By Eli Ziegler
In the last two months, what we have always known has become abundantly clear for the rest of the world: organizations and movements are stronger when young people are involved. Across the country, our generation is leading in community organizing, social justice, and political action — we are using our shared values to fight for what we believe by building relationships and taking action. Yet, when it comes to Israel, many young people feel the need to check their involvement at the door. Too often, we trade in our toolbox of action for the meager cupboard of social media. As we remain safely within the walls of our own echo-chambers, we allow others to lead the charge of progressive Zionism.
We, young Reform Jews have a voice, so why do we remain largely silent? Ignoring our values and ideals, we default time and time again to others to be our voice for Israel. This is not the NFTY way. In NFTY, we learn to use our passion and resolve to create the lasting change which we seek to see in the world: we learn to lead from within. Well, now is the time for us to lead in Israel, working within the institutions and organizations which are intended to serve us.
For those looking to find their voice in Israel and fight for Progressive Zionist values, ARZA and its international parent organization ARZENU, allow young people the opportunity to find their voices and take action on contemporary issues facing Israel. As a Reform community, we are unwavering in in our support of Israel being a Jewish and Democratic state for all her people. By becoming involved with ARZA and ARZENU, you can ensure that “Jewish and Democratic” is not just something you say, but something your practice each and every day.
Luckily, there are many ways to get involved:
- Vote for ARZA in the upcoming 2020 World Zionist Congress elections. (Spring 2020)
- Commit to fighting for pluralistic values in Israel, egalitarian prayer, the right of Reform rabbis to conduct legally recognized religious ceremonies, and much, much more.
- Talk to your clergy, youth director, lay leaders, or others in your community about ARZA and ARZENU.
- Run programs relating to Israel, religious pluralism, and progressive values in Israel.
Israel is an important piece of any Reform Jewish identify. We speak of Israel as a Jewish homeland, expressing our love and concerns to those who often hold our beliefs. However, we must begin to speak to all who will listen, transform these words into action, and join the institutions that will allow us to take back our voices from those in our community who seek to speak for us. Together, with young people leading the way, we will work towards an Israel that is reflective our shared values of both democracy and religious pluralism.
Eli Ziegler is a sophomore at the University of Georgia studying Economics and International Affairs. Originally from Orlando, Florida he is currently serving as a Senator in University of Georgia’s Student Government Association, a 2018 ARZENU Behind Closed Doors Fellow, and President of UGAIPAC. Eli works on campus and in the community to promote the US-Israel Relationship, foster nuanced dialogue regarding contemporary Jewish issues, and promote pluralistic and progressive values in Israel. Previously, he served as President of his Temple Youth Group, GORFTY (NFTY-STRY), and worked as a counselor at URJ Camp Coleman.