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June 20, 1986 - Image 33

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-06-20

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limited period of time. In addition, the
Hebrew Union College has received a grant
of $60,000 from the Joint Distribution
Hirsch has spent many frustrating hours
trying to coax more support for Reform
programs out of the WZO. "It comes down
to a matter of clout. Our representation at
the 1978 Zionist Congress was small, since
the Reform movement had only just joined
the WZO. When we continued to complain
that we were not getting a fair share of
funding for our programs, they told us to
organize for elections to the next Congress
if we wanted to increase our influence. But
in 1982 the Zionist establishment decided
not to hold elections, and refused to give
us seats at the Congress in proportion to
our true strength. Now the largest Ameri-
can Zionist bodies — the Zionist Organiza-
tion of America and Hadassah — are again
opposed to holding elections for the next
Congress, which is scheduled for 1987."
The Reform movement is represented in
the WZO on two levels: the World Union
for Progressive Judaism and Artzeinu. The
Wold Union is in the category of an inter-
national Jewish organization that sub-
scribes to the WZO platform. It gets a
small, predetermined representation at the
Zionist Congress, but does not compete in
elections. The WUPJ is allowed two seats
on the WZO Executive, but those who fill
them cannot vote on budgetary or person-
nel matters or head a WZO department.
These seats are occupied by Hirsch in
Israel and Rabbi Alexander Schindler,
President of the Union of American
Hebrew Congregations, in New York.
Artzeinu, the international Reform
Zionist organization, is in the category of
a Zionist world union that competes in
elections to the Congress. It won enough
seats at the last Congress to entitle it to
a seat on the WZO Executive with full
voting rights. This seat is occupied by the
president of the largest component of Art-
zeinu, Rabbi Charles Kroloff of the
Association of Reform Zionists of America
Thus the Reform movement has three
seats altogether on the 36-member WZO
Executive, and these same members also
represent the Reform movement on the
72-member Board of Governors of the
Jewish Agency.
About two years ago, the Reform move-
ment stopped trying to play by the rules
dictated by the Zionist establishment, and
set out to introduce some new rules of its
own. Instead of trying to squeeze out more
funds piecemeal, and being shunted from
department to department and between
the Agency and the WZO, the constituent
bodies of the movement in the U.S., in con-
junction with the WUPJ, put togpther a
comprehensive, formal application for

grants totalling about $90 million over the
coming five years — and dropped it in the
collective lap of the UJA, UIA and Jewish
Agency. This was accompanied by not-so-
subtle hints that an unfavorable response
might upset some major Reform contrib-
utors to the UJA.
What happened next probably could
have been predicted. The heads of the
Agency said that the proposal was too
much. Indeed, it covered practically every
aspect of the Reform movement's activities
in Israel. According to Hirsch, the move-
ment was told to prepare a scaled-down
proposal and come back for further discus-
sions. The next version of the proposal con-
tained programs and building projects for
a total of $28 million over three years.
What has been approved so far from this
lot is the $250,000 for the youth hostel, but
other applications are still being processed.
Hirsch acknowledged that some of the
educational projects in the proposal to the
Agency would normally have been submit-
ted to the WZO. "But the WZO has no
money and we have no clout there. We go
where we have the clout; where it is clear
where the money comes from and who


members have remained in a small and
isolated minority, it would probably have
been outvoted by representatives of Israeli
parties and their Zionist affiliates.
Summing up this episode, Hirsch said:
"I believe that this has to be an open pro-
cess. It's good that this proposal came
before the Board -of Governors for discus-
sion. The people on the Board who opposed
it are getting money in behind-the-scenes
deals and from sources like the 'construc-
tive funds.' All sorts of organizations get
Agency money through anachronistic ar-
rangements like these funds."


he Conservative movement
in Israel also seems to be
in more of a fighting mood
these days concerning sup-
port for its programs from
the Agency and WZO, but
hasn't got its act together yet for making
a coordinated "assault" on these strong-
This stance was expressed by the direc-
tor of the Conservative movement in Israel
— known as the Masorti Movement, from
the word masoret, or tradition — Rabbi


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raises it; and where in principle, at least,
projects are approved supposedly to serve
the entire Jewish world and are not re-
viewed on a purely political basis, as in the
This strategy of putting most of the
movement's eggs in the Agency basket, as
opposed to the WZO, seems to have paid
off in the recent vote in the Board of Gov-
ernors on the youth hostel. The votes of the
Diaspora philanthropists, together with
some of the Israeli members, .carried the
day. If a similar proposal had been put to
the WZO Executive, where the Reform

Phillip Spectre, who, like Hirsch, is origi-
nally from the U.S. "In the past we were
nice boys and didn't rock the boat. We
played by their rules, and were probably a
bit naive. Rut those days are gone. We will
no longer simply accept that the alloca-
tions in the Agency and WZO are made
according to party lines, with no room for
anyone to initiate new programs."
One Conservative activist, an American
rabbi who had retired to Jerusalem, created
quite a stir several years ago when he wrote
an open letter to his colleagues in the Con-
servative rabbinate. Rabbi Chaim Perl

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