Israel’s rookie Aliyah minister visits Canada to promote immigration—while avoiding protesters

Israel’s new minister in charge of Aliyah and Absorption, Ofir Sofer, arriving at the headquarters of UJA Federation of Greater Toronto on his first visit to Canada on Wednesday, April 19, 2023. (Ellin Bessner photo)

Ofir Sofer is the first member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to visit Canada since pro-democracy protests began in Israel four months ago. Sofer spent a whirlwind day in Toronto last week, as part of a higher-profile trip to New York’s Jewish community, where his first stop was at the Chabad world headquarters.

The cabinet minister is a member of Netanyahu’s coalition partner, the right-wing Religious Zionist Party, led by extremist leader Bezalel Smotrich, now also Israel’s finance minister. Sofer’s trip was his first-ever to North America, where he toured mainly Orthodox schools and Orthodox synagogues, encouraging students and staff to make Aliyah.

But he also got an earful from some Canadian non-Orthodox Jewish leaders who are worried that his government will tighten eligibility for automatic Israeli citizenship under the historic Law of Return. Sofir’s visit was accompanied by a small protest outside the headquarters of the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto.

The CJN Daily spoke briefly with the minister, although he wasn’t giving interviews. On today’s show you’ll hear why. You’ll also hear from some of the Canadian leaders he met with, who stand on opposite sides of the current tensions in Israel: Rabbi Steven Wernick, Rabbi Elan Mazer, Rabbi Samuel Kaye, Gail Adelson from the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs; and David Koschitzky.

What we talked about

  • Read more about the Canadian branch of UnXeptable, which is holding protests every Sunday in Toronto for democracy in Israel, in The CJN
  • Why this Canadian Orthodox rabbi says we shouldn’t criticize Israel in public, on The CJN Daily
  • Learn more about the 300 Jewish Canadians who signed an open letter published in Canadian and Israeli newspapers on The CJN Daily


The CJN Daily is written and hosted by Ellin Bessner (@ebessner on Twitter). Zachary Kauffman is the producer. Michael Fraiman is the executive producer. Our theme music is by Dov Beck-Levine. Our title sponsor is Metropia. We’re a member of The CJN Podcast Network. To subscribe to this podcast, please watch this video. Donate to The CJN and receive a charitable tax receipt by clicking here.