The Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) was founded in 1919 with the intention of uniting the voices of numerous Jewish Canadian organizations. In its inaugural year, over 25,000 Jews across Canada voted for delegates to attend the first CJC conference in Montreal. At the conference, the CJC created the Jewish Immigrant Aid Society (JIAS), passed numerous political motions (such as a statement of loyalty to Canada) and elected an executive board. Despite the success of the initial convention, the CJC was a fairly dormant organization until the 1930s.
As in too many countries, the borders of Canada were basically closed to Jewish immigrants in the 1930s. With European anti-Semitism on the rise, the CJC was reconvened in 1934. It lobbied the Canadian government, with limited success, to open immigration to Jewish refugees. After the war, the CJC was involved in organizing relief and helping with displaced persons camps in Europe.
Over the course of the next several decades, the CJC set up organizational divisions focussing on the different needs of Canadian Jewry. The national organization was highly active in political lobbying, most notably in support of Israel (for which Prime Minister Joe Clark – June 4, 1979- March 3, 1980 – tried to rebuke them at their 1982 convention but was himself rebuked when close to 50 delegates walked out) and on behalf of Soviet Jewry.
One fascinating initiative sponsored by the CJC was the International Jewish Correspondence (IJC), which coordinated Jewish penpals around the world. In 2002, the IJC closed its penpal services due to the popularity of online communication, but maintains a fascinating archive.
Although the Canadian Jewish Congress still exists, as of 2011, many of its primary functions are under the auspices of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA).
Jewish Treats wishes its Canadian fans a happy Canada Day.