Secure, Democratic & Pluralistic Israel
Our vision for Israel’s future is a Jewish and democratic State with full religious equality, in which citizens live securely and peacefully with each other and Israel’s neighbors. The URJ will continue to advocate for religious equality at holy sites, within its institutions, and throughout Israeli society.
We are committed to educating and empowering Reform Jews and our allies about the centrality of Israel to the Jewish soul and the Jewish people. Thus, through meaningful education, dialogue, summer travel, semesters abroad, and more, we offer multiple opportunities for North America’s Reform Jews to engage and connect with Israel and to learn about its religious, cultural, historical, and political realities.
Zionism and the URJ
In 2018, the URJ formally adopted the Jerusalem Program, the official policy platform of the World Zionist Organization. This significant act is the next step in the evolution of our Movement’s Zionism and connection to Israel as it formally and explicitly identifies our movement as Zionist.
To further our goal of building solidarity and community with the Reform Movement in Israel, we joined together with AZRA, the Association of Reform Zionists of America, to create a new URJ strategic priority focused on Israel and Reform Zionism.
Through this work, URJ will more directly support the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism and its social justice/legal advocacy arm, the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC). Our advocacy and financial support help to strengthen the Reform Movement’s standing in Israeli politics, society and its National Institutions (WZO, KKL, JAFI). We will also work to partner with and support our congregations for more effective Israel education, engagement, travel and activism. Making Israel a core component of each Reform Jew’s identity is a priority for URJ in 2018 and beyond.
ARZA, as an individual membership-based organization (supported by congregations), continues to serve as the Reform Movement’s North American representative to the Israeli National Institutions and to the World Zionist Organization.
Engaging our Youth
Bringing North American Reform Jews to Israel and vice versa is key to broadening our knowledge of each other and strengthening our ties.
As is often the case, a good place to start is with our youth. In 2018, we hosted 300 Israeli shlichim (emissaries) at URJ overnight camps. When the shlichim arrived for the summer, they ran programs introducing Israeli culture and answered questions campers had about Israel. For our more than 10,000 campers and summer youth program participants, these shlichim may have been the first Israelis they had ever met.
Training of Israeli Schlichim for Summer 2018
We were fortunate to have been able to send a delegation of our youth to Israel to attend the 2018 Netzer Olami veida convention of Reform Jewish Zionist youth from around the world, connecting our youth movement with our world movement.
Summer travelers participating in 2018 NFTY in Israel trips not only experienced the land’s physicality, history, and culture, but they also engaged in the big questions of religious pluralism, the future of the peace process, and what it means to have a Jewish and democratic State. For the nearly 200 students a year who choose to extend their time in Israel and spend a semester as part of URJ’s Isaac and Helaine Heller High School, the land of Israel became their classroom. Living at Kibbutz Tzuba, nestled in the Judean hills outside of Jerusalem, our students spent 4 months intensively studying Jewish history and the Hebrew language receiving a complex picture of how we became a people, with our Torah, in our land, and now in the Jewish State.
The URJ offers many opportunities to connect to Israel, to challenge her, and be challenged by her. We look forward to continuing this exploration, support, and advocacy with the World Zionist Congress Elections in 2020!