World Zionist Congress Elections

(Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)

What’s the story?

Who is the first person that comes to mind when you think about Zionism? Chances are it is Theodor (Binyamin Ze’ev) Herzl, the iconic founder of political Zionism. Herzl famously organized the first-ever Zionist Congress, held in Basel, Switzerland, in 1897. The initial goal of the World Zionist Organization was to develop infrastructure in what was then Ottoman- controlled Palestine in preparation for an eventual Jewish homeland in the land of Israel. 

Today, the Zionist Congress is the largest democratic exercise in the Jewish world and, according to the World Zionist Organization, the congress aims to “represent the entire political and religious spectrum of the Zionist movement.” The congress, often refered to as the “parliament of the Jewish people” is the supreme ideological and policy-making body of the World Zionist Organization and makes key decisions of how to allocate around one billion dollars annually to support Israel and world Jewry. Initially, the World Zionist Congress was held for a minimum of every two years until World War I. More recently, the congress has convened every 4-5 years; the last World Zionist Congress was in 2015.

World Zionist Congress Elections

There are 500 delegates in the World Zionist Congress that are determined based on their country of origin. Israel receives 38% of the delegates, the United States receives 29% of the delegates, and the rest of Diaspora Jewry receives the remaining 33% of delegates. The delegates are elected on behalf of their Diaspora organizations and on behalf of the Zionist political parties, which are represented in accordance with their representation in the Knesset. Leading up to each World Zionist Congress, elections are held for the new delegates. The 38th World Zionist Congress will be held in October 2020, and those elected before the congress will be given the enormous responsibility of deciding in which direction the Zionist movement will move in the next five years.

Who’s running? What are the different slates? Who should you vote for? 

Check out the 15 slates running in the US election for the 38th World Zionist Congress:

  1. Eretz Hakodesh: Protecting the Kedusha and Mesorah of Eretz Yisrael
  2. Vote Reform: ARZA Representing the Reform Movement and Reconstructing Judaism
  3. Israel Shelanu (Our Israel) 
  4. Orthodox Israel Coalition – Mizrachi: Vote Torah
  5. Vision: Empowering the Next Generation
  6. MERCAZ USA: The Voice of Conservative/Masorti Judaism
  7. Dorshei Torah V’Tziyon: Torah and Israel for All
  8. Hatikvah: Progressive Israel Slate
  9. Ohavei Zion: World Sephardic Zionist Organization
  10. Herut Zionists: The Jabotinsky Movement
  11. ZOA Coalition: Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), Torah from Sinai, Make Israel Great (MIG) & National Pro-Israel Partners – Courageously Defending Israel, Sovereignty & the Jewish People
  12. American Forum for Israel
  13. Americans4Israel: Peace, Unity & Security
  14. Kol Yisrael: For the Love of Israel – Making Zionism Compelling in the 21st Century
  15. Shas Olami

How can you participate?

For the American Zionist movement, voting is now open until March 11, 2020. The rules to vote include being Jewish, being at least 18 years old, being a permanent resident of the United States, and not voting in the upcoming March 2nd Israeli elections. There are 15 slates running in the 2020 US election for the 38th World Zionist Congress which represent a variety of political beliefs, cultural traditions, and religious denominations — reflecting the diversity of American Jewry.