Though Labor Zionism, at one time Israel’s dominant political force under David Ben-Gurion and a major voice in the American Jewish community, no longer wields its once-muscular power, it is not dead and is even showing signs of revival and rejuvenation.
So says Kenneth Bob, national president of Ameinu (Hebrew for “our people”), the American successor organization for the Labor Zionist Alliance, who will lead an all-day seminar in Los Angeles on March 27.
Ameinu’s national membership stands at a modest 5,000, but during the past few years, it has seen an infusion of younger men and women among its members and leaders, Bob noted in a phone call from his New Jersey home.
In addition, new chapters have recently been established in St. Louis, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.
Bob, and through him Ameinu, also wields considerable influence by sitting on the boards of such major organizations as the Jewish Agency for Israel, World Zionist Organization, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, AIPAC and Jewish National Fund.
He is also on the advisory board of J Street, a natural connection for Ameinu, which describes itself as the leading progressive Zionist organization in the United States.
Bob will speak at the Jewish Federation Building on “An American Progressive Activist Views the Effects of Arab Unrest on Israel and the U.S.” and “Progressive Zionism in 2011.”
In his professional life, Bob, 58, is a software and solar energy entrepreneur and previously worked on an Israeli kibbutz for 14 years.
Although it is common for American liberal Zionists to view the current political situation in Israel with considerable concern and pessimism, Bob sees some hopeful signs.
In recent years, such “center-right” stalwarts as former and current prime ministers Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert and Benjamin Netanyahu have embraced the once-liberal position of a two-state solution.
“This would have been impossible not so very long ago, Bob said.
Currently, the most urgent domestic problem facing Israel is how to address the integration of its Arab minority into mainstream society, Bob believes.
He is encouraged that veteran conservative leader Moshe Arens has strongly endorsed this view, Bob said.
On the American Jewish scene, Bob also sees some changes. “In general, and in Ameinu specifically, American Jews are now less concerned with ideological differences and more focused on concrete issues and positions, he said.