CIJA: The Winds of Change

Judy Zelikovitz, VP Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs

by Judy Zelikovitz

(AJNews) – The pandemic has wreaked havoc for many – illness, anxiety, jobs loss, travel and family events postponed, sometimes canceled. So, it was such a welcome relief that, this spring, many Jewish families were finally able to spend some time together celebrating Passover as it should be – around the Seder table, together with family and friends.

COVID-19 also brought change to the many agencies that support the activities of Jewish communities across the country. As the advocacy agent of the Jewish Federations across Canada, CIJA got to work. Staff and lay leadership rolled up their sleeves, supporting the work of the federations and their frontline agencies in any way we could. Thanks to CIJA’s advocacy, funding for the charitable sector – protecting our most vulnerable during a terrible time – was included in the government emergency pandemic allocations, and the vital work of agencies supporting Jewish families continued.

CIJA itself also underwent changes, with staff working diligently but remotely, consulting for hours a day with each other and our stakeholders on Zoom or any other platform that could allow our work on important files to progress. Over that time, our National Board of Directors was led by Co-Chairs Joel Reitman and Jeff Rosenthal, both working tirelessly to ensure that the organization’s important work continued uninterrupted and that the voice of Canada’s small but vital Jewish community was heard.

Our National Board has now turned over to a new slate of Directors connected to federations across Canada. Alberta now has a new representative on the CIJA Board – Jared Shore from Calgary. Steve Shafir continues to represent Edmonton.

Our new CIJA Board Chair is Gail Adelson-Marcovitz, a veteran professional, lay leader, and philanthropist whose experience leading Federation CJA through the tumult of the pandemic will serve CIJA well. Her vast experience goes well beyond the Jewish community, with lay leadership roles at both McGill University and the Montreal General Hospital Foundation.

As Federation CJA President, Gail helped navigate not only the difficulties imposed by the pandemic but also by the alarming rise in antisemitism engendered by the conflict between Hamas and Israel in spring 2021. Gail has not just advocated for unity in the Jewish community, she has also shown the way. Of the work at Federation CJA at the height of the pandemic in 2021, Gail said: “I have never been prouder of the interconnected network of community partners and agencies who make up the fabric of our community, and who have worked together to address the most important challenges we faced. The pandemic along with the renewed antisemitism faced in the last three months has, in so many ways, united us as we faced the unknown together.”

Gail’s capacity to harness the resources and resilience of Montreal’s vital Jewish community brought agencies and constituencies together, united in the cause of preserving and protecting the quality of Jewish life in Canada.

That is exactly CIJA’s mission, and CIJA is ready to follow the paths and policies of our new national Board: combating antisemitism, strengthening the Canada-Israel friendship, and protecting the quality of Jewish life in Canada. This time on a national scale, Gail is up for the challenge.

Judy Zelikovitz is Vice President, University and Local Partner Services at the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs who also experienced a lot of change throughout COVID, becoming a Bubbie four times over! CIJA is the advocacy agent of the Jewish Federations across Canada.

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