Canadian Jewish Congress, Central Region

Founded in 1919 and nicknamed Canada’s Jewish parliament, the Canadian Jewish Congress advocated on behalf of Jewish people’s social, cultural, and security interests at home and abroad.

In the 1930s, with the looming onset of the Second World War, the Congress confronted rising antisemitism in Ontario, responding to thousands of individual reports from the community.

During the Second World War, they successfully lobbied the government for the release of misclassified Jewish-German internees in Canada and provided supplies and support to Jewish servicemen and women overseas and at home. Post-war, the Congress aided in the immigration of thousands of Jewish refugees.

Through legislation, they worked to dismantle the discriminatory practices in housing, employment, and land ownership. They later fought back against neo-Nazis, Holocaust deniers, and war criminals living in Canada.

The Congress also contributed to Jewish cultural life through youth, education, and arts and heritage programs. They were an integral lifeline for small communities around the province, ensuring support for Jewish life in small towns and large city centres.

Although dissolved in 2011, the legacy of the Congress’ nearly 100 years of communal advocacy lives on. Today, the Ontario region records of the Canadian Jewish Congress is one of the Ontario Jewish Archives’ largest and most important collections – the source for dozens of books, articles and projects exploring Jewish life in the province.

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Archivist Notes

The collection of the Canadian Jewish Congress, Ontario Region is one of the OJA’s largest and most important, with over 47 metres of textual records alone. The very bureaucratic nature of the organization meant that its recordkeeping practices were regimented and adhered to. This attention to documenting has ultimately benefited the community today as this collection is explored by OJA researchers daily. From an archival perspective, what makes this collection so valuable is the scope of evidence it presents on topics ranging from human rights to antisemitism to education and culture to immigration to military history, and more. There are endless opportunities for research contained in this collection, looking at some of the most pressing issues of the 20th century for the Jewish community specifically and all of civic society generally.

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