NEW YORK (Jul. 16)
Claiming that “the American Jew has lost his Zionist commitment,” Dr. Joseph P. Sternstein, the new president of the Zionist Organization of America, told a press conference today that during his term of office the ZOA will conduct an intensive campaign to educate the public and restore that commitment. Dr. Sternstein, rabbi of the Conser- vative Temple Beth Sholom in Roslyn Heights, L.I., outlined the first step of the campaign, a program of seminars to expose young adult Jews and their families to Zionism.
“We are on the eve of a titanic political struggle in the Jewish community outside Israel and especially in America,” said Dr. Sternstein, citing the pressure which is now building up over this country’s position in the Middle East. However, at the very time when American Jewish support of Israel is crucial, the American community has failed in two important barometers of Zionist strength, aliya and tourism to Israel, he asserted.
Emphasizing that he does not believe “if you don’t go on aliya, you are not a Zionist,” Dr. Sternstein said that nevertheless the recent decline in aliya indicates an overall decline in American Zionist consciousness. “The precipitous drop after the October War of American tourism to Israel,” said Dr. Sternstein, “is a result of our own failures. It is my conviction that to revive Zionism ZOA must put a major effort on educating the young generations.”
SERIES OF PROGRAMS OUTLINED
The first step in this education program, called the Young Zionist Fellowship Seminars, is a series of programs lasting a week-end to two weeks and aimed at the age group of 25-40. Its objective is “to expose these young people to the Zionist experience and educate them to the Zionist community and personal involvement, with the possibility of leading to aliya,” Dr. Sternstein said. The meetings, which will take place at five locations throughout the country, will invite these people and their children to experience Israeli cultural life, hear lectures on Judaism and Zionism, and take part in discussion on those subjects.
ZOA’s new program will be aimed at the 25-40 age group because, according to the ZOA president, “The potential for active Zionists in this group is very significant.” He said since the development of the State of Israel in 1948 there have been no real, successful programs of Zionist education in the United States.
“I believe there is a Zionist thesis to Jewish life,” said the new president. “Zionism is a word for the responsibilities of Jews to the Jewish people. When you assume responsibility in American Jewish life, you must assume it in world Jewish life as well.” Israel, said Dr. Sternstein, is the focal point of American Jewish life, and it is the job of a Zionist organization to bring all Jews to recognize this fact.