NEW YORK (May. 20)
Close to a million ballots were mailed within the last week to members of American Zionist organizations to elect delegates to the 31st World Zionist Congress which will open in Jerusalem on December 7, it was announced here by the American Zionist Federation (AZF), the umbrella group for all the Zionist membership organizations in the United States. Eligible voters will choose from nine slates representing a broad spectrum of views on issues of concern to the Jewish people.
Benjamin Cohen, AZF president, and Raymond Patt, Area Election Committee chairperson, said recipients of the ballots have until June 30 to return them. While the AZF is the coordinating body for the election, voters have been instructed to mail their ballots directly to the American Arbitration Association (AAA) which is overseeing the election. Any member of the 16 AZF constituent organizations who has not received a ballot by May 30 should contact the AAA at (212) 4843220, Cohen and Patt said.
According to the two officials, if a person is a member of more than one Zionist organization, that person may receive more than one ballot. But, Cohen and Patt emphasized, “You may vote only once. If you return more than one ballot, your vote will not be counted.”
‘A REMARKABLE DEMOCRATIC EXERCISE’
Patt called the balloting “a remarkable democratic exercise which allows members in the U.S. Zionist organizations to select their representatives to the World Zionist Congress.” He predicted that the response would exceed the more than 200,000 ballots cast in 1978, the last time elections took place for the Zionist Congress.
“This is certainly the ‘Year of the Zionist’, Patt said. “We witnessed a dramatic increase in Zionist membership; we experienced a highly successful American Zionist Assembly in Philadelphia last January which was attended by some 1,600 people. And we are extremely encouraged by a renewed interest in Zionism, particularly by young Jews.”
Cohen said that “a strong showing in this election will serve as a reaffirmation of basic Zionist principles and also reinforce the Jerusalem Program adopted at the 27th Zionist Congress in 1968.”
The Jerusalem program affirms that the aims of Zionism are: “The unity of the Jewish people and the centrality of Israel in Jewish life; The ingathering of the Jewish people in its historic homeland Eretz Yisrael, through aliya from all countries; The strengthening of the State of Israel, which is based on the prophetic vision of justice and peace; The preservation of the identity of the Jewish people though the fostering of Jewish and Hebrew education and of Jewish spiritual and cultural values; The protection of Jewish rights everywhere.”
THE NINE SLATES
There are nine slates, in the following order drawn by lot:
SLATE 1 Mercaz – Strengthening Israel’s Conservative/Masorti Judaism
SLATE 2 Hadassah – Bnai Zion – American Jewish League – Young Judaea
SLATE 3 Zionist Organization of America – ZOA – Masada Youth Movement
SLATE 4 Students for Israel
SLATE 5 ARZA – Association of Reform Zionists of America
SLATE 6 Herut Zionists – Tehiya – Sephardic Movement – United Zionist Revisionists of America – Betar Zionist Youth Organization
SLATE 7 The Progressive Zionist List – Americans for Progressive Israel – Hashomer Hatzair
SLATE 8 Religious Zionist Movement – Amit-Emunah – RZA
SLATE 9 Friends of Labor: Na’amat, LZA, Habonim
Although all of the organizations are united on the basic Zionist agenda, such as the security of the State of Israel and aliya, they differ on such issues as pluralism in Israel, the future of territories captured by Israel in 1967, and the process for achieving many of Zionism’s goals, Cohen and Patt said.