(photo credit: AP)
What only a few days ago seemed to portend a major revolution in the structure of the executive of Telfed, the Israeli branch of the South African Zionist Federation, has turned out to be a tempest in a tea cup.
For six decades, Telfed has been an essentially non-partisan group. The common denominator of the 22,000-member organization has long been birth or long-time residence in South Africa, regardless of political affiliation or degree of religious observance.
In recent months, however, an Orthodox lobby has sprung up within the organization.
Just two weeks before the elections for the new Telfed executive, an e-mail message was circulated among the membership urging the election of four candidates who would "ensure a stronger Religious Zionist agenda in Telfed."
Many of the veteran members of the organization were outraged by this initial step toward politicization, which they were sure would result in a split within the group.
Many of those who are not observant - both veterans and newer immigrants - were angry at what they perceived to be a form of religious coercion.
In response, another e-mail, signed by Telfed chairman Maish Isaacson and vice chairs David Bloom and Hilary Kaplan as well as past chairman Itz Kalmanowitz, affirmed that Telfed had always been non-political and non-partisan in character, and urged voters to cast their ballots for candidates solely on the basis of merit.
This e-mail by the veterans may have contributed to the failure of the attempt to introduce religous reforms. The new six-member executive, according to a senior Telfed source who asked not to be named, does not in any way reflect the ambitions of the Orthodox group.
The members of the new executive in accordance with the number of votes they scored are Arnie Friedman, Toni Milliner, Ron Lapid, Jack Trappler, Marcelle Weiss and Michelle Wolff.
None of the four religious candidates received sufficient votes to become a member of the executive.