The story of CIJR’s rise to international recognition as Canada’s leading pro-Israel academic research center began in 1987-88 with a small, predominantly (but not exclusively) academic group. We responded spontaneously to the first 1987-88 intifada, and its negative reflection in the media.
Indeed, two of our current most important publications, the quarterly Israfax print magazine and our students’ journal, Dateline: Middle East, were born at the same time, 1989, and have been published in an unbroken series ever since.
This group, meeting initially in my living room, reacted to a becalmed organized community, in a state of shock over, and at a loss at how to respond to, the sudden, negative reversal of media Israel imagery. We began writing letters and articles, and speaking at community groups and synagogues.
The internationally-popular Isranet Daily Briefing email journal, our key current publication (now at Vol.XI, No.3,530 and reaching over 30,000 recipients daily), awaited the invention of the Internet (and our mastery of the computer). Today it is paralleled by the French-language weekly e-mail Communiqué Isranet, by our website’s Israzine monthly, and by an active Facebook and Twitter social media outreach.
When, given the unexpectedly enthusiastic community response, we sought the use of an office and copy-machine (computers were just emerging), not a single Jewish organization responded positively. We had begun receiving contributions, couldn’t receive the monies personally, and so had to decide: disband or incorporate. Choosing the latter, we secured in 1988 a legal charter as a non-profit Canadian educational endowment.
Over time, more academics and laymen joined in CIJR’s work, our International Board grew, and in the late 1990s, we established an active Toronto chapter. Several years ago we forged affiliations with Daniel Pipes’ Middle East Forum, in Philadelphia, and with the prestigious Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs in Israel, and we will soon be setting up Calgary and Vancouver chapters. Finally, CIJR’s independent sister institution, the American Institute for Jewish Research, head-office in Washington, D.C. received IRS approval in late 2014.
Still, for several years, before we located in a one-room office (lent by the Canadian Zionist Federation), CIJR remained in my Hampstead basement. And then it was another few years until—under the guidance of a wonderful community leader who identified with us, Clara Balinsky, z”l—we formed a supporting Board of Directors.
CIJR’s survival and broad development have not been easy. We had to make our own way, and find our own supporters and funding. We could not have succeeded without the many good people who became academic Fellows, joined our Boards, or proved stalwart and reliable funders and supporters.
Our earliest academic supporters included Professors Hal Waller, Julien Bauer, Ira Robinson, Brian Smith, and Emil Fackenheim, z”l. Baruch Cohen (still at his desk at 95) was one of the first laymen to come aboard. Early supporters, who would later become Board stalwarts, included Richard Golick z”l, Ed Winant z”l, and Charles Lazarus (our first Board chairman), followed by the late Irwin Beutel (our beloved and long-term
second Board Chairman), Gisela Tamler z”l, Jack and Maureen, and Frieda, Dym, Evie Bloomfield Schachter,
Thomas Hecht, Milton and Joyce Shier (in Toronto), Gerald N.E. Charness z”l, Joyce and Meyer Deitcher, Emil and Lucia Kroo, Aaron Remer, Louise Roskies Goldstein and Gustava Weiner.
Today, as we celebrate CIJR’s 27th anniversary and, finally, begin building a much-needed Endowment, I want to recognize the key work over the years of our wonderful Research Chairman, Baruch Cohen, and the tireless efforts of our current, brilliant Chairman, my good friend Jack Kincler, to whom we largely owe this year’s superb “Israeli High-Tech Miracle” Conference.
It has been my privilege to work for twenty-seven years with a truly remarkable group of academics and lay volunteers in building CIJR into Canada’s unique pro-Israel academic think-tank, speaking directly to the public, Jewish and non-Jewish, while working closely with students, on- and off-campus.
I want too to thank all the wonderful women and men of our current Academic Council and National Board: without you—people like, inter alia, Machla Abramowitz, Professor David Bensoussan, Sabina Citron, (Jerusalem), Gail Asper (Winnipeg) Herbert Feifer, and Barbara Kay; and Prof. Sally Zerker, David Sherman and Alan Herman (all in our Toronto Chapter), and many others—we could neither have built, nor maintained, our proud, respected activist institution (see Book endorsements!) without them.
The founder of ZIonism, Thedor Herzl, famously said, “If you will it, it will be”. CIJR, today, after 27 years, and in the future, plays—through its unique publications, conferences, and work with students—a key part in defending Israel and the Jewish People, and in ensuring Jewish- and Zionist consciousness, without which there can be no meaningful Israel advocacy.
President and Director
Canadian Institute for Jewish Research