NEW YORK (Oct. 3)
The World Zionist Organization is presently engaged in a determined process of analysis and soul-searching that will result in a “revolutionary restructuring of the WZO, designed to make it responsive to the current needs of the Jewish people,” Leon Dulzin, chairman of the WZO Executive, said following on “historic” three-day conference here of a Think-Tank committee.
“We recognize that the WZO as presently constituted is inadequate — indeed obsolete — in successfully grappling with the pressing challenges now confronting the Jewish people,” Dulzin declared.
In order to transform the WZO, it has enlisted foremost Jewish thinkers and experts — academicians, and religious and Zionist leaders — into regional Think Tank Committees in the United States, Latin America, Europe, the British Commonwealth and Israel, Dulzin said. These committees, like the one which met in New York, are engaged in devising a new WZO strategy and structure to enable it to be an effective instrument of the Jewish people, he pointed out.
The Think Tank conference sought to determine “what makes the Zionist movement and Zionists different from those organizations and their members who have not accepted the Jerusalem Program,” Dulzin said. He noted that the Think Tank committee recommended the performance of actions, such as going on aliya and studying Hebrew to distinguish the committed Zionists from others.
SIX CRITICAL ISSUES
He said that in Israel, the central Think Tank Committee formulated six critical issues which were discussed at the New York meeting: the Jerusalem Program, the duties incumbent on the individual Zionist, a framework for those who make aliya, equality of status for all constituent organizations, methods for individual affiliation with the WZO, and the intensification of the democratic process.
“With the benefit of the analysis, counsel and recommendations of our Think Tank experts we are determined to radically transform our movement,” Dulzin said. “Initially, Zionism was a movement to establish the State of Israel and to save Jews. Now we must face the task of saving Jewry from the serious inroads of assimilation, loss of Jewish identity and intermarriage. We must also face the fact that although there has been a landmark acceptance of the Jerusalem Program by the leaders of American Jewry, the influence of the WZO in diaspora Jewish life has diminished.”
THINK TANK PARTICIPANTS
The select stellar academicians and religious luminaries who participated in the Think Tank session were Professors Howard Adelson, City University of New York; Zeev Briner, University of California at Berkeley; Saul Cohen, president of Queens College; Moshe Davis, Hebrew University; Steven Katz, Cornell University; David Landes, Harvard; David Sidorsky, Columbia University; and Eliezer Lipsky, author.
The heads of the three foremost seminaries also took part. They were Gerson Cohen, Jewish Theological Seminary of America; Alfred Gottschalk, Hebrew Union College; and Norman Lamm, Yeshiva University.
The meeting concerned itself with problems of Zionism in the United States. Its views will be brought back to each Zionist organization and will be followed by a second meeting early in 1985 to summarize the Think Tank conclusions and to make suggestions, Dulzin said. He stated that there will be a subsequent meeting of all Think Tanks in 1985 in Jerusalem to consider the recommendations to be made to the Zionist Actions Committee for its consideration and decision at its January 1986 meeting.
ESSENTIAL CHANGES ARE REQUIRED
Dulzin, noting that this innovative deliberative process is now in full gear, expressed his hope that far-reaching, beneficial changes could be effected, “if possible by consensus or by a broad majority. For, on a crucial topic such as this is, more than a simple majority is needed for the decision to be meaningful and to carry weight.”
He said the essential changes are required “in the Zionist structure to permit a broader foundation to be laid as a base for building a democratic and ideological Zionist movement that will encompass the entire spectrum of Zionist thought. The new structure should give emphasis to education and ideological causes instead of to politics and parties.”
Dulzin added: “It is obvious that only if the WZO makes the necessary changes in its structure will it be able to be the central force in Jewish life it must be in behalf of positive Jewish life, survival and the upbuilding of the Jewish homeland.”