Union for Reform Judaism Increases Commitment to Israel and Zionism, Strengthening Israel Education, Engagement, and Activism

URJ and ARZA Join Together to Deepen Reform Connection to and Support for Israel

New York, NY; October 23, 2018 – Today, the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) announces the next evolutionary step in deepening its support for Zionism and love for Israel as core beliefs and central tenets of North American Reform Jewish life.

While many North American Jews are asking how to support Israel and also have a voice in its future as a Jewish and democratic state, URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs and Chair Daryl Messinger are implementing a broad set of strategic initiatives to enable the URJ’s vision for Israel education, engagement, and activism. This strategic focus represents a renewed commitment toward the URJ’s goals of growing each Reform Jew’s relationship with Israel and making Israel a core component of every Reform Jew’s identity. The URJ leads the largest, most diverse Jewish Movement in North America.

“Now, more than ever, it’s time for us to redouble our commitment to Israel and bring North American Jews and Israelis closer together,” said Rabbi Jacobs. 

“We are implementing new ways to advance the Reform Movement in Israel, enhance Israel-related programming across our system, and increase involvement in US/Israel policy work. We intend to impact the way individual Reform Jews can strengthen their relationship with Israel,” said Messinger.  

New research studies demonstrate that more Israelis than ever are self-identifying with pluralistic, egalitarian Judaism in how they live, pray, and vote. Among the new URJ initiatives will be increased support for the Reform Movement in Israel, led by the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism, to bolster its growth, expansion, and advocacy for recognition.


In June, the URJ became the first religious organization to formally adopt the Jerusalem Program, the official policy platform of the World Zionist Congress. Adopting the platform serves to identify the Reform Movement formally and explicitly as a Zionist movement. 


The URJ has created a new top-level staff position, Vice President for Israel and Reform Zionism. Rabbi Josh Weinberg, an energetic leader with a clear vision for the next generation of Reform Zionism, has assumed that position as of October 1. Since 2013, Rabbi Weinberg served as President of ARZA, the Association of Reform Zionists of America, providing powerful leadership and perfectly positioning him to lead the strategic coordination and alignment of the URJ’s Israel work. Rabbi Weinberg will be a key leader of the Reform Movement’s efforts heading into the 2020 World Zionist Congress election. The impact of Reform Israel-focused programs will be expanded in a more streamlined way with the operations of ARZA combining with those of the URJ.

“Josh is a gifted educator, a respected rabbi, and exactly the right person to lead our efforts in this essential work. As a recognized Reform Zionist leader, both in North America and Israel, Josh will establish new opportunities to broaden the reach and improve the impact of the URJ’s Israel-focused programs and services across URJ congregations, URJ camps, Israel programming, and Reform Israel experiences,” said Jacobs.

“This has only been made possible because of the leadership of Rabbi Rick Jacobs and Daryl Messenger, who have pushed for a stronger and far-reaching connection to Israel, and have put this as high as possible on their agenda. This is a critical moment in history, which is why it is upon us to strengthen the place of Israel in the North American Reform Movement and grow the reach of the Reform Movement in Israel,” said Rabbi Weinberg. “I especially want to thank the ARZA board and staff for their leadership, that brought us to this pivotal moment.” 


A new leadership committee, the Israel and Reform Zionism Committee (IRZC), will convene to advise and support the URJ’s Movement-wide Israel work. URJ Chair Daryl Messinger has appointed Gary Perlin, a long-time supporter of the Israel Religious Action Center and the Reform Movement in Israel to be the IRZC Chair. Perlin has recently retired as the Chief Financial Officer of Capital One Financial Corporation, and earlier served as CFO of the World Bank. Rabbi Bennett Miller, past Chair of ARZA, member of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency for Israel, and recently retired as the senior rabbi of Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple in New Brunswick, NJ, will serve as IRZC Co-Chair.   

“Under Gary and Bennett’s leadership, the IRZC will provide strategic expertise and support and, by working across the entire North American Reform Movement, ensure that our Israel work is informed by and speaks to our entire community,” said Messinger.


About the Union for Reform Judaism
The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) builds community at every level—from the way we collaborate with congregations, organizations, and individuals to how we make connections across North America to advance contemporary and inclusive Jewish life. Providing vision and voice to transform the way people connect to Judaism, we help congregations stay relevant and innovative, motivate more young Jews to embrace Jewish living, agitate for a more progressive society, and foster meaningful connections to Israel.

Founded in 1873, URJ has grown into the largest and most powerful force in North American Jewish life, with nearly 900 member congregations and work that inspires, connects, and educates millions of people. Our legacy, reach, leadership, and vision mean that we can unite thousands of years of tradition with a modern, evolving Judaism to strengthen Jewish communities today and for future generations.

Visit us at www.URJ.org to learn about our social justice initiatives, camps and programs for young Jews, services for congregations and communities, and how you can work with us to create a more just, whole, and compassionate world. Enjoy related content at ReformJudaism.org and connect with URJ on Twitter and Facebook.