There's only one more day to vote in the World Zionist Congress elections, and that's the message many of us have been bombarded with over the last couple of months, urging us to support the Orthodox party.
But are Orthodox values in Israel in danger? Is Torah study and education at risk of disappearing? Is there some public impediment to Shabbat observance? Is it difficult to get kosher food there?
If anything, Israel suffers from far too much religion in the public sphere. And it not only offends the secular public, but it harms religion as well. It adulterates the beauty and holiness of a religious lifestyle with ugliness and politics.
Yes, I'm an Orthodox affiliated Shabbat observant Jew. And I care about the future of Israel and about the future of religion there.
That's why I would never vote for a slate whose stated goal is to advance only one exclusivist vision of Judaism, in Israel and around the globe. A slate who would work to maintain a status quo that has only harmed Israel and Jewish life there, and who would continue to passively acquiesce and even subtly encourage the growing influence of the more fundamentalist side of Orthodoxy.
What's needed in Israel is a vision of pluralism, of tolerance, and of a separation of synagogue and state. A vision of coexistence.
So, with only one day left, I'm voting in the WZC elections for a party that may not represent the exact brand of religion I practice, but represents Torah nonetheless, and has a platform I can support. They encourage diversity, tolerance, and unity. Unlike the more parochial vision of the "Vote Torah" slate, MERCAZ USA of the Conservative movement has a platform that sounds like something a Religious Zionist party might have supported a couple of decades ago, before turning inward and becoming narrow-minded. That platform includes:
- An Open Pluralistic Jewish Society
- A Contemporary Zionist Agenda, including Aliyah, Hebrew and Zionist Education
- A Negotiated Two-State Settlement between Israel and the Palestinians
- Pro-Active Concern for Israel’s Environment
Rather than making a knee-jerk decision to vote for a party that claims to represent your particular Jewish denomination, I urge you to think about what the future of Israel really needs, and to vote for Mercaz USA as well.