Exciting times for General Zionists

I am a proud General Zionist.

A General Zionist? What is that?

We are an international group of Zionists who believe that the World Zionist Organization (WZO) and other national institutions must be devoid of political or religious agendas.

We believe that the resources of the international Zionist movement should not be used to promote Israeli political parties, or the ideologies of a specific religious stream. Rather, they should serve to unite Jewish people from competing political camps and differing religious groups around the principle that Israel is the home of the Jewish people, that Israel is a source of good, that Jews around the world must work to support Israel, and that Israel must help strengthen Jewish communities throughout the Diaspora.

The mothership for general Zionism is a WZO faction called the World Confederation of General Zionists (Confederation). This party was led for decades by Rabbi Kalman Sultanik, a Holocaust survivor who was part of the underground resistance, and a delegate to the 22nd World Zionist Congress in Basel in 1946 representing survivors of the concentration camps.

Confederation now has representatives from 14 different countries: Russia, Ukraine, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Chile, Mexico, New Zealand, and Uganda.

Historically, Confederation has not been super active in the World Zionist Congress and the WZO. General Zionists held significant power in the World Zionist Organization prior to the establishment of the state of Israel because unity of mission – establishing the state – was the most important goal.

However since the state’s establishment, the leadership positions have always gone to much larger factions from powerful Israeli political parties like Likud and Labor – Israeli parties automatically hold 200 out of the 525 Congress delegates – and to massive religious streams such as Reform and Conservative, which reach out to their congregants for votes in order to gain access to budget allocations to help their movements.

While that continues to be the case, the Confederation under the joint leadership of Jesse Sultanik, Rabbi Sultanik’s grandson, and entrepreneur and philanthropist David Yaari, is doing a number of things to increase its influence on the Zionist movement.

For starters, Confederation has entered into an official partnership with Hanoar Hatzoyoni, another general Zionist party that focuses on Zionist youth groups. This doubles Confederation’s strength in the Congress and assures it greater influence.

Aside from this merger, two powerful and impactful organizations have also joined ranks with the Confederation, as delegates for the Congress and in the WZO. StandWithUs, the international Israel education and advocacy powerhouse, decided to join the national institutions, and given that they are apolitical and unaffiliated religiously, their natural home was the Confederation.

A second newcomer to the national institutions, Doreshei Torah V’Tziyon (DTT) – made up of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, the International Rabbinic Fellowship, the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance and PORAT – is apolitical and seeks to work beyond its Orthodox base, thus making general Zionism and Confederation its natural home.

The introduction of two large and influential Zionistic groups into the official General Zionist camp infuses this decades-old movement with great enthusiasm and energy.

Confederation also seeks to widen the tent of those involved in the Zionist movement via a resolution that will be brought to a vote during the 38th Zionist Congress, which will be held virtually next week. The resolution calls for the establishment of a commission to determine how the Zionist movement can work to include Zionistic communities not currently represented in the national institutions.

As an example, the Jewish community in Uganda has been working to be accepted into the World Zionist Organization, and hopes to be formally accepted by the Zionist Council during the upcoming election. The leader of that Ugandan effort identifies as a general Zionist, and is part of Confederation. The passage of this resolution will lead to the WZO actively seeking more isolated communities and connecting them to the international Zionist movement. This will lead to more aliyah from these locations, increased Israel advocacy in these countries, and stronger Jewish societies – all goals of general Zionism.

The Jewish world is hemorrhaging, as Jews worldwide are becoming increasingly less engaged with Israel while Israeli politics and religious debates polarize us as a nation. General Zionism is the solution to all of these challenges, as it leaves internal Israeli politics and religious divisions aside and seeks to reengage Diaspora Jews with Israel. That involvement offers them the tools and resources to be proud advocates and supporters of Israel, encourages aliyah, and unifies Jews around the notion that Israel is the Jewish homeland and must be a source of good for the entire world.

No matter where you live around the world, if you would like to get involved and join our growing movement, please email me at ddlipman@gmail.com.

About the Author
Dov Lipman was elected to the 19th Knesset in January 2013. He is the author of seven books about Judaism and Israel, and holds rabbinic ordination from Ner Israel Rabbinical College and a masters in education from Johns Hopkins University. He has been at the forefront of combating religious extremism in Israel and is a leader in efforts to create Jewish unity both in Israel and around the world. Former MK Lipman is invited to speak on behalf of the Jewish state both in Israel and around the world and serves as a political commentator for i24 News and ILTV. He currently serves as Senior Manager - Community Outreach for HonestReporting.
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