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Frequently Asked Questions

[accordion button=”What is CIJA?”]

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) is the advocacy agent of the Jewish Federations of Canada. CIJA is a national, non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of Jewish life in Canada by advancing the public policy interests of Canada’s vital and varied Jewish community. By building and nurturing relationships with target audiences in government, media, academia, and interfaith and ethnic communities, CIJA ensures greater understanding of the issues that impact the Jewish community. It connects the power of a strong, national network to regional efforts in every Canadian province and to international efforts worldwide. At the forefront of issues that unite the Jewish community, CIJA advocates for: freedom, human rights, social justice, and support for the people of Israel.

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[accordion button=”What does CIJA do?”]

CIJA undertakes a range of targeted advocacy initiatives and educational activities including:

  • Government Relations. CIJA works closely with federal, provincial, and municipal decision-makers. We provide expert resources and advice to educate policy makers on the organized Jewish community’s position on a range of public policy issues.
  • Media Relations. CIJA builds relationships with reporters, editors, producers, and publishers to ensure our community’s position is reflected in Canadian media. We also provide background information and expert resources to help media understand and better cover a wide range of complex subjects.
  • Jewish Community Relations. CIJA provides resources and direct support to our Federation partners and other Jewish communal bodies to assist with local advocacy challenges and to support greater Jewish engagement in civil society and political life.
  • Other Faith and Ethnic Community Relations. CIJA works closely with leaders in other faith and ethnic communities on issues of common interest.
  • Empowering Students on Campus. CIJA liaises with academics and university administrators on matters affecting the Jewish community on campus. We also provides resources, training, and direct support for Hillels and other Jewish student groups so they are prepared to promote an understanding of Jewish issues on campuses across Canada.
  • Missions. CIJA hosts intensive fact-finding missions to Israel that enable Canadians in key positions to understand first-hand the democratic values shared by Canadians and Israelis and the challenges facing the people of Israel.

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[accordion button=”How is CIJA governed?”]

CIJA’s National Board includes 30 members from communities across the country. Nominations to the Board are guided by an independent process whereby the nominations committee thoroughly assesses the background, skills, experience, performance and qualifications of prospective Directors and submits a list of candidates for consideration by the CIJA members, a group that includes representatives of all federated communities (Calgary, Edmonton, Hamilton, Ottawa, Victoria, Winnipeg, London, Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, and Windsor), non-federated communities (Regina, Saskatoon, Kingston, Atlantic Jewish Council), and Jewish Federations of Canada-UIA, as well as CIJA Directors. The Members vote on the candidates during CIJA’s annual general membership meeting. The Directors then elect the Chair, Vice Chair, and Treasurer.

CIJA’s team of lay leadership is helmed by Joel Reitman and Jeff Rosenthal, Co-Chairs of CIJA’s Board of Directors. Joel and Jeff are assisted by an ad hoc Executive Committee, comprising the Immediate Past Chair, Vice Chair, and Treasurer. A list of CIJA’s Board members, with biographies, may be read here.

CIJA’s professional team is headed by Chief Executive Officer Shimon Koffler Fogel.

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[accordion button=”Who works at CIJA?”]

CIJA’s team reflects diverse personal and professional backgrounds. Many have significant experience in key sectors such as government, media, academia, public opinion research, business, cultural, and non-profit. Staff members come from Jewish communities across Canada and represent a broad spectrum of political orientation and Jewish religious practice. CIJA also benefits from the knowledge and diverse experience of its non-Jewish staff.

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[accordion button=”Who heads CIJA?”]

Joel Reitman and Jeff Rosenthal are Co-Chairs of CIJA’s Board of Directors. They are assisted by an ad hoc Executive Committee that includes the Immediate Past Chair, Vice Chair, and Treasurer. A list of CIJA’s Board members and their biographies can be found here.

CIJA’s professional team is headed by Chief Executive Officer Shimon Koffler Fogel.

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[accordion button=”What makes CIJA different from other Jewish organizations?”]

CIJA is the only registered lobbyist for the Jewish community. It is the sole advocacy agent of Canada’s Jewish Federations, focusing much of its work on communications with the non-Jewish community. Its approach to advocacy is strategic, based on research, polling, and analysis. CIJA is the only organization to bring – literally – hundreds of Canadian influencers and decision-makers to Israel on educational missions every year.

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[accordion button=”How do I contribute to CIJA?”]

CIJA is funded by Canada’s Jewish Federations with some important programs only possible with additional fundraising. Donations may be made online by credit card or by cheque, made out to JFC-UIA, and sent by mail to:

Catherine Morrow
CIJA
4600 Bathurst Street, Fourth floor, Toronto  ON    M2R 3V2

Tax receipts for donations to CIJA will come from JFC-UIA.

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[accordion button=”How can I get involved in CIJA’s work?”]

There are many ways you can get involved with CIJA:

  • Stay informed. Check out our resources page to learn about issues and policies affecting the Canadian Jewish community. Sign up to receive email updates.
  • Be an online activist. “Like” us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and help us share messaging. If you are passionate about issues and enjoy writing, join The Exchange and speak up about issues or observations that are important to you.
  • Volunteer. Get involved in planning and implementing advocacy initiatives through the Local Partner Council (LPC) in your community. Find your nearest LPC here, or contact us.

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[accordion button=”How does CIJA report progress on its various advocacy files?”]

CIJA stays in touch with Canada’s organized Jewish community through its Local Partners and Local Partner Council, through issue-specific email updates, widely-read summaries from lay leadership in A Word from our Chairs, and with the broader community through CIJA’s online channels and mainstream media.

In addition, CIJA issues a biennial Impact Report, which reviews the files, legislation, and policy issues on which CIJA has been engaged, inviting community members to evaluate progress.

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[accordion button=”What issues fall within CIJA’s mandate?”]

CIJA’s activities – including leadership development, education, and research and analysis – span several policy areas. Examples include: combating antisemitism, strengthening the Canada-Israel relationship, advancing human rights, advocating on behalf of society’s most vulnerable, and ensuring that multiculturalism enhances rather than undermines Canadian social unity. These and other priorities are determined by the essential criteria of advancing the quality of Jewish life in Canada and abroad and contributing to the wellbeing of Canadians in keeping with Canada’s core democratic values. We consider these two benchmarks to be not merely compatible but complementary.

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[accordion button=”How is CIJA funded?”]

As the advocacy agent of the Jewish Federations of Canada, CIJA’s core funding comes from the Federations through Jewish Federations of Canada – UIA (JFC – UIA). Collectively, this organization reflects the support of approximately 100,000 Federation-affiliated donors in Jewish communities across the country. Remaining funds are raised through events, meetings, and email campaigns, from private donors in Canada to support enhanced programming.

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[accordion button=”What is CIJA’s Budgeting Process?”]

CIJA’s Members and Board review and approve recommended programs (and budgets to support those plans) developed by professional staff in response to goals established by Jewish Federations of Canada – UIA. The budget, constituting the recommended program, is then submitted to JFC – UIA for review and approval.

CIJA is a non-profit organization that receives no funding from the Government of Canada or the State of Israel. CIJA is 100% funded by Canadians and accountable to Canadians.

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[accordion button=”On what basis does CIJA claim to represent the Jewish community?”]

As the Jewish and pro-Israel community is not monolithic, no one organization can claim to serve as the sole representative of that constituency. However, CIJA is the most democratic and representative Jewish organization in Canada, with a structure comprising various local and national bodies that enable Canada’s Jewish community to have a direct role in determining CIJA’s positions, priorities, and initiatives.

Guided by an independent nominations process and comprising 30 members, CIJA’s Board of Directors is drawn from communities coast to coast and includes former parliamentarians affiliated with all three major political parties. Consistent with CIJA’s mandate of reaching out to all Canadians, CIJA benefits from the experience and insight of non-Jewish Board members who share the Jewish community’s concerns and public policy interests. The Board meets in person three times annually and by conference call monthly, or as needed. The Board approves strategic goals and provides advice and support for programming pursuant to those priorities.

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[accordion button=”What Are Local Partners?”]

CIJA’s Local Partners consist of Jewish Federations as well as non-Federated communities (such as the Atlantic Jewish Council). The Local Partners serve as CIJA’s shareholders – both literally and figuratively. CIJA works closely with Local Partners in helping to manage advocacy challenges affecting local Jewish communities by providing national strategic advice, subject matter expertise, and resources.

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[accordion button=”What Are LPCs?”]

While core messages and initiatives are generally consistent with a national advocacy strategy, every community is unique. There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to local implementation. Therefore, joint Federation-CIJA bodies of community volunteers known as Local Partner Councils have been established across the country to enable local grassroots individuals or groups, with the support and resources of the Federation and CIJA, to take the lead in addressing local challenges. As well, LPCs are responsible for implementing national initiatives at the local level.

CIJA benefits not only from direct input into advocacy activity locally but also from the input by the LPC in the national policy development process.

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[accordion button=”What is the Canadian Rabbinic Caucus?”]

The Canadian Rabbinic Caucus (CRC) provides CIJA with guidance and input on behalf of synagogues across Canada and spanning the spectrum of Jewish religious practice. The CRC meets regularly by conference call and serves as a spokesperson on public policy matters affecting Jewish religious life and freedom of religion in Canada. Membership in the CRC is open to rabbis from any denomination of Judaism. The CRC is led by an 18-member executive committee (six Reform, six Conservative, and six Orthodox) which, in turn, elects Co-Chairs. The CRC is currently co-chaired by Rabbi Reuben Poupko of Montreal (Orthodox), Rabbi Jonathan Infeld of Vancouver (Conservative), and Rabbi Baruch Frydman-Kohl of Toronto (Conservative). The CRC’s Vice Chair is Debra Landsberg of Toronto (Reform).

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[accordion button=”Where is CIJA located?”]

CIJA has offices and staff in Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Halifax, and Jerusalem.

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[accordion button=”How are decisions made at CIJA?”]

CIJA’s staff, Board, Local Partners, and JFC – UIA all have a direct role in determining CIJA’s long-term strategic goals.

CIJA’s professional staff have the lead in determining how these goals are achieved, including in the design of programs, advocacy initiatives, and near-term objectives – which are all subject to review and approval by CIJA’s Board.

Advocacy challenges often have an impact on specific local Jewish communities. In such cases, CIJA works closely with Local Partners in the affected community to provide strategic advice and resources that enable the Local Partner (Federation) or the Local Partner Council (volunteers) to take the lead in addressing the issue.

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[accordion button=”Does CIJA work with other Jewish and pro-Israel advocacy organizations?”]

Yes. CIJA works closely with various Jewish community organizations, typically on a project-by-project basis.

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[accordion button=”Is there room within CIJA for people who disagree with CIJA’s policies?”]

Yes. CIJA aims to enhance Jewish unity across Canada but not uniformity of viewpoints, a goal premised on the belief that, when combined with a broad sense of solidarity, a healthy diversity of opinion among Jewish Canadians is a source of community strength and vitality.

With very few exceptions, CIJA strives to be inclusive of a wide range of viewpoints. As a matter of policy, CIJA does not provide a platform for the promotion of boycott-divestment-sanctions measures against Israel.

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[accordion button=”What is CIJA’s role outside Canada?”]

CIJA serves as the Canadian constituent member of the . In this capacity, CIJA regularly leads delegations of Jewish Canadian lay leaders, activists, and students to participate in the WJC’s plenary sessions and offer a Canadian perspective on global trends and advocacy solutions to key issues.

CIJA also serves as a member of the Jewish Federations of North America’s Israel Action Network as well as the Global Coalition for Israel. CIJA has worked with a range of Jewish community organizations around the world, among them: the American Jewish Committee (AJC), the America-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)NGO Monitor, the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), and the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.

CIJA has recently established a formal strategic partnership with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. CIJA is the only organization outside the United States to be formally affiliated with the Conference of Presidents.

CIJA also serves as the Canadian representative organization to the Material Claims Conference, with two permanent directors serving on the Claims Conference Board.

CIJA serves as an active member of the Advisory Council of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IRHA), a body of experts and governments from 31 countries dedicated to preserving the memory and lessons of the Shoah.

CIJA maintains an office in Jerusalem to conduct on-the-ground missions and liaise directly with Israeli government officials from across party lines in the Knesset. Through its Jerusalem office, professional leadership, and its Board, CIJA engages directly with key interlocutors in the region. When requested of CIJA, with the consent and endorsement of the governments of both Canada and Israel, this engagement has included meeting with Palestinian and Jordanian officials as well as other actors in the region.

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