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February 09, 1990 - Image 58

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-02-09

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Call The Jewish News


Hadassah Pulls Out
Of Future WZO Elections

New York (JTA) In a
surprise move, the largest
Zionist organization in
America, Hadassah, has
decided not to participate in
future elections for the
World Zionist Congress.
In a statement announcing
its decision, the group's na-
tional board said, "The
human and financial
resources expended on these
costly and politically
divisive elections are better
invested in the concrete
tasks which are the
hallmark of Hadassah's
practical Zionism."
The World Zionist Con-
gress convenes approximate-
ly every five years and de-
termines the direction of the
World Zionist Organization.
American delegates are
elected by members of
Zionist organizations in the
United States.
The WZO is responsible for
the promotion of aliyah and
Zionist education worldwide.
Its leaders also act in part-
nership with leaders of
Diaspora fund-raising
organizations in the gover-
nance of the Jewish Agency
for Israel.
Hadassah President
Carmela Kalmanson de-
scribed her organization's
move as "serving notice" to
the WZO that it is time for
radical reform in its struc-
ture and constitution.
Most forcefully, it is call-
ing for change in the system
by which delegates to the
World Zionist Congress are
chosen. Such reform has
been promised for years, but
has not yet materialized,
Kalmanson said.
She explained that ideas
discussed in the past include
an electoral college system
or one in which elections
would be scrapped alto-
gether and organizations
would be represented at the
congress according to their
membership rolls.
Hadassah's fellow Zionist
organizations reacted with
shock and dismay to the
news of the decision not to
participate in future elec-
"It's a very serious blow to
the future of the Zionist
movement," said Rabbi Eric
Yoffie, executive director of
the Association of Reform
Zionists of America.
He said that if the dem-
ocratic process of choosing
delegates is abandoned, "it
will mean the death" of the
WZO, which will "cease to

Carmela Kalmanson:
"Serving notice."

exist as anything other than
a shell."
He said the legitimacy of
the WZO "lies in its ability
to reach the masses through
the democratic process." He
pointed out that a quarter of
a million American Jews
participated in the last elec-
But Kalmanson maintains
that past elections for
American representatives to
the congress have been
"neither democratic nor
Indeed, the voting for the
1987 congress was marked
by controversy. Penalties
were handed out to numer-
ous organizations for infrac-
tions such as padding mem-
bership lists, multiple
ballots cast by the same per-
son and other irregularities.
Observers point out that
Hadassah's showing in the
elections has been declining.
In the 1987 balloting, the
organization lost 21 seats
from the previous election.
This was in no small part
due to the decision of the
Reform and Conservative
movements to enter the
Zionist arena.
In the 1987 vote, Mercaz,
the Conservative Zionist
movement, which was runn-
ing for the first time, picked
up 20 votes, while ARZA
gained 19 votes over the last
time it ran.
"One can't help but take
note of the fact that
Hadassah has renounced
democracy at the moment in
history when it is beginning
to lose its electoral
dominance," Yoffie said.
Kalmanson dismissed this
suggestion, saying that
"whether we have one vote

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