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Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Based on initial reports released this week, groups promoting observant religious practices in Israel will have a much larger role in the American delegation to the 2020 World Zionist Congress. This indicates a profound shift from five years ago, when liberal groups won a supermajority of delegates.

The World Zionist Congress is considered “the parliament” of the Jewish people. Elections, concluded this past Shushan Purim, are held just once every five years. Choosing the 152 U.S. delegates (out of 500) is the primary opportunity for Jews living in America to impact major decisions being made in Israel.

The Orthodox Israel Coalition (OIC), the Mizrachi-led religious Zionist consortium of major modern Orthodox institutions, received 21,698 votes in the recent World Zionist Congress elections. The number is more than double what the group received in the last election. While OIC polled in second place in the United States, as part of a global Mizrachi representation from other communities around the world, it could take the lead position in the overall coalition votes.

“These results show the dedication and commitment of religious Zionists to safeguard nearly $1 billion going to programs and services that help our community and world Jewry. Thank you to everyone who voted. I am deeply grateful to all our coalition partners and the hundreds of ‘ambassadors’ who worked so closely together with us to get this really impressive outcome,” said Rav Doron Perez, chief executive of the Mizrachi worldwide movement.

The OIC is a broad-based group of nine major religious Zionist and modern-Orthodox organizations in the U.S. that affiliated with Mizrachi, which has represented Orthodoxy in the World Zionist Congress for over 100 years. It includes the Religious Zionists of America-Mizrachi, AMIT, the Orthodox Union, Yeshiva University, Touro College, Bnei Akiva, Torah MiTzion, National Council of Young Israel, and the Rabbinical Council of America.

“The American Orthodox community proudly expressed their commitment to Torah values and to safeguarding the funding allocations for programs and essential services for our community. The election results serve as a testament that religious Zionism in America is vibrant and will only continue to flourish,” said Orthodox Israel Coalition U.S. Campaign Manager Yehuda Friedman.

The biggest surprise in the results was from the group Eretz HaKodesh, which claimed the third largest block (over 15 percent of votes), despite starting from scratch without the backing of a sponsoring organization. “Our motivation was to protect the holiness of the land of Israel and cultivate traditional Jewish practices and beliefs,” said Rabbi Pesach Lerner, president of the Coalition for Jewish Values and leader of the Eretz HaKodesh campaign “We are grateful to all those who volunteered and voted on behalf of our new slate.”

Overall, the success of traditional parties indicates the degree to which American Jews are now expressing their Jewish affiliation in more traditional ways. Rabbi Moshe Parnes, dean of the Hollywood Community Kollel in Hollywood, Florida and an Eretz HaKodesh delegate, said the following: “It’s so rewarding to see how many Jews, especially younger voters, are invested in preserving the Jewish character of the State of Israel. This vote will help solidify the future of the Jewish people and unify the Jewish nation around its eternal, unchanging principles.”

“This is a momentous occasion as we all stood up to the plate in recognition of the importance of building Torah in the Holy Land,” concluded Rabbi Yechezkel Moskowitz, an Eretz HaKodesh delegate and president of Chovevei Zion. “But this is just the beginning; now we must push forward and address the challenges that lie ahead of us.”

By JLNJ Staff