The State of Israel came into being because of the World Zionist Congress. This is where Theodor Herzl made his mark and major contribution. The first Zionist Congress, which he chaired, was held in Basel, Switzerland, in 1897.
Every five years Jews living in the Diaspora have a chance to have a significant say on the future of the State of Israel. More than $5 billion is at stake. The more votes, the more influence in where the money goes. Israel’s national institutions, its schools and yeshivot, and its political landscape, are all impacted by this funding.
Since 1897 the Reform and Conservative Jewish groups have ruled the roost. Orthodox Jews, I am sorry to say, have been slow learners. There are many reasons for this but the times, they are a changin’.
It is clear that Orthodox Jews can be a powerhouse when they want to be—Orthodox Jews helped elect Donald Trump president of the United States. They are a formidable force when they are united and take an interest.
It is not clear why the Orthodox have failed to grasp the enormity of the election facing them in the World Zionist Congress. In the last election only 8,000 Orthodox Jews voted. There were only 55,000 votes in all. The Reform movement contributed most of the votes. Reform for the most part pushes for Reform conversions, civil marriage, a pro-BDS agenda, an anti-settlement ideology, and for mixed prayer at the Western Wall.
The Orthodox cannot be apathetic. They must be proactive and realize the tremendous responsibility of voting in this crucial election. As of this past week, a total of 56,000 votes have been cast. Most are from the Reform and Conservative movements, who have been better at mobilization, once again, than the Orthodox.
If every Orthodox Jewish family registers to vote (you must be at least 18 years old, and it costs $7.50 each) then the Orthodox will finally get a major share of the $5 billion distributed by the WZC.
There are a number of slates the Orthodox can choose from, including Slate No. 4, the Orthodox Israel Coalition, which the National Council of Young Israel and Yeshiva University belong to. There are two Sephardic Orthodox slates, and an Agudah slate as well. My personal preference, because of my close relationship since childhood with Mort Klein, is Slate No. 11, the Zionist Organization of America.
Mort Klein’s late father was my rabbi growing up in a small Orthodox synagogue in Philadelphia. He was a tremendous Torah scholar.
It is high time for the Orthodox to abandon apathy and embrace their responsibility to future generations. Voting in the upcoming World Zionist Congress election is one sure way to do so. The deadline for voting is March 11.
The opinions here reflect those of the author and the slate, and not of JNS.
Dr. Joseph Frager is first vice president of the National Council of Young Israel.