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I'm A Zionist Because....

About The Author

Rabbi Josh Weinberg

ARZA President

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("אִם אֵין אֲנִי לִי, מִי לִי? וּכְשֶׁאֲנִי לְעַצְמִי, מָה אֲנִי? וְאִם לֹא עַכְשָׁיו, אֵימָתַי?" (אבות א:יג
If I am not for myself, who am I, and if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now when? (Mishnah Avot 1:13)

When asked why I am a Zionist, my standard response is generally about Jewish public culture in the State of Israel or providing liberal religious alternatives and promoting pluralism, acceptance, and democracy.
 
But that is not the whole story. On December 9th, 13 years ago, I changed my life dramatically and became a citizen of the State of Israel. I felt a dramatic sense of historical significance thinking about the millions of Jews who would have given everything for what I was able to do and the millions more, who, for a multitude of reasons, choose to not live in Israel.

There are those who see Aliyah as a rebirth of sorts, and for manyolim, this was the most important day in their lives.  Building on that tradition, I should be celebrating becoming a Bar Mitzvah, as I subscribe to the notion that Aliyah is indeed a mitzvah.
 
Sadly, I am now living outside of Israel and struggling with how to assess meaning to Aliyah and Zionism.  Despite living in New York now, both as the President of ARZA and as a Jew, I very much see myself as an Israeli, and one who has cast his lot with the fate of the Jewish people in the Jewish state.
 
I am a Zionist because:
"אִם אֵין אֲנִי לִי, מִי לִי? וּכְשֶׁאֲנִי לְעַצְמִי, מָה אֲנִי? וְאִם לֹא עַכְשָׁיו, אֵימָתַי?" (אבות א:יג)
If I am not for myself, who am I, and if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now when? (Mishnah Avot 1:13)
 
אם אין אני לי... – If I am not for myself?
Zionism was created and still must be the national liberation movement of the Jewish people. Much more than that, however, is the notion of peoplehood where the Jewish State is a center for Jews from all backgrounds, ethnicities, and religious traditions to come together in a true gathering and to create a Jewish society that reflects our traditions, language(s) and culture.
 
מִי לִי? – Who am I?
As a Zionist, I look to the Jewish State as a spiritual, cultural, and religious center through which we are constantly reinventing what it means to be Jewish. 
 
וּכְשֶׁאֲנִי לְעַצְמִי, מָה אֲנִי? – If I am only for myself what am I?
The State of Israel is a democracy. As a Jewish State it is our obligation to treat the non-Jew fairly, justly and with dignity. If we are only for ourselves than we have not fulfilled a true Zionist vision.