Reclaiming Zionism: Our Theme of the Year in Review

by Lauren Keiles

With Israel being tightly examined with a magnifying glass by the world, we realised that as a Reform Zionist movement, our education on Israel needed to go beyond learning how to make Shakshuka and dancing to songs in the Israeli charts.

When we voted at Veida for our educational theme of the year to be ‘Reclaiming Zionism’, the prospect for us as madrichimot (leaders) to educate our chanichimot (participants) on a concept that many of us felt we didn’t have a solid grip over was a daunting, exciting and necessary challenge to take!

How would we educate on a topic where there is no consensus? How could we creatively educate on a country and ideology that top academics haven’t completely grasped? How would we work out how living in the diaspora affects our identity as Reform Zionists?

When starting to plan the most recent Kadimah, the Rashim tsevet decided our own definition of Reform Zionism and how it fits into our LJY-Netzer environment.

‘We define ourselves as Reform Zionists, believing there should be a home for the Jewish people in the land of Israel. We believe that central to Israel, there should be the progressive values of peace, inclusivity and freedom from discrimination and persecution. In order to responsibly care for Israel, we need to face and act upon the pressing challenges it faces. It is our hope that Israel can be “a light unto the nations” as it is written in the Prophets, and Declaration of Independence.

We recognise our members have many different viewpoints and we encourage a dialogue between these opinions in order to grow from each other.’

As its nearly time to pick our next educational theme, looking at the journey we’ve been on, we can now say that ‘Zionism’ is not a word we shy away from but one we can confidently grab with two hands, explore, learn, apply our Liberal Judaism values too all while hugging and wrestling with this complexed ideology.

We re-wrote the words based on our Zionism ideology to ‘Rather Be’ by Jess Glynne, made our own lava lamps to learn about innovations from Israel, discovered the story of Ethiopian Jewry, learned from educators about the religious diversity of Israel and hard facts about the current situation of the conflict as well as analysing some of the campaigns from IRAC (Israeli Religious Action Centre) and then designing our own campaigns on issues we care about based on their model.

Have we reclaimed the global Zionist movement? Not quite. Have we reclaimed Zionism so that every member on LJY has the space, knowledge and opportunity to explore what their Zionism means to them? We sure did!