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Canadian Jewish Congress

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Canadian Jewish Congress
Dissolved2011; 13 years ago (2011)
TypeNon-governmental organization[1]
Official language
English, French, Yiddish
Parent organization
Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy (2007–2011)
AffiliationsWorld Jewish Congress

The Canadian Jewish Congress (French: Congrès juif canadien, Yiddish: קאַנאַדער ײִדישער קאָנגרעס, Hebrew: הקונגרס היהודי הקנדי) was, for more than ninety years, the main advocacy group for the Jewish community in Canada. Regarded by many as the "Parliament of Canadian Jewry," the Congress was at the forefront of the struggle for human rights, equality, immigration reform and civil rights in Canada.[3][4]

The organization disbanded in July 2011 following a reorganization of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, of which the CJA became a subsidiary in 2007.[5]



Founding and early history

Jewish calendar for the Canadian Armed Forces in World War II, published by the Canadian Jewish Congress

The immediate predecessor to the CJC was formed in 1915 by the Montreal chapter of Poalei Zion, a working class Labour Zionist organization. They were soon joined by thirteen other organizations, mostly other chapters of Poalei Zion and the Arbeiter Ring, in forming the Canadian Jewish Alliance. The organization, composed of elected officials, set out to represent all of Canadian Jewry on its major political, national and international affairs. It also aimed to respond to problems arising from the First World War, specifically the oppression of Jews overseas, the immigration of Jewish refugees, and Britain's promises to create a Jewish state.[6][7]

In 1919, over 25,000 Jews from across Canada voted for delegates to the first convention of the CJC held in Montreal that March.[8] Groups including the Canadian Federation of Zionist Societies, Poalei Zion, Mizrachi, and the Arbeiter Ring were present at the convention. While there, they were addressed by the Solicitor General of Canada, and were entertained at Montreal City Hall, where a large Zionist flag was draped over the Mayor's chair. The main decision at that meeting was the founding of the Jewish Immigrant Aid Society to assist Jewish settlers and refugees in Canada. They also passed motions expressing the Jewish community's loyalty to Canada and others declaring their support for the Balfour Declaration. The convention elected Lyon Cohen, former President of the Montreal Clothing Manufacturers Union, as their President.

Despite this auspicious start, the CJC fell into abeyance and was inactive until 1934, due to lack of leadership and funding.[7] With the rise in antisemitism and restricted immigration policies in the 1930s, the CJC re-convened in 1934 and held the Congress' second plenum in Toronto in January. Cohen's friend and close colleague, Samuel William Jacobs, a prominent Jewish leader and Member of Parliament, became the revived Congress' first president.[9]

In 1938, the Canadian Jewish Congress partnered with B'nai Brith Canada to create the Joint Public Relations Committee, with the goal of developing a strategy to combat discrimination and find allies within other minority groups.[10]

Post–World War II

Meeting of the Canadian Jewish Congress in 1946

The CJC was active before and during World War II in lobbying the government (with limited success) to open the borders to Jewish refugees fleeing Europe.[11] After the war, over 1,100 child Holocaust survivors immigrated to Canada in the War Orphans Project, a refugee resettlement program administered by the CJC.[12] The CJC also organized relief aid for Holocaust survivors who were being detained in Displaced Persons camps. Along with the efforts of Senator Arthur Roebuck and Rabbi Avraham Aharon Price, the CJC helped obtain the release of young, Jewish refugees from internment camps, bringing them to study in Toronto.

The Congress' dominant figure from 1939 to 1962 was its president, Samuel Bronfman who was elected president following Jacobs' death in 1938. During the Cold War at Bronfman's urging, the CJC expelled the United Jewish People's Order and other communist Jewish organizations in 1951. At the time, the UJPO was one of the largest Jewish fraternal organizations in Canada. It would not be readmitted to the CJC until 1995.[13]

In 1967, the CJC gifted approximately 7,000 volumes of rare Judaica to the National Library on behalf of the Canadian Jewish community in honour of the Canadian Centennial.[14]

During the war between Israel and Lebanon in 1982, former Prime Minister Joe Clark issued a public rebuke to the CJC at its annual policy convention for its stance of unconditionally supporting the State of Israel in that war. During the speech, Clark was interrupted with heckles from the crowd and approximately 50 people left the room in protest. Near the end of his remarks, the audience began to sing Hatikvah, the Israeli national anthem.[15]

One of the initiatives sponsored by the CJC was the International Jewish Correspondence, founded in 1978, whose goal was to link Jews around the world as pen-pals.[16] With the rise of the internet in the 1990s, IJC became less active and had folded by 2002. The organization also provided addresses for Jews living in Arab and Soviet Bloc countries as well as Jewish prisoners who were put in contact with others in the same situation. Jewish people from nearly 20 countries participated in the initiative, including those with declining Jewish populations such as Estonia, Morocco and Zimbabwe.[17][18]

Later history and disbandment


In its later decades, the CJC launched campaigns to pressure the Soviet Union to allow Jewish emigration,[19] to pressure the Canadian government to prosecute Nazi war criminals who had settled in Canada, and to enact and use hate crimes legislation against antisemites and Holocaust deniers such as Ernst Zündel. The CJC actively opposed Quebec separatism in the 1990s and formed a national coalition of Canada's Italian, Greek and Jewish communities during the debate on the Charlottetown Accord.[20][21] The CJC also worked to promote tolerance and understanding between religious and ethnic groups, promote anti-racist work and other campaigns.

The CJC introduced significant changes to its internal organization in June 2007.[22] The previous system of electing representatives to the Board of Directors was discarded, and a new system was introduced wherein Board members were chosen by indirect elections from "regional Congress representatives" and "delegates from Jewish federations." Congress CEO Bernie Farber supported the change, arguing it would streamline a complicated process.[23] Others argued that the new system would give disproportionate power to the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy. One individual, described by The Canadian Jewish News as a "close observer of Congress", argued that CIJA was "stacking the deck" in a bid to take over the CJC.[24]

In 2011, the renamed Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) assumed the functions of the CJC after an 18-month restructuring process in which the functions of the Canadian Jewish Congress, the Canada-Israel Committee, the Quebec-Israel Committee, National Jewish Campus Life and the University Outreach Committee were consolidated, a move that left the Jewish community divided.[25][26] On 1 July 2011 the CJC posted a message on its website declaring that it had halted its activities and that its functions would be assumed by CIJA.[27]



See also



  • Tulchinsky, Gerald (1992). Taking Root: The Origins of the Canadian Jewish Community. Toronto: Lester Publishing. ISBN 9780874516098.
  • Abella, Irving (1990). A Coat of Many Colours: Two Centuries of Jewish Life in Canada. Toronto: Lester Publishing. ISBN 9780886192631.


  1. ^ Cotler, Irwin (Fall 1999). "Jewish NGOs, Human Rights, and Public Advocacy: A Comparative Inquiry". Jewish Political Studies Review. 11 (3–4). Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs: 61–95. JSTOR 25834458.
  2. ^ Canadian Jewish Archives. "Canadian Jewish Congress organizational records". The Canadian Jewish Heritage Network. Retrieved 11 September 2022.
  3. ^ "Founding of the Canadian Jewish Congress National Historic Event". Directory of Federal Heritage Designations. Government of Canada. Retrieved 14 November 2018.
  4. ^ "Canadian Jewish Congress". Juifs d'ici - Quebec. 2017-01-27. Retrieved 2020-10-17.
  5. ^ "Canadian Jewish Congress is discontinuing its activities". Canadian Jewish Congress. 30 June 2011. Archived from the original on 20 July 2011.
  6. ^ "Canadian Jewish Congress". Juifs d'ici. 2017. Retrieved 14 November 2018.
  7. ^ a b Stingel, Janine (2000). Social Discredit: Anti-Semitism, Social Credit, and the Jewish Response. McGill-Queen's University Press. ISBN 9780773520103. JSTOR j.ctt809xh.
  8. ^ Abella, Irving (2007). "Canadian Jewish Congress". In Berenbaum, Michael; Skolnik, Fred (eds.). Encyclopaedia Judaica (2nd ed.). Detroit: Macmillan Reference. ISBN 978-0-02-866097-4.
  9. ^ Shuchat, Wilfred (2000). The Gate of Heaven: The Story of Congregation Shaar Hashomayim of Montreal. McGill-Queens University Press. p. 114. ISBN 978-0773520899. Jacobs Congress.
  10. ^ Walker, James W. S. G. (2002). "The 'Jewish Phase' in the Movement for Racial Equality in Canada". Canadian Ethnic Studies. 34 (1): 1–29.
  11. ^ Goldberg, Adara (6 May 2016). "Canada and the Holocaust". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Historica Canada. Retrieved 16 November 2018.
  12. ^ Fraiman, Michael (28 March 2018). "A fresh start: The story of Canada's postwar Jewish orphans". The Canadian Jewish News.
  13. ^ Reiter, Ester; Usiskin, Roz (30 May 2004). Jewish Dissent in Canada: The United Jewish People's Order. Forum on Jewish Dissent. Winnipeg: Association of Canadian Jewish Studies.
  14. ^ Kent, Michael (19 September 2017). "From the Lowy Room: commemorating a centennial gift". Library and Archives Canada Blog. Library and Archives Canada.
  15. ^ Taras, David; Goldberg, David, eds. (1989). The Domestic Battleground: Canada and the Arab-Israeli Conflict. McGill-Queen's Press. ISBN 9780773562066.
  16. ^ Struthers, Gord (13 September 1986). "Pen-pal service connects thousands around world". Star-Phoenix. Retrieved 14 May 2012.
  17. ^ Davis, James (9 January 1987). "Canadian Teacher Brings Jewish Pen Pals Together". South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
  18. ^ International Jewish Correspondence, Fonds: I0084. Canadian Jewish Congress Charities Committee National Archives. Retrieved 14 May 2012.
  19. ^ Eisen, Wendy R. (May 2015). "Canadian Soviet Jewry Movement". UJA Federation of Greater Toronto. Retrieved 16 November 2018.
  20. ^ Sallot, Jeff (17 May 1995). "New president wants CJC to be more active: Winner of bitter leadership race is convinced fences will be mended soon". The Globe and Mail. p. A4. ISSN 0319-0714. ProQuest 1143983045.
  21. ^ "CJC to maintain role in boosting Canadian unity". The Canadian Jewish News. Vol. 36, no. 41. Victoria. 15 February 1996. p. 22. ISSN 0008-3941. ProQuest 351423336.
  22. ^ Poritz, Freeman (22 June 2007). "Plenary brings change". Jewish Independent. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 4 July 2007.
  23. ^ Lungen, Paul (16 April 2007). "Congress prepares to elect new president". The Canadian Jewish News.
  24. ^ Lungen, Paul (21 June 2007). "Congress headed for joint presidency". The Canadian Jewish News.
  25. ^ "Canada's restructured Jewish advocacy agency gets name". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. 23 August 2011. Retrieved 23 August 2011.
  26. ^ Kidd, Kenneth (30 August 2011). "The Canadian Jewish Congress has been replaced by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs". The Toronto Star.
  27. ^ Levy-Ajzenkopf, Andy (25 August 2011). "Congress era over as CIJA reboot start". The Canadian Jewish News. Retrieved 24 August 2011.

Further reading