Zionist Organization of Canada

Between 1921 and 1978, the Zionist Organization of Canada (ZOC) acted as the official voice of Zionism in Canada. A form of Jewish nationalism, Zionism took root in Canada early on. The First Zionist Congress, which officially inaugurated the international Zionist movement, took place in Basel, Switzerland, in 1897. Just one year later, in 1898, the Federation of Zionist Societies of Canada was formed.

The ZOC developed out of the Federation of Zionist Societies of Canada, changing its name in 1921 and incorporating that same year. Under its new name, the ZOC served as an umbrella organization for various Zionist groups of Canada. This was important, because Zionism itself was a diverse phenomenon, encompassing different currents, such as labour Zionism, revisionist Zionism, and religious Zionism. What these movements had in common was—in the years prior to the establishment of the State of Israel—their commitment to the creation of a Jewish homeland in what was then Mandatory Palestine and—in the years after the establishment of the State of Israel—supporting the Jewish state.

After 1951, the ZOC adhered to the Jerusalem Program, the official program of the World Zionist Organization. According to the Jerusalem Program, the foundations of Zionism are:

  • The unity of the Jewish people
  • Aliyah to Israel
  • Strengthening Israel as a Jewish, Zionist, and democratic state
  • Ensuring the future and the distinctiveness of the Jewish people
  • Nurturing mutual Jewish responsibility
  • Settling the country

From the time of its founding to 1970, the ZOC’s main office was in Montreal, which had the largest Jewish population of any Canadian city at that time. In 1970, the office relocated to Toronto, where it occupied a space in the Toronto Zionist Centre on Marlee Avenue. Besides fundraising, the ZOC oversaw the budgets of multiple Zionist organizations, including Canadian Hadassah-WIZO, the Men’s Zionist Organization of Canada, and Young Judaea. The ZOC also had a periodical, the Canadian Zionist, and offered programming in the form of book clubs, film exhibits, and youth camps. (In 1948, it founded Camp Sholom, a summer camp for youth aged nine-to-thirteen.) It even had two television programs appear in the 1970s!

The ZOC began to wind down its activities in the 1970s, as its functions were gradually absorbed by the Canadian Zionist Federation (CZF), the CZF Central Region in Toronto, and the Toronto Zionist Council. By 1978, the ZOC ceased to function as an organization. And while the ZOC is no longer active, the ideology that inspired it continues to motivate mainstream Jewish organizations across the country.

Archivist Notes

Of the various political ideologies that have commanded wide support among Jewish Canadians at one time or another, none have played as large a role as Zionism in shaping the community’s institutions and values. The records of the Zionist Organization of Canada testify to both the vitality of this movement in Canadian-Jewish life and to the ebb and flow of different currents within Zionism over time.

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