Historic Sites of Manitoba: Winnipeg Hebrew Free School (Talmud Torah) / German Society Building (121 Charles Street, Winnipeg)
This building at the intersection of Charles Street and Flora Avenue in Winnipeg was built at a cost of about $65,000 to accommodate a Hebrew Free School (Talmud Torah) for the religious education of children from the city’s Jewish community. Instigated by Rabbi Israel Kahanovitch, and designed by local architect Max Blankstein, its cornerstone was laid at a ceremony on 28 July 1912 attended by over 2,000 people as well as the Board of Management: R. S. Robinson (President), A. Berg (Vice-President), A. Milnet (Treasurer), L. Cherniak (Secretary), S. Budnitsky (Collector), and members of the executive council: H. Portigal, T. Finkelstein, M. Finkelstein, M. Steinkopf, S. A. Ripstein, A. Skaletar, L. Seipp, D. Ripstein, P. Lechtzier, A. Cherniak, L. Berger, J. I. Chmelnitsky, B. Zimmerman, H. Weidman, I. Jacobson, A. Asofsky, and S. Shore.
On the first floor of the two-storey brick and stone building were classrooms, two meeting halls, boardroom, and library. A large auditorium on the second floor had room for 1,500 people and was used for services on the Sabbath and holidays, and a place for lectures, meetings, weddings, conferences, and concerts. In the basement was a classroom, caretaker’s room, store rooms, and heating plant. Opened in 1913, classes were held between 4:30 and 8:30 PM on weekdays, and on Sunday mornings. The facility was also used by various other organizations and clubs. Considered at one time to be among the three best Talmud Torahs in North America (the others being in New York City and Boston), by 1923 a satellite school had been opened in a new one-storey building at the corner of Andrews Street and Magnus Avenue.
The facility was closed in 1951 as it became clear the site was no longer convenient for a large segment of the Jewish community. The building was sold and renovated for use by the German Society of Winnipeg.
“Lay corner stone of Hebrew School,” Manitoba Free Press, 29 July 1912, page 24.
The Growth of the Winnipeg Jewish Community and the Evolution of its Educational Institutions by Harvey H. Herstein, MHS Transactions, Series 3, Number 22, 1965-1966 Season.
Coming of Age: A History of the Jewish People of Manitoba by Allan Levine, Heartland Associates Inc., Winnipeg, 2009, pages 139-141, 320.
We thank Stan Carbone for providing additional information used here.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 28 February 2016
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