World Zionist Congress voting begins today

American Zionist Movement

World Zionist Congress

Jews in the United States begin voting today for a stake in decisions made in and about the Jewish state over the next five years. Tens of thousands of American Jews are expected to cast their ballots in the World Zionist Congress elections before polls close on March 11. 

Seat at the table: More than 1,500 candidates across 15 slates are running for the 152 U.S.-held seats in the Congress. The rest of the body’s 500 elected delegates come from the global Jewish diaspora, where Jewish communities around the world agree upon their delegations, and from Israel, where each Zionist political party in the Knesset is alloted a corresponding number of seats in the Congress. 

How it works: Following the elections, the Congress forms a Zionist Council, a scaled-down group proportional to the total number of delegates in the Congress. While the Congress meets every five years, the Zionist Council meets at least once a year. The Zionist Council governs the World Zionist Organization and also serves as the general assembly of the Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund, in addition to holding half the seats on both the Jewish Agency for Israel’s board of governors and the board of Keren Hayesod. The four organizations collectively have a budget of $1 billion per year.

Does it actually matter? As board members, delegates are able to weigh in on the direction and senior leadership of the organizations. While the delegates are not solely responsible for the overall strategies and actions of each organization, they work in cooperation with each group’s leadership.

High turnout: Herbert Block, executive director of the American Zionist Movement, which runs the U.S. elections, told JI’s Melissa Weiss that he expects a high turnout this year, in part because of the buzz around elections in both Israel and the U.S. “It does provide an opportunity for American Jews, who hopefully will be in election mode because of the presidential primaries, and [because of] the focus on American and Israeli elections, he said. “But people who… feel well, you know, ‘I want to express my opinions on things going on in the Jewish world and Israel,’ they can’t vote in the Knesset elections, but here’s a small way [they] can have a say.”

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