Historic World Zionist Congress to Include Largest-Ever American Delegation

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“The work of Zionism–supporting Israel and connecting world Jewry to our national homeland–must continue despite the global pandemic,” said Richard D. Heideman, AZM President. Photo Credit: azm.org

Edited by: JV Staff

American delegates will make history by “virtually attending” the first online World Zionist Congress (WZC) next week, October 20-22, 2020. The American Zionist Movement (AZM) has convened hundreds from across the United States in preparation for joining with those from 30+ countries in an unprecedented internet global Zionist gathering, the international “parliament of the Jewish people.”

The US delegation is the largest and represents 30% of all elected to the WZC and includes Delegates and Alternates from 28 States (plus DC and PR) who range from ages 18-89. This is the 38th Zionist Congress since Theodor Herzl convened the first WZC in 1897, in which five Americans participated.

“The work of Zionism–supporting Israel and connecting world Jewry to our national homeland–must continue despite the global pandemic,” said Richard D. Heideman, AZM President. “This crisis has, however, given us a special opportunity to enable more delegates and alternates than ever before to participate in a World Zionist Congress. It builds on the record setting democratic vote held by AZM in the Jewish community which gives the US delegation added prominence at the upcoming Congress.”

“Next week our US delegation to the Zionist Congress will follow in the footsteps of Herzl by participating in the only democratically elected global Jewish forum,” said Herbert Block, AZM Executive Director. “Our American representatives exemplify our diverse US Jewish community and come from all ideological and political perspectives. They are Reform, Reconstructionist, Conservative, Orthodox, Charedi, Ashkenazic, Sephardic and LGBT; and include people with disabilities, immigrants from Russian-speaking and Middle Eastern countries, and Jews of Color. What brings them all together for the WZC is their commitment to Zionism, Israel and the Jewish people.”

The election for US representatives to the WZC, facilitated by AZM, conducted primarily online, garnered 123,575 votes, from American Jews in all 50 states, DC and US territories. It represented a 115% increase – more than double – from the turnout of the prior WZC election in the US in 2015 and was the highest number of votes since an open Zionist election in the American Jewish community began 30 years ago.

The 38th WZC has long been scheduled to be held in Jerusalem next week. However, given the current COVID restrictions, the 2020 WZC sessions and deliberations will instead be conducted via a global virtual platform. The World Zionist Organization hopes to convene an additional extraordinary worldwide in-person Zionist Congress in Israel in Fall 2021 or during 2022.

The WZC is the ideological and policy-making body of the Zionist movement. The delegates and the bodies they form at the WZC determine the leadership and influence the policies of Israel’s National Institutions: the World Zionist Organization (WZO), the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), Jewish National Fund-Keren Kayemet LeIsrael (JNF) and Keren Hayesod – which together allocate nearly $1 billion annually in funding in support of Israel and Jewish communities around the world. The virtual WZC next week will elect officials of the National Institutions and consider a dozen policy resolutions.