our civic society. This has hit a low point this year with the South African Jewish Board of Deputies reporting the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Fatima Hajaig to the Human Rights Commission for hate speech. An unconditional apology to the Jewish community was eventually made.

For such a community this stipend from the World Zionist Organisation through Arzenu is a major psychological boost. It allows our local leadership to participate in the international activities of the WZO and Jewish Agency. I had the privilege of attending the Arzenu, WZO and Jewish Agency Conferences in Jerusalem in November 2008. Instead of having to focus only on fundraising for Israel’s humanitarian needs and local requirements to sustain our movement as we fall further off the shaliach map, it allows us to recognise that we are indeed one people, held together by a common history

June, 2009

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