What gets more than 1,200 young professionals, philanthropists, business leaders and elected officials out in one room on a Thursday night? That’ll be the 11th annual Canada Jewish Political Affairs Committee (CJPAC) Action party at Toronto’s industrial-looking Waterworks venue, held on March 23.
As CJPAC’s marquee event, the Action party brings nearly 50 elected officials from all levels of government and young professionals together to celebrate and encourage political engagement among the Jewish and pro-Israel communities.
Thanks to the open bar, this multi-partisan gala is also a real party.
“Often people are intimidated and don’t know how to get involved,” says CJPAC’s executive director Mark Waldman.
“So we just see this party, and the programs that we do as well, as breaking down some of those potential barriers and making political engagement more accessible,” he continues.
Instead of scheduling formal speeches, politicians and partygoers schmooze and socialize throughout the evening.
“This is about making politics approachable and facilitating a relationship,” he says. “If someone’s speaking on a stage, there’s this barrier and it’s not as easy to approach them.”
When Action party co-chair Maddy Cooper first got involved with CJPAC, she heard this event referred to as a “political prom.” With DJs playing top 40 and electronic hits, a slew of kosher hors d’oeuvres from Applause Catering and free flowing booze, it certainly seems to live up to its moniker.
Co-chair Ben Singer also appreciates how easy it is for attendees to speak with political representatives. At one Action party, he remembers sitting down and chatting with Liberal MPP Monte Kwinter for about 15 minutes.
“If you’re not introduced through something like this, politicians seem far away, and formal and political,” he says. “But when you have a chance to meet them as human beings, it’s really something special.”
Outside of the Action party, CJPAC spearheads a number of initiatives, including a fellowship program for politically minded university students.
“You are really given the tools you need to be politically active but also the networks you need to actually get involved,” says senior fellow Celine Chang, who’s studying at York University’s Schulich School of Business.
And former fellow Alexandra Lulka, 26, can trace her political career directly back to last year’s Action party. In 2016, she attended as a guest, but on Thursday, she was at the Waterworks as the Ward 5 Toronto District School Board trustee.
“Some of my friends heard about the by-election for the TDSB and actually, at this party last year, encouraged me to run for it,” she says.
How’s that for taking action?