I read with interest the recent two-part series on the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) (“Is CIJA better or worse than what came before,” March 28; “CIJA working in a more competitive market,” April 11). While there are inevitably mixed views within the Jewish community about our collective advocacy, I would add my voice to those who have found CIJA to be highly responsive to the needs of the local community.
In 2011, my synagogue was defaced by antisemitic graffiti. I immediately called CIJA, which quickly responded with extraordinary support and resources in helping to manage our communications response and security improvements. Perhaps most importantly, CIJA didn’t try to take things over. Instead, they quietly helped me and my congregation during a deeply upsetting time.
It is the practical work that CIJA and other agencies do, quietly and often without fanfare, that perhaps has the greatest impact. I for one am grateful that CIJA was there when Beth Tikvah Synagogue most needed support.
Rabbi Jarrod Grover
Beth Tikvah Synagogue
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CIJA has failed
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) has failed in almost every respect to unite and lead the Jewish community in Canada (“Three tikkun olam issues,” April 18). Progressive-minded Jews of all ages who are supporters of Israel but not of the current Canadian government have been largely excluded from CIJA-related activities.
While the fight against recent immigration policy changes has been led in part by Jewish lawyers and doctors (many active in Jewish communal activities), none were consulted by CIJA. On its website, CIJA adopted a position largely favouring the federal government’s so called immigration “reforms.” If ever there was an issue that demanded a strong and high-profile Jewish response in opposition to the government’s policies, immigration policy would surely qualify.
CIJA’s fecklessness even reaches into the territory of combating antisemitism and anti-Israel activity. In its first major test, CIJA failed utterly to prevent the United Church from adopting its anti-Israel and boycott position last summer.
CIJA is disconnected and out of touch with the majority of Canadian Jews. The name CIJA makes clear that its priority is Israel, followed by Jewish, and in that order. It is shackled to the current government, believing that support for Israel and opposition to the Conservative government are mutually exclusive. What a mistake. One of the many benefits of the existence of a Jewish state to Diaspora Jews is the confidence, security and safety of such Jews to participate fully in the affairs of their home communities.
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CIJA and federations
The article “Is CIJA better or worse than what came before” (March 28) raises some interesting conundrums for Jews across Canada. I met with the now-CIJA CEO, Shimon Fogel, and was told that CIJA, in its formation, had the “hechsher” of all the federations, but with no assurance of their input in decision-making, so there may be some support for the position taken by Prof. Sally Zerker that CIJA does not represent the Jewish community, but only those monied principals who cobbled it together.
Prof. Harold Waller intimates that CIJA’s only rival is B’nai Brith Canada. There may be a few BBC lodges scattered across the country, with few members, but it may be mere hyperbole to suggest B’nai Brith is a truly national presence or a representative of Canadian Jewry.
Morley S. Wolfe
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Case study on former Jewish inmates
I am a master’s student in Carleton University’s religion and public life program. My major research seeks to add to our knowledge of religious accommodation in Canadian prisons by way of archival research and a case study on former Jewish inmates. I’m seeking to interview adult members of the Jewish community who have been incarcerated about their conception of Judaism, as it relates to their time in prison and following their release. With the recent changes in policy to part-time federal-prison chaplaincy, I would like to pay special attention to any religious guidance they received while incarcerated and the challenges they may have faced in order to adhere to Jewish practices. Anonymity will be ensured.
Elizabeth Ennis Dawson