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Mark Waldman.photo by Rhonda Spivak

 
CJPAC: HOW TO MAKE OUR JEWISH VOICE HEARD IN CANADIAN POLITICS

By Rhonda J Spivak,

 “Relationships matter,” says Mark Waldman, the new executive director of the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee [CJPAC].

In an interview with The Winnipeg Jewish Review, Waldman, who was here last week   explained that CJPAC is a “grassroots, independent organization whose mandate is to engage the Jewish community in the political process.  It builds relationships with elected officials – of all political parties – and works for Jewish community interests, on a multi-partisan basis, during and between elections.”

Waldman, a Torontonian who holds an MBA from York university,  said that members of the Jewish community  can “ get engaged in the political process,  by making a  contribution to CJPAC, becoming a CJPAC member,  and  by volunteering on a  political campaign for a candidate  of  your choice.  Volunteering enables you to build a relationship with a candidate.”

Waldman, a founder of CJPAC, emphasized that once a relationship with an elected official is built, “we can educate the official on issues relating to the Jewish community.”

Each participant who supports candidates through CJPAC represents the Jewish community and helps make our collective voice heard.

 “By helping candidates who support our Jewish community to get elected and by building relationships with leaders and decision-makers throughout the year, we ensure that we will have friends in Parliament to turn to for support,” said Waldman. “That way we make an impact beyond our numbers.”

Waldman began his career in his family firm Sandylion and Marnlen Management acting in several senior management roles (1992-20020), before he began working in the field of philanthropy.

CJPAC, which is currently staffed by 7 people “raises all of the money to cover its budget by itself,” said Waldman. He noted that “no other Jewish organization is allowed to do what we do,” and “it would be illegal for another Jewish organization to do what we do.”

What are some of the things that CJPAC does?   Throughout the year it engages thousands of members of the Jewish community, of all ages, in politics through email  campaigns and other advocacy initiatives.  For example, thousands of letters were sent and phone calls made by CJPAC members to politicians in response to their statements and actions regarding the Durban II Conference.

CJPAC also hosts 1000 young professionals and dozens of politicians for an evening of informal advocacy in both Toronto and Montreal. Last year, it organized a day for Jewish students to spend on Parliament Hill, meeting with politicians.

CJPAC also encourages members to host political fundraisers for candidates sensitive to the needs of the Jewish community, and Israel.

Community members can provide political donations to various candidates and parties working with CJPAC.  As Waldman said, “Donors support candidates and parties of their choice, but by working with CJPAC to do so, they speak with a collective voice for our community and the Canada –Israel relationship.”
 
CJPAC also runs a year long fellowship program. As Waldman explained, “This year we are providing intensive advocacy and political training to 38 university students who will become some of our community’s most effective Jewish advocates.  They are mentored by our staff, have conference calls every 2-3 weeks with politicians, and attend a four day conference in Ottawa .  The fellows are required to put on a political event on campus.”

The majority of graduates from this program go on to work in Ottawa or for local politicians and candidates.

Winnipeg’s two CJPAC fellows are Paul Myerson and Ashley Faintuch.  

CJPAC also has a Young Leadership Israel Advocacy Seminar, a six month program leading up to a trip to Israel the first week in September, where the next generation of the organized Jewish community (up to age 45)  can experience Israel with  Canadian  parliamentarians and senior government officials.

“It is great to be able to meet and develop relationships with Members of Parliament on this trip,” said Waldman.

The minimum amount to join CJPAC is $25.00, but, as Waldman said, “We hope that people who can afford more will contribute much more, so that we can continue   to do our work.”  (Note: There is no charitable tax receipt for donating to CJPAC. This is what allows them to perform their unique multi-partisan role).

Waldman noted that CJPAC has 5000 members, and wants to sign up many more.

While here, Waldman met with community leaders, Hillel/JSA students, high school students, synagogue leadership, and Bridges for Peace.

CJPAC regularly posts what politicians have said relating to Jewish issues on its website, www.cjpac.ca

Waldman, also noted that “CJPAC always uses cutting edge technology” in its work, through the internet, Facebook (www.facebook.com/cjpac) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/cjpac).

“On May 1, 2009 CJPAC was the only Canadian organization listed by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) as one of the 25 most influential Jewish organizations on Twitter,” he said.

(Editor’s note:   Last week, Waldman and CJPAC had already posted a reference to The Winnipeg Jewish Review on their twitter sites, linking to my article “Why I Am Going to Buy Seamless Underwear”, and referring to the article as “great.” Thank-you for this  Mark Waldman and CJPAC!)

 

 
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.


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