February 2015 Issue

World Zionist Congress

Did you know there is an International Parliament of the Jewish People that represents you?

Your ideas. Your priorities.  Your vision of Israel.

There is an election right now for delegates.

MERCAZUSA is the political arm of the Conservative/Masorti movement.

A vote for MERCAZ ensures an Israel that we can all identify with and be proud of:

  • Pluralistic/Inclusive
  • Egalitarian/Unified
  • Sustainable/Diverse

Vote for Mercaz, Slate #2 in the Zionist Congress Elections:

Vote now at votemercaz.org

You do not have to be a member of MERCAZUSA to vote. You must be over the age of 18 by June 30, 2015, and live in the U.S.

(Please note there is a $10 fee –$5 for those under 30. This is an AZM fee to pay for the cost of the election.)


You will also be represented.

To make sure to maximize representation in the Canadian delegation, join MERCAZ Canada now.

The strength of our delegation translates to success in affecting the allocations of the Jewish Agency and its more than $300 million annual budget.  More than $2 million annually in direct allocations and indirect program subsidies helps fund Masorti institutions in Israel, represents a significant part of Masorti Olami’s budget to support congregations in South America, Europe and elsewhere, and to support Nativ, Ramah Seminar, USY Pilgrimage, and the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem.  We encourage you to actively get family, friends, members of your sisterhood and congregation to vote.

If you have questions, please click here.

Women’s League Resolutions

Thanks to all of you who voted in the most inclusive resolutions election we’ve ever held. We passed these six resolutions:

  1. Inclusion & Disabilities
  2. MERCAZ Olami Electoral Support
  3. Minimum Wage Increase and Other Supports for Low Income Families
  4. Women’s Reproductive Health
  5. Sensible Gun Control in the United States
  6. Voting Rights in the United States.

You can read the resolutions on the Women’s League website. Log in, go to Download WLCJ Member Materials to find 2014 resolutions. Consult these resolutions which contain recommendations for sisterhoods.

Women’s Reproductive Health

The Religious Declaration on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healingturned 15 years old this month. First published as a full page ad surrounded by more than 800 names of leading religious leaders, today more than 4600 religious leaders from every state in the country have endorsed the Declaration. To read more about this organization and its declarations, click here.

Consistent with our resolutions insisting that women should have no restrictions on reproductive health access, together with 29 other faith based organizations, we signed onto a letter to Congress objecting to the proposed legislation House Resolution 36, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.

The legislation would end access to abortion after 20 weeks of gestation, with some exceptions. These exceptions include risk to the life of the mother, rape and incest of a minor. However, a form showing that the rape was reported to law enforcement must be provided before the procedure could occur. There is also a paragraph stating that abortion doctors would face a fine or up to 5 years in jail for illegally performing an abortion, but the woman herself would face no such charge. The House leadership decided to forego a vote on this bill primarily because of the letters and e-mails they received in opposition to the bill.

However, immediately upon the demise of that bill, a bill left from 2014, H.R. 7No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2015 was submitted and passed.  This bill prevents federal funds from being used for abortion services except in cases of rape, incest or life endangerment.  This includes no abortions in a federal or District of Columbia health care facility, by any physician or other employee of the federal government or District, and makes changes to the Affordable Care Act that would not allow premium assistance on any plan with abortion coverage.  It would also exclude abortion coverage from any multi-state qualified plan offered in a state health care exchange. Poor women would suffer the most.

In 2014, 15 states enacted 26 new abortion restrictions. In addition, states adopted 231 new abortion restrictions since the 2010 midterm elections.  There are states that enacted measures to expand abortion coverage.  However, by 2014, 27 states had enough restrictions to be considered hostile; 18 of these can now be considered extremely hostile. The entire South is now considered hostile to abortion rights, and much of the South, along with much of the Midwest, is extremely hostile to abortion rights.

Marriage Equality

Women’s League has signed onto amicus briefs on the state level on marriage equality that assert that same sex marriage bans violate not only the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, but also the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.  We have indicated to the Anti-Defamation League that we will also sign onto their amicus brief on this topic coming to the Supreme Court.

Hate Crimes

In November, the White House launched the Interagency Hate Crimes Coalition. Coordinated by the White House Domestic Policy Council, it includes the Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Education, Department of Homeland Security, tDepartment of State, Health and Human Services, and the United States Agency of International Development. This initiative will address the prevention of violent hate crimes, respond to discrimination that has not yet reached the level of a hate crime and effective responses to hate crimes. The group will meet quarterly and will seek input from community leaders during those meetings.

The first meeting was held January 30.  Women’s League participates through the Hate Crimes Coalition Group convened by the Anti-Defamation League.

Release of Alan Gross

Executive Director Sarrae Crane and Janet Tobin (president of MERCAZUSA and former Women’s League president) attended a meeting of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations at which Alan Gross was hosted.  He had been arrested in Cuba in 2009 for establishing internet service for the Cuban Jewish community, and was released after serving five of a fifteen year sentence. Mr. Gross thanked the Conference leaders and members for their efforts on his behalf.  Malcolm Hoenlein and other Jewish leaders had meetings with high-level American and Cuban officials starting right after his arrest that continued until his release.  In addition, there were many rallies and demonstrations for his freedom.  Mr. Gross indicated that knowing he had so many people advocating on his behalf sustained him.

United Nations

The Mission of the United Nations Is All-Out War Against Genocide – Israeli President Reuven Rivlin (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs) addressed the UN General Assembly on International Holocaust Remembrance Day:

  • “In the valley of death of Europe it was the Jewish people who were the victims of a methodical, brutal, perverted and murderous extermination. Six million people, one third of my nation, about a million and a half of them children, were killed, slaughtered, suffocated, gassed to death, buried alive, burnt, massacred, died from hunger, from thirst, from disease, and other gruesome kinds of death, in the most horrifying crime ever committed in the history of the human race.”
  • “Now, in our own time, when the fundamentalist viper is raising its ugly head, we must remember that evil is not the property of any specific religion….My father, Yosef Yoel Rivlin, of blessed memory, devoted his life to translating the Quran into Hebrew, believing in the importance of dialogue and the cultural significance of the Quran for all the children of Abraham. As my father’s son, I too believe implicitly that neither the West, nor the Christians, nor the Jews are at war with Islam.”
  • “Islam encompasses, under its enormous wings, victims of persecution and of terrorism, while at the same time it also serves as the banner of the attackers. The victims consist of hundreds of thousands of Muslim men and women, together with Christians, Yazidis, Kurds and Druze, each one of them a helpless victim of vicious barbarity, of wicked terrorism that has nothing at all to do with the religion or with the words of the Prophet. It is our duty and our responsibility to fight without mercy against the attackers; just as it is our duty and our responsibility to protect all the victims.”
  • “‘Never again’ is not just a pledge by the survivors, and also not a pledge by the world only to the members of the Jewish People. ‘Never again’ is, first and foremost, the very essence of this United Nations organization, it is its mission, it is the primary and principal rationale for its existence.”

United Nations Vote on Palestinian Peace Plan

On December 30, the Security Council convened to vote on a draft resolution submitted by  Security Council member Jordan that would have set a 12-month deadline to reach a final peace deal with Israel and pave the way to a Palestinian state.

The vote capped a three-month campaign by the Palestinians to win support for a resolution that sets a timeframe for ending Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem. The resolution called for a full Israeli withdrawal from the Palestinian territories to be completed no later than the end of 2017.

Argentina, Chad, Chile, China, France, Jordan, Luxembourg, and Russia voted in favor of the draft; Australia and the United States voted against; Great Britain, Lithuania, Nigeria, Rwanda, and South Korea abstained.

To read more click here.

Report from Women’s League Representatives to the United Nations

In September 2014 we attended The Global Anti-Semitism, A Threat to Peace and Security conference sponsored by the Ambassador of Palau. We also heard from Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor who reported that there has been an increase in anti-Semitism worldwide.  The ambassador noted that there is a 130%  increase in anti-Semitic incidents in the United States. Europe’s anti-Semitism has increased by 400% and there is a 1000% increase in South America.  Prosor finds little difference between the anti-Semitism of 1937 and the anti-Semitism of 2014.

Two important sessions were called in December 2014.  “The Tale of Ancient Jewish Culture, the Arab Countries” was about the  850,000 Jewish refugees from Arab countries who were expelled almost 70 years ago and the Arab countries have not accepted responsibility for their crimes.

Ambassador Prosor called for the United Nations to establish a documentation center to prove to the world how Jews were expelled from Arab lands in which communities and synagogues were destroyed. Israel  absorbed most of these refugees.