A Zionist Message for this Rosh Hashanah – Four examples of what we wish Rabbis would tell their congregants, and all Jews would think about regarding Israel and Zionism this Rosh Hashanah, from four Zionists, from different generations, living on both sides of the Atlantic – and in two languages!!! Shanah tovah

I.                   Zionism is … Jewish nationalism, an Identity platform about our past, present, and future – as a people

by Gil Troy

Among our many collective sins this year as a people has been mishandling Zionism. Too many in our community, both left and right, only see Israel and Zionism through a partisan prism, the prism of the conflict with the Palestinians – which distorts Zionism’s true character. This approach also internalizes the systematic worldwide campaign to delegitimize Israel. Not everything about the United States is about blacks and whites. Not everything about Canada is about English and French. And not everything about Israel is about Jews and Arabs.

Zionism is Jewish nationalism, the recognition that we are not just a religion but that the Jews are a nation, with a rich past, an ancestral homeland, a dynamic language, a common fate, an inspiring future. This peoplehood platform should unite us, no matter what our doctrinal differences us – rather than dividing us over one particular dimension of our national existence. In that spirit, we need a Big Tent Zionism – open to all who understand Judaism’s national dimension and our enduring ties to Israel.

We also need to build an Identity Zionism, understanding that Zionism, like Judaism, is subversive – an alternative to the me, me, me, my, my, my, more, more, more, now, now, now, materialism of modern society. We cannot fear the "we" and a bold common vision, even in the age of the iPod, iPhone and iPad.  Zionism's people-oriented passion and visionary activism should help us tap into the threemems” of a vital, vibrant, modern Jewish identitymoreshet, moledet, musar

Moreshet, "heritage," builds on that sense of tribalism, ethnicity, tradition and history of belonging to a rich culture, civilization and people cherished by many of us, whether we are “affiliated” or not. Heritage explains the many Jews who attend seders, light Chanukah candles, read Jewish books and gravitate to Jewish friends -- the most popular Jewish activities identified in the National Jewish Population Survey – enriched in Israel and the Diaspora by belonging to something greater than themselves.

Moledet, "homeland," focuses those feelings within the framework of Jewish peoplehood and a living, inspiring connection to Israel, embodying so many of those ideas. Whether or not we live in Israel, a commitment to building the land helps bring Judaism alive, as we try applying Jewish values, Jewish ideas in a 24/7 Jewish environment.

And musar, "ethics," offers method and content, emphasizing a moral and intellectual discipline essential to  flourishing in today's world while linking us to a 4,000-year-old, sophisticated, ongoing conversation about values and the meaning of life, as we all work on becoming better people.

These threemems” root the modern Jew in two realities, planting one foot in the traditional, transcendent and eternal Jewish world, and the other foot in the more material, immediate, yet somehow transient modern world. And they help give shape to three essential “Bs” – belonging to something greater than ourselves, building something individually and collectively, while becoming the best we can be.  Shanah tovah. 

Gil Troy, McGill University, Montreal and the Shalom Hartman Institute, Jerusalem

II.                Zionism is ….  the belief in the Jewish national movement, while being “pro-Israel” is the support of current Israeli government and policy

By Zoe Jick


 Defending Israel is exhausting, and I’m not sure I’m up for the challenge. But Zionist ideology, at its most purified essence, simply means believing in the Jewish right to a nationalist identity. I certainly believe in that! In fact, upon further reflection, I am not sure how I would relate to my Jewish identity if nationalism were not a given.

I realize now the urgent need to disentangle the two often conflated, yet fundamentally different, terms of “Zionism” and “pro-Israel.” Zionism is the belief in the Jewish national movement, while being “pro-Israel” is the support of current Israeli government and policy. As I understand current discussions about Israel, people often staunchly hold on to the “I’m pro-Israel” title, and yet shy away from identifying as a Zionist.

Until a week ago, I too misused these titles. I got angry when J Street did not put “pro-Israel” in their logo, and understood when my campus advocacy group dismissed the label of Zionism in their mission statement. Yet I now realize that I meant to argue exactly the opposite: I accept varying “pro-Israel” or “anti-Israel” stances, yet I maintain steadfast loyalty to Zionist ideology. Only in this framework am I allowed to honor my naturally conflicted and critical reactions to particular Israeli actions, while still upholding my commitment to the Israeli project.
Rejecting Zionism means rejecting the history, heritage, and tradition that defines Jewish peoplehood and that fueled the establishment of the State of Israel. Instead we must reclaim, redeem, and reinvigorate Zionism, allowing its original intentions to flourish in the bounds of the progress we’ve already made.

The Zionist project did not become irrelevant in 1948 – it became all the more crucial to hold fast to the ideology upon its tangible fruition. We have a state; let us now not turn away from the ideology that gave us this miracle, but instead, rise to its call for action. We are impelled to exit the cognitive space of ideology and start implementing the dream itself.

I understand why one might not support the Zionist movement any longer. I empathize with the growing alienation between Israeli and American Jewry due to Israeli policy and Israel’s relationship to the Palestinians. I acknowledge that modern Jewish youth are retreating from religious identity and are therefore further alienated from Israel. I see how the Zionist project no longer answers the Jewish power vacuum that once produced a need for homecoming.

Yet instead of allowing these challenges to Zionism to topple the need for Jewish nationalism, I hope to incorporate these realities into a more relevant, nuanced, and productive Zionist commitment. Remembering the intentions of the original Zionist movement at all times will serve to inspire me. Only through remembering what the Zionists thought Israel could be – a safe haven, a utopia, and a Jewish state – can I imagine engaging the state's current reality.
Educating about Zionism, in fact, does not entail defending Israel. Instead, Zionist education means reminding students about Israel’s limitless potential and its raison d'etre. 

Zoe Jick, a graduate of Wesleyan University class of 2011, is the New York Regional Director for the World Zionist Organization - Department for Diaspora Activities. She is also the Israel Experience Coordinator for Masa Israel Journey. She has just returned to New York after living in Tel Aviv and writing for TasteTLV.com.


III.             Zionism is… not a noun but a verb—a living ideal constantly being redefined and re-imagined, an ever-evolving pursuit toward perfection.  

By Yoav Schaefer

My generation is losing Zionism.   Fewer and fewer Diaspora Jews are willing to call themselves Zionists, and more and more of Israel’s enemies are emboldened to use Zionism against us, calling it a racist ideology.  Today Zionism is in crisis.  It is not only the ideology of Zionism that is being challenged; the word itself has become tainted.  Zionism gave birth to a new era of Judaism, revolutionizing what it means to be Jewish today.  World Jewry is engaged in an experiment—a Jewish National Project—to build a country defined by Jewish values that would in turn shape and define Jewish character. Jews, like every other people in the world, have the inherent right to establish a country that expresses their collective history, language, culture, and religious and spiritual tradition—a nation where Jews create their own national destiny and are the subjects of their own history.

Zionism is a movement of national and spiritual salvation.  Zionism sought to transform the course of history and create “the first flowering of our redemption,” promoting an eschatological intention to redeem the soul of the Jewish people—to resurrect a broken and dispersed nation, and re-instate them to a place of respect on a global stage.  Zionism promotes the highest manifestation of the spiritual and ethical dimensions of the Jewish people, reflecting not only the history of the Jewish people, but their potential for a better future. 

Zionism is still relevant today, and has the ability once again to arouse a new generation of Jews by becoming a dynamic movement to make Israel better.  The redemptive message of Zionism is still alive, and the Zionist dream has not yet been fulfilled; Israel has not realized the full potential of the promise embodied in Theodore Herzl’s words, “…what we want in that ancient land is a new blossoming of the Jewish spirit.”  Our generation must define Zionism as a forward looking movement to create a more perfect Israel: an Israel working towards peace with its neighbors, an Israel representing the very best of the Jewish people, and an Israel that can serve as a light unto the nations of the world.

Zionism is not a noun.  It is a verb—a living ideal constantly being redefined and re-imagined, an ever-evolving pursuit toward perfection.  It symbolizes optimism and potential, a hope for a better and more just society, the dream of a country that exemplifies the values and aspirations of the Jewish people.  Our generation must articulate a new vision for Zionism before more Jews become alienated from an integral part of their Jewish identity.  Zionism once unified Jews worldwide in the single most successful response to the challenge of modernity and assimilation, and it has the power to unite us once more.  This is the challenge of our generation: we must take back the word that led to the creation of the Jewish National Project and revitalize it, infusing new meaning to it before it is too late—before Zionism becomes obsolete. 

Yoav Schaefer is a student at Harvard University and is the director of the Avi Schaefer Fund. Originally from Santa Barbara, California, Yoav made aliyah to Israel in 2006 and served in the IDF.  


ביום חשבון הנפש האישי – ראוי להפנות את תשומת לבנו גם לחשבון הנפש הלאומי.

אירי קסל

ראוי שנציב בפנינו ביום ראש השנה את האתגר החשוב של רענון החשיבה הציונית ונשאל את עצמנו את השאלות הנוקבות והאמיתיות על חשיבותה של הציונות בימינו לחיזוקו של העם היהודי והבטחת עתידו.

נבקש כל אחד ואחת מאיתנו להציב את מדינת ישראל כמוקד מרכזי לחינוך היהודי.

הקמתה של מדינת ישראל הוא תהליך היסטורי רב עוצמה שסיפורו מהווה בסיס להקניית ערכים בסיסיים של שייכות, אחריות ועשייה.

שאיפה לאחריות הדדית של היהודים, הן אלו החיים בישראל והן אלו החיים בתפוצות, להמשך קיומה וחיזוקה של מדינת ישראל כביתו הלאומי של העם היהודי, ראויה להעצמה וחיזוק בהיותה גורם מחבר ומלכד של העם היהודי.

אני מאמין כי הזדהות עם מדינת ישראל כמדינה ריבונית של העם היהודי וככלי מרכזי לאחריות של היהודים על גורלם, יכול להוות בסיס לחינוך במדינת ישראל ובקהילות יהודיות מסביב לעולם.

הציונות כיום קוראת לנו להכיר את חיינו בישראל, להזדהות עם האתגר המתמשך של קיום ערכים יהודיים בחברה המתפתחת, לשותפות בהמשך הבניה של חברה, מדינה וארץ, מתוך אחריות משותפת לעתיד העם היהודי. 

עלינו להקפיד ולאפשר בחינה ביקורתית, מתוך הזדהות, של התנהלות מדינת ישראל היום בידיעה שהמפעל הציוני שאף תמיד להביא לשיפור וחיזוק החברה.

דוד בן-גוריון אמר ב – 1942: "הציונות כרעיון וחזון היא עתיקת יומין כישראל סבא עצמו. הציונות כתנועה וכמפעל היא חדשה.... ומהווה מפנה ברצון העם לעצב גורלו בעצם ידו ולבצע את דבר גאולתו במאמץ מכוון ותכליתי"

אכן, עלינו להמשיך לעצב את גאולתנו במאמץ משותף, באחריות משותפת, בחזון משותף.

מי ייתן ובשנה הקרובה ובעתיד, אור חדש על ציון יאיר !!!!!


אירי קסל, המכון למורשת בן-גוריון, חבר קיבוץ חצרים, ישראל.

ערב ראש השנה תשע"ב


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