Canadian Jewish Congress

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Canadian Jewish Congress

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By 1919 the plight of post-war Eastern European Jewry and the need for a united community voice for Canadian Jewry led to the creation of the Canadian Jewish Congress. Its founding meeting was held on March 16, 1919 in Montreal. Though it briefly maintained a tiny regional office in Toronto, the CJC remained inactive until 1933, when it fully reconvened by opening offices in Winnipeg, Montreal, and Toronto. Egmont L. Frankel was the first President of the new Central Division in Toronto. While the National Office in Montreal focused on the overarching issues of the social and economic rights of European Jewry, assistance for Jewish immigrants, and combating prejudice in Canada, the Toronto office dealt with local violent anti-Jewish demonstrations as well as continuing discrimination both in employment and in access to public recreational facilities. The structure was based on regular national biennial plenary conferences at which policies were delineated and national and regional executives were elected. Between plenary sessions, National and Regional Councils were in charge. These were augmented by the following standing committees: Administrative, Officers, Personnel, Financial, Publications, and Educational and Cultural. Special committees were created to deal with issues such as: youth, community loans, kashruth, fundraising, Israel, Russian Jewry, and various emergency issues such as refugees, immigration, and housing. During the 1930’s the Central Division Office moved several times and occupied offices in the following locations; Yonge St., the Bond St. Synagogue, Scheuer House, the Zionist Building, and its long-term home at 150-152 Beverley Street where it remained until its July, 1983 move to the Lipa Green Building in North York. Its activities expanded to include taking responsibility for Jewish educational standards but, by 1941, its main efforts shifted to support for Canada’s war effort. Immediately after the end of the war, the focus again shifted to Jewish immigration projects and the maintenance of Jewish identity in small communities. By 1950, the CJC’s use of the title “division” was changed to “region” to accommodate internal operational “divisions” within each region. Also, by then, the Central Region was busy expanding its programs for all Ontario Jewish communities, creating a province-wide council of youth groups, and working with the newly-created Bureau of Jewish Education (later Board of Jewish Education, now Mercaz). Standardization of kashruth rules in Ontario was implemented. As well, regular educational conferences and cultural events were held throughout the province, while province-wide fund-raising efforts in support of Moess Chittin for relief projects in Israel and for local Congress activities were expanded. Many of its educational and cultural responsibilities necessitated working with other Jewish organizations such as the United Jewish Welfare Fund, Jewish Immigrant Aid Society (JIAS), Hadassah, the Canadian Legion, B’nai B’rith, the World Jewish Congress, the American Jewish Congress, and the many Landsmenshaften (Jewish mutual benefit societies, each formed by immigrants originating from the same Eastern European community). During the 1960s, the Central Region began sending Moess Chittin relief shipments to Cuban Jews unable to acquire kosher foods for Passover. Its lobbying efforts included participation in the Royal Commissions on Hate Propaganda, and its greatest success came with the introduction and implementation of Ontario’s Fair Employment and Fair Accommodation Practices legislation, an achievement in which Congress played a pivotal role. From 1971 to 1989 the major focus became international and Canada-wide lobbying for, and providing support to, Soviet Jewry. Virtually all local and Canadian efforts to assist the Soviet Jewish “refusniks” were organized and coordinated in Toronto by the CJC Ontario Region office, which provided staff and funding for the many lobbying activities and public demonstrations which characterized this successful effort. As of November, 1975, the CJC Central Region’s responsibilities in Toronto were radically altered. To improve cost efficiency in Toronto, CJC educational and social service program activities were merged with similar programs already provided by Toronto’s United Jewish Appeal. The UJA assumed sole responsibility for these amalgamated programs in Toronto and was renamed Toronto Jewish Congress. The CJC Central Region still retained province-wide responsibilities for Ontario’s smaller Jewish Communities, and its office remained in Toronto. Also, following this reorganization, its name was changed to Canadian Jewish Congress, Ontario Region. Although CJC no longer provided direct social and educational programs to Toronto, the TJC’s senior executive was, at the time, still obliged to continue to keep it notified about developments concerning previous Congress responsibilities. From 1983, the Ontario Region's offices were located in the Lipa Green Building at 4600 Bathurst Street. It continued its work of financially supporting various Israeli institutions and fostering Canada-Israel relations. It also spearheaded the movement to support and protect Jews in Arab lands, especially in Syria. Funding for the CJC came from the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy, which restributed a portion of the funds raised by the local Jewish federations across Canada.
The CJC dissolved in 2011. Today, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) acts as the Jewish community's primary lobby group.


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