Whether promoting religious pluralism in Israel at the Kotel (Western Wall) or meeting with U.S. or Canadian leaders on political issues, USCJ acts as a respected and trusted representative of today’s Conservative Judaism. Last week, CEO Rabbi Wernick did just that, traveling to Israel for meetings with the Jewish Agency, the World Zionist Organization and others. While there, he also visited USCJ’s Fuchsberg Jerusalem Center, alive with learning, living and laughter in multiple languages, and spent Shabbat with USYers traveling for the summer.
In his role as a member of board of governors and on the nominating committee of the Jewish Agency, he represented Mercaz Olami (the international Zionist party of the Conservative Movement) in the selection of MK Isaac Herzog as the next chair. In an email to staff and board, Rabbi Wernick noted, “MK Herzog is extremely qualified for the position and will do well in bringing the Diaspora and Israeli communities closer together, support Zionist and Jewish identity formation worldwide and Aliyah.”
Rabbi Wernick also represented our movement in his role as a member of the Unity for the Jewish People Committee of the Jewish Agency, advocating for greater recognition of conversion, religious pluralism in Israel and especially the rights and needs of the members of the Abayudaya community of Uganda. This included several trips to the Knesset to meet with MKs and participation in a substantive discussion held by the Committee for Aliyah, Immigration and Absorption. As Rabbi Wernick is quoted as saying in a Haaretz article about the meetings, “The Abayudaya are in every way, shape and form a recognized community for us.” Read a statement from the Jewish Agency affirming its support of emerging Jewish communities.
Finally, he participated in the planning stages of our movement’s participation in the next World Zionist Organization (WZO) elections to the Congress. Rabbi Wernick explains, “The WZO and Jewish Agency function as a parliament of the Jewish people. The better the election results, the more influence we have at these, the National Institutions of the Jewish People, with regard to Diaspora-Israel relations, Zionist education, religious pluralism in Israel around personal status issues, applying our values with regard to Israel’s social challenges and having a meaningful, more nuanced voice with regard to matters of Peace and co-existence for Israel and her neighbors. Positive WZO election results also lead to assuring and growing funding for our movement worldwide totaling approximately $3 million annually in which our values are brought to life every day in our kehillot throughout Europe, Latin America, Africa, Australia and Israel.”
Rabbi Wernick also had the opportunity to spend a ruah–filled Shabbat with teens from two USY trips, Israel Adventure and L’Takayn Olam. As in the past when speaking with USYers in Israel, he was struck by how many of them, even having just spent a few days in Israel, spoke of “being home.”
And that’s the feeling he has every time he visits Israel too — whether for work or pleasure — home. As he boarded his flight to return to the U.S., he tweeted, “See you next time homeland.”