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2009 AZM’s Biennial Assembly

AZM’s Biennial Assembly Brings Focus on the Next Generation

New Officers Elected for Two-Year Term in Service of the Zionist Movement

Written by: Deborah Fishman
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On October 21-22, the American Zionist Movement (AZM) convened for its Biennial Assembly in order to elect new leadership and establish an action agenda for the Zionist movement for the next two years. Under the theme of “New Generations: New Challenges for Zionism,” the Assembly committed to engaging a new generation of Jews as a central component of this action agenda.

William D. Hess, a vice-president of the Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA) and a board member of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), was unanimously elected president. Hess has served on the AZM Board and Cabinet for the past four years. He is the Treasurer of ARZENU, the international Zionist umbrella organization of the Reform movement. His experience with the WZO and Jewish Agency includes his membership in the Va’ad HaPoel, the JAFINA Council, and the JAFI Assembly. He currently he serves on three JAFI committees, including the Klitah/Absorption sub-committee of Aliyah. He is former president of the Union for Reform Judaism’s Southwest Council and former chair of its Israel Education Department, and is a member of Zionist Organization of America board. Hess and his wife, Susan, live in New Orleans, Louisiana.

“AZM is the cradle, the crucible, for the production and implementation of Zionist initiatives and activities in the American Jewish community,” Hess said in his acceptance speech. “Rather than representing the aggregate of its constituent members in a cumulative cacophony, we are on the front line speaking in one voice for Israel and the Zionist movement in the world’s largest Diaspora community.”

Hess succeeds W. James Schiller of Baltimore, Maryland as President of AZM.

Also elected as officers of the American Zionist Movement were:

    • Marlene E. Post, Chairman of the National Board;


    • Isaac Blachor, Eugenia Manwelyan and Evelyn Seelig, Vice Presidents;


    • Sondra Sokal, Treasurer; and


  • Steven Weinberg, Secretary.


Eugenia Manwelyan, the 22-year-old Cultural Director of Hashomer Hatzair, joins the AZM Vice Presidency as the result of a peer election. The historic decision to reach out to the next generation for leadership demonstrates AZM’s resolution to act to involve today’s youth and ensure that their voices are heard.

The Assembly, which took place in Newark, NJ, featured keynote addresses by Ze’ev Bielski, Chairman of the WZO and Jewish Agency, and His Excellency Sallai Meridor, Israel Ambassador to the US, who encouraged the work of AZM.

“Looking towards the future, it is very important that the Jewish people have an active Zionist movement. The very nature of Zionism is not only about thinking, not only about dreaming, but also about doing,” Meridor said.

In addition, Assembly plenaries featured Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice President, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organization; Professor Steven M. Cohen, Hebrew Union College; and a multimedia presentation from Esther Kustanowitz, Senior Editor of PresenTense Magazine.

AZM – the American affiliate of the World Zionist Organization – is an umbrella organization that works to strengthen the connection of American Jews with Israel, facilitating dialogue, debate and collective action to further Zionism in the United States and abroad.

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