Jeffery Rosenthal, Vice Chair, CIJA; Sara Lefton, VP CIJA Toronto; Barbara Bank, Vice Chair CIJA Toronto Council; Berl Nadler, Chair, CIJA Toronto Council; Honourable Kathleen Wynne, Premier of Ontario; Bruce Leboff, Chair, UJA Federation of Greater Toronto; Adam Minsky, President and CEO, UJA Federation of Greater Toronto; Photo: CIJA
“Our collective communal voice is strong and effective”.
For the first time ever, Tuesday, February 1st, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) held its inaugural Lobby Day at Queens Park. Participating were more than one hundred volunteers from Ontario’s Jewish community plus CIJA staff.
Sara Lefton, VP, CIJA Toronto; Rochelle Reichert, UJA; Henry Wolfond, CIJA Toronto Council; Michael Levitt, MP; David Spiro, CIJA Board; Jack Seigel, CIJA GR Working Group. Photo: CIJA
Hartley Lefton, CIJA GR Working Group; Shimon Koffler Fogel, CEO, CIJA. Photo: CIJA
They included community leaders and representatives from an array of social service agencies. The group met with Premier Wynne, Opposition leader Patrick Brown, representatives of NDP leader Andrea Horwath and more than half of the Members of Ontario’s Legislative Assembly, to talk about affordable housing, fighting discrimination and bolstering community security.
To prepare for the Lobby Day, CIJA sent out questionnaires across Canada to assess what were the issues that mattered most to Jewish Canadians. In addition, they held live “grass roots” meetings in every major centre in Canada to find out their key priorities.
According to Stats Canada, Jews were targeted for hate more than any other vulnerable group. Fighting anti-Semitism, BDS and community security was a priority across Canada. CIJA advocated for inclusion of anti-Semitism in the mandate of the newly created Anti Racism directorate. They will be working together with the government in the development of this new initiative.
CIJA is calling on the Government of Ontario, to keep all residents safe, to offer additional support to all at-risk communities. In a statement CIJA declared, “CIJA will be working with the Ontario Government as it develops the Anti- Racism Directorate. Advancing tolerance and eliminating prejudice toward our community is a primary focus for CIJA and the Jewish Federations of Canada.”
High on the list for Lobby Day was raising awareness of Jewish poverty. The misconception that poverty is not a issue for the Jewish community results in the exclusion of Jewish representatives from provincial consultations on the topic. In the GTA alone, approximately 24,000 Jews are living in poverty. One out of six seniors, or more than 5,000 of 30,0000 in the GTA live in poverty. There are 3, 546 Jewish children in the GTA who are living below the poverty line.
Also discussed was ending genetic discrimination and the urgent need for affordable housing with specific emphasis on ensuring access for seniors and people with disabilities.
“The Lobby Day was a fantastic opportunity to mobilize leaders from across the Jewish community to discuss concerns about anti-Semitism and other forms of prejudice and advance a number of our priorities including ending genetic discrimination, enhancing community security, raising awareness of poverty and the need for affordable housing. We demonstrated that our collective communal voice is strong and effective,” stated Berl Nadler , Chair, CIJA Toronto.
Doris is a multimedia journalist with many years of experience. She has worked in radio, television and print journalism and writes on a variety of topics, especially the crucial issues in Canadian and Jewish life.