This is the second time this summer that CIJA has tried playing diplomat. What on earth do these people think they’re doing? Let’s ignore for a moment the fact that these people - fundraisers and executives in the closed-off world of institutional Jewish politics, haveno business pretending to be diplomats.
The real issue here is that CIJA’s funding comes from Canadian Jews. Our community’s dollars need to be spent supporting our community - making Jewish schools more affordable, ensuring that Jewish children throughout Canada have food on their table, helping every Jewish child attend camp and participate in their community, and yes, helping Israel with it’s DOMESTIC problems - building infrastructure, supporting communities, etc.
I’m not sure where this notion is coming from, that CIJA should be serving as a facilitator or diplomatic bridge between Canada, Israel and Israel’s Muslim neighbours, but it’s a ludicrous plan and one which only takes away from CIJA’s true mission - or at least what should be CIJA’s true mission. Perhaps this folly is a result of an earlier questionable decision - one which got myself and many others wondering about the motives of the people behind CIJA.
CIJA, in its current form, is new (an organization with the same name and same stuff, but ostensibly Completely Different, existed immediately prior to THIS CIJA’s founding), it was created from the ‘merging’ (read: swallowing) of the Canada Israel Committee, the Canadian Jewish Congress (a 100-year old formerly democratic organization) and many other small Jewish communal institutions.
There’s no question that CIJA has way more power and influence than it should rightly have - based on the size of its constituency - it’s worth considering whether this outsized influence has led to the belief among its executives that its social welfare, social justice and community support programs are simply ‘too small’ -that they have ‘better things’ to worry about. In other words - whether this consolidation was simply one more ego trip for the big funders and the Brandeis-educated executives making insane amounts of money (I read somewhere that the CEO of CIJA is making something like $400,000 per year?) - never mind the actual, less ‘sexy’ issues still plaguing the community at home.
Simply put, our money should not be spent sending egotistic executives to meet with Kings and Presidents, whether or not it does so “with the support of Canadian… political leadership.” For that matter, if John Baird wants to send CIJA to Jordan on Canada’s behalf, let the government pay for it. Or better yet, HAVE PROFESSIONAL DIPLOMATS DO IT. This whole strange scenario begs the question of why on earth the Canadian government would support the idea of a private lobby group engaging with a foreign government on its behalf.
But the real issue here is that the leaders of Canada’s institutional Jewish community have got so caught up in their own politicking that they forgot where they came from. They forgot that all of the institutions they now lead began as mutual support organizations. As ways for the Jewish working class to ensure that their interests were protected and that the Jews in Palestine, and then Israel, had a few extra resources to help them thrive.
CIJA needs to get its head out of the clouds and start worrying about the concerns its actual constituency has.