The Zionist neighborhood we live in is not so different. Once characterized by a spirit of tolerance and social justice, it has witnessed decay these last few years.
Ideological settlers and their American supporters push out Palestinians in East Jerusalem, insisting this is the work of true Zionism. Discriminatory loyalty oaths receive government approval – in the name of Zionism. And loyal dissent is silenced and critics of Israeli government policy intimidated by those who purport to represent Zionism’s original intentions.
This blight on Zionism has got to be reversed. With the generous help of people like you, Meretz USA can, and will, take our neighborhood back.
As we implement our new strategic plan, Meretz USA is committed to cultivating the progressive Zionist leaders of tomorrow, through education, outreach, and hands-on programming. Day by day, year by year, we will reclaim the leadership of the Zionist movement and restore it to its liberal roots.
Of course, as in any dilapidated neighborhood, there are some decent people who decide to give up and move out, rather than dig in and fight back.
Our Zionist neighborhood is no different. Too many progressive youth have left us, because the Zionist Right has roped them into believing that Zionism is synonymous with racism and xenophobia. And too many older liberal Zionists have decided that the neighborhood is beyond repair: The Right has won, they say with resignation; Israel is a lost cause.
But Zionism is our neighborhood, and Meretz USA is fighting for it. We will not cede Zionism to those who uproot Palestinian olive trees and block the road to peace. We won’t hand it over to those who have the chutzpa to brand us as enemies of Israel because we believe in compromise, equality, human dignity and reconciliation!
Because we live in rapidly changing times, Meretz USA last year embarked on a course of strategic renewal so that our lasting values and proven message can reach the next generation of Americans, and American Jews in particular.
We’re expanding our internet presence by leaps and bounds, and we encourage you to visit (or tell your kids and grandkids to visit) the Meretz USA pages onFacebook and Twitter. And if you’re not yet on our email list, or you know other progressive Zionists who aren’t, it’s time to join, so that you can receive our weekly analysis of developments in Israel, updates on Meretz USA events, and links to the fascinating interactive discussion taking place on the Meretz USA blog.
Meanwhile, we are continuing, through our Intern in Israel project, to support young Americans who believe in a progressive Israel and want to translate their beliefs into action. I am so proud of Edie Joseph, who enjoyed a Meretz USA scholarship so that she could get to Israel this past summer and fight for religious equality and against ultra-orthodox coercion. Please have a look at Edie’s moving report on her experience, by clicking here.
I know, and you do, too, that a neighborhood that doesn’t retain its young generation will struggle to survive. That’s why we intend to triple the size of our Intern in Israel project this coming year! Your year-end gift will help make that goal a reality.
We’re also excited about the growing number of partnerships we maintain with other organizations in the American Jewish community. One example is the New York-based “Other Israel Film Festival”, where Meretz USA just sponsored a film presentation and a provocative panel discussion that I moderated, which dealt with the challenges Israel faces in trying to fulfill its promise to be both Jewish and fully democratic.
We’re delighted to serve as co-sponsors for the third conference on Judaism and Human Rights presented by Rabbis for Human Rights-North America this month. And we’re proud to again be a participating organization at J Street’s upcoming national conference in Washington DC, taking place from February 26 to March 1. I invite you to join us at the conference, to study, confer and work together with many, many other ‘pro-Israel, pro-peace’ Americans.
I’d also like to extend an additional invitation: Meretz USA’s flagship educational activity, the one-week study tour we call the “Israel Symposium”, will be taking place from March 26-April 2, 2011. Please click here to see our brochure for details.
The Israel Symposium is the perfect experience for someone who cares not only about the security of Israel’s people, but about the moral character of its society as well. If you’ve never been to Israel with Meretz USA (and even if you have – each trip is different to keep pace with events in the Middle East), I hope you’ll decide to join me this year.
Meretz USA’s vision is an Israel at peace with its Palestinian neighbors based on a just, negotiated two-state solution. And, just as importantly, we are committed to the realization of human and civil rights, equality and social justice for all of Israel’s inhabitants – regardless of ethnic/religious identity, national origin, gender, or sexual orientation.
This is the kind of Zionist neighborhood that I want to live in. This is the kind of Zionist neighborhood that will attract the next generation to stay. This is the kind of Zionist neighborhood I’m asking you to rebuild with us.
But to make sure that the Zionist neighborhood isn’t brought down by denizens who sow intolerance and fear, we need your support – and we need that support to grow.
Our costs have risen steadily over the years and each $36 or $50 or $100 gift we receive no longer lasts as long. So as we struggle to keep the progressive voice alive and strong within the Zionist movement, we hope you’ll consider us as favorably as possible in your year-end giving plans.
But even if you don’t have any funds to spare, you can still support us in other ways. To rehabilitate the Zionist neighborhood, we need whatever tools you’re able to provide:
• Reach out to friends, family and colleagues and tell them about us and our activities. The best first stop is our website, www.meretzusa.org. Think of it as providing us with free advertising.
• Recommend us to your Rabbi, federation leader or other community official who is seeking out a progressive Zionist alternative.
• Volunteer your professional skills: If you’re a graphic designer, web designer, grant writer, lawyer, accountant or anything else, and you’re willing to help us at a discounted rate, or pro bono, please be in touch.
The occupation and the settlements and the growing attacks on Israeli democracy have sullied our Zionist neighborhood and badly tarnished its reputation. I hope I can count on you to stay in the neighborhood and help us clean it up, so that it’s a place that our children and grandchildren will want to call ‘home’.
I send you warmest wishes for the holiday season, especially for Hanukkah, the festival of lights. And, in the words of the Hanukkah song, I do hope you’ll decide to help us chase away the darkness and rekindle the light.
Prof. Leonard Grob
Vice President, Meretz USA