'Politics' destroying top leadership body

December 9, 2010
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Canada's top communal organisation, the 91-year-old Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC), looks set to be dismantled to make way for what organisers say will be a more streamlined yet more widely representative body.

Rumours of a consolidation of some Jewish advocacy agencies have circulated for years. They first took form in 2004 with the creation of the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy (CIJA), which many saw as a hostile takeover of the community's leadership by about a dozen of the country's top donor families.

As its website states, CIJA is "the advocacy agent of United Israel Appeal Federations Canada (UIAFC). It oversees and co-ordinates the advocacy work of the CJC, the Canada-Israel Committee, the Quebec-Israel Committee, National Jewish Campus Life and the University Outreach Committee."

Now, the CIJA seeks to centralise those agencies under one roof, with a single board of directors and, possibly, "regional councils" that would work with local Jewish federations.

That would mean the demise of the CJC, founded in 1919. The prospect has led to an internal debate over who would speak on national issues and even whether advocacy on Jewish human rights would be handed to B'nai Brith Canada.

Last month, the CJC reacted with unprecedented statements of displeasure at the plans, which are contained in a brief called the Newco Document. Prepared by a Montreal consultancy, Newco has had three revisions. One source told the CJC that those privy to the negotiations are "sworn to secrecy."

Despite the tight lips, Steven Cummings, the Montreal-based chair of CIJA, said that "we are not looking to have an organization that is closed. We're looking to have an organization that is very open to the community."

Last updated: 1:50pm, December 9 2010