Why is this Important?
Advocacy for the Jewish community in the public and civic arena is an important dimension of community activism in Greater Toronto and of the quality of Jewish life. The national scene is the primary arena for advocacy, with The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) serving as the advocacy agent of UJA Federation of Greater Toronto and the Jewish Federations of Canada.
CIJA is a national, non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life in Canada by advancing the public policy interests of Canada’s organized Jewish community. CIJA builds and nurtures relationships with leaders in government, media, academia, civil society and other faith and ethnic communities to ensure greater understanding of the issues that impact all Canadians. CIJA connects the power of a strong, national network to regional efforts in every Canadian province. Through this ongoing advocacy activity, CIJA focuses its efforts in three key areas: Canada – by advocating for policies that impact broader Canadian society; Israel – by building support for Israel; and the Jewish Community – by strengthening Jewish security and grassroots advocacy.
What are the Trends?
CIJA has recently expanded its capacity and efforts in two key areas: grassroots engagement in advocacy and interfaith/inter-ethnic partnerships, both of which are reflected in the 2016 metrics. The number of people engaging with CIJA on social media and through e-blasts continues to grow, particularly as CIJA has worked to increase its video content, respond quickly to breaking issues, and empower community members with opportunities to take action. Interfaith/inter-ethnic partnerships have also grown in 2016, particularly as CIJA has worked to develop new dialogue initiatives with other communities and build coalitions to advocate on policy issues of common cause.
Missions to Israel vary with each year, though it is important to note that missions in the 2016 fiscal year were lower due to the 2015 federal election (in the lead up to which elected officials and political staff were preoccupied and unavailable for overseas travel). The 2016 figure is lower than most previous years, and is expected to be higher in future. CIJA’s efforts to provide direct support to Jewish community institutions continues to be well-received; in 2016 the number of security audits decreased while CIJA support in the form of government relations and communications assistance (often in response to major incidents) increased.
In 2016, CIJA launched a new action alert platform that makes it easy to mobilize community members to speak out on issues of concern, through a user-friendly online system that allows constituents to send a focused message to their elected representatives. This has proven decisive in enabling thousands of community members, including many who would otherwise be uninvolved in advocacy, to learn about issues and communicate directly with Canada’s leaders. This tool will continue to be invaluable in the face of BDS initiatives and other challenges.
How are we doing?
New tools and expanded capacity have led to demonstrable improvements, especially in engaging Jewish community members. That said, the Toronto Jewish community is a large one – and CIJA will be redoubling its efforts to connect with synagogues and other Jewish institutions in 2017 to ensure the broadest possible reach into the community and representation of a diversity of voices. This will require identifying new ways for volunteers to engage beyond social media and action alerts, such as through initiatives delivered via CIJA’s existing engagement programs – including CIJA’s Toronto Council, Ambassadors, events for young political activists, and various volunteer working groups.