Young professionals, politicians shmooze at CJPAC’s 10th annual Action party

Seen from left are MP Judy Sgro, Premier Kathleen Wynne, MPP Mitzie Hunter and CJPAC executive director Mark Waldman
Seen from left are MP Judy Sgro, Premier Kathleen Wynne, MPP Mitzie Hunter and CJPAC executive director Mark Waldman

For its 10th annual Action party, the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee (CJPAC) brought the glitz and the glamour back to Andrew Richard Designs, a posh art space that served as the event’s venue years ago.

A lot has changed since then – the number of attendees has more than doubled, for one thing – but the committee’s mandate hasn’t wavered: their goal is to engage the Jewish and pro-Israel community in Canadian politics and democracy.

“It’s a great opportunity for those who are new to politics to meet with members of the political community from all levels of government,” said Mark Waldman, the group’s executive director. “It serves as an entry point for people to get engaged with politics.”

More than 1,300 young professionals and politicians gathered on April 14 to shmooze, nosh on hors d’oeuvres, drink sophisticated cocktails (at an open bar, no less) and shake hands with elected members of Parliament and dignitaries, including Israeli Consul General DJ Schneeweiss, Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, Liberal MPs Michael Levitt and Judy Sgro and Tory MPs Tony Clement, Peter Kent and Jason Kenney to name a few.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne was also in attendance.

While CJPAC’s ultimate goal is to enlighten and educate others about the political process, one wouldn’t know it by attending Action, which has earned a reputation among Toronto Jews as the quintessential Jewish party of the year.

“Part of its charm is that people can interact on their own with elected officials,” Waldman said, touting its casual and informal atmosphere. “Some people are intimidated by politicians, but at Action, they see how they’re regular people just like anyone else.”

Michael Westcott, 2016 Action co-chair, said the event is successful because it casts a wide net – and not just to members of the Jewish community.

“We’ve seen greater involvement and greater participation,” he said. “It offers a forum for getting involved, but also a great opportunity for people new to the political process to participate in a great party, and enjoy food, drinks and entertainment in a relaxed setting.”

Waldman said 2015 was a particularly successful year for CJPAC because of the federal election – the group connected young people from across the country to at least 230 political campaigns – and he aims to continue on that trajectory in 2016.

“It’s important for people to get involved, not just during elections but in between elections as well,” Waldman said. “That’s the big hope with this event, to bring people in, engage them politically, and hope that they get involved, build relationships and participate in our democracy.”

“In order to get young people involved in the political process, you have to create opportunities for them to meet people, and also to learn,” adds Westcott.

Throughout the year, CJPAC also offers opportunities for high school and university students to get involved through fellowship programs, training programs and other initiatives.

“What drew me in is CJPAC’s multi-partisan engagement,” said David Friedland, a former CJPAC fellow. “I grew up in a Conservative community and it was amazing to get involved and meet people that shared similar ideas, but also people that held completely different beliefs. It’s all designed to educate and build the community.”

Rebecca Hubble, a 2014 fellow, spoke of CJPAC’s active presence on campus. “Part of the fellowship is about bringing what we learned back to campus and teaching other students how to get involved,” she said.

For more information, visit CJPAC’s official website here.