By 1919 the plight of post-war eastern European Jewry and the need for a united community voice for Canadian Jewry led to the creation of the Canadian Jewish Congress. Its founding meeting was held on March 16, 1919 in Montreal. Though it briefly maintained a tiny regional office in Toronto, the CJC remained inactive until 1933, when it fully reconvened by opening offices in Winnipeg, Montreal, and Toronto. Egmont L. Frankel was the first president of the new central division in Toronto. While the national office in Montreal focused on the overarching issues of the social and economic rights of European Jewry, assistance for Jewish immigrants, and combating prejudice in Canada, the Toronto office dealt with local, violent anti-Jewish demonstrations as well as continuing discrimination both in employment and in access to public recreational facilities. The structure was based on regular national biennial plenary conferences, at which policies were delineated and national and regional executives were elected. Between plenary sessions, national and regional councils were in charge. These were augmented by the following standing committees: administrative, officers, personnel, financial, publications, and educational and cultural. Special committees were created to deal with issues such as: youth, community loans, kashruth, fundraising, Israel, Russian Jewry, and various emergency issues such as refugees, immigration, and housing.
During the 1930s the central division office moved several times and occupied offices in the following locations: Yonge Street, the Bond Street Synagogue, Scheuer House, the Zionist Building, and its long-term home at 150-152 Beverley Street, where it remained until its July 1983 move to the Lipa Green Building in North York.
The CJC's activities expanded to include taking responsibility for Jewish educational standards, but by 1941 its main efforts shifted to support for Canada’s war effort. Immediately after the end of the war, the focus again shifted to Jewish immigration projects and the maintenance of Jewish identity in small communities. By 1950, the CJC’s use of the title “division” was changed to “region” to accommodate internal operational divisions within each region. Also, by then, the central region was busy expanding its programs for all Ontario Jewish communities, creating a province-wide council of youth groups, and working with the newly-created Bureau of Jewish Education (later Board of Jewish Education, now Mercaz). Standardization of kashruth rules in Ontario was implemented. As well, regular educational conferences and cultural events were held throughout the province, while province-wide fundraising efforts in support of Moess Chittin for relief projects in Israel and for local Congress activities were expanded. Many of its educational and cultural responsibilities necessitated working with other Jewish organizations such as the United Jewish Welfare Fund, Jewish Immigrant Aid Society (JIAS), Hadassah, the Canadian Legion, B’nai Brith, the World Jewish Congress, the American Jewish Congress, and the many landsmenshaften (Jewish mutual benefit societies, each formed by immigrants originating from the same Eastern European community).
During the 1960s, the central region began sending Moess Chittin relief shipments to Cuban Jews unable to acquire kosher foods for Passover. Its lobbying efforts included participation in the Royal Commissions on Hate Propaganda, and its greatest success came with the introduction and implementation of Ontario’s fair employment and fair accommodation practices legislation, an achievement in which Congress played a pivotal role.
From 1971 to 1989 the major focus became international and national lobbying for, and providing support to, Soviet Jewry. Virtually all local and Canadian efforts to assist the Soviet Jewish “refusniks” were organized and coordinated in Toronto by the Ontario region office, which provided staff and funding for the many lobbying activities and public demonstrations that characterized this successful effort.
As of November 1975, the central region’s responsibilities in Toronto were radically altered. To improve cost efficiency in Toronto, CJC educational and social service program activities were merged with similar programs already provided by Toronto’s United Jewish Appeal. The UJA assumed sole responsibility for these amalgamated programs in Toronto and was renamed Toronto Jewish Congress. The central region still retained province-wide responsibilities for Ontario’s smaller Jewish communities, and its office remained in Toronto. Also, following this reorganization, its name was changed to Canadian Jewish Congress, Ontario Region. Although CJC no longer provided direct social and educational programs to Toronto, the TJC’s senior executive was, at the time, still obliged to continue to keep it notified about developments concerning previous Congress responsibilities.
From 1983, the Ontario Region's offices were located in the Lipa Green Building at 4600 Bathurst Street. It continued its work of financially supporting various Israeli institutions and fostering Canada-Israel relations. It also spearheaded the movement to support and protect Jews in Arab lands, especially in Syria. Funding for the CJC came from the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy, which restributed a portion of the funds raised by the local Jewish federations across Canada.
The CJC dissolved in 2011. Today, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) acts as the Jewish community's primary lobby group.
Scope and Content
Fonds consists of the records of the Ontario Region office of the Canadian Jewish Congress. Of primary importance in documenting this organization’s history are its minutes of the Executive and Administrative Committees and the various standing, and short-term committees such as Community Organization, Finance, Fund Raising, Educational and Cultural, Research, Immigration, War Efforts, and Jewish Education. Most of these records are still managed all together within Fonds 17, Series 1.
Fonds 17, Series 2 contains the general subject and correspondence files of these committees. Records in both series require further processing.
Records now found in Series 3 document the efforts of the Committee for Soviet Jewry in coordinating the activities of the many Toronto and Ontario organizations involved in assisting Soviet Jewry during the 1971 to 1989 period.
Series 4 consists of administrative and committee records of the United Jewish Refugee and War Relief Agencies in Toronto from 1938 through 1967. These document its work rescuing the survivors of European Jewish communities, settling as many as possible in Ontario, and providing assistance to those attempting to obtain restitution payments.
Series 5 consists of the records of the Community Relations Committee (1938-1976). Responding to depression-era anti-Semitism in Canada, the Canadian Jewish Congress and B’nai Brith together established in 1938 a new joint committee. Since then this Committee has documented racist threats in Canada; initiated advocacy activities to work for improved civil rights; promoted legislation combating hate; worked to ensure equality of access to employment, education and accommodation; and investigated specific incidents of discrimination. The Committee, for example, played a key role in achieving the Anti-Discrimination Act of 1944, and the Fair Employment Practices Act of 1951, key steps leading to Canada’s current Human Rights Code. Although originally named Joint Public Relations Committee in 1938, a series of name changes later occurred; s follows: Joint Community Relations Committee, Central Region (1962-1978), Joint Community Relations Committee, CJC, Ontario Region (ca. 1978-ca. 1991) Community Relations Committee, CJC, Ontario Region (ca. 1991-present) Records in this series were reorganized into 5 sub-series and a further 9 sub-sub-series during the 2009 to 2011 period. For further details please view the database records for Fonds 17, Series 5. Although this series will eventually hold all CRC records up to 1992, only those prior to 1979 are currently fully processed.
Physical description note: Includes 1839 photographs, 89 audio cassettes, 11 videocassettes, 4 drawings, and 6 microfilm reels (16 mm).
Processing note: Processing of this fonds is ongoing. Additional descriptive entries will be added in future.
Canadian Jewish Congress. Ontario Region
Partially closed. Researchers must receive permission from the Archivist prior to accessing some of the records
Partially closed. Researchers must receive permission from the Archivist prior to accessing some of the records.
Canadian Jewish Congress. Ontario Region (1919-2011)