CIJA, Atlantic Canada.
The Centre is truly a national Canadian organization, or, as is Canada’s motto, it exists “A Mari Usque Ad Mare” – “From Sea to Sea”. The domain of the Centre even stretches across the Mediterranean Sea all to way to Israel and the Centre staff in Israel.
We all face the same basic tasks as we seek to implement the Centre’s strategic objectives. In particular, we have to accurately and fairly explain the usually highly-charged events that seem to happen daily with respect to Israel (seriously; in what other country could the building of a subdivision create worldwide headlines and attract the attention of the President of the United States?). Just as importantly, we need to take the discussion about Israel “beyond the conflict” and show that despite having to devote enormous resources to self-defence, Israel is an integral member of the community of nations that has blossomed into a world leader in education, culture and technology.
All that said, one thing that I have considered from time to time is the manner in which the advocacy task in Atlantic Canada might differ from other regions.
The obvious difference results from population and infrastructure. The best estimates usually place the size of the Atlantic Canadian Jewish community at approximately 2,500 people, a number that I suggest is very inclusive. There are a smattering of synagogues (and cemeteries) across Atlantic Canada. There is a wonderful summer camp (Camp Kadimah, in Lunenburg County, NS). But there are no homes for seniors, no day schools, community centres, kosher restaurants, or other Jewish institutions. Issues discussed at staff retreats regarding Jewish social services are essentially non-existent here. That is not to say that such issues never arise, but that when they do, it is likely on a random basis and almost always handled within the community.
Apart from that, my general sense is that the balance of the advocacy task is largely the same as elsewhere in Canada. The various Jewish communities throughout Atlantic Canada have always been well-respected as a direct result of their proud history of participation and contribution to public life. However, that does not necessarily directly translate to support for Israel, especially as the demographics of the region change. Persons and groups who take a rather polar opposite position about the Jewish community and/or Israel are just as much a fact of life here as anywhere else, as are differences of opinion within our own community as to the best approach to advocacy. The same need exists here as elsewhere to work constructively and cooperatively with government, media, community, business, and academic leaders to build understanding and close relationships.
In the end, advocacy in Atlantic Canada is probably the same as elsewhere but different – making it just another part of the mythical Canadian societal tapestry. By the way, until I prepared this piece, I did not know the Biblical origins (Psalm 72:8) of the Canadian motto. I don’t know if in this modern age people “look it up” anymore, so I will say that you can “click it up” – check this link. Mark David: firstname.lastname@example.org