Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs

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Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs
CIJA Logo Brick Slogan.jpg
Abbreviation CIJA
Formation 2004/2011
Type Organizations based in Canada
Legal status active
Purpose advocacy
Region served
Official language
English, French
Chief Executive Officer
Shimon Koffler Fogel
Website www.cija.ca

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) is the advocacy agent of the Jewish Federations of Canada.

CIJA is a non-partisan, non-profit organization, representing the perspectives of 150,000 Canadian Jews affiliated through local Jewish Federations. With a focus on building relationships with leaders in government, media, academia, civil society and other faith and ethnic communities CIJA advances the public policy interests of Canada's organized Jewish community.


Founded as The Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy, CIJA was formed as a non-partisan organization to oversee Jewish community advocacy efforts aimed at improving the quality of Jewish life in Canada and abroad, increasing support for Israel, and strengthening the Canada-Israel relationship. As the advocacy agent of UIA Federations Canada, with the Canadian Jewish Federations and Regional Communities, CIJA coordinated the activities of Canadian Jewish Congress, Canada-Israel Committee and Quebec-Israel Committee, and the University Outreach Committee.

In 2011, CIJA assumed its current name following an 18-month restructuring process in which the functions of the Canadian Jewish Congress, the Canada-Israel Committee, Quebec-Israel Committee, National Jewish Campus Life and the University Outreach Committee were consolidated.[1] The group's Chief Executive Officer was Hershell Ezrin, who served in that position until his retirement at the end of 2010.[2] Shimon Koffler Fogel, former CEO of the Canada-Israel Committee, now serves as CEO.[3][4]

New Structure[edit]

CIJA is based on an integrated national-local model that emphasizes national leadership while empowering grassroots Jewish communities. CIJA works closely with its Jewish Federation partners across Canada, providing strategic advice and advocacy solutions both tailored to local conditions and consistent with the Jewish community’s national advocacy priorities. CIJA maintains offices in Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, Vancouver, and Jerusalem.

The Canadian Rabbinic Caucus, an interdenominational body of Rabbis from across the country, provides support and advice to CIJA on behalf of Canadian synagogues. The Caucus is chaired by Rabbi Reuben Poupko of Montreal.

CIJA's lobbying and outreach efforts include meetings and functions that attract high-ranking members of the Canadian government, including the Prime Minister, and supporting trips to Israel for Canadian officials and thought leaders.[5][6]

CIJA's CEO, Shimon Fogel, explained the logic behind the new advocacy structure in a 2012 column in the Jerusalem Post:

Positions & Activities[edit]

Community Issues[edit]

Antisemitism and Community Security[edit]

CIJA has called on Provincial and Federal governments to offer additional support to at-risk communities in order to cover the rising cost of securtiy enhancements and protection mechanisms for community institutions.

The Jewish community continues to be one of Canada’s most frequent victims of hate crimes. Most recently, a June 2015 Statistics Canada report concluded that Jews are targeted for hate more than any other religious minority in Canada.[8] This figure is reflected in Toronto Police reports from 2015[9] and 2016. According to reports, the vast majority of hate crimes targeting Jews fell under the category of “mischief”, defined in the Criminal Code as follows:

  • 430. (1) Every one commits mischief who willfully (a) destroys or damages property;
  • (b) renders property dangerous, useless, inoperative or ineffective;(c) obstructs, interrupts or interferes with the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of property; or
  • (d) obstructs, interrupts or interferes with any person in the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of property.

In Ontario, CIJA has called on the Anti-Racism Directorate to include combating antisemitism in its mandate.

CIJA has regularly condemned acts of vandalism targeting places of worship and faith-based schools in Canada, including acts committed against Jewish, Sikh, and Muslim institutions.

Hate Speech Legislation[edit]

CIJA has been actively involved in the public debate surrounding the balance between protecting free speech and preventing the spread of hate speech. In 2012, in response to concerns toward Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act (hate speech on the internet), CIJA proposed two options to achieve a reasonable balance. The first entailed reforming the existing act, including through measures to increase evidentiary standards, allow for early rejection of inadmissible Section 13 complaints, and discourage frivolous claims (including the assigning of costs to those who launch vexatious complaints). The second option would repeal Section 13 altogether, and assign responsibility for online hate speech exclusively to a more responsive criminal justice system.[10]

Preventing Terrorism[edit]

CIJA testified before parliamentary committees in support of measures like the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act[11] and the Anti-Terrorism Act 2015 (Bill C-51). Regarding C-51, CIJA provided the committee with proposals for oversight and privacy protection, and a national de-radicalization program that would bring communities battling radicalization together with those targeted by terror to marginalize violent extremism.

CIJA has successfully advocated for the inclusion of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in its entirety as a terrorist entity.[12] On December 20, 2012, Canada's Minister of Public Safetwey Vic Toews announced changes to the list of terrorist entities:


Restitution for Canadian Holocaust Survivors[edit]

In June 2015, CIJA mobilized a delegation of Jewish community leaders and Holocaust survivors, affiliated with Canadian Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Descendants, to advocate for restitution for Holocaust survivors from Eastern Europe. Approximately 40,000 Holocaust survivors built new lives in Canada, many living in poverty. Together with the World Jewish Restitution Organization, CIJA’s delegation met with diplomatic representatives from the European Union, Romania, Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia, Ukraine, Czech Republic and Serbia. CIJA later engaged the ambassadors of Poland, Latvia, Hungary and Bulgaria as well.

The campaign was based on the 2009 Terezin Declaration on Holocaust-Era Assets,[14] which was approved by 46 countries (including Canada) and calls for just and fair solutions regarding the status of private, communal and heirless property stolen from Jews during World War II. It specifically calls for relevant governments to “make every effort to provide for the restitution of former Jewish communal and religious property,” and it advocates for expeditious compensation for those who lost property during the Holocaust and their heirs.

The Government of Canada, in response, directed Canadian diplomats in relevant countries to raise the restitution issue with implicated governments in early 2015.[15]

Affordable Access to Kosher Food[edit]

In 2012, CIJA successfully intervened to secure a special exemption from Canada’s dairy tariff system for Cholov Yisroel cheese imports,[16] preventing a substantial price increase for consumers across Canada that would have impacted families, caterers, and restaurants.

CIJA also successfully intervened to prevent the Canadian Food Inspection Agency from introducing uniform ‘stun’ regulations that would prevent kosher slaughter. The proposed regulatory changes were abandoned, averting major price increases and supply issues that would have accompanied the end of domestic kosher meat production.

In May 2013, Ontario’s only kosher chicken processor ceased operation. A Montreal supplier has met substantial demand throughout Ontario and Manitoba. However, decreased and unsteady quality issues, variety of product and supply, and increased delivery distances have led to an escalation in the costs borne by consumers.

Preventing Genetic Discrimination[edit]

Canada remains the only G7 country without specific protections in place to prevent genetic discrimination. As a result, Canadians who undergo genetic testing can be compelled by insurance companies and employers to disclose their results and may be denied employment or insurance based on their genes. It is time for the law to catch up with science and bring an end to genetic discrimination in Canada.

CIJA supports legislation that will prevent genetic discrmination at both the provincial and federal levels.[17]

Other Issues[edit]

In October 2012, CIJA called on the Government of Canada to cancel its proposed plan to cut part-time prison chaplains, which would include all Rabbis and other non-Christian chaplains.[18]

In June 2013, CIJA wrote to the Quebec Soccer Federation, calling on the organization to cancel its ban on Sikh turbans during soccer matches.[19] At the same time, CIJA wrote to FIFA, calling on the international soccer regulator to issue a statement permitting the use of religious headgear on the soccer pitch.[20] On June 15, 2013, the Quebec Soccer Federation cancelled its ban on turbans.

Foreign Relations[edit]

Promoting Greater Multilateral Canada-Israel Diplomatic Cooperation[edit]

Canada and Israel enjoy almost 70 years of friendship and diplomatic cooperation. Whether standing up at the United Nations in opposition to anti-Israel resolutions or acting as the diplomatic conduit representing Israel in Cuba and Venezuela, Canada enjoys strong ties with its Israel based on shared values and shared interests.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne with MPP Eric Hoskins and Israeli Consul General DJ Schneeweiss,[21] announcing a trade mission to Israel (April, 2016)

CIJA aims to promote the Canada-Israel relationship through expanded trade, investment, and scientific and academic exchange.The organization also takes groups to Israel on fact-finding missions.[22] These missions expose participants to many important aspects of Israel, including tours of Jerusalem’s Old City, Yad Vashem, the Knesset, the Supreme Court, border positions along the Golan Heights. Missions are organized and staffed by a dedicated team of Canadian ex-pats with decades of experience designing programs tailored for Canadians.

Mission participants enjoy briefings and dinners with Jewish and Arab Israeli experts with extensive experience in government, media, military, and academia, representing different perspectives of issues that impact Israel and the region. Mission participants also meet with leaders in the Palestinian community.

CIJA often tailors missions by audience, for example:

  • Missions for Canadian Members of Parliament include meetings with Members of the Knesset
  • A mission for high-tech journalists included visits to many Israeli start-ups and research and development centres of international high tech companies
  • A mission for green entrepreneurs provided Canadian businesspeople an opportunity to visit Israeli companies leading development of technologies in solar energy and water conservation
  • Academic missions enable university presidents and graduate-level students to meet with officials at Israel’s top universities, the Bank of Israel, and Israeli government departments overseeing financial and industrial policy

Opposition to Boycotts of Israel[edit]

CIJA has fought boycott, divestment and sanctions efforts against Israel in Canada. In August 2012, CIJA campaigned against a United Church of Canada (UCC) boycott of Israeli settlements. At the time, CIJA's CEO Shimon Fogel distinguished between criticism of Israeli policies and initiatives that single out the Jewish state for economic coercion:

Ontario BDS Motion[edit]

On December 1, 2016, the Ontario Legislative Assembly voted to pass MPP Gila Martow's private Motion 36,[24] which affirms that the Legislature “stands firmly against any position or movement that promotes or encourages any form of hatred, hostility, prejudice, racism and intolerance in any way.” The resolution further affirmed strong bilateral relations between Ontario and Israel and declared that the Legislature “rejects the differential treatment of Israel, including the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement” – also known as BDS. Prior to the vote, CIJA worked with Hillels across the province to launch a campaign that mobilized thousands of Ontarians to contact their MPP in support of the motion.

In response, Joel Reitman, Greater Toronto Area Co-Chair of CIJA, said


Sara Lefton, CIJA’s Vice President, Greater Toronto Area, added:


BUYcott Campaign[edit]

CIJA operates the website BuycottIsrael.com, which alerts consumers to Israeli products that are being targeted for boycott by anti-Israel activists and provides details on where those products can be purchased in North America.

Opposition to the Iranian government[edit]

For years, CIJA has been at the forefront of efforts to increase Canadian sanctions against Iran, as a diplomatic response to Tehran's violations of UN resolutions and IAEA directives. In 2012, CIJA's CEO, Shimon Fogel, warned of the consequences of a nuclear-armed Iran:

In April 2008, Iran objected to CIJA receiving non-governmental organization accreditation for a United Nations conference on racism; CIJA withdrew its accreditation request.[27]

Concern for Christians in the Middle East[edit]

CIJA has regularly spoken out against the phenomenon of rising violence and intimidation against Christians in parts of the Middle East and Africa. In January 2012, a CIJA spokesperson wrote:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Canada’s restructured Jewish advocacy agency gets name". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. August 23, 2011. Retrieved August 23, 2011. 
  2. ^ Sheldon Gordon (February 27, 2004). "Head of New Canadian Council To Organize Grassroots Efforts". The Forward. Retrieved 2009-06-17. 
  3. ^ "CIJA Responds to the Final Report of the Canadian Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism" Archived August 26, 2011, at the Wayback Machine., CIJA, July 7, 2011
  4. ^ "CIC exec named to lead restructured agency", Canadian Jewish News, December 23, 2010
  5. ^ "Harper to deliver mini-throne speech to group". CTV.ca. February 5, 2007. Retrieved 2009-06-17. 
  6. ^ Sheldon Kirshner (July 30, 2008). "Canadian university presidents visit Jewish state". Canadian Jewish News. Retrieved 2009-06-17. 
  7. ^ Shimon Koffler Fogel (October 14, 2012). "Canada and Canadian Jews: Israel's best friends". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2012-11-28. 
  8. ^ Canada, Government of Canada, Statistics. "Police-reported hate crime in Canada, 2013". www.statcan.gc.ca. Retrieved 2017-04-13. 
  9. ^ "Toronto Police Service 2015 Annual Hate/Bias Crime Statistical Report" (PDF). Toronto Police Services. 2016. 
  10. ^ Shimon Fogel (February 27, 2012). "Time to Strike the Right Balance in Canadian Human Rights Act". The Hill Times. Retrieved 2012-11-28. 
  11. ^ Branch, Legislative Services. "Consolidated federal laws of canada, Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act". laws-lois.justice.gc.ca. Retrieved 2017-04-13. 
  12. ^ "Canada must maintain pressure on Iran". The Hill Times. 2016-01-28. Retrieved 2017-04-13. 
  13. ^ Canada, Public Safety. "The Minister of Public Safety announces changes to Criminal Code list of terrorist entities - Canada.ca". www.canada.ca. Retrieved 2017-04-13. 
  14. ^ "Terezin Declaration - Holocaust Era Assets Conference". www.holocausteraassets.eu. Retrieved 2017-04-13. 
  15. ^ Canada, Global Affairs. "Statement by Minister Dion on International Holocaust Remembrance Day - Canada.ca". www.canada.ca. Retrieved 2017-04-13. 
  16. ^ "Cholov Yisroel hard cheese now being made in Canada". gotkosher.blogspot.ca. Retrieved 2017-04-13. 
  17. ^ "Preventing Genetic Discrimination". CIJA. Retrieved 2017-04-13. 
  18. ^ "Jewish leaders denounce plan to cut non-Christian prison chaplains". The Canadian Jewish News. October 5, 2012. Retrieved 2012-11-28. 
  19. ^ "A Letter to the Quebec Soccer Federation: Cancel Ban on Turbans", http://www.cija.ca/centre-publications/a-letter-to-the-quebec-soccer-federation-cancel-ban-on-turbans/
  20. ^ "CIJA sends letter to FIFA President", http://www.cija.ca/sports/cija-sends-letter-to-fifa-president/
  21. ^ Csillag, Ron (2016-04-06). "Kathleen Wynne's trade mission to Israel will focus on high-tech". The Canadian Jewish News. Retrieved 2017-04-19. 
  22. ^ "Educational Missions to Israel". CIJA. Retrieved 2017-04-19. 
  23. ^ Shimon Fogel (August 14, 2012). "Boycott of Israeli settlements would shatter United Church's credibility". Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2012-11-28. 
  24. ^ "Legislative Assembly of Ontario | Debates & Proceedings | Private Members' Motions". www.ontla.on.ca. Retrieved 2017-04-19. 
  25. ^ a b "Press Release: CIJA Applauds Ontario Legislature Motion Rejecting BDS". CIJA. Retrieved 2017-04-19. 
  26. ^ Shimon Fogel (September 20, 2012). "Israel can't afford to ignore Iran's threats". The Star. Retrieved 2012-11-28. 
  27. ^ "Jewish group drops out of racism meeting after Iran objects". AFP. April 22, 2008. Retrieved 2010-11-03. 
  28. ^ Steve McDonald (January 11, 2012). "It's Sunday in Egypt". The Prince Arthur Herald. Archived from the original on January 31, 2013. Retrieved 2012-11-28. 

External links[edit]