CJC and United Church Resolve Differences

Published: February 1st 2010

CJC CEO Bernie Farber


Canadian Jewish Congress met on Monday morning with leaders from the United Church of Canada (UCC) in a successful attempt to save their longstanding relationship after a year of unprecedented tension.


Tensions reached a boiling point due to UCC’s funding of Independent Jewish Voices (IJV), a controversial anti-Zionist Jewish group chaired at one point by Diana Ralph. Ralph is a 9-11 conspiracy theorist who said that Middle East terrorist attacks were part of an Israeli conspiracy. IJV, which is at odds with mainstream Jewish groups in Canada, is vocally supportive of a boycott of Israel.


Relations between CJC and UCC, which were previously strong, began unravelling after a series of recent incidents, including a failed vote at last summer’s UCC general council meeting on a motion to boycott Israeli academics and cultural institutions. IJV was instrumental in bringing the resolution to a vote.


A month earlier, UCC had provided the seed money for what turned into IJV. UCC, after the fact, admitted that it should have been more careful about who it gave money to. At the time, CJC said that it was not satisfied with the UCC’s response and had asked the United Church to completely sever all ties with IJV.


CJC CEO Bernie Farber described IJV to the National Post as a “fringe group” full of “vile anti-Zionist” rhetoric.


In November, CJC sent a strongly worded letter to UCC asking for a meeting.


Before this week's meeting, Farber told the National Post that he was “confident that we will be able to resolve the main issue, but there is the possibility that this could lead to a schism.”


He said the meeting was necessary because that the two organizations had reached what he termed a “breaking point” and that a face to face discussion was necessary to get their relationship “back on track.”


After Monday's meeting, which was successful, CJC and UCC issued a joint statement on behalf of CJC President Mark J. Freiman and UCC Moderator, Mardi Tindal.


The two groups met to “seek ways of promoting ongoing dialogue, to hear each others concerns.”


“We put our feelings on the table and held the tensions creatively. Both groups made a commitment to ongoing dialogue to deal with difficult issues and to look for ways to work in common cause,” said the statement.


During the meeting, the United Church – Canada’s largest Protestant denomination – recognized its long relationship with CJC and reiterated that CJC is the group that represents the Jewish community of Canada.

CJC stated that, “the UCC by its very nature listens to many voices and many perspectives in Canada and beyond on all issues including its reflections on peace in the Middle East."


UCC also stated for the record that Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) has never been a partner of the United Church of Canada.


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