Zionism alive and well in New Zealand

May 20, 2014 by J-Wire Staff
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Contrary to reports in Israeli paper Ha’aretz, the Jewish community in New Zealand says Zionism is alive and well in the land of the long white cloud…

Answering a report published in the Israeli daily claiming that Zionism “had fallen out of fashion”  Alison Dyson, president of the Zionist Federation of New Zealand has written to Dan Goldberg who wrote the article detailing how active the organisation is in New Zealand.
Extracts from her letter:
Kadima Choir Yom Ha'azmaut   Photo Guy Sagiv

Kadima Choir Yom Ha’azmaut Photo Guy Sagiv

We were shocked to see the Ha’aretz article published yesterday claiming that New Zealand Jews are not interested in Zionism and that we no longer have a functional Zionist entity in NZ. This is factually incorrect, destructive and totally demotivating to those of us in NZ who work so hard for Israel.
At the Yom Ha’atzmaut celebrations in Auckland hosted by the ZFNZ, and attended by 280 supporters (the highest attendance in a long time), we circulated our new membership brochure, which I attach for your interest. You will see that we have indeed created JFNZ (the Jewish Federation of NZ) for a lot of good reasons. It does not replace ZFNZ at all. Eventually we hope it might get charitable status (which ZFNZ is not eligible for because the New Zealand Charities Commission classifies it as a ‘political’ organisation). Through JFNZ we might even get some funding for work we do which is ‘outreach’ and not ‘politically zionist’. In the broadest scheme JFNZ could allow for broad fund-raising for New Zealand Jewish communities.  As an example, you will note that Auckland celebrated it’s first ever public Hanukah in the Park in Dec 2013, under the JFNZ banner, which attracted the Auckland Jewish community and the wider Auckland community – over 1,000 people attended. There was a lot of hebrew language focus (funded through WZO) and other materials which we sent to Wellington for their celebration also. Dan,  perhaps you cannot fully appreciate the Zionism that we are bringing to NZ, and the ‘big picture’ we have in our strategy and our current objectives without discussion with us. As I write a young Israeli singer, Michal Lotan, who we brought to NZ for Yom Ha’Atzmaut, is touring Christchurch and Wellington – bringing contemporary Israeli music and current Israeli culture to the Jewish community and to friends of Israel. ZFNZ are proud to be the organisers and sponsors of this.
Yom Ha'azmaut     Photo: Guy Sagiv

Yom Ha’azmaut Photo: Guy Sagiv

It is absolutely not true that there is no zionsim active in NZ, our zionist youth groups are a source of extraordinary pride for us (bigger and stronger than ever), we lead all the major community ‘Yoms’, we run student and youth education (Hagshama and Hadracha), Masa programmes, we participate in and support other events such as Limmud, we work closely with our colleagues in Israel and at the Embassy etc etc. Kadimah school in Auckland is going from strength to strength and we are trying to support them in various ways (including through the WZO). The first ever political Zionist organisation has been established in NZ (by Paul Wilton, current President of Beth Shalom; note, this is not a ZFNZ activity). We are working very hard in NZ. We are shocked, outraged and saddened that something so wrong and unhelpful could be published. The ZFNZ committee and I have worked tirelessly, and voluntarily for years to support zionism and for the community in NZ. The article is not accurate, not constructive and not helpful in keeping volunteers motivated and engaged.

On top of all this there are 5 highly motivated and engaged shlichim working in NZ – 3 of them employed by the ZFNZ (2 in Auckland and one in Canterbury – this weekend she is in Dunedin supporting that community). Our central shlicha is dealing every week with new Aliyah files and MASA applications.
We are a small community, quite unlike the Australian community. It is true that the small school, Moriah, closed in Wellington, but this is not due to lack of Zionist activity, rather a result of the changing demographic in Wellington. The way individuals and the community engage with Zionist ideals has changed. While we have no ‘news paper’, we do have a strong and functional news site ‘One Community’ which has taken the place of the previous publication. Our community remains active and committed to the future of a strong and stable Jewish community in New Zealand, and to the future of the Jewish State and all this is supported by the work of ZFNZ and JFNZ.
It was the previous Ambassador, Shalom Cohen, who attended and spoke at the cocktail event organised by the ZFNZ, which celebrated the 65th Anniversary of Israel, where we acknowledged the leadership of Zionist leaders in NZ over generations. It was for this special anniversary that the ZFNZ applied to the WZO for David Zwartz to be awarded the Jerusalem Prize, we were all so proud on this occasion. It is unfortunate that he is not now so closely associated with our work, and perhaps does not fully appreciate what we are trying to do here; he has had much personal stuff to deal with over the past year and we respect and recognise these. He has contributed exceptionally over the years, as was acknowledged through the award.
Yom Hazikaron   Photo: Guy Sagiv

Yom Hazikaron Photo: Guy Sagiv

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