The ARZA Institute for Reform Zionism (IRZ)

The Institute for Reform Zionism (IRZ)—the outgrowth of the former ARZA Reform Zionist Think Tank—serves as a forum for sustained and significant intellectual activity concerning the relationship between North American Reform Jews and Israel. The IRZ mobilizes a broad range of thinkers with varied perspectives to research, explain and enrich the meta-narrative of the Reform Jewish relationship with Israel, informed by ideology, theology, demographics, educational theory, sociology, and history.

The IRZ furthers its intellectual agenda by refining and disseminating its ideas through papers and other publications, policy guidelines and programmatic initiatives. As a practical matter, ARZA serves as the facilitator for the IRZ’s work in the Reform Movement, seeking to embed its ideas and leverage its expertise within the Movement’s super-structure and program. Through consistent evaluation, the IRZ assesses the impact of its work on programs and projects implemented in the field and serves as a locus for feedback and communication between intellectuals and the wider community.

Leadership and Objectives

Under the volunteer leadership of Rabbi Peter Knobel, Chair, and Dr. Michael Meyer, Academic Chair, and professional leadership of Rabbi Shira Koch Epstein, IRZ Coordinator, the Institute carries out its work through five key strategies:

  • Generative critical thinking and research
  • Translating theoretical concepts to be applicable to and useful for more general audiences
  • Consulting on issues of Israel and Zionism in a Reform/Liberal/Progressive context
  • Collaboration and cooperation with other relevant entities through strategic partnerships
  • Evaluation of IRZ and ARZA agenda and products and their impact

IRZ Short-term and Medium-term Projects

  • Follow up on Spring CCAR Journal Volume and RJ articles: The Spring Issue of the CCAR Journal will focus on Reform Zionism and will contain a number of key articles generated by the Reform Zionism Think Tank. In partnership with the IRZ, ARZA staff will develop and disseminate educational materials for rabbis, educators and other congregational leaders to make the articles published in the journal accessible to a wide audience through adult educational resources
  • Begin work on project "Why Israel Matters to Me”: This project will gather responses to this key question from a number of leaders and thinkers in the Reform Movement in order to open up the internal Institute dialogue for the broader Reform community
  • Israel and Identity Formation for Young Adults and Young Families: The spring meeting of the IRZ will look at what we know about identity formation in the 25-35 year old cohort with a special focus on young families so as to develop a series of actionable items to engage this age group in the Israel conversation
  • Create an Institute for Reform Zionism website with sections available to the public as well as members-only sections: The use of the Internet allows the conversations of the IRZ to extend beyond the more limited group of Movement thinkers. In addition to creating a gathering place for the ideas of the IRZ, the creation of a Reform Zionism blog will facilitate a broader conversation within the Movement and beyond

IRZ Long-term Projects

  • The Language of Israel and Peoplehood and the Jew by Choice: In the Fall of 2007, a series of meetings will be coordinated to lead to a significant summit involving Reform leaders and leaders from other Movements to address the role, language and strategies necessary for American Jewry and its engagement with Israel.
  • Israel and Early Childhood Education Initiative: Working closely with the newly formed association of Reform Early Childhood Educators, the Union, and our partners at the IMPJ, ARZA will engage in an initiative to help imprint Israel in the minds, hearts and souls of youngsters at the first stage of their Jewish education and use this strategy to help young families see Israel as a key part of a newly developing Jewish household
  • Honest and Intelligent Israel Advocacy: The Advocacy team of ARZA is turning to the IRZ to help them develop a focused and effective Israel Advocacy agenda that will identify key areas where ARZA will take the lead and other areas where ARZA can build strategic partnerships with existing organizations to strengthen Reform values in Israel and enhance support for Israel within the Reform Movement


Recent Work of the IRZ  
The Spring 2007 Issue of the CCAR Journal: An Inquiry into Reform Zionism
The Spring 2007 issue of the CCAR Journal, the largest issue ever, serves as the platform for the latest collection of ideas surrounding Reform Zionism and our Movement’s intellectual and theological connection to Israel and the Jewish people.

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