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Manitoba History: Moving South: The Other Jewish Winnipeg Before the Second World War

by Daniel Stone
History Department, University of Winnipeg

Number 76, Fall 2014

This article was published originally in Manitoba History by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make this online version available as a free, public service. As an historical document, the article may contain language and views that are no longer in common use and may be culturally sensitive in nature.

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For about fifty years, Winnipeg’s North End was a New Jerusalem of Yiddish-speakers where the large majority of Jews lived and joined vibrant Jewish organizations that ranged from left-wing politics to religious orthodoxy. Many North Enders considered the South End to be “The Other,” a place inhabited by wealthy Jews who had abandoned Yiddish culture and acculturated or even assimilated into the Anglo-Canadian world. As historian Arthur Chiel noted in 1961, “by 1911 the Jewish community was quite clearly divided, both socially and geographically, into North Enders and South Enders.” In 1987, Harry and Mildred Gutkin similarly discerned “a distinct family rift ... between North-Enders and South-Enders, which continued for several generations” and Allan Levine recently confirmed in 2009 that a “North End – South End feud had been waged for more than a century.” [1]

Several incidents occurred before the First World War that helped create the reputation of the South-End Jewish community. In 1911 when the community debated whether there should be one philanthropic agency to help the Jewish poor or separate North- and South-End organizations, a North Ender wrote a letter to the Montreal-based Kanader Adler questioning “the motives of the South Enders to organize and to take care of the poor which ‘are not theirs.’” [2] A mass meeting at the Queen’s Theatre on Selkirk Avenue echoed his sentiments with an outpouring of complaints “that the so-called South Enders ... were determined, at all hazards, to intrude on the ground of the north enders and impose their undisputed power.” Not long after, the editor of Winnipeg’s Yiddishe Vort (Israelite Press), Baruch Goldstein, denounced the “South End Jews for trying to steal the newspaper from the North End.” [3]

The feud took on a more intense and generalized significance with the 1919 General Strike, when prominent south-enders, Max Steinkopf and J. E. Wilder, were widely assumed to be members of the secret anti-strike organization, the Committee of 1000. After the strike was broken, numerous North-End socialists saw all South Enders as anti-labour and restricted their electoral support to left-wingers, preferably but not necessarily Jewish. Steinkopf was punished by his fellow Jews in the 1919 school board election that rejected him in favour of Rose Elkin (Alcin), a young North-End socialist, and Wilder lost to the future mayor, John Queen, a Scottish socialist. [4]

The South End figures in accounts of Winnipeg Jewish history in this fashion, but it has never been studied for itself. This article aims to examine who moved south before the Second World War, where they lived, and what life in the South End was like for Jews. Secondarily, it reflects on the factors that kept the two parts of the Jewish community together. Much of the information for the early period comes from census records, especially the 1911 Census which recorded nationality, place of origin, and place of immigration, as well as name, address, age, and family status. [5] Since detailed census data have not yet been released for 1921 and beyond, information is derived from the social pages of the Jewish Post and News, which started publishing in 1925, and Henderson’s Directory. Names and addresses from these sources are not “endnoted” here.

Areas of Jewish Settlement

About 100 Jews came to Winnipeg in the 1870s, starting with the Coblentz brothers from Alsace-Lorraine, who spoke both French and German and founded several businesses among the Franco-Manitoban and Mennonite peoples of southern Manitoba before settling in Winnipeg. Winnipeg was very small in those days and the few Jews mixed in with everyone else. Jews began to develop their own community in 1882 when 350 Russian-Jewish refugees from Czarist pogroms arrived, and it grew exponentially after 1890 with mass migration, primarily from eastern Europe. The newcomers—Jews, Ukrainians, Poles, and other nationalities—settled mostly in newly created districts in the north end of the city which, because of their poverty and newness, were appalling slums at first, while more affluent individuals tended to push farther south. [6]

Between 1911 and 1941, almost 90% of Winnipeg’s Jews lived in the North End while a post-Second World War migration south left only 47% living there in 1961. At this point, demographer Louis Rosenberg predicted that “it does not appear likely that the Jewish population ... south of Assiniboine River will ever equal, let alone exceed, the Jewish population ... north of the ... Canadian Pacific Railway,” but the migration continued and, in 2006, 75% of Winnipeg’s Jews lived in the South End. Most community institutions migrated there as well. [7] To put these percentages into perspective, Canadian censuses gives the Jewish population of greater Winnipeg as 645 in 1891 (2.5% of the overall population), 1,156 in 1901 (2.6%), 9,023 in 1911 (6.3%), 14,449 in 1921 (8.1%), 17,236 in 1931 (7.9%) and 17,027 in 1941 (7.7%), 15,959 in 1951 (6.6%) and 14,790 in 1961 (2.4%). [8]

The North End formed before the First World War as an area of working-class settlement on both sides of the Canadian Pacific Railway lines, adjacent to the mixed residential and industrial neighbourhood of Point Douglas. Only three Jews lived in the North End in 1886 but 11,746 lived there in 1916. [9] This runaway population growth, along with similar patterns among other immigrant groups, required that the North End expand farther north to include areas near Selkirk Avenue, which became the main shopping street, and west along the CPR yards and shops. Growing success in business and the professions permitted some Jews in the 1930s to buy North-End middle-class and even up-scale homes near St. John’s Anglican Cathedral, east of Main Street from their original Anglo-Celtic owners. The North End expanded farther north after the Second World War to develop modest, middle-class neighbourhoods in Garden City and beyond. [10]

Despite the availability of middle-class housing in the North End, many Jews chose to move to the South End, i.e., south of Assiniboine River, after the Second World War. Most of these Jews went to new developments in south River Heights at first, while in later years, they spread to other neighbourhoods such as Tuxedo, a formerly independent municipality that was developed after 1914 by a Jewish developer as a neighbourhood in which Jews could not live (except for himself). In addition to residences in the North and South Ends, small numbers of Jews always lived in other parts of Winnipeg (350 in 1941). [11]

This home at 151 Harvard Street was owned by Dr. Maxwell Rady (1893–1964), the first Jewish physician to be granted privileges at the St. Boniface Hospital, in the 1920s. Other Jews bought fashionable homes on nearby Yale, Dorchester, and Grosvenor avenues between the two world wars.

This home at 151 Harvard Street was owned by Dr. Maxwell Rady (1893–1964), the first Jewish physician to be granted privileges at the St. Boniface Hospital, in the 1920s. Other Jews bought fashionable homes on nearby Yale, Dorchester, and Grosvenor avenues between the two world wars.
Source: Daniel Stone

The Central Core: The First South End

The general focus on the North and South Ends has obscured Jewish settlement in the first South End—the central core and its early extension south to, but not across, the Assiniboine River. Winnipeg grew up on Main Street, north of Portage Avenue and in Point Douglas. Southerly expansion was blocked for more than a decade by the Hudson’s Bay Company Reserve, lands awarded to that company in the deal that brought Manitoba into Canada in 1871 but which were not developed right away. [12]

Jews, especially working-class Jews, lived in industrial and commercial areas near Point Douglas on both sides of Main Street This area, part of Ward 2 in electoral politics, held 135 Jews who made up 21% of the 1891 Jewish population. [13] For example, Sam Bronfman lived on Lily Street behind what is now the Centennial Concert Hall when he first came from Saskatchewan, as did Mordechai Weidman, while the latter’s brother lived nearby on Jarvis Avenue. Eleven tinsmiths, cabinet makers, harness makers, and labourers lived a short distance away on King Street in 1914, close to the first home of Shaarey Zedek Synagogue at King and Henry (316 King).

Richer Jews also lived downtown before the Great War and well into the 1930s. For example, Max Finkelstein, a prominent lawyer, resided at the Royal Alexandra Hotel, at Main and Higgins. The South Enders who were the targets of North End complaints in 1911 lived north of Portage Avenue, as did the Board of Directors of Winnipeg’s largest synagogue. Ten of twelve lived between Bannatyne Avenue and the CPR tracks, one lived in West Broadway, and one in Fort Rouge. [14]

As the Hudson’s Bay Company developed its Reserve in the 1880s and reaped handsome profits, one-family houses and apartment buildings sprang up between Portage Avenue and the Assiniboine River, and Eaton’s department store made Portage the city’s major commercial street after 1900. [15] With the development, 1,191 Jews could be found in the central core in 1916, increasingly south of Portage Avenue. [16] For example, in 1911, businessman Isaac Ripstein lived at 27 Kennedy Street, opposite the Lieutenant-Governor’s residence and the Provincial Legislature, and other Jews lived at 165, 233, and 237 Kennedy Street. Some Jews chose riverfront apartment blocks such as 400 and 440 Assiniboine Avenue while Jews with more modest socio-economic profiles could be found in nearby rooming houses, such as 187 Hargrave Street and 176 Smith Street. Six Jews lived on Main Street near York Avenue in 1901 and one, a machinist, lived near the Union Station in 1911.

The area immediately west of the Legislature also attracted Jews. By 1915, the fashionable St. Elmo Apartments at 177 Colony Street, one block from the legislature park, housed at least three Jewish families including a former rancher and a director of a local wholesale grocery firm. A Jew from Morden moved to a riverfront apartment at 27 Balmoral Street and several Jewish families bought houses on Balmoral Place, now the greenbelt separating the Great West Life parking lot from Balmoral Street. Not far away, the London-born and Saskatchewan-raised president of a grain-trading firm, Maxwell Heppner, rented Sir Charles Tupper’s mansion, Hawthorndean, 147 West Gate, on Armstrong’s Point in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Two other Jews bought properties in the Gates a few years later. [17]

Jewish settlement soon extended across Maryland Street into the Wolseley District. Three Jewish families moved onto the 800 block of Palmerston Avenue in the 1920s, one on the river and two across the street. Other Jews moved in, too. Successful businessman, Moses Finkelstein (Northwest Hides and Furs), bought 1185 Wolseley Avenue and Hyman Kay (Dry Goods) lived at 96 Canora. Other Jews lived somewhat more modestly throughout the Wolseley district. The Gensers, pioneers in the music business, lived at 30 Arlington Street, several families lived on Home Street, and others lived on Garfield, Lenore, Lipton, Walnut, Westminster and elsewhere throughout the district.

The South End

Areas south of the Assiniboine River opened for settlement at different times: Fort Rouge (1900), Crescentwood (1910), and River Heights (1930s), when permanent bridges and streetcar lines integrated them with the rest of the city. [18]

A number of Jewish families lived in Winnipeg’s first suburb, Fort Rouge, which Saidye Bronfman later called “a pretty and affluent residential district.” [19] They started east of Osborne Street and moved west as the city changed. The family of Max Goldstine, a merchant, moved to Mayfair Place before the First World War and was joined in the 1920s by other Jewish families. Hermann Steinkopf, a former country merchant and grandfather of Maitland Steinkopf who developed the Centennial Concert Hall complex, lived at 383 Wardlaw Avenue, east of Osborne. Mary Vineberg, widow of businessman Louis Vineberg, lived on Wardlaw west of Osborne with six children and a servant. Several other Jewish families lived on the same street, such as Sam Rosner, who moved his family there from Plum Coulee, MB, in order to give his daughters a high-school education. Rosner continued to manage his general store in Plum Coulee and even served as mayor, commuting to Winnipeg for the Sabbath. [20] Apartment buildings were scattered across Fort Rouge, including the striking Roslyn Apartments on Osborne Street and the large Tudor-style Wellington Apartments at 360 Wellington Crescent, both of which attracted Jewish tenants as soon as they were completed in 1910. Other Jewish apartment dwellers could be found throughout the area.

South-side synagogue. The Beth Shalom Synagogue operated at 232 Nassau Street North in the Fort Rouge area until around 1945. 
The site is now occupied by a Christian church.

South-side synagogue. The Beth Shalom Synagogue operated at 232 Nassau Street North in the Fort Rouge area until around 1945.
The site is now occupied by a Christian church.
Source: Jewish Heritage Centre Archives, JM307

Jews moved into Crescentwood, west of the Maryland Bridge, a neighbourhood full of impressive houses and spacious yards, that opened for development in 1904. [21] Frank Druxerman (clothing, dry goods, and other businesses) bought a house at 2 Ruskin Row, one of Winnipeg’s most prestigious streets, and a few years later Mordechai Weidman joined him across the street at 1 Ruskin Row. Dr. Max Rady and family purchased 151 Harvard Street and other Jews bought homes on Yale, Dorchester, and Grosvenor Avenues between the two world wars. Jews also lived in fashionable apartments on Lilac and Dorchester.

North River Heights between Wellington Crescent and Corydon Avenue, the neighbourhood to the west, drew Jewish buyers from its beginnings in the 1920s. Jews were among the early residents of streets such as Ash, Cordova, Montrose, Oak, Oxford, and Niagara. Some of the musical Genser family moved from Wolseley to 80 Brock Street in the 1930s.

The residents of these areas south of the Assiniboine came primarily from the business and the professional classes. The growing number of Jews in these middle-class neighbourhoods, as well as their counterparts in middle-class areas of the North End and Wolseley, reflected the so-cial and economic ascent of Winnipeg’s Jews after the Great War. This commu-nity produced and supported a higher percentage of doc-tors, dentists, law-yers, and teachers than the Jews of Montreal and To-ronto, even though they still lagged slightly behind the percentage of pro-fessionals in the population as a whole. More Win-nipeg Jews played a role in profes-sional fields such as engineering and teaching, as well, than their counter-parts elsewhere in Canada. Winnipeg Jews enjoyed per capita superiority in management po-sitions in merchandising, manufacturing, real estate, and insurance compared to Toronto and Montreal Jews. The Jewish ascent to the middle class across Canada preceded other immigrants from Eastern Europe by margins ap-proaching 4:1 in the professions. The disproportion was probably higher in Winnipeg in the rest of the country. [22] Not all South-End residents had money, of course. Jewish labourers lived on Pembina, Garwood, and McMillan Avenues, near the CNR yards. Small-business owners lived at or near their shops on Corydon and McMillan Avenues, and on Osborne Street. [23]

Mobility Patterns

South-End Jews generally moved south in stages from the city centre or the North End. The Weidman family illustrates this process particularly well. Arriving in 1882 and living at first in the CPR immigrant sheds, Mordechai and Chaim (Hiram) Weidman worked across western Canada as manual labourers for the Canadian Pacific Railway and then farmed near Moosomin, Saskatchewan before settling in Winnipeg where they built a successful wholesale grocery business in the city centre. The brothers lived close to each other on Lily Street and Jarvis Avenue, near what is now the Disraeli Freeway, and their fifteen children shuttled freely between the two houses as if they were one family. In 1916, five Weidmans moved south to West Broadway within easy walking distance of each other. One moved a few blocks farther west to a house on Palmerston Avenue in the Wolseley District. A few years later, two Weidmans crossed the river to the south bank to share a large house on Ruskin Row in Crescentwood. Another brother took an apartment nearby on Dorchester Avenue before buying a house on Oxford Street in the emerging River Heights neighbourhood. All these second-generation Weidmans held important positions in the family business, Weidman Brothers, which also manufactured specialty foods products. While these Weidmans moved south, other family members moved north to streets such as Machray and Aberdeen. Similarly, Wolfe Cohen, a tailor and furrier, progressed from Selkirk Avenue to Maryland Street, and then Montrose Street in River Heights, while Charles Rosenblat, who owned a hardware store and a small hotel, grew up on Lily, moved to Langside as an adult, and then to Montrose.

Some Jews, like Frank Druxerman, jumped directly from the city centre (Elgin Avenue) to the South (Ruskin Row) without an intermediate stop. Similarly, Dr. Max Rady moved from downtown (Lily) to River Heights (Harvard). David Balcovsky settled in Winnipeg at the St. Elmo Apartments on Colony Street when he gave up cattle ranching near Medicine Hat, Alberta. He later moved to the Wellington Apartments on Wellington Crescent.

Mordecai Weidman (1864–1952) came to Canada and farmed in Saskatchewan, then became a wholesale grocer in Winnipeg with his brother Hiram. A founder of Shaarey Zedek Synagogue, in 1892 he helped to establish the first YMHA in Western Canada.

Mordecai Weidman (1864–1952) came to Canada and farmed in Saskatchewan, then became a wholesale grocer in Winnipeg with his brother Hiram. A founder of Shaarey Zedek Synagogue, in 1892 he helped to establish the first YMHA in Western Canada.
Source: Jewish Heritage Centre Archives, JM234

Religion and Place of Origin Among South End Jews

Most South-End Jews attended Shaarey Zedek synagogue in the central core at 129–133 Dagmar Street at William Avenue, just east of the Carnegie library. The ritual practices of Winnipeg Jewry at that time are poorly understood, but Shaarey Zedek appears to have observed Modern Anglo-Orthodoxy before the First World War and throughout the 1920s. [24] It followed traditional Orthodox practices such as praying in Hebrew and Aramaic only, and seating women separately. Modern features included an insistence on decorum during services, preaching weekly sermons in English, and hiring a rabbi who had a secular as well as a religious education. The synagogue put itself under the jurisdiction of the Orthodox Chief Rabbi of Western Canada, Israel Isaac Kahanovitch. Shaarey Zedek contributed $150 annually towards his salary until the congregation hired its own rabbi in 1914, although it continued to recognize Kahanovitch’s authority on ritual questions. [25] It is impossible to establish at this time how many North Enders attended.

The new rabbi, Herbert J. Sondheim, who patriotically changed his surname to Samuel in 1918, was a seventh-generation British Jew who came to Winnipeg on the recom-mendation of the Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom. The Chief Rabbi headed the British United Synagogues, which followed traditional Orthodox Judaism with modifications that suited the emerging Jewish middle class. [26] Rabbi Samuel brought something of the solemnity of British Juda-ism to Winnipeg but maintained a warm spirit towards his congregants. He actively represented the Jewish commu-nity to the gentile world by presenting public talks, writing newspaper articles, and serving as chaplain to the Canadian Club. He left Winnipeg in 1926 to become the Rabbi of the richest congregation in Montreal, Reform Temple Emanu-El, in Westmount. [27] Samuel’s successor, Rabbi Solomon Frank trained in the Reform rab-binical seminary in Cincinnati, OH, and presided over the gradual liber-alization of syna-gogue practice at Shaarey Zedek without initiating any radical breaks with tradition. The congregation con-firmed its liberalization by joining the Conservative Movement in 1929 and increased the amount of English used in services a few years later. [28] By 1945, Shaarey Zedek had outgrown its building and rented the Pantages Playhouse Theatre for the well-attended High Holiday services. It moved to its present location on Wellington Crescent in 1949. The new rabbi, Milton Aron, introduced much more English into religious services along with a second, less traditional, Sabbath service, held im-mediately after the usual Saturday morning ritual. [29]

A symbol of Shaarey Zedek’s evolution can be seen in the choice of rabbinical residences. By this measure, too, Shaarey Zedek moved away from strict Orthodoxy to a more relaxed practice. Rabbis decide where to live according to a mixture of institutional politics and personal choice and a special factor is the requirement to walk to synagogue on the Sabbath and other holy days, an injunction that congregants may expect their rabbi to follow even if they do not. The two interwar rabbis, Samuel and Frank, lived north of the Assiniboine River within easy walking distance, usually less than one kilometre from Shaarey Zedek, although both finished their careers at a two- or three-kilometre distance. In contrast, Rabbi Aron, who came to Winnipeg in 1949, lived seven kilometres away in River Heights. There are hints that most congregants drove to synagogue or used public transportation. [30]

South Enders who did not want to drive to synagogue and could not manage the seven-kilometre round trip made other arrangements. To solve the distance problem, Fort Rouge residents rented a hall for their High Holiday services in the early 1920s and organized after-school Hebrew classes for their children at Gladstone School on Gertrude Street. In 1923, South Enders formed “a congregational church of Jews according to the faith and order and practices of orthodox Jews,” according to the legislative act giving the Fort Rouge Hebrew Congregation legal standing. Beth Sholem (House of Peace) bought property at the corner of Nassau Street and McMillan Avenue from the Roman Catholic Church to hold religious services, after-school religious classes for young people, and social activities such as card-playing. [31]

Rabbi Morton Goldberg from Pittsburgh and Cantor Jacob Albert were hired for High Holidays (Jewish New Year and Day of Atonement) in Fall 1924. The following year, J. A. Raffaeli led the congregation but he does not appear to have stayed long. Rabbi David Savitz left his congregation in Milwaukee, WI, after two years to come to Beth Sholem in 1927, but he appears to have left after only four or five months and Rabbi C. Rubinstein officiated at High Holiday services in 1928. Subsequently, Beth Sholem never managed to hire a permanent rabbi and weekly Sabbath services must have been led by the members, if they were held at all, while professional assistance was sought to lead High Holiday services. The organization of the congregation seems to have faltered and, in 1937, several members bought the Nassau Street building to turn the deed over to Shaarey Zedek, which paid one-third of the purchase price. Shaarey Zedek assumed responsibility for managing the synagogue, hiring Winnipeg Cantor Yoshua Glock to lead High Holy Day services at Beth Sholem in 1937 and Winnipegger Reuben Slonim, a rabbinical student at the Chicago Hebrew Seminary, in another year. The building was sold shortly before Shaarey Zedek moved south to its present location. [32]

Religious services at the Jewish Orphanage might be considered an extension of South End Judaism, since South Enders played a prominent role in establishing and maintaining this North End institution. Like Shaarey Zedek and Beth Sholem, the Orphanage was modern Orthodox in orientation, perhaps tending towards the Conservative movement. Sabbath services were held weekly but the children were allowed to violate Orthodox precepts afterwards by handling money to ride the streetcar and go to the movies. Male staff and orphans wore head coverings only for services. Reflecting North End values, however, Director Aaron Osovsky emphasized the importance of Yiddish and Hebrew to Judaism even though English was the everyday language of the Orphanage. [33]

Unlike the experiences in Toronto, Montreal, and United States cities, Reform Judaism failed to gain a foothold in Winnipeg and its failure is significant for understanding the South End because religious differences provided a clear marker of a broader cultural divide on national origin. German-Jewish immigrants brought Reform Judaism to North America in the 1840s and 1850s and introduced a number of significant innovations that changed some traditional practices and repudiated others. (Reform Judaism has reversed many positions since then. [34] ) A stratum of mostly German-Jewish reform Jews came to live “Uptown” in cities such as Montreal’s Westmount, Toronto’s Forest Hill, and New York’s upper East Side while poorer immigrant “Downtown” Jews lived in Montreal’s Plateau, Toronto’s Kensington Market, and New York’s Lower East Side. Uptown Jews worshipped at Reform “Temples” while Downtown Jews attended traditional Orthodox shuls.

This gap scarcely existed in Winnipeg. Holy Blossom Congregation (1884), named after the Toronto synagogue, was a reform congregation that failed to win enough adherents to sustain itself. Its successor, Shaarey Shomayim (Gates of Heaven, 1907), fared better but gave up after a few years and merged with Shaarey Zedek. Shaarey Shomayim contributed its newly constructed Dagmar Street building to the union and the larger Shaarey Zedek congregation contributed its name. [35] The next reform synagogue in Winnipeg was founded in 1963.

By the early 1900s when a distinct South End was beginning to form, the Jewish economic and social elite in Winnipeg included Jews from Eastern Europe who had prospered in the boom economy of the pre-First World War years. To cite only a few examples, the two families that bought houses on Ruskin Row in Crescentwood were Russian-Jewish by birth and arrived in 1882–1883. The Jew who lived opposite the Manitoba Legislature was born in Manitoba to a Russian-Jewish father who immigrated in 1879 and a Russian-Jewish mother who came in 1882. South Enders David Finkelstein, who developed Old Tuxedo as a Jewish-free neighbourhood (except for himself) around the time of the First World War and Moses Finkelstein, the first Jew to be elected to public office in Manitoba, were also born in the Russian Empire. [36]

Moses Finkelstein (1873–1939) was born in Russia, came to Winnipeg as a child, and became a prominent fur merchant. In 1905, he was the first Jew on Winnipeg’s city council.

Moses Finkelstein (1873–1939) was born in Russia, came to Winnipeg as a child, and became a prominent fur merchant. In 1905, he was the first Jew on Winnipeg’s city council.
Source: Jewish Heritage Centre Archives, JM41

Some of these eastern European Jews endorsed liberal tendencies that made them join the short-lived Reform synagogues and Orthodox synagogues that made allowances for modern life. The ethnicity of the directors who merged Shaarey Shomayim and Shaarey Zedek in 1913 was evenly split between eastern Europeans and central Europeans. [37] Within a few years, the eastern European element came to dominate.

Some American Jews also settled in the South End. Pioneer businessmen like George Frankfurter and David Ripstein were born in Europe and came to Winnipeg after living in the United States for some years. Several American “business travelers,” as the census described them, lived near Broadway in the early part of the century, some accompanied by wives and children. An interesting if atypical example is Russian-born Sam Blumenberg, a socialist and small-business owner, who lived and worked at his Minneapolis Dye Works at 319 Good Street until rampaging veterans wrecked his shop during the General Strike and the Canadian government deported him to the United States as a dangerous radical. [38]

2 Ruskin Row. Built in 1912 for financial agent John Williams, a later occupant of this house was hotel manager Frank Druxerman whose sister-in-law was a Bronfman. During the 1940s, Winnipeg sororities bought the house to use for meetings.

2 Ruskin Row. Built in 1912 for financial agent John Williams, a later occupant of this house was hotel manager Frank Druxerman whose sister-in-law was a Bronfman. During the 1940s, Winnipeg sororities bought the house to use for meetings.
Source: Daniel Stone

Points of Contact Between South End Jews and North End Jews

Moving south did not mean cutting ties with the North End and creating two isolated communities. Visits back and forth were common between North End and South End branches of extended families like the Weidmans. South Enders also went north to buy Jewish foods. Distances were modest and Winnipeg’s network of streetcars made travel easy. Shaarey Zedek synagogue provided a possible meeting place.

Young people of all economic, social, religious, and political stripes met at The Young Men’s Hebrew Association in the city centre. Founded in 1919, the “Y” rented facilities on Main Street until 1935, when the Steinkopf family bought the Imperial Dry Goods Block at 91 Albert Street in today’s Exchange District and fitted it out as a gymnasium and community centre. Throughout the interwar period and beyond, young people travelled, usually by streetcar, to share in a common passion for individual and team sports. Jewish enthusiasm was fuelled by the success of the Y’s baseball, football, rugby, and soccer teams, some of which won city championships. [39] In 1952, the YMHA moved to a spacious building nearby at 370 Hargrave Street, then came south to the newly formed Asper Jewish Community Campus in 1997. [40]

North and South End Jews shared a common concern for organizing and running the Jewish community’s rich institutional structure after the initial fight over charitable organizations ended. The Jewish Orphanage on Matheson Avenue east of Main Street provided a particularly popular focus. The Orphanage not only looked after parentless children but also children of impoverished and ill parents and children from rural areas who came to Winnipeg for a Jewish education. Rabbi Reuben Slonim, who lived in the Orphanage as a youth, warmly recounts that Harry Steinberg, a businessman who lived in the South End, came regularly to the North End orphanage to read Sholom Aleichem stories to children. Other South Enders served on the Board of Directors. Numerous other charities drew community-wide support from institutions such as, to name only a few, the United Hebrew Charities, the Jewish Old-Age Home, Jewish War Relief, Mt. Carmel Clinic, and also the Winnipeg branches of the Canadian Jewish Congress and the National Council of Jewish Women. [41]

Zionism provided another point of contact among Winnipeg Jews since North Enders and South Enders shared the same enthusiasm and worked together to help create and build a Jewish state in Palestine. Political and religious disagreements among Zionists were common, but they did not hinder co-operation in striving to achieve the common goal. Winnipeg had no opposition in principle to Zionism such as existed among some German-American Jewish organizations in the United States, although some of Winnipeg’s richer Jews had reacted coolly at first to Zionism’s fervent idealism. A delegate to the 1924 meeting of the Zionist Organization of Canada observed that Winnipeg delegates represented “all classes and sections of the population, the wealthiest as well as the poorest. They meet with religious regularity [and] they display a degree of enthusiasm and devotion heretofore unsuspected and unhoped for.” [42]

Canadian politics provided some linkage between north and south, as well, despite sharp differences. The North End elected socialist candidates to municipal, provincial, and federal bodies in the interwar period and the South End did not, but the Liberal and Con-servative Parties, which dominated the South End, maintained a pres-ence in the North End as well. The Jewish electorate, north and south, voted Liberal be-fore the 1919 Gen-eral Strike and the Liberals remained competitive in the North End after-wards, even when they regularly lost to socialist candi-dates. Liberal S. Hart Green won election to the Manitoba Legislature from a North End constituency in 1911 and remained active for many years. There may have been more non-socialist Jewish voters than socialist between the two world wars, as Gerald Tulchinsky, the leading historian of the Canadian Jewish community, suggests. Conservative William Tobias who lived in the city centre, a war hero of the First World War, won a city-wide election for the Manitoba legislature in 1927. In 1935, in the depths of the Depression, the Liberal candidate, Col. Charles Stephen Booth, a Gentile, came second to socialist incumbent A. A. Heaps in the North End, and defeated Heaps in 1940. Booth appealed somewhat unfairly to Jewish eagerness to help the war effort. Booth was supported by young Jewish business people and professionals. [43]

Sam Rosner (1870–1952), centre, became a prominent businessman and Mayor at Plum Coulee before he moved to Winnipeg. One of his six daughters married Samuel Bronfman, who later created a business empire.

Sam Rosner (1870–1952), centre, became a prominent businessman and Mayor at Plum Coulee before he moved to Winnipeg. One of his six daughters married Samuel Bronfman, who later created a business empire.
Source: Jewish Heritage Centre Archives, JM1251

Everyday Life in the South End

Overt anti-Semitism does not appear to have been a problem in the South End, although South End Jews remained relatively isolated with few non-Jewish close friends in their own neighbourhoods, fragmentary anecdotal evidence suggests. South End Jews tended to socialize with Jews who lived nearby. Unlike rougher parts of the city where fistfights between Jews and non-Jews were common in schoolyards, South End Jewish children rarely encountered anything more than an occasional taunt. For the most part, Jewish and non-Jewish children played together and attended school dances. Saidye Rosner Bronfman reported enjoying school dances and other social activities as well as specifically Jewish social groups. Family ties remained very important, extending to relatives in the North End. [44]

Some Jews lived in proximity to other Jews. The Weidman family bought houses within a few blocks of each other in West Broadway / Wolseley and then, several years later, in Crescentwood / River Heights. Several Jewish families owned houses on the 200 block of Garfield Street, on the 400 block of Wardlaw Avenue, and on the 800 and 900 blocks of McMillan Avenue. The Wellington Apartments and the St. Elmo Apartments had several Jewish tenants each. Everyone ate traditional Jewish foods and many homes kept kosher. [45]

Despite their relative affluence, wives and children in the South End often worked at modest clerical positions in family businesses or worked for wages elsewhere. For example, Saidye Rosner worked for several months as a typist in the Winnipeg office of the Red Rose Tea Co. before she became engaged to Sam Bronfman and left the workforce at his request. [46] Many wives continued to hold down jobs, however. Mona Ripstein worked at different times as a cashier and a stenographer while her husband pursued his career as a grain broker, and Jacob Udow, who lived in the Wellington Apartments, hired family members for minor positions in his firm, Boston Clothing. Sadie Morgenstern taught school while her husband, David, owned a meat business. Ethel Gotlieb worked as a stenographer in her husband’s business, Empire Auto. Irene and Ruth Frankfurter commuted from their home on Montrose Street to the Hudson’s Bay store to work as clerks.

As noted above, many South End Jews were very active in Jewish community affairs. Some joined South End constituency associations of the Liberal and Conservative Parties.

147 West Gate. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, Sir Charles Tupper’s mansion in the exclusive Armstrong’s Point enclave was rented by London-born and Saskatchewan-raised grain-trader Maxwell Heppner (1881–1957).

147 West Gate. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, Sir Charles Tupper’s mansion in the exclusive Armstrong’s Point enclave was rented by London-born and Saskatchewan-raised grain-trader Maxwell Heppner (1881–1957).
Source: Daniel Stone


A large majority of Winnipeg Jews lived in the North End before the Second World War but a South End community also existed. Jews lived in the central core north of Portage Avenue and followed the city’s growth to the new residential districts before the First World War. As these areas developed, Jews lived between Portage Avenue and the Assiniboine River and in Fort Rouge. What is known today as the South End Jewish community took shape south of the Assiniboine River in Crescentwood and River Heights in the first half of the twentieth century. These areas attracted businessmen and professionals, although labourers and small-business owners could also be found.

Fragmentary evidence fails to identify why some Jews moved south while others, equally successful, preferred to move into the attractive neighbourhoods in the North End. There were no fundamental differences between the two groups. Both came from eastern European stock and shared the same religious, linguistic, and culinary traditions. Family ties and institutional ties united Jews from different parts of the city. Overt anti-Semitism was rare in the South End but, by choice or by necessity, the social life of South End Jews focused mainly on other Jews and Jewish institutions.

The primary identifying factor of South End Jews before the Second World War appears to be their earlier immigration to Canada and their degree of comfort in an English-speaking environment. As time passed, more Jews came south and there was little difference between South and North by 1945. These factors probably underlie the rapid expansion of Jewish life in the South End since that time.

Max J. Finkelstein (1882–1960) came to Winnipeg as a child, became a successful lawyer, and served on the
boards of several Jewish and non-Jewish organizations.

Max J. Finkelstein (1882–1960) came to Winnipeg as a child, became a successful lawyer, and served on the
boards of several Jewish and non-Jewish organizations.
Source: Jewish Heritage Centre Archives, JM1731


1. Arthur A. Chiel, The Jews of Manitoba. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1961, p. 135; Harry Gutkin with Mildred Gutkin, The Worst of Times, The Best of Times: Growing Up in Winnipeg’s North End. Markham, ON: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 1987, p. 7; Allan Levine, Coming of Age: A History of the Jewish People of Manitoba. Winnipeg: Heartland, 2010, pp. 105, 406. Chiel defined the South End as River Heights, which was correct for 1961 but premature for 1911. There is a large literature on the North End. For example: Gutkin The Worst of Times, The Best of Times and Jewish Radicalism in Winnipeg, 1905–1960, ed. Daniel Stone. "Winnipeg: Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada", 2002, Jewish Life and Times, vol. 8, and, more generally, Russ Gourluck, The Mosaic Village: An Illustrated History of Winnipeg’s North End. Winnipeg: Great Plains Publications, 2010. See also Harvey H. Herstein, “The Growth of the Winnipeg Jewish Community and the Evolution of its Educational Institutions,” Manitoba Historical Society, Series 3, Number 22, 1965-66 Season, (accessed 29 June 2014).

2. Moses Finkelstein, History of the Jews of Winnipeg. Chicago: The Reform Advocate, 1911, p. 23; Chiel, p. 135.

3. Levine, p. 148.

4. Levine, pp. 167-168.

5. The original handwritten census forms along with transcribed summaries can be seen at: (accessed 29 June 2014).

6. Chiel, pp. 10–41ff; Levine, p. 35; Alan Artibise, Winnipeg: An Illustrated History. Toronto: Lorimer and National Museums of Canada, 1977, pp. 38–78.

7. Louis Rosenberg, A Study of the Growth and Changes in the Distribution of the Jewish Population of Winnipeg, 1961. Montreal: Bureau of Social and Economic Research, Canadian Jewish Congress, c1963, p. 16; and (accessed 6 March 2012).

8. Artibise, Illustrated History, p. 207. For discussions of the Jewish population in the twentieth-first century, see “Census Date Raises Question in Winnipeg,” Canadian Jewish News, 30 June 2014, (accessed 30 June 2014).

9. Artibise, Illustrated History, p. 207.

10. Chiel, pp. 89–91; Herstein “educational institutions” on-line.

11. Levine, Coming of Age, pp. 126–127, 165–166. Restrictive covenants and so-called gentlemen’s agreements prevented sale of property to Jews in Canada until 1950 when the Canadian Supreme Court decided the case of Noble and Wolf vs. Alley in favour of the Jewish plaintiffs. (accessed 22 June 2014). Louis Rosenberg, A Population Study of the Winnipeg Jewish Community. Bureau of Social and Economic Research: Canadian Jewish Congress: Montreal, 1946, p. 14.

12. Artibise, Illustrated History, pp. 149–150; “Hudson’s Bay Company Reserve,” (accessed 24 November 2013).

13. Rosenberg, “A Population Study,” pp. 11–12; Artibise, Winnipeg: A Social History of Urban Growth. Montreal: Mc-Gill-Queen’s University Press, 1975, p. 157.

14. Chiel, p. 85 identifies the board members, and their residences can be found in Henderson’s Directory and the 1911 census.

15. Marjorie Gillies, Street of Dreams: The Story of Broadway, Western Canada’s First Boulevard. Winnipeg: Heartland, 2001, pp. 50–57; Russ Gourluck, Going Downtown: A History of Winnipeg’s Portage Avenue. Winnipeg: Great Plains Publications, 2006, p. 12.

16. Artibise, Urban Growth, p. 157.

17. Randy R. Rostecki, Armstrong’s Point: A History. Winnipeg: The Heritage Winnipeg Corporation, 2009, pp. 159, 221.

18. Artibise, Urban Growth, pp. 165–169; Randy R. Rostecki, Crescentwood: A History. Winnipeg: Crescentwood Home Owners Association, 1993; Walter E. Bradley, “History of Transportation in Winnipeg,” MHS Transactions, Series 3, 1958-59 season (accessed 27 November 2012).

19. The phrase, “Winnipeg’s first suburb,” comes from Rostecki, Crescentwood. p. 19; Saidye Rosner Bronfman, Recollections of My Life. Privately printed, 1986, p. 129.

20. Bronfman, Recollections, p. 129.

21. Rostecki, Crescentwood, p.23.

22. Louis Rosenberg, Canada’s Jews. A Social and Economic Study of the Jews in Canada in the 1930s, ed. Morton Weinfeld. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1961, pp. 162, 185–193.

23. Census material and oral history interviews with Dr. Allan Klass, tapes 194 and 396, Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada archive.

24. David Rudavsky, Modern Jewish Religious Movements. New York: Behrmann, 1979, pp. 378–380; Richard Menkis, “Reform Judaism in Canada,” Canada’s Jews In Time, Space and Spirit, ed. Ira Robinson. Boston: Academic Studies Press, 2013, pp. 296–97.

25. Goldie Gelmon Weatherhead, Congregation Shaarey Zedek: One Hundred Years. Winnipeg: Shaarey Zedek Synagogue, 1990, pp. 24–37; Jodi Giesbrecht, “Chief Israel Rabbi Isaac Kahanovitch: His National Significance,” Jewish Life and Times: A Collection of Essays, Agnail Greenberg and Daniel Stone, eds., Winnipeg: Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada, 1983, vol. IX, pp. 58–71.

26. Geoffrey Alderman, Modern British Jewry. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992, pp. 216–218.

27. Weatherhead, pp. 62–63; Herbert J. Samuels in “Memorable Manitobans”, (accessed 17 July 2014).

28. Provincial Archives of Manitoba, Shaarey Zedek Congregation, Board of Management Minutes, 9 September 1935; Weatherhead, p. 32.

29. Weatherhead, p. Interview with Rabbi Alan Green.

30. Weatherhead, p. 15.

31. Bronfman, Recollections, p. 129; Weatherhead, p. 15; Israelite Press, 21 November 1921; Act to Incorporate “The Fort Rouge Hebrew Congregation,” 12 April 1923, Bill #48, Jewish Heritage Centre Archives 492. File -01. Ms. 8464; Archives of Manitoba, Shaarey Zedek Congregation Board of Management minutes, 31 December 1922.

32. Archives of Manitoba, Shaarey Zedek Congregation Board of Management minutes, 16 January, 9 February, 10 June, and 8 July 1937; Reuben Slonim, Great to Be an Orphan. Toronto: Clarke Irwin, 1983, pp. 182, 188, 195; Israelite Press, 11 November 1927, 3 January 1928 and 9 October 1928; Milwaukee County, Jewish Congregations to 1963, (accessed 6 September 2014).

33. Slonim, pp. 34, 184.

34. Rudavsky, pp. 298–308.

35. Chiel, pp. 83–85; Weatherhead, pp. 42–43, 62–63.

36. Henry Trachtenberg. “Weidman, Hiram (Chaim) Leib; 1862–1933” and Mordecai S.” Encyclopaedia Judaica. 2nd ed. Vol. 20, p. 698. Gale Virtual Reference Library (accessed 30 June, 2014); “Memorable Manitobans,” Manitoba Historical Society website: David R. Finkelstein, Moses Finkelstein, (accessed 22 June 2014)

37. Chiel, p. 85 and 1911 census records. Thus, the synagogues did not represent “the divisions” between the German-Anglos and the Russians: Levine, p. 131

38. Rising to the Occasion: A Community History of Wolseley, West Broadway & Armstrong’s Point. Winnipeg, 2000, p. 69; T. Peterson, “Ethnic and Class Politics in Manitoba” in Martin Robin (ed.), Canadian Provincial Politics. Scarborough, ON: Prentice-Hall, 1972, p. 81.

39. Historic Buildings Committee, “91 Albert Street. Imperial Dry Goods Block,” (accessed 21 February 2012); Chiel, pp. 110–111; Levine, pp. 201–207. For details on sporting activities, see Leible Hershfield, The Jewish Athlete: A Nostalgic View. Winnipeg: self-published, 1980.

40. Levine, pp. 399, 406.

41. Chiel, pp. 129-152; Reuben Slonim, Great to Be an Orphan. Toronto: Clarke Irwin, 1983, pp. 14, 20, 24; Chiel, pp. 128–152ff; Levine, pp. 172–75; Sharon Graham, “The Jewish Orphanage,” a paper presented to the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada on 11 February 2014.

42. Quoted in Levine, pp. 182, 186; Chiel, pp. 153–67.

43. Gerald Tulchinsky, Branching Out: The Transformation of the Canadian Jewish Community. Toronto: Stoddart, 1998, p. 9; Peterson, pp. 78-84. For details, see Henry Trachtenberg, “The Winnipeg Jewish Community and Politics: the Inter-War Years, 1919–1939,”Manitoba Historical Society Transactions, Series 3, Number 35, 1978–79 Season. (accessed 27 June 2014).

44. Bronfman, Recollections, pp. 23, 33; Bronfman, My Sam, p. 19; Oral History tape #396 by Dr. Alan Klass, personal interviews with Dr. Martin Weidman and community leader Marjorie Rady Blankstein.

45. Interviews with Marjorie Blankstein and Donald Weidman. Oral history tape by Alan Klass.

46. Bronfman, Recollections, p. 34.

We thank S. Goldsborough for assistance in preparing the online version of this article.

Page revised: 2 April 2020

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