Why You Should Vote Torah
As generally happens with elections, people have trouble deciding whom to vote for, and the World Zionist Congressional elections appear to be no different. But, I am here to make it easy for you—you should Vote Torah.
First, some background. The World Zionist Congress (WZC) is the main organ and legislative arm of the World Zionist Organization, Jewish National Fund (JNF) and the Jewish Agency. Founded by Theodor Herzl in 1897, its main mission was to establish a national homeland for the Jewish people. With that accomplished in 1948, its priorities shifted and its main power is in setting the policies and goals for the Zionist organizations it oversees, as well as directing over one billion dollars in funds to accomplish those goals. It has met 36 times since its inception. Its 37th meeting will be happening this year, after the results of the election are determined.
The WZC itself is composed of 500 delegates, 145 of which come from the United States. The distribution of those delegates is determined by an election conducted by the American Zionist Movement, with delegation sizes corresponding to the percentage of the vote a ticket receives. While 38% of the delegates are determined by the proportions of votes in the general Israeli parliamentary election, the remaining 33% are allocated by Diaspora Jewry outside the United States.
This election has 11 tickets, representing a wide spectrum of visions for Zionism. Amongst the other parties running are groups representing Reform and Conservative Jewish attitudes towards Zionism, groups with more nationalistic bents, as well as one representing J Street and organizations with similar ideological views. Vote Torah is the only one dedicated to representing the views of Religious Zionists collectively, advocating a vision anchored by Torah values. Whereas other groups have tried to compromise on issues of Israel’s security and redirect funds to organizations uninterested in any of Israel’s religious character, religious Zionist delegates in the past have fought for those values and will continue to—but they need your vote in order to have a sizeable influence in the upcoming Congress.
The Vote Torah slate represents many of the most important organizations and institutions in the Modern Orthodox world today, including Yeshiva University, the Orthodox Union, the Rabbinical Council of America, Bnei Akiva, Amit, the Religious Zionists of America, Torah Mitzion and the National Council of Young Israel. These organizations partnered up to run under the a banner championing Zionist and Torah education worldwide, promoting aliyah to Israel, developing religious Zionist outreach and ensuring Jerusalem remains unified.
Not surprisingly, many of us on campus are proud to say we are currently, or have been, a part of many of the organizations that comprise the Vote Torah ticket. Their names have become almost synonymous with Modern Orthodoxy and religious Zionism and they continue to be the bastions of energy and vigor that uphold our communities and will chart our path forward.
The slate has managed to pull together a lineup diverse in age, yet united in vision. Rav Herschel Schachter, a YU Rosh Yeshiva tops the Vote Torah list, and is followed by other high profile leaders of the other organizations affiliated with the ticket, including Deborah Isaac (No. 2, President of Amit), Martin Oliner (No. 3, Chairman of the Religious Zionists of America), Harvey Blitz (No. 4, former President of the OU) and Sondra Sokal (No. 5 Member of the Board of Governors for the Jewish Agency). Additionally, many YU students are on the slate, including President of YCSA Shai Berman, Jeremy Shaechter, Arianne Pinchot, Leo Korman, Jen Van Amerongen, and Romy Koenig, among others. (The full slate can be seen on votetorah.org/the-slate)
With such a tremendous amount of money at stake, as well as the potential to shape the guiding philosophies of the biggest Jewish organizations in the world, it is crucial we get as many of Vote Torah representatives into the WZC. Vote Torah delegates are prepared to advocate for religious Zionist ideals, push back against those that may endanger the safety and security of Israel and fight on behalf of the schools, shuls, yeshivas and organizations that form the foundation and basis for our lives as religious Jews interested in preserving the Jewish identity to an Israeli future.
For an example where the delegates representing these views have practically impacted your life in the past, think no further than the $1,000 dollar Masa stipend given to students who attend a gap year in Israel, including many YU students. In the past, Masa did not award scholarships or grants to American students attending yeshiva or seminary programs outside of their direct purview. However, since Masa is under the greater umbrella of the Jewish Agency, when religious Zionist delegates argued the funds should be open to students spending a year learning and studying in Israel, American Jews became entitled to receive the tuition relief that so many of us benefited from. It is successes like this one that can only be preserved and advocated for with strong representation on behalf of our communities by the Vote Torah slate.
The importance of voting should not be discounted. Each vote counts and can help to ensure a strong delegation prepared to fight for religious Zionist values. The same views many of us hold dear based on our various affiliations with these organizations (of which we are all a part, as students at YU) as well as our aspirations to fulfill them in the future, are represented by this slate. And there is no easier, substantial way to contribute to these organizations, than voting.
Full disclosure: There is a $5 fee for those under age 30 to vote in the elections, regardless of the ticket you vote for. Unfortunately, this has discouraged some from exercising their rights as Jews to vote their consciences for what they believe to be the best and brightest future for the Jewish people. Many rebbeim consider the fee tzedaka that can be taken off masser (10% tithe of your money for charity) since the money services the same umbrella organizations that dispense billion dollars in funds mentioned above. Furthermore, given the weight of directing world Jewry in a direction infused with Torah, and informed religious Zionism, if there is any cause to dedicate the small sum of money to and maximize its impact, it is certainly this one.
At this precarious moment in Israel’s history, with its ties to America straining, its neighbors in turmoil and assimilation on the rise, we have a moral imperative to vote in the election and, to vote for the ticket that will advocate policies that will strengthen the Jewish nation as well as the Jewish people. The two are inextricably linked, and only under the torch of Torah can they press forward, intensifying our resolve as religious Jews dedicated to preserving the character of Israel as a Jewish state and securing Jerusalem as her capital. The time is now to seize the opportunity to actively participate in one of the most important institutions world Jewry has. Make sure to vote. And make sure to vote for the slate prepared to fight for the vision devoted to the Jewish present and Jewish future. Vote Torah for the Soul of Israel.
Avi Strauss is a campaign worker for Vote Torah.