I am not normally supportive of new Jewish/Israeli-based organizations, as we seem to have more than our share.
Yet, the time has come for a new effort that will restore the greatness and vitality of the Zionist movement. The time for change is here.
Israel and the Jewish people are under attack from the outside and more importantly, from the inside. Support for Zionism is the weakest I have seen. Support for Israel seems to be getting weaker every day, especially from within our Jewish community.
The Zionist Spring is a new effort with which I am very impressed. It is not a political party or a fundraising organization. It is rather a new voice for Jewish people demanding that Zionism become relevant in our daily lives again.
The Zionist Spring is a grassroots initiative that is dedicated to restoring the greatness and vitality of Zionism. It aims to involve and endorse and support every other organization that shares this vision. Unity has been sorely lacking in the Zionist world and I think that this new endeavor is a much needed breath of fresh air. Theodor Herzl, the founding father of modern Zionism, once famously said, “If you will it, it is no dream.” We do have a way to make this a reality.
Through the Zionist Spring, we can demonstrate our passion and commitment practically – by shaping the decisions of the Zionist movement through the upcoming World Zionist Congress, the “Parliament of the Jewish people.”
There are four pillars on which the Zionist enterprise is built:
1) The unity of the Jewish people, which is sorely lacking, to say the least. Almost three decades ago, Rabbi Irving ‘Yitz’ Greenberg’s CLAL developed an ad announcing that “the last time the Jewish People was so divided, we lost 10 out of 12 tribes – forever.” Today, we are so divided, that we may lose Israel – forever. We need to stop building this divide. The Zionist Spring has partnered with various organizations representing different facets of Jewish society, from youth to those committed to greening the land of Israel. There is a place for everybody in the Zionist tent.
2) Making or supporting aliyah: Although the numbers of people making aliyah are holding up or increasing, the vast majority seem to be coming from the “traditional” community. The Reform and Conservative movements seem to not be serious in terms of supporting aliyah. This is not healthy for those movements; this is not healthy for Israel; this is not healthy for the Jewish people. We need to develop a plan that will attract Jews of all stripes to make aliyah, as well as help integrate new olim into Israel’s very diverse society.
3) Strengthen Israel: There are too many among us that think the best way to strengthen Israel is to constantly criticize it. I’m reminded of something Rabbi David Hartman z”l used to say: It is ok to criticize Israel, but do it as a mother, not a mother-in-law. J Street has brought criticism of Israel to a new high. Rabbi Rick Jacobs, head of the Reform movement and former member of J Street, is threatening to withdraw from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Does anyone in his right mind think that these two examples strengthen Israel? We need a new grassroots effort that will negate these misguided efforts.
4) Ensuring the future: Without a strong Israel there will be no future. Without a strong Diaspora there will be no future. Sure, Israel has warts as does American Jewry. We need to develop a new grassroots effort to work from the inside to make things better in both Israel and in the Diaspora, or there will be no future for the Jewish people.
As we celebrate Israel’s 66th birthday, please join me by working to return Zionism to the level of importance it used to occupy. The future of Diaspora Jewry, the future of Israel, the future of the Jewish people may depend on your involvement and support.
Based in Los Angeles, Paul Jeser is a fundraiser for Jewish organizations. More information about the Zionist Spring can be found at zionistspring.org.