June 22, 2007
Plenary brings change
Congress gets new leadership, direction.
Canadian Jewish Congress has a new national executive and a new
system of governance, following its 28th national plenary assembly,
held this past Sunday in Ottawa.
Federation CJA president Sylvain Abitbol and Ottawa rabbi Dr. Reuven
Bulka were acclaimed as the new co-presidents of CJC and
Bylaw 67, which changes the voting process of Congress at a national
level and focuses on a new direction for the organization
was passed. Out of 175 delegates at the plenary, 142 voted in favor
of the new bylaw, with six abstaining.
The goal of Bylaw 67, which stirred some controversy prior to the
assembly, was to attain "the greatest engagement of the Jewish
community in the decision-making process," said former CJC,
Pacific Region, chair Mark Weintraub. The bylaw will eliminate national
CJC elections, but will keep regional CJC elections intact. Both
proponents and opponents of the bylaw agreed that the current governing
system is antiquated, but opinions varied on whether to make radical
changes to the system, or to proceed with slow, cautious changes
instead. According to the text of Bylaw 67, a list of initial directors
will be brought before the assembly and, "within 120 days after
the day the bylaw becomes effective, the initial directors will
engage in the election of a full board for a two-year term."
CJC CEO Bernie Farber is a proponent of the new bylaw. He believes
it will replace a "cumbersome, not highly workable" governing
system and "streamline our governing structure." Foremost
among the goals of the new rule is to strengthen CJC through broader
community participation. Terms of directors will be reduced from
three years to two years, in the hope of attracting more people
for the shorter commitment. Instead of a national executive board
of more than 100 people, a national executive board of 28-40 directors
will be chosen. The aim is to "allow for greater accountability
to the Canadian Jewish community."
CJC is divided into three main regions: Quebec, Ontario and Pacific.
The organization is essentially "representative by population
base," said Farber. CJC Pacific Region currently has 17 board
In addition to the change in CJC's governing structure, two key
emergency resolutions were passed at the plenary. One was funding
for the security of Canadian Jewish communities. The other was on
"We have basically been charged with going ahead and doing
whatever we can to lobby, advocate, to secure funding for our institutions,"
Farber said in an interview with the Independent. He noted that
Darfur was also given high-profile status at the plenary.
The Darfur campaign was spearheaded by Weintraub and succeeded in
raising international awareness about the ongoing genocide in Sudan,
as well as funding commitments from the Canadian government.
Weintraub was initially in the running for the position of national
president. He said that, after Abitbol was chosen by the CJC nominating
committee, he ran for the position of vice-president on a slate
with Bulka but, when Bulka opted to accept a co-presidency with
Abitbol, Weintraub withdrew from the race.
"I think I may have been the only person to ever run for national
president from Vancouver," Weintraub told the Independent.
"I received tremendous support. My decision to step out of
the race had nothing to do with the fact that a British Columbian
could not be president. The fact is that there are some serious
concerns about anti-Semitism in Quebec and having a co-president
from Quebec will no doubt strengthen CJC in Quebec at a time when
the needs are pressing."
As Pacific Region chair, Weintraub was anxious to ensure that the
election process in the regions was preserved. He had reservations
about the elimination of national elections but remains cautiously
optimistic about their impact.
"My proposal," he said, "was to support the changes
but ensure that, after the election, there is a careful review process
to ensure we made the right decision. I think that will happen."
Political leaders from all levels of government attended the assembly,
including federal Environment Minister John Baird. Keynote speaker
Maj.-Gen. Abedeljebbar Azzaoui, Morocco's director of counter-intelligence
and counter-terrorism, addressed delegates about fighting terror
effectively in today's political setting.
Also at the plenary, CJC Pacific Region officer-at-large Tami Michaelson
King received the Monroe and Minnie Abbey Award, recognizing her
past involvement with the CJC and encouraging future endeavors within
With files from Katharine Hamer