Zionism – and Judaism – evolve before our eyes - editor's note

In this issue we bring you, dear readers, into a robust conversation at the very heart of the Jewish world, with perspectives from leading thinkers who share their views about this crucial question.

 DREAM, WILLED: Thank you, Theodor, for your vision.  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
DREAM, WILLED: Thank you, Theodor, for your vision.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

For as long as I can remember, I’ve considered myself a staunch Zionist. Though I spent the first 32 years of my life in America and it was very good to me and my family, I always had the feeling of biding my time until I could make aliyah. Naturally, whenever anyone asks what inspired said aliyah, I reply, “It’s simple: Zionism.”

I therefore find the question we’re asking in this special issue particularly relevant: 

Is Zionism becoming the anchor of Judaism? 

In this issue we bring you, dear readers, into a robust conversation at the very heart of the Jewish world, with perspectives from leading thinkers who share their views about this crucial question.

We are honored to have President Isaac Herzog deliver a special message to Magazine readers. The president proclaims that reclaiming Zionism is the mission of our generation! He emphasizes that Zionism is not only about establishing a Jewish state but also a “safe space” to debate the key questions facing the Jewish people.

 TOUCHING DOWN on aliyah, December 30, 2009. (credit: ERICA SCHACHNE) TOUCHING DOWN on aliyah, December 30, 2009. (credit: ERICA SCHACHNE)

Gol Kalev is author of Judaism 3.0: Judaism’s Transformation to Zionism, which helped spark the conversation captured in this issue of the Magazine. He argues that Judaism is in the midst of a historic transformation and explains how recognizing that Zionism is now the anchor of Judaism would have far-reaching implications in both countering existential threats to Judaism and unleashing opportunities. 

Natan Sharansky, perhaps viewed as the Dean of Zionism, shares with Magazine readers how he led the broadening of Zionism’s mission – when he chaired the Jewish Agency – to be not just about aliyah but a vehicle to connect to one’s Judaism.

With 85% of Jews living in either Israel or North America, we are also honored to get the take of a former ambassador of the United States to Israel, and a former Israeli ambassador to the United States.

David Friedman, who served as the US’s ambassador to Israel from 2017 to 2021, discusses Judaism’s inseparability from Zionism, in spite of attempts to draw a wedge between the two. “To be a Jew is to be a Zionist,” he argues.

Michael Oren, who served as Israel’s ambassador to the US from 2009 to 2012 (also serving in the Knesset), shares his encounter with an attempt by an influential Jew to proclaim Zionism as dead, which in turn only increased Oren’s commitment to and pride in Zionism. 

Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, deputy mayor of Jerusalem with the city’s foreign relations portfolio, notes that Zionism is not simply a national movement but “essentially the reunion of the Jewish collective soul with the Jewish collective body.”

Yuval Cherlow, a founder of the Tzohar rabbinical movement and one of Israel’s leading rabbis, discusses the evolution of tension between the national and religious aspects of Judaism and explains how the two, “which were once positioned as incompatible with one another, are today thriving hand in hand in ways that have permanently, and positively, affected who we are as a nation and as a people.”

Jennifer Pomeranz, an influential American global energy and infrastructure executive and former portfolio manager, looks at Judaism as an “investment thesis” and explains why Zionism provides the necessary cultural bedrock needed for the success of Israel, and for the continuity of Judaism.

Yael Rozenman-Ismael, daughter of a Palestinian Muslim mother and a Jewish father, explains how it is the outside world that often defines Judaism. While for most Jews, she was not Jewish enough – in spite of her conversion – for the outside world she was always associated not just with Judaism but also with Zionism and Israel, even though she was Bolivian.

Finally, Yaakov Hagoel, a successor of Theodor Herzl as chairman of the World Zionist Organization, expounds on how Zionism has remained the beating heart of Judaism ever since its launch at the First Zionist Congress. Last month, Hagoel led the celebrations of the 125th anniversary of this congress at the Stadtcasino in Basel, Switzerland, where Herzl launched it in 1897.

The Magazine always aims to bring you into the crux of the discussion, whether through our eclectic articles or our occasional theme magazines, such as our 2019 Herzl package. Since then, five books have been written about Herzl and numerous articles published, equipping readers to be both participants in and trendsetters of the relevant issues of our days.

I hope you find this issue thought-provoking and, as always, welcome your letters and comments.