Masorti Olami & MERCAZ Olami at the 36th Zionist Congress
A Special Report
In This Issue
It all began in Jerusalem - Pre-Congress Preparation Seminar
Dr David Breakstone appointed as Deputy Chair of WZO
President Peres at the Congress, and meets Masorti leaders
Cooperation with Kadima throughout the Congress
First NOAM Olami World Seminar
At the opening program: NOAM Israel's Shirat Machar vocal troupe
Shirat Machar
Rabbi Vernon Kurtz embraces MK Shlomo Mulla, while Alan Silberman and Dr Stephen Wolnek also offer greetings to Rabbi Kurtz as his Tribute dinner

Vernon greetings
Newly appointed Deputy Chair of the World Zionist Organization, Dr. David Breakstone

David Breakstone
The MERCAZ / Kadima-Hanoar Hatzioni negotiating team after signing the colaition agreement

Negotiations completed
President Shimon Peres addresses the Congress

Shimon Peres
Rabbi Julie Schonfeld with President Shimon Peres

Rabbi Julie Schonfeld & President Peres
It all began in Jerusalem
Last Sunday, members of the Masorti Olami and MERCAZ Olami delegation to the 36th Zionist Congress began to arrive in Jerusalem. Our delegation of more than 140 people, included 74 delegates plus alternates and observers from 18 different countries - Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Israel, Mexico, Russia, Spain, Sweden, UK, Ukraine, Uruguay & USA. The delegation included 20 young delegates from around the world, including those involved with NOAM, MAROM and other Masorti youth organizations.
Delegates, alternates and their companions joined the Masorti Olami and MERCAZ Olami leadership and staff for a Pre-Congress seminar based at the Fuchsberg Center for Conservative Judaism in the center of Jerusalem. The seminar began on Sunday evening with a performance by NOAM Israel's vocal troupe, Shirat Machar, and included welcome greetings by leaders of Masorti/Conservative organizations and institutions from Israel and around the world. On Monday, the seminar continued with sessions that gave the delegation detailed information about the Zionist Congress, the proposed resolutions and key topics for debate, as well as an insight into the work of Masorti communities in all of the 18 countries represented.
The day finished with a special festive dinner in honor of Rabbi Vernon Kurtz, whose term as the President of MERCAZ Olami has finished. MKs Yoel Hasson and Shlomo Molla attended the event o pay tribute to Rabbi Kurtz, along with outgoing Treasurer of the WZO, Hagai Merom and other leaders of Masorti/Conservative organizations and institutions from Israel and around the world.  Rabbi Kurtz is succeeded by Dr Stephen Wolnek outgoing President of MERCAZ USA. 
Click here for more pictures from the Opening night of the Pre-Congress seminar, here for the pictures from other parts of the Pre-Congress seminar, and here for pictures from the Tribute dinner to Rabbi Kurtz.
Dr David Breakstone appointed as Deputy Chair of WZO

Last week also saw the conclusion of negotiations with our coalition partners at Kadima-Hanoar Hatzioni. They too brought a strong delegation of nearly 50 people from Israel and around the world to the Congress, and together our collective faction was the second largest.  Negotiations and discussions with Kadima that began almost 2 years ago, and ran through the night ahead of the Congress, culminated in Dr. David Breakstone being appointed by the Congress as Deputy Chair of the World Zionist Organization, amongst other significant positions now held by Masorti Olami and MERCAZ Olami. Breakstone's election marks the first time that one of the two top positions at the WZO has gone to an individual from a religious stream rather than from an Israeli political party. His duties will include dealing with the WZO budget, activities outside of Israel, and services to both Reform and Conservative Judaism in the Diaspora, as well as being the designated substitute Chair when the Chair is not able to serve.
Alan Silberman
, President of Masorti Olami and Dr Stephen Wolnek, President of MERCAZ Olami both praise Dr Breakstone's long service to the WZO and Jewish Zionist education as a whole, and note that this is an historic step that reflects the ongoing efforts of the Masorti movement to emphasize its role in building Jewish life, and our commitment to Zionist principles, in every part of the world where Jews live.
Until this new appointment Dr. Breakstone was the Head of the Department for Zionist Activities at the WZO, along with being a member of the WZO and JAFI Executives, where he represents MERCAZ Olami. He has also held the positions of Director of Ramah Programs in Israel, as well as Director of Hebrew University's Pedagogic Center for Jewish Education and Assistant Dean at the Schechter Institute. He has published numerous articles, books, and curricula on Jewish education, the teaching of Israel, Conservative Judaism, Israel-Diaspora relations, and Zionism, and continues to write a column in the Jerusalem Post newspaper.
Peres addresses the Congress & meets Masorti leaders
President Shimon Peres was among the keynote speakers at the Zionist Congress last week. At the Gala Event, which marked 150 years since the birth of Herzl, he talked about the reality of Herzl's dream, and the work still left to be done to bring the Zionist message to Israel and the Diaspora. Jerusalem Mayor, Nir Barkat, followed the President at the Gala Event, and explained that Jerusalem remains at the center of the Zionist world in the 21st Century. Earlier in the week, 10 representatives of the Worldwide Masorti Movement (Alan Silberman, Dr Stephen Wolnek, Rabbi Vernon Kurtz, Yizhar Hess, Rabbi Tzvi Graetz, Dr David Breakstone, David Lissy, Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, Rabbi Bob Golub, Rabbi Gilah Dror, Mario Grunebaum, and Gill Caplin) had the opportunity to meet President Peres at his residence in Jerusalem. They spoke with the President about the World-wide Masorti/Conservative movement, the potential impact of the Conversion Bill as well as issues of religious pluralism in Israel. The President strongly supported our positions as was very happy to meet our representatives.
At the Congress
Faction meetings with KadimaVoting at the Congress
Throughout the Congress, a wide range of issues were discussed which related to the future of Zionism and keeping Herzl's dream a reality. Most significant among the debates, were those connected with the equal acceptance of the non-orthodox streams of Judaism in the Zionist world, prejudice against non-Orthodox conversions, the future of Zionist Shlichim (emissaries), the equal involvement of youth movements from all religious streams, statements relating to the future of the Peace process, and decisions about the future structure and role of the World Zionist Organization. Following hard work ahead of the Congress, the joint Masorti / MERCAZ / Kadima / Hanoar Hatzioni delegation was a strong united force both in the committee discussions and the final resolution voting sessions, ensuring that resolutions we proposed were carried, and successfully stopping controversial resolutions from opposing factions.
Click here for more pictures from the Congress.
First NOAM Olami World seminar
NOAM Olami seminar 1Among the delegates from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, France, UK and USA were 9 young delegates aged 18 to 25 who took part in the first NOAM Olami World seminar through the week of the Zionist Congress. These 9 leaders of NOAM or Masorti youth organizations with different names, were later joined by leaders from NOAM in Israel for a weekend seminar which looked at the values and purposes of coming together as a world-wide NOAM movement. The seminar NOAM Olami seminar 2allowed for sharing ideas, building personal connections, and celebrating shared values and practice as well as embracing differences. The seminar took place close to Jerusalem, and was attended by Masorti Olami, MAROM Olami and NOAM Israel staff and leadership. We hope to be able to facilitate another NOAM Olami seminar to continue this important work later in the year.
Click here for more pictures from the NOAM Olami seminar.
The entire Masorti Olami and MERCAZ Olami delegation

The entire delegation