This is my final word to you in my role as Chair of CIJA’s Board of Directors. It has been a joy and a privilege to serve you – our valued constituents – and this organization for the last four years.
First, allow me to introduce our incoming Co-Chairs, Joel Reitman and Jeffrey Rosenthal, long-time CIJA lay leaders who, for many years, have taken important leadership roles in Canadian Jewish advocacy. You will be hearing directly from Joel and Jeff in the coming weeks. They are not only accomplished individuals and lay leaders, they are also dear friends, and I wish them every success as they steer this organization into an exciting and challenging future.
I would like to thank all departing directors who have served our community through their membership on the CIJA Board, particularly David Koschitzky, Immediate Past Chair, who has been an excellent mentor and great friend to me. I would also like to welcome incoming members who were selected for their skills, leadership, and passion for our shared cause.
Everything CIJA has achieved is the result of three key ingredients: guidance and expertise of our dedicated lay leaders and professional staff; support of our Federation partners; and the commitment and activism of community members like you. Together, we have accomplished an enormous amount over the last four years. I’ll remind you of just a few examples:
- Mobilizing tens of thousands of grassroots activists in Jewish communities across Canada on consequential issues ranging from genetic discrimination to palliative care; from community security to combating antisemitism; from building support for Israel to holding Iran to account;
- Combating antisemitism and hate by changing the Criminal Code to ensure those who vandalize religious schools and community centres are treated with the full weight of the law;
- Establishing the National Community Security Program to undertake security training and audits in communities across Canada;
- Strengthening our relationships with other faith and ethnic communities and with civil society;
- Maintaining multi-partisan support for Israel in increasingly challenging political circumstances;
- Intervening to prevent the misapplication of government regulations that would have effectively banned kosher meat production in Canada;
- Dramatically reducing the number and effectiveness of BDS activities on our campuses;
- Working to change public policy that impacts the Jewish community’s most vulnerable members, including those with disabilities;
- Conducting dozens of grassroots consultations in 10 Canadian cities, hearing directly from thousands of committed community members about items they considered important for our agenda.
I encourage you to review CIJA’s Federal Issues Guide to get a sense of our activities in the coming months.
We are proud of what we’ve accomplished, and I am particularly gratified that nearly 100,000 actions have been taken by Jewish community activists like you through CIJA channels over the last four years. I am also touched by the thousands and thousands of messages of support we have received for our work.
Finally, some personal reflections.
The first is that CIJA, and the mainstream Jewish constituency it represents, are a formidable force. When modern Canadian Jewry first organized in the 1920s, we had a limited connection to the political sector. When the time came to make the call to help Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany, no one at the other end picked up the phone. Our community is now so engaged in the political process and contributes so much to Canada that those in power call us to help navigate challenging issues, whether in the Jewish community in Canada or in Israel. The immediate, unambiguous reaction of our political sector to Pittsburgh illustrates just how deeply integrated Canadian Jewry is in Canadian society. In so many ways, we are Canada.
Photo Credit: Office of the Prime Minister
Second, the connection between Canada and Israel is incredibly strong! Our two nations are inextricably connected politically, academically and economically. Israelis hold Canadians in high regard, and Canadians fortunate enough to see and experience it first-hand develop that same high regard for the people and land of Israel. I proudly witnessed this mutual amity and respect many times, including on Prime Minister Harper’s visit in 2014; together with Prime Ministers Trudeau, Harper and Chretien at the funeral of Shimon Peres; and Minister Freeland’s visit last year. These occasions are in addition to the many other opportunities I enjoyed leading delegations who were warmly received by all political actors in the region.
Canada is perceived as a credible player, and our community plays a vital, responsible role in advancing peace in the region. Exploring Israel with our first-time-visiting MPs on a parliamentary mission was also so memorable because I witnessed – repeatedly – the miracle that is Israel through fresh eyes.
Third, I’m grateful to have benefited from the thinking of CIJA’s dedicated staff, led by our CEO Shimon Koffler Fogel. Shimon and his team track our issues very closely and have an informed, strategic, and thoughtful perspective on the issues that impact our community. These dedicated professionals work tirelessly for our benefit every day – for them, CIJA is more than work, it is a passion.
Lastly, over the past four years, I have learned that our political leaders across the spectrum are, in so many ways, just like us. They care. They want to work with us, they want to develop relationships, they want to hear from us about the issues. In so many cases, they are our allies. There is no clearer evidence of this than the unambiguous comments that Prime Minister Trudeau made condemning BDS during a townhall at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, on Tuesday night. The PM’s comments are the natural result of the strong, resilient relationship we have developed over the last decade.
It’s been an honour and privilege to serve you as Chair of CIJA. My parting request is that you continue to engage passionately in Canadian. Jewish. Advocacy.
I send warmest regards and a fond farewell to you all.
David J. Cape