Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The CIJR: Defending Democracy, Countering Hate

Academic Work

“History has shown that wherever anti-Semitism has gone unchecked, the persecution of others has been present or not far behind. Defeating anti-Semitism must be a cause of great importance not only for Jews, but for all people who value humanity and justice….” 

One of the most admirable jobs in civic society is in defense of something noble and good. Defending democracy and human rights falls under such a category; and the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, or CIJR, does an excellent job of it. Operating out of modest offices in downtown Montreal, it is many things: it is an academic institute; it is a resource centre; it is a centre of academic inquiry; it is a centre of defense for liberal democracy, including fighting anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.

Its work is noted by many of those who count, but by not enough of the general public. I suspect; like all self-sustaining fiercely independent organizations, it could still use more resources, namely, money to do more. More on that subject in a few minutes.

I am writing this article (post) without the knowledge or encouragement of CIJR's director, Prof. Frederick Krantz, who's a professor of history at Concordia University and the founding principal of its Liberal Arts College. I am writing this article because I have come to know and better understand what the CIJR does, and value its importance not only to the Jewish community, but to the wider international community of individuals, organizations and nation-states that care about the fundamental values of classical liberal democracy. I certainly care, as many, if not the majority of my articles and musical posts the last two years clearly show.

Now, it's true there are many important and noteworthy organizations that do good work. Its uniqueness lies, and I know such words are used all too frequently, in its ability to speak to the general public, not something that academic institutes or think-tanks always are able or desire to do. Now, when you mention words like "academic," "institute," and "think-tank" some persons make the assumption that the work is not grounded in the real world. This is hardly the case with the CIJR, whose mandate since 1988, when it was founded, is clearly delineated on its site:
[T]he Canadian Institute for Jewish Research is an independent Israel- and Jewish issues-centered think-tank, focused on Middle Eastern foreign policy and international relations. Current topics studied include Judaism, Islam, the Arab world, antisemitism, the Arab-Israeli conflict, Iran and nuclear weapons, Holocaust and Holocaust denial, and Egypt and the Arab rebellions.
The list is as impressive as it is important. Serious work, no doubt. So, yes, this is an appeal letter of sorts, something that I rarely do. Yet, some organizations need help and greater recognition for the work that they do, often peopled by tireless individuals working unheralded and unnoticed. Among those is Baruch Cohen, a  92-year-old Romanian-born Holocaust survivor, a poet and its research chairman. Cohen's work in bringing attention to the Romanian Holocaust cannot be denied, as is his advocating of Paul Celan, the celebrated  poet.

I would suggest that you view some of CIJR's important work on their website [see here]; if you feel so committed, please think about making a (charitable tax-deductible) donation to offer your support. It really matters.

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