Care about Israel Vote in the other Israeli elections

Israel’s national elections on March 17 captured media attention around the world, including heavy coverage in the Jewish press. But another Israeli election fast drawing to a close flies under the radar every time it’s held, despite the very tangible impact its results have on Israeli policies from religious pluralism to funding for West Bank settlements.

And unlike other Israeli elections, it’s one in which every adult Jew in the diaspora can take part.

On April 30, online voting ends for the next World Zionist Congress, a global Jewish assembly that meets every four or five years in Jerusalem to elect the officers of and set policies for the World Zionist Organization, a powerful quasi-governmental body that helps to manage agencies in Israel with budgets of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Jewish communities around the world are allotted certain numbers of delegates to the WZC, proportionate to their population. Thus, the United States has the largest number of delegates next to Israel — this October we will send 145 delegates out of a total of 500, or 29 percent.

WZO programs include financial support for liberal Jewish streams that are marginalized in Israel — one reason why ARZA, the Reform movement’s advocacy organization in Israel, and Mercaz USA, affiliated with the Conservative movement, make up two of the three largest contingents within the American delegation to the Congress. (The third is the Religious Zionists of America, the umbrella slate for the modern Orthodox movement.)

This spring, the Reform and Conservative movements in particular have been trying to stir up interest in the elections, to help direct more funding to their movements. Funding for West Bank settlements is another impetus for voting, among both supporters of increased funding (the Zionist Organization of America) and opponents (several slates).

Any Jew who will be 18 by June 30, and who accepts the principles of the Jerusalem Platform described on the website, is eligible to vote. Voting is online at, and is incredibly easy. You register and pay a $10 processing fee ($5 if you’re under 30), you’re presented with the platforms and candidate lists for each of the 11 slates, and all you have to do is check a box.

Regrettably, very few American Jews bother. In the last elections, in 2006, just 80,000 out of several million eligible voters cast ballots. 

This is a crying shame. There is no excuse. If you care about Israel’s future, it is incumbent upon you to exercise this duty and privilege. Vote today.