Manitoba Historical Society
     Keeping history alive for over 144 years

The Growth of the Winnipeg Jewish Community and the Evolution of its Educational Institutions

by Harvey H. Herstein

MHS Transactions, Series 3, Number 22, 1965-66 Season

This article was published originally in MHS Transactions 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 As an historical document, the article may contain language and views that are no longer in common use and may be culturally sensitive in nature.

This online version was prepared using Optical Character Recognition software so that spelling and punctuation errors may have occurred inadvertently. If you find any such errors, please inform us, indicating the document name and error.

Please direct all inquiries to

Help us keep
history alive!

I. Introduction

This paper [1] is an account of the growth of the Winnipeg Jewish community and its educational institutions. It is not the concern of this study to compare the merits of one institution with another; such a comparison can serve only as mental gymnastic and no useful end will derive from it.

Jewish schools have always been regarded as communal institutions and as such they reported to the community their progress, needs, problems, and difficulties. The medium for the dissemination of such information was the Yiddish newspaper—The Israelite Press. Since no specific work on Jewish education in Winnipeg had been written, the files of this contemporary newspaper were a major source for this thesis. [2] Other sources used were proceedings of the governing bodies of the Jewish schools, miscellaneous memoirs, articles, speeches of synagogue leaders and educationalists, survey reports, and financial statements of the educational institutions.

Early Jewish education in Winnipeg, essentially religious, was closely linked to the synagogue. It was not till the second decade of this century that secular education was undertaken in Winnipeg. Since synagogues are creations of the community, it is, therefore, essential to trace the emergence of the community that gave rise to the synagogues that pioneered and sustained the first educational efforts. This treatise will first briefly consider the growth of the community and its institutions, the formation of congregations and synagogues, and only then the development of educational institutions.

II. The Growth of the Winnipeg Jewish Community Synagogues and Institutions

The Period up to 1905

Religious institutions. Prior to 1882, there was only a handful of Jews living in Winnipeg. [3] Most of these were engaged in the fur trade with St. Paul, Minnesota, or else followed the construction of the railroad and did business with the railway workers. What was the background of these early settlers? The fur traders were largely from Alsace-Lorraine, the others were of both German and eastern European origin. They were too busy establishing themselves economically in the new environment, and too few in numbers to develop any effective communal life. Their religious needs were looked after in a most rudimentary manner; religious services were conducted in a rented hall for the High Holidays, [4] and a part-time shochet [5] supplied them with kosher [6] fowl. These Jews leaned towards Reform Judaism, [7] a type of Judaism away from the traditional, through which they hoped to integrate themselves into the Canadian way of life. Through Reform Judaism they sought to destroy the gentile’s preconceived concept of the “typical” Jew.

Jewish settlement in Winnipeg can be regarded to have begun with the arrival of twenty-four Russian Jews on May 26, 1882, and followed, shortly after, on 1 June, by an additional two hundred and forty-seven. [8]

Russian Jews took up the wanderer’s staff in a mass exodus from the land of oppression and persecution to escape pogroms—Czarism’s answer to the revolutionary movement that culminated in the assassination of Alexander II, in 1881. Jews spread over Europe and many found their way to America—the land of hope, promise, and opportunity. It was fortuitous that the pogroms in Russia coincided with a period of great interest displayed in opening the Canadian West for settlement; some of the wandering Jews found their way to Winnipeg.

These newcomers, while they looked for employment or waited for the land on which they were to settle, were temporarily housed in wooden immigration barracks of the federal government. In the barracks, they lived in filth and squalor. They were engaged in work to which they were not accustomed—unloading lumber boats, railway construction, digging ditches, and laying sewer pipes. A few of the women worked as domestics in Christian homes. [9]

The Russian Jews, upon their arrival, found a lack of Jewish institutions. A place of worship was a primary requirement; a synagogue was a matter of urgency. Even within the confines of the squalid immigration barracks, regular Sabbath services were conducted. [10] The recent immigrants turned their energies toward establishing a synagogue, and their efforts found a respondent chord in the hearts of some of the earlier settlers in whom orthodox feelings were awakened. Thus the immigrants replenished the barren Jewish religious life in Winnipeg.

The small Jewish community was soon divided between the Reformed and the Orthodox and each group founded its own synagogues. By 1890, several moderate groups combined and founded the Shaarey Zedek synagogue. [11] The modus vivendi arranged in this union was short-lived and the uneasy truce that existed between the opposing orthodox factions—Sephardic and Ashkenazic [12]—was broken. The Sephardic minority broke away and, in 1893, formed the Rosh Pina [13] congregation which appealed to the traditional and orthodox elements, especially to the new immigrants.

Neither the Shaarey Zedek nor the Rosh Pina experienced a period of tranquility. In the former, agitation kept up all through the 1890s by a dissident group wishing to extirpate the last vestiges of traditionalism within the Shaarey Zedek and to modernize the services so that they might appeal to the young generation, born and raised in Canada. In 1904, the Holy Blossom Congregation, a Reform congregation, was established. It soon became evident that Winnipeg Jewry did not accept Reform Judaism, and the newly-created congregation modified its extreme Reformism and changed its name to Shaarey Shomayim Congregation [14] (to remove the stigma of super-modernism associated with its former name).

The Rosh Pina was affected by the move of the Jewish population northward to the area immediately north of the Canadian Pacific Railway main line which forms the southern limit of North Winnipeg, commonly referred to as the North-End. The life of a Jew in this new district was divided-his heart was in the synagogue in the south, whereas his occupation and dwelling were in the north. The North Enders felt uncomfortable in the Rosh Pina where the more prosperous South-End [15] Jews exercised control over the synagogue. Towards the end of the last century, Rumanian Jews arrived in Winnipeg and settled in the North-End. Orthodox Jews built a large synagogue, Beth Jacob, [16] in 1904, in the heart of the ever-growing Jewish community in the North-End. [17]

Communal institutions. The early Jewish immigrants were poor and suffered privation while they were striking roots in the new land. Soon after their arrival they organized their own [18] charity and benevolent societies to help each other as well as their co-religionists in eastern Europe. The economic depression of 1904 struck the Jewish community and left many of its unemployed on the verge of starvation. The fledgling Jewish charity institutions strained their resources and stood the test with which these difficult times confronted them.

The Jews of Winnipeg, after they became somewhat established, began to expand their activities into other fields. The first Jewish sports club, the Young Hebrew Social Assembly, dates back to 1895 (it reconstituted itself as the Young Men’s Hebrew Association in 1899). Zionism, the solution to the “Jewish problem” in a Jewish national homeland in Palestine, found expression in Winnipeg, in 1898, with the founding of the Zionist Society. In the 1890s, travelling Jewish theatrical companies performed before Winnipeg audiences. In 1904, a Yiddish theatre, composed of local talent, was organized under the name of Jewish Operatic Society to present plays, musicals, and variety shows.

The early Jewish immigrants valued and appreciated the privileges that democracy accorded them in the new land, for in the countries of their origin democratic practices were non-existent. Politics, however, concerned them little for they were almost wholly absorbed in the struggle for existence. In 1895, for the first time, a Jewish candidate (Louis Wertheim) contested an aldermanic seat in Winnipeg. He was unsuccessful in his bid, but it marked the beginning of Jewish political activity in Winnipeg. In 1904, Winnipeg elected its first Jewish alderman (Moses Finkelstein). This was a significant event for it demonstrated to both believers and skeptics the efficacy inherent in the democratic system.

In 1896, the Independent Jewish Political Club was organized as a forum where candidates of the two main political parties could present their views to the Jewish voters. In a very short time, the club fell apart and from it emerged the Jewish Conservative Club and the Jewish Liberal Club. It was clear that Winnipeg Jews were not to be counted upon to vote as a block, nor was there to be a “Jewish vote.” Jews, like their fellow-citizens, cast their ballots for personalities and issues, and no one person could honestly claim to supply or deliver the “Jewish vote.”

In summary, this period can be said to have witnessed the rise of synagogues and institutions which became the foundation for the future growth and development of the Winnipeg Jewish community.

The Period from 1905 Onward

Religious institutions. Events in Russia in 1904-1905—the Russo-Japanese War, revolution, counter-revolution, and pogroms—set off another wave of mass emigration of Jews similar to the one of 1882. Many Jews came to Canada and a number of them found their way to Winnipeg. [19] Again the orthodox element of the new arrivals strengthened Jewish religious life.

During this period when orthodox Jewry flourished in the North End, the South-End synagogues experienced a falling off in attendance. The two congregations—Shaarey Shomayim and Shaarey Zedek—merge in 1913, under the name Shaarey Zedek, to attend to the spiritual needs of the South-End Jews. It became a bastion of traditional, but at the same time, progressive Judaism in Winnipeg, where services were conducted in English by ordained rabbis, graduates from rabbinical seminaries in the United States.

As the Jewish population grew, a number of smaller congregations sprang up. These had common characteristics: they were located in the North-End, they were orthodox, and they catered to the members of their own congregation and generation. The rigidity of orthodoxy allowed no flexibility for adaptation to changing conditions; it was a deliberate, self-contained isolation and detachment from the outside stream of life to which their children were exposed. Orthodoxy wanted to preserve the old by shutting out the new, but the younger generation, born and raised in Canada, did not accept the doctrines which added richness to the lives of their parents. In time, death thinned the ranks of the older generation and many of the synagogues ceased to exist. Of the fifteen orthodox synagogues founded between 1906 and 1932, only seven remain today.

As older synagogues went out of existence, others, in newer sections of the city, came into being. In the North-End, the centre of concentration of a diminishing [20] Jewish population moved steadily northward, and with each successive move synagogues were established in the new neighbourhoods. In 1952, the new Rosh Pina synagogue [21] was the last synagogue to be built in north Winnipeg. As the Jewish population spilled over into West Kildonan, a suburb bordering the northern limit of Winnipeg, the B’nai Abraham congregation built its synagogue there, in 1958. [22] With the steady growth of the Jewish population in West Kildonan the Chevra Mishnayos congregation erected a synagogue in 1965 in Garden City, [23] a new district situated in the north-west section of West Kildonan.

The Jewish community in the South-End experienced a similar growth pattern. In the 1940s, an increasing number of Jews moved southward across the Assiniboine River into the area of the city known as River Heights. The Shaarey Zedek built a new synagogue in 1950, [24] closer to the neighbourhood of its membership. As in West Kildonan, the population kept on growing and yet another congregation was born, the Adas Yeshurun synagogue, [25] in 1955.

Communal institutions. The east European Jews brought with them traditions of community self-help organizations. In the new land they developed a plethora of organizations and associations, especially landsmanshaften—benevolent societies—whose members were usually from the same towns or districts in Europe. These organizations provided help to individual members and also to their townsfolk in the old country. Only among landsleit—newcomers from the same town or district—would one find kindred, understanding souls and help in time of need. When mass immigration was at its peak, these societies were the most important units of Jewish community organizations.

Charity work went on constantly because many of the immigrants lived in perpetual poverty. At the same time, persecution in eastern Europe touched the hearts of Winnipeg Jews for their co-religionists and relatives in Europe. By 1909, splinter groups involved in philanthropy and relief work combined into a single organization, the United Hebrew Charities. Soon, the North-Enders claimed that the leadership was in the hands of the rich South-Enders who administered the funds, the majority of which was raised by the larger Jewish population of the North-End. In 1911, a rift occurred, the North-End Relief Society was formed, and Winnipeg Jewry had two charity organizations.

The desperate state of the poor forced some to seek help from non Jewish agencies. This evoked a protest and plea in the Jewish press:

Our entire attention must be devoted that not one Christian dollar should enter into Jewish charities and that no Jewish needy should have to turn to Christians or to Christian institutions. [26]

When it was found that poor Jews sought free medical aid from a Christian missionary society, the Jewish community established the Free Jewish Dispensary, in 1915, where Jewish doctors and nurses ministered to the sick, free of charge. It was felt that the needs of the Jewish community should not burden the community at large but should be looked after by Jews or Jewish institutions.

World War I created additional needs to be looked after by charity. Needy Jews in Winnipeg and Jews in Europe, uprooted by the war, had to be helped. The South-Enders, on the whole, were unresponsive to the call for help, and this further widened the gap between the two communities. As late as 1915, the Jewish newspaper carried this item:

Jews from the south side of the subway, you must open your hearts and your pocketbooks for your unfortunate brothers and sisters if you do not want your names to remain blackened with shame. [27]

Success was finally attained when in early 1916, the whole Winnipeg Jewish community shouldered the burden of relief for the European Jews.

The year 1915 was a time of consolidation of Jewish organizations. It became obvious that disunion, duplications, and lack of coordination plagued the community. Communal workers realized that in order to act as a community, differences had to be resolved and compromises made.

The rift that existed for several years within the religious community over the control of kosher meat was healed. There were short periods of peace, but for all intents and purposes only an uneasy truce existed. Sporadic quarrels broke out in later years. It was not till 1946 that this problem was solved when the Jewish Welfare Fund took over the supervision of kosher meat.

The two existing charity organizations combined into the United Relief of Winnipeg. It was in existence till 1937, when it was absorbed by the all-embracing Jewish Welfare Fund, an organization that introduced fundraising on a federated basis, and allocated money for various institutions and causes on the basis of a carefully prepared budget. [28] The Jewish Welfare Fund was established to eliminate a multiplicity of campaigns, duplication and waste, and to coordinate many institutions and organizations.

The Winnipeg Jewish community began to establish lasting communal institutions. An orphans’ home that had its beginning in 1912, operated until 1948. An Old Folks’ Home, also started in 1912, is still in existence today. Free medical care for the needy, started by the Free Jewish Dispensary in 1915, continued and culminated in the establishment of the Mount Carmel Clinic [29] in 1929. Although it never reached the dimensions of a hospital, the clinic has provided, through the years, free medical care and some prescriptions for needy Jews and non-Jews. Jewish doctors volunteered their services and the clinic has had its doors open to all needy, regardless of race, nationality, or religion.

Cultural and political ferment in the Jewish community characterized this period. With the stream of new immigrants flowed also all the ideas that were present in eastern Europe in those days. Politics captured the imagination of the Jewish community and all political opinions found expression in the community. The newspapers of the period carried announcements of meetings, discussions, lectures, debates, and forums of all these groups. There were socialists of all varieties, from the extreme radical left to the right where they were indistinguishable from the liberals (with a small “1”); Zionists of all cuts socialists, radicals, moderates, and reactionaries; Hebraists who belittled Yiddish as the language of the ghetto, and Yiddishists who frowned on Hebrew as the “dead” language of the Scriptures and the past; Liberals and Conservatives who plunged into the political arena; nationalists and internationalists; and a sprinkling of anarchists. In later years, especially in the 1930s, Zionist youth organizations flourished. There were groups that spanned the complete spectrum of political orientation—from the extreme socialist left to the equally extreme nationalist right. The women’s branches of the Zionist groups—Hadassah, Pioneer Women, and Mizrachi Women—channeled their efforts to practical aid to Palestine.

It was also a period of cultural activity. There were numerous cultural and literary organizations, clubs of Jewish university students, literary forums of the various Jewish schools, and cultural work by the B’nai Brith for its membership. The Queen’s Theatre, the home of Yiddish theatre, [30] flourished for many years and only the economic depression of the 1930s brought it to an end. The Jewish Community Choir and the Jewish Community Orchestra enriched Jewish life in Winnipeg through music. In the field of sports, the Young Men’s Hebrew Association carried on widespread activities. [31]

A growing community required an organ through which it could be informed of Jewish happenings in the community and in the world. This brought about the birth of the Jewish press. On 23 September 1910, the first issue of The Canadian Israelite, [32] a weekly Yiddish publication, rolled off the presses. From the beginning it became a nonpartisan paper, free of political ties, and served as a mentor and a medium for the stimulation and precipitation of public opinion within the Jewish community. It is a tribute to the founders that they continued to publish an excellent newspaper which stressed high journalistic, literary, and cultural standards. Unfortunately, this tradition did riot continue, and in time too much stress was laid on advertising and news of local clubs and organizations. At the same time, it should be stated that this paper is still the thread that links the Jewish communities in Western Canada and keeps them informed about events of interest to Jews.

The Anglo-Jewish press—Jewish newspapers published in the English language—also established itself in Winnipeg. The Guardian, first published in 1920 by the Israelite Press, lasted only half a year. In 1925, The Jewish Post and Western Jewish News in 1927, started as weeklies and they are still in existence today. These, however, never reached (perhaps they never aspired to) the journalistic or literary level of The Israelite Press. They do, however, enter many Jewish homes in Western Canada, and they too keep Jews informed about events of interest to Jews.

At this point, an important observation should be injected. The Jewish community in Winnipeg never was a homogeneous, idyllic community living in peace and harmony—in spite of efforts to depict it as such. As early as 1882, when the first Russian Jews were housed in the immigration barracks, the older, established settlers felt uncomfortable because of the presence of the new arrivals in the immigration barracks. They feared that the immigrants, with their eastern European ways, might cause the destruction of the modified Jewish image (they believed they had created), and might revive the preconceived notions of the “typical” Jew in the minds of their Christian neighbours. [33] Some saw in the newcomers a danger to the status so far attained and a barrier to further assimilation into the Canadian life.

This cleavage between the early settlers and the immigrants has existed, in one form or another, throughout succeeding generations. It is true of all times that newly arrived immigrants who managed to advance economically were accepted by the earlier pioneers and their descendants on a level of social equality. It was financial success that bridged the gap between them, but in the main, a division of some sort existed between the two groups of Jewish settlers in Winnipeg.

Intimations of division in the Jewish community often bring forth pious protestations from certain Jewish and non-Jewish quarters. Refutations purport to present a harmonious, idyllic community living in blissful unity. Such is not the case. It could not be so, and it should not be so. Such claims deny existing differences of opinion characteristic of a normal, healthy, vigorous, and active community. The picture of a monolithic community fashioned by a presumably monophyletic group is a phenomenon which is sociologically unacceptable.

This sketchy description of the evolution and development of the Winnipeg Jewish community will serve as a base upon which the edifice of Jewish education will be constructed.

III. Definitions of Terms Used

It is advisable at this point, in order to avoid possible confusion, to define several of the terms that will be referred to in the discussion of Jewish education.


This is a designation of a member of the Jewish people, or an adherent of the Jewish faith. In this paper, the term “Jewish” is used to describe all schools that devote their teaching to Jewish subjects.


It is the language of the Jewish people since ancient times. After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 A.D. by Titus, Hebrew remained the language of the liturgy and the literature. The knowledge of Hebrew has always been an essential requirement of Jewish education-the study of the Bible in the original and a reading knowledge of the Hebrew prayers. The Haskala (Enlightenment movement) and the Zionist movements strove for a revival of Hebrew as a living and spoken language. Hebrew now is the language of the State of Israel.


Yiddish is believed to date back to the tenth or eleventh century. It was the language of Jews in the German provinces of the Rhineland who spoke a local German dialect intermingled with Hebrew expressions. When Jews settled in Poland, the Ukraine, and other eastern European countries, many Slavic words were adopted and included in the language. This mixture of languages, printed and written in Hebrew characters, became the vernacular of Jews of the Western World. [34]

Hebrew Religious Schools

These are Jewish schools in which the language of instruction is Hebrew, or in which the stress is laid on Hebrew. Religious studies form the basis for the curriculum of these schools.

Yiddish Progressive Schools

These are Jewish schools in which the language of instruction is Yiddish. These schools are generally secular, national and right-wing socialist.

Yiddish Socialist Schools

These are Jewish schools in which the language of instruction is Yiddish. These schools are secular and socialist. The socialist orientation is towards either revolutionary socialism or democratic socialism.

Congregational Schools

These are Jewish schools, similar to the Hebrew Religious Schools, but are conducted by synagogue congregations, primarily for the children of their members. However, they do accept children of nonmembers.

IV. Aims and Objectives of the Winnipeg Jewish Schools

The purpose of this section is to present the aims and objectives of the Winnipeg Jewish schools. The inclusion of this information at this juncture will clarify the material to be presented in subsequent sections.

Talmud Torah

Hebrew Religious School

The aims and objectives of the Talmud Torah may be gathered from the following:

  • Jewish history, language and Bible have been and will continue to be the three vital foundation stones of a sound Hebrew education.
  • teach the religious precepts and practices of our forefathers with their tradition of worship and prayers.
  • in the day schools, we provide our students with an English curriculum laid down by the Manitoba Department of Education. [35]

Peretz Folk School

Yiddish Progressive School

The programme of studies stresses the Yiddish and Hebrew languages and literature, Jewish history, religious studies, and current events affecting Jewish life in all parts of the world. Religious studies emphasize the significance rather than the observance of rituals and customs. The day school offers an English curriculum laid down by the Manitoba Department of Education.

Sholem Aleichem School

Yiddish Left-Wing Socialist School

This was a working-class school that stressed socialism and the class-struggle. The aims of the school were ably outlined in the following:

  • to educate a generation which will be linked with the working class with respect and love for its achievements . a generation which will be linked with the Jewish culture . We must, through history, implant in the child the feeling for international brotherhood and solidarity, together with the awareness of its national importance and self-respect. [36]

Shaarey Zedek Religious School [37]

Congregation School

The objectives of this school can be expressed succinctly thus:

  • ...religious, ethical and cultural traditions of Judaism ... To equip the child with knowledge of the Hebrew language ... To impart a knowledge of Jewish history, literature and culture ... an understanding of the contribution of the Jew and Judaism to world civilization. [38]

Now that the groundwork has been cleared, it is possible to proceed with the body of this treatise-the evolution of the Jewish educational institutions in Winnipeg.

V. Hebrew Religious Schools

Talmud Torah

The Jewish settlers of the pre-1882 era were not too concerned about a Jewish education for their children. The parents were satisfied that their children had the opportunity of secular education provided by the public school system. Those who cared, turned to a private, itinerant instructor—melamed [39]—who taught the children, usually the boys (in the afternoon or evening after school) reading, prayers, blessings, preparation for bar-mitzvah, [40] and kaddish. [41] Many of these teachers were incompetent, at the best; the little instruction they gave was as educationally unprofitable to the child as it was financially ungainful to the melamed. The term melamed became to be associated with ineptitude, poverty, and ignorance. Other parents sent their children to a private school—cheder [42]—fashioned after its European prototype with a curriculum transplanted from eastern Europe to the American scene. These schools can be compared to the Dame Schools in England in the early nineteenth century in their scope, facilities, and inadequacy.

The Russian Jews who arrived after 1882 were deeply interested in Jewish education for their children to supplement studies they received in the public schools. From the immigration huts emanated a cry for Jewish education and complaints against the indifference to Jewish education displayed by the earlier settlers. From the squalor, filth, and poverty of the immigration barracks they wrote to Jewish journals:

... One is grieved, however, with things educational and spiritual, which are growing worse daily. Our children wander recklessly about the streets and humiliate us in the eyes of our neighbours. None of us is concerned with engaging teachers for them to give them a religious education or otherwise to establish some schools for them. [43]

Poverty prevented many orthodox parents from giving their children instruction, as inadequate as it was, by a melamed or in a cheder.

Some of the leaders in the Winnipeg Jewish community were aware of the void that existed in Jewish education and in 1891 established the Shaarey Zedek Hebrew School in the Shaarey Zedek Synagogue.

It offered a more systematic education than what pre-dated it, and the school continued for several years before it began to decline, mainly because of the difficulty of retaining teachers at low salaries. But in the main, Jewish education served only a small portion of the Jewish children in Winnipeg.

It was precisely for the education of the poor that the synagogues in America established the Hebrew Free School—Talmud Torah [44]—to transmit Jewish learning and teaching. The synagogue, the most universal Jewish institution, for centuries had the prerogative in education, and the Talmud Torah was to be the vehicle for the transmission of Jewish learning and teaching. This type of school was primarily for the children of the poor and its creation marked an excursion of philanthropy into education. Such schools, organized in grades and classes, used better methods, employed better qualified teachers, and had a wider religious curriculum than the private schools that ante-dated them. Many parents considered the Talmud Torah as a “Charity School” and did not send their children there. Such parents, if they were financially able, engaged reputable private teachers for their children. A class of capable, respected, and well-paid “Hebrew Teachers” (not melamed) appeared in the American Jewish community. Some of these competent teachers opened private schools which were patronized by the children of wealthier parents.

The influx of immigrants from Rumania in the late 1890s, increased the Winnipeg Jewish population and added additional children who received no Jewish education. Responsible leaders set themselves the task of establishing a Talmud Torah. It was to be a communal institution adequate enough to attend to the educational needs of all Jewish children-rich and poor alike; no one was to be barred because of inability to pay tuition fees. The various groups in the community supported the scheme and the school was started in 1901. A year later, a school building was completed on a lot adjoining the Shaarey Zedek Synagogue and the new school was named the King Edward School, in honour of the reigning British monarch, Edward VII.

The school instituted a comprehensive orthodox religious curriculum and conducted all studies in Ivrit B’Anglit—Hebrew through English. During the first few years, the divergent groups within the school organization set aside their differences and the school experienced considerable progress. In time, however, dormant stresses cracked the self-imposed truce that was maintained by the disparate factions. As a result, the school suffered, foundered in dissension and neglect, and finally ceased to function.

An important contributing factor to the decline of the school was the shift of the Jewish population to the North-End and the location of the school proved to be inconvenient. It was a considerable distance for young children to travel to school. Also, the children had to cross a series of railroad tracks of the Canadian Pacific Railway; this worried many parents. Furthermore, many Jews in the North-End felt that the school should be in the heart of the Jewish community and not in the outer periphery of the Jewish quarters. Parents kept their children from the King Edward School, and in time the school seemed to serve the needs of the children of the South-End. Eventually, the school was abandoned.

To some extent, the decline of the school can be attributed to the Zionist group within the school organization. From the outset, some of the Zionist members were not satisfied with either the orthodox curriculum or the methods of instruction. The school taught sufficient fluency in Hebrew for the mechanical reading of the Prayer Book and the Bible, often without understanding the language. Zionists wanted to restore Hebrew as a living, spoken language, to apply modern methods of pedagogy, and to stress Zionism as a way of life. To the Zionists, the King Edward School was a glorified cheder and they were impatient with the antiquated methods and content of studies.

In 1906, the Zionists left the King Edward School and started a congregation of their own, the B’nai Zion Synagogue with a Hebrew school, in the North-End. [45] Hebrew was taught Ivrit B’Ivrit—Hebrew through Hebrew. The school was successful because it was located in the Jewish district and its Zionist orientation appealed to many of the parents, recent immigrants, who had a tradition of Zionism behind them. By 1907, the building was too small to accommodate the many children who wished to attend, and the school administration, financially unable to look after the educational needs of the ever-growing Jewish school population, offered to share Hebrew education with the whole Jewish community. Through the indefatigable efforts of Rabbi Kahanovitch, [46] the Winnipeg Hebrew School—Talmud Torah—was founded. The new school took over the one hundred and fifty students and four teachers of the B’nai Zion School, purchased a building, [47] and carried on a programme of religious Hebrew education.

The new premises soon became inadequate for the increasing number of children attending the Talmud Torah. In 1911, Rabbi Kahanovitch was the driving force behind a plan to build a school, [48] with funds to be raised in the Jewish community. Lack of funds postponed and delayed construction, but two years later the school was finally completed.

It was a spacious two-storey building with classrooms, two meeting halls, a boardroom, and library on the first floor. On the second floor was a large auditorium which was used as a place of worship on the Sabbath and holidays; at other times, it was a meeting place for many Jewish activities—lectures, meetings, festivities, weddings, conferences, concerts, and fund-raising campaigns. The Talmud Torah became the heart of the Winnipeg Jewish community.

Soon differences of opinion on several issues arose. The most serious was the criticism of the administration over the manner in which the Board of Directors exercised its authority over the curriculum of the school. As early as 1912, when the new school was still under construction, the Yiddish newspaper expressed its dissatisfaction:

... Therefore, we reiterate that the question of an educational committee must be answered immediately with a resounding ’yes’ and under no circumstances with a few elderly Jews, but with people who understand pedagogy, learned men who have the time to devote themselves . most important, they must be impartial and have only the good of the Talmud Torah at heart. [49]

This editorial crystallized the collective grievances of the community, and this firm stand gained support of the community. The Talmud Torah deemed it advisable to create a Board of Education to look after the educational programme of the school.

Several other issues arose and their resolution set a pattern that the Talmud Torah has followed ever since. The question of the Hebrew dialect to be used in the school was solved in favour of the Lithuanian pronunciation. The problem of Zionism or traditional Judaism was settled; orthodox religious Zionism—Mizrachi Zionism—which predominated in the Talmud Torah has prevailed since. Another area of disagreement was the demand for Ivrit B’Yiddish—Hebrew through Yiddish. This issue arose from time to time, but the Talmud Torah did not swerve from Ivrit B’Ivrit in spite of the increasing number of Yiddishists in the community.

The Talmud Torah constantly had to cope with financial difficulties. The school continuously operated at a deficit because the financial structure was such that tuition fees accounted for only a portion of the school’s income. Additional funds had to be raised in the Jewish community, that is, the community had to subsidize Jewish education. In times of emergency, the Talmud Torah turned to the community for support. Thus, in 1917, when taxes were overdue the needed funds were raised on a Sunday morning house-to-house collection. In 1918, money was raised to repair the roof that was torn off the school building during a violent storm. In 1923, house-to-house canvassing was resorted to again when an emergency arose. In 1924, to renovate the central Talmud Torah building, the Jewish community was called upon again for help.

The support came forth because the Jewish community assumed the responsibility for education. The Talmud Torah, on its part, followed the tradition of the founders of the King Edward School—no one was to be barred because of inability to pay tuition fees. [50] But it became increasingly evident that something had to be done to raise sufficient funds to put the school on a firm footing. In 1924, a conference was held with representatives of twenty-five Jewish organizations who were asked to undertake the task of supporting the Talmud Torah. The most ambitious financial undertaking was initiated in 1927, to free the Talmud Torah from its debt brought about mainly by the mortgage on the central building. It was a long and arduous campaign that terminated with the burning of the mortgage in 1929.

The school’s precarious financial position of the 1920s worsened in the 1930s. In December 1930, it was announced that the teachers’ salaries had not been paid for three months. An emergency meeting was held to deal with the teachers’ salaries and the accumulated debts. There was the possibility of closing the school. There was talk of even selling the building to pay the debts. The drastic measures were averted when temporary arrangements were made to keep the school from closing.

It was not too long before a new crisis arose and again there was the fear of having to close the school. In 1931, a “Redemption Committee” was set up to raise the required funds. But with the passing of this emergency, the financial troubles did not cease; similar ones arose and they were met in a similar manner. The Talmud Torah realized that it could not exist in a state of constant uncertainty; some permanent solution was necessary to place the institution on stable financial grounds. In 1935, a five-year plan was devised to rid the Talmud Torah, once and for all, of all its debts. It was a long-range plan filled with high aspirations that were never completely fulfilled. However, the fund-raising went on unceasingly and by 1937 the debts of the school were reduced by fifty-six per cent!

Why did the Talmud Torah experience more difficulty in raising funds than did the Peretz School? The latter did not appeal to the community as a whole nor did it contemplate having to close its school. The Yiddish school, supported by the Jewish working masses, grew, had its own building, and functioned with fewer crises. When funds were urgently needed, it turned to the members of its own organization. It was not till the 1930s that the Peretz School made a budget appeal to the Jewish community, but even then most of the contributions came from its own members.

There are several reasons that may explain the Talmud Torah’s situation. Many parents considered the education of their children a communal responsibility—was not the Talmud Torah a Hebrew Free School? Over the years, the policy was to provide education for all, regardless of ability to pay. But this was also true of the Peretz School. [51] In the Talmud Torah there were those who could pay but did not, and when they were pressed, they resented the arbitrary decision as to their ability to pay and threatened to withdraw their children from the school. In the Peretz School, a more responsible attitude existed since the parents realized that the school depended on their support. The wealthier “old timers” whose leadership of the Talmud Torah was often removed and even estranged from the rank and file, contrasted with the Peretz School where, generally, leadership was more accessible to willing workers. Many parents of the Talmud Torah children adopted the attitude that since the school was run by the rich who gained honour and edification for their efforts, then let “them” pay for it! Of course, the economic depression of the 1930s aggravated the financial situation of the Talmud Torah as it did all Jewish schools.

The Talmud Torah was a communal institution—an appropriate monument to the energies and activities of the Winnipeg Jewish population—that gained an enviable reputation in Canada and in the United States. Less brave souls might have faltered and abandoned the school, but the stubborn and determined leaders displayed resolution and faith in their efforts to provide education for Jewish children. Their efforts, together with the devotion and patience of the teachers who stayed at their posts throughout all crises, averted the demise of the Talmud Torah.

Neither deficit financing nor financial crises during the 1920s prevented the school’s expansion. New branches were opened to serve the educational needs of Jewish children in newer districts. As early as 1913, the McGregor Branch School was opened in the Adas Yeshurun Synagogue [52], for those who lived north of the central school. Other branches were started in several districts of the city: in 1918, in the Shaarey Zedek Synagogue on Dagmar Street for the South-End children; in 1920, in a three-storey house [53] for the Elmwood district; in 1921, in the Gladstone School for the Fort Rouge section; and in 1923, in the Champlain School and in 1925, the St. John’s Branch [54] for the northern part of the North-End. Thus the main building and its branches reached the whole Jewish community of Winnipeg and provided Jewish education for all who wanted it.

Emphasis of the Talmud Torah was on a religious curriculum; religion that sustained Jews through centuries of oppression and persecution was to be the link between the past, present, and future. Theoretical speculations whether Judaism was a race, nation, or religion did not worry the school administration; the basic philosophy of the Talmud Torah accepted religion as an integral part of being a Jew. If education was to be the vehicle for the transmission of Judaism, then modern educational methods had to be employed; the ways of the cheder were obsolete. The Talmud Torah instituted more progressive pedagogy, selected suitable textbooks, set official examinations, and insisted on regular attendance-measures to impress the child that the Talmud Torah was a living school, aware of the present and, at the same time, not oblivious to the past.

The content of the six-year course of the evening elementary school had to appeal to the romantic nature of the young in order to instill within the child a desire to know the Hebrew language, the traditions, and the history of its Jewish heritage. This was to be accomplished through education that stressed the literature, the culture, the Torah, and the Hebrew language. The programme of studies was enriched by extra-curricular activities which included Sabbath services for the children conducted by the children with their own cantor and reader of the Torah, bar-mitzvah preparation classes, and various social and educational clubs.

As the school grew, several innovations were introduced. In 1924, a higher post-elementary class was started to accommodate graduates of the elementary school, a kindergarten was opened, and a Mutter Farein—an association of the mothers—was formed. In 1926, two grades of English day school were inaugurated—the beginning of day school in the Talmud Torah. It was also in 1926 that singing—an activity long neglected—was included in the curriculum.

In 1923, the Board of Education enunciated a new policy—Yiddish, as a subject, would be taught once a week. This was a concession to the many parents who expressed their wish to have their children taught Yiddish. In subsequent years, a new trend was discernible in the Talmud Torah’s approach to Yiddish studies—it abandoned the long-held view that Yiddish, the language of the ghetto, had no place in the Talmud Torah curriculum. In 1930, at a conference, the Board of Directors was blamed for the declining enrolment in the school. [55] The Board informed the meeting that parents wanted more Yiddish instruction even at the expense of religious studies; perhaps a revision of the curriculum in this direction would check the indifference of parents to Jewish education. This evoked protest from those who lived with an eye to the past—often deploring its passing—who warned that Yiddish would supplant Hebrew and thus change not only the outer form but also the whole foundation of the Talmud Torah. No significant changes were instituted in the Yiddish studies, but the Board’s attitude was a significant departure that may be attributed to the impact of the Yiddish progressive schools.

Since 1937, a period of comparative peace has been observed in the Talmud Torah. Frictions and dissension seemed to have faded away; the members applied themselves to the task of putting the school on a firm footing. In 1938, the Talmud Torah affiliated itself with the Jewish Welfare Fund and it has since received financial support for its educational programme. [56] Over the years, a Hebrew-English day school has grown into a seven-grade school which has become the mainstay of the Talmud Torah. While the enrolment in this school has increased from year to year, there has been a tendency to a decrease in the enrolment of the evening school. [57]

The Talmud Torah was sensitive and alert to the further shift of the Jewish population, northward and into the suburb of West Kildonan, and southward into River Heights. The school moved with the moving population. In 1940, a branch was opened in the Jewish Orphanage building in the North-End; the Magnus Avenue branch closed in 1947 when Jews left this area; [58] a branch was opened in the South-End. With succeeding years it became apparent that the location of the central Talmud Torah had become more and more removed from the concentration of the Jewish population further north.

It was at that time, in 1949, that Rabbi Dr. Abraham S. Kravetz arrived in Winnipeg to assume his position as Chief Rabbi, principal of the Talmud Torah, and spiritual leader of its synagogue. He played a decisive role in the physical expansion of the Talmud Torah and in the extension of Hebrew education to high school and university levels. It was he who attracted a group of devoted workers who put forth great efforts for the Talmud Torah. It was they who injected into the Talmud Torah a vitality that had been lacking for many years. They plunged themselves not only into fund raising but also into the educational and cultural tasks of the school. They were instrumental in instituting improved methods of instruction, in elevating Hebrew to a position of a spoken language, and in placing the Hebrew language at the heart of the school curriculum. This was a period of great enthusiasm and progress. The Parent-Teachers’ Association was active in raising funds for a new building in the north section of the city, to serve Jewish children in that area and in West Kildonan; it was completed in 1952. [59] The two old buildings were sold, and all the branches of the school in the North-End moved into the new building.

What is a most encouraging phenomenon is the acceptance of responsibility and leadership by the Parent-Teachers’ Association, many of whose members are former students or graduates of the Talmud Torah. They have added a youthful vigour and enthusiasm to this long established educational institution, yet have not detracted from its basic philosophy. The existence of the State of Israel heightened the emphasis on the Hebrew language so much, that Yiddishists complained that the amplification of Hebrew had crowded the limited amount of Yiddish in the Talmud Torah curriculum into an even more circumscribed space. It is undeniable that Hebrew has captured the imagination of the Talmud Torah members; the Talmud Torah curriculum is moored to the Hebrew language. The aim of the Talmud Torah, fundamentally, has not changed. The new generation is perpetuating the goals set by the founders; a thorough grounding in the Bible, the teaching of the Hebrew language, and the identification of the child with his traditions and heritage. It has always been the hope of the leaders of the Talmud Torah that its graduates would be educated, intelligent, and informed Jews—indispensable for good Canadian citizenship.

Herzlia Academy

The growth of the Jewish population in River Heights was primarily due to the North-Enders who moved there. [60] These newcomers into the district, many of whom had attended Jewish schools, had a need for such schools for their children. By 1949, sixty-five children attended a branch of the Talmud Torah in River Heights. Parents who favoured progressive Yiddish education, started in 1953 a branch of the Peretz School—the River Heights School for Jewish Children. It obtained permission of the Winnipeg School Board to carry on two classes in the Brock-Corydon public school.

Under pressure of the larger Talmud Torah group in the district, a merger of the two schools took place in 1954, and the Herzlia Academy was established. Soon the Peretz School oriented curriculum was replaced with a programme of the Talmud Torah, and Yiddish was relegated to the position it occupied in the Talmud Torah. [61] The school, in the meantime, carried on in the Brock-Corydon School but plans were laid for its own building.

The Shaarey Zedek believed it was qualified to provide every form of educational need for the South-End Jews. It invited the Herzlia to take advantage of the Shaarey Zedek facilities. The Jewish Welfare Fund backed the Shaarey Zedek’s plan because it feared that the burden of a new building would be too much for the Jewish community. Members of the Herzlia, however, indicated that these fears were groundless; also, the Shaarey Zedek’s programme did not suit Herzlia members who wanted a more comprehensive orthodox religious curriculum; the Herzlia did not want to be under the control of the Shaarey Zedek.

The Herzlia declared that is was not a Congregational school but a community school with a religious national programme. The religious character would be enhanced by the synagogue that was to be built in the school building with a hall for religious, educational, and cultural activities. It was obvious that members of the Herzlia were not satisfied with what the Shaarey Zedek offered; the inclusion of the synagogue in its plans, indicated that the Herzlia members were establishing a congregation of their own in the South-End. [62]

As an educational institution, the Herzlia applied for financial support from the Jewish Welfare Fund. This was not granted till 1959. [63] In the meantime, in 1957, the Herzlia affiliated itself with the Talmud Torah as a branch school. The Jewish Welfare Fund attempted to institute a joint control of the Herzlia by the Shaarey Zedek and the Talmud Torah; negotiations followed and the plan collapsed over the control of the curriculum.

The Herzlia Academy has grown and now has a day school of six grades, a nursery school and kindergarten, and a six-grade evening school. [64] The school became the focal point for the Adas Jeshurun Congregation, and many activities are centred around it. Members of the Herzlia had demonstrated that the South-End needed another school, not as a rival and competitor of the Shaarey Zedek Religious School, but as an educational institution for those who had a background of Hebrew education in the North-End Talmud Torah.

The Jewish Welfare Fund favoured the promotion of a Community Programmed School; financial savings could be made in the sharedservices and programme that would be instituted. In September 1963, the Herzlia Academy and the Shaarey Zedek Religious School entered into a merger of this type and formed the Ramah Hebrew School. This tenuous union did not endure; at the end of the school year the merger terminated.

Joseph Wolinsky Collegiate

In 1959, another building was edded to the Talmud Torah. This has been the home of the Joseph Wolinsky Collegiate which may be considered as the high school section of the Talmud Torah or as the day school for a future Maimonides College of university stature. [65] Its English section carries on regular public school for grades seven to eleven inclusive; the Jewish studies, all in Hebrew, are on an intensive post-elementary level. Yiddish has been offered but there was no demand for it; the school is ready to teach Yiddish whenever such a demand arises. The curriculum includes Jewish history, Hebrew literature, the Bible in the original, commentaries on the Bible, the Prophets, Jewish laws and customs, and Talmudic studies. Suitable texts have been selected from those published in Israel and the United States. Graduates of this school can enter Jewish theological seminaries in the United States.

The Collegiate is a self-sustaining institution, but it does share some facilities of the Talmud Torah. It is not affiliated with the Jewish Welfare Fund but is supported partly by the Joseph Wolinsky Foundation, by other contributors, and by modest tuition fees. Any student who meets the admission requirements—the ability to handle a combination of regular high school and Jewish post-elementary studies—is not turned away because of inability to pay.

The teacher-pupil ratio in the two highest grades is almost on a tutorial level; [66] such a luxury in education can be afforded only by an endowed institution. But this has one limitation-a lack in the variety of courses that can be offered to such a small student body. This school is not characteristic of the Jewish educational system in Winnipeg in either scope or level. It is included in this treatise as an example of a unique educational institution in the Winnipeg Jewish community.

Maimonides College

Maimonides College, an institution for advanced Jewish studies, was established in 1950. The late Rabbi Dr. Abraham S. Kravetz was largely responsible for its creation. He visualized this institution evolving into a sectarian affiliate of the University of Manitoba.

At the present time it is a four-year course, on a high school level, in Hebrew language and literature, Jewish history, and religious studies. The College accepts graduates of all Jewish elementary schools, but naturally most come from the Talmud Torah. Upon completion of the course, students can enter either the teaching profession or theological seminaries.

This institution, a modest attempt at higher Jewish studies, is supported by the Joseph Wolinsky Foundation and holds classes in the Talmud Torah building. Aside from the small staff of appointed lecturers the College invites visiting professors from the University of Manitoba. Yet the College gives financial support to the Department of Judaic Studies at the University of Manitoba. Maimonides College has brought Jewish education in Winnipeg to an advanced level.

VI. Yiddish Progressive Schools

I. L. Peretz Folk-School [67]

The influx of Jewish immigrants to Winnipeg between 1905 and 1910, brought youths who were intellectual, cultural, and socialist with a revolutionary outlook on world and Jewish problems. In Winnipeg, at that time, they found Jewish religious institutions, but none that suited their needs. They began to organize clubs and organizations of their own, and in 1911 they founded the Yiddisher Yugend Farein, a literary, cultural club that became the most active organization of its kind in the Jewish community. It set itself a main objective-to establish a Yiddish school, secular, national, and socialist in character and ideology.

The school did not open till 1914, in the meantime, funds were collected and plans laid for it. The intervening period served to sift out the many suggestions, ideas, and differences that were present within the organization. The question of Hebrew in the school curriculum raised controversy. Some believed that Hebrew was essential, others agreed to the teaching of Hebrew enough only for the understanding the many Hebrew words in the Yiddish language. The character of the socialist orientation of the school caused a dispute. The more radical socialists wanted a more international socialist approach to Yiddish education.

The orthodox groups in the community opposed the “godless” school where no religion would be taught. The struggle between religious and secular education resembled similar struggles in other countries; the advocates of religion claimed prerogatives in education and those who refused to submit were “godless corrupters of the youth.” The religious faction wanted schools over which it could exercise control and it feared that with the growth of secular schools its educational privileges would fade away. The Orthodox attempted to convince parents not to send their children to the Yiddish school (that was not opened yet) by publicly declaring that the school was a “mission house” where Jewish children would be torn away from their religion. There were also veiled threats of excommunication by the rabbis.

It was difficult to find parents who were willing to send their children to the National Radical School (the name given the school), openly condemned and threatened with excommunication. As for the members of the Yugend Farein, they were either single or young married couples without children. In 1914, the school opened with seventeen children, using two rooms of the Aberdeen School, as an evening school. From the outset, the fledgling institution was plagued by a factional dispute. A group of radical socialists left the National Radical School over its motto: “The Jewish Child for the Jewish People”—this slogan was not compatible with their ideology of international socialism. The small group that remained was undaunted and determined to carry on.

In spite of additional resignations of members who disagreed with the school motto, the school kept on growing and moved to larger quarters. [68] The I. L. Peretz School, the new name given the school in 1915, moved into its own three-storey building, in 1922. [69] The building was large enough to accommodate the school and the many attendant organizations. It became a social, educational, and cultural centre as well as the home for a large Jewish Folk Library. [70] The Peretz School revolved around the Yiddish language. The core subjects were Yiddish literature, Jewish history, Hebrew on a very limited scale, folk dancing, and singing.

The year 1919 was important in the development of the Peretz School and in Jewish education generally. A number of young women who believed that Jewish education should begin with the pre-school child, formed a Women’s Organization,—Mutter Farein—which pledged itself to establish and support a kindergarten. It was a bold venture that was looked upon skeptically by many of the male members of the school executive. However, they underestimated the determination of the Mutter Farein; in May, the kindergarten started with eleven children and one teacher.

A new road in the education of the young Jewish generation in North America was opened. Modern methods, based on the principles of play and learn and work and learn, were instituted. The language of instruction was Yiddish and the programme included creative work in clay, paper, and cloth. Singing, dancing, recitation, and play filled out the child’s time in school in a Jewish cultural atmosphere. This pioneer undertaking became the model for future kindergartens of Jewish schools.

It is fitting to dwell somewhat on the work of the Mutter Farein. It was not just another Ladies’ Auxiliary whose usual role was confined to help in the financial upkeep of an organization. True, the Mutter Farein raised funds for the school, but this was only one aspect of its many activities. The Mutter Farein became the cultural and social home for the women of the Peretz School organization. In later years, it had its representatives on the executive and educational committee where they helped to formulate administrative and pedagogical decisions for the school. It organized social and educational clubs, study groups, and reading circles. It is important to observe that in times when school administrations were considered exclusive domains of masculine endeavours, the Peretz School welcomed women as equals in the educational work of the school.

Within a year, some of the kindergarten children reached school entering age. Again the Mutter Farein displayed its faith in a complete education of the child within the Jewish school; it did not consider it necessary to divide the child’s life between the regular public school and the Yiddish evening school. A class to teach regular grade one subjects was started; half of the day for English studies and the rest of the time for Jewish studies. No one doubted that the children would be able to cover the prescribed English course in half days; small classes and the availability of individual instruction would enable the children to complete the syllabus.

Many, outside the Peretz School organization, deplored this development. They feared that a Jewish day school would tend to ghettoize the children-separate Jewish children from non-Jewish-and create difficulties in adjustment to the gentile world in which the children would eventually work and live. Such fears proved unfounded, since in future years graduates of the Yiddish day school had no difficulties in public school; they fared as well as did Jewish children who did not attend Jewish day schools or any other type of Jewish school. Graduates from the Peretz School day school distinguished themselves in the public schools, high schools, and university. Many because successful in their chosen professions as well as prominent in the social, political, and cultural life of Winnipeg. This is not attributed to their attendance at the Peretz School day school, but it is presented to support the claim that attendance in a Yiddish day school did not present obstacles in advancement. The same can be said of graduates of other Jewish day schools in Winnipeg.

This marked the beginning of the Jewish day school in Winnipeg, and possibly in North America. From only one grade in 1920, the day school expanded to seven grades in 1942. Those who expressed fears in 1920, in later years founded day schools of their own. The day school became the fulcrum of the Peretz School and of other Jewish schools in Winnipeg.

The school expanded and opened two branches [71] to serve the needs of children in sections of the city removed from the central school. When in 1925, the first graduation of the evening elementary school took place, a post-elementary, Mittle Shule, was started for the graduates. By the beginning of the 1927 school year, all the branches had been closed and the whole Peretz School was under one roof. The end of the 1928 school year noted the graduation of the Mittle Shule pupils who completed the three-year post-elementary studies. Arrangements were made for a two-year Higher Course for advanced studies, and in 1931 the first graduates of the Higher Course left the school. Several of the graduates entered the Yiddish teaching profession in the Winnipeg Peretz School and in other schools in Canada and the United States.

It is significant to note that there has always been an imbalance between the number of girls and boys in the Peretz School. The larger number of girls [72] may have resulted from the lack of religious education in the school. Studies in the Peretz School were unrelated to the synagogue—the curriculum was secular; although Jewish holidays were celebrated, the spirit rather than the tradition was stressed. Jewish custom required or assumed the teaching of boys the rudiments of the Jewish religion, and parents who did not hesitate to send their daughters to Yiddish schools often sent their sons to the Talmud Torah to receive a religious education. There was no doubt in the minds of most Jewish parents that their sons had to know how to read the prayers, to perform the bar-mitzvah ceremony, and to say kaddish.

During the school year 1929-1930, the evening classes of the Peretz School had the highest enrolment in its history; 394 students attended. This growth was interrupted when a rift occurred within the Peretz School. It was an ideological disagreement; the Labour Zionists withdrew and started a Yiddish progressive school of their own, the Folk School, in which they stressed the Hebrew language and Zionism. The Folk School carried on in its own home with a kindergarten, four grades of Yiddish-English day school, and an elementary Jewish evening school. Financial difficulties troubled the school almost from the beginning, but the school carried on with a small number of students until 1944, when it reunited with the Peretz School under the name of I. L. Peretz Folk-School.

The split within the Peretz School did not deter the school from proceeding with its full programme. The school evolved into an institution consisting of a kindergarten, seven grades of Yiddish-English day school, an elementary Yiddish evening school, a Mittle Shule, and Higher Courses. Clubs at various levels and extra-curricular pursuits enriched the prescribed curriculum. The school has also been a centre for numerous adult educational, social, and cultural activities.

The Peretz School, like the Talmud Torah, was beset by financial difficulties, but at the same time, did not bar students because of their inability to pay; Yiddish education too, was not “a paying proposition”. Yet, the Peretz School, unlike the Talmud Torah, never reached the point where it was in danger of losing its school building. It may be because the Peretz School did not rely on a few “big givers” as did the Talmud Torah. Over the years, the Peretz School developed a broad base of modest contributors, and, because of this, found it easier to weather the critical years. When the Jewish Welfare Fund began to support Jewish schools, the Peretz School was one of the beneficiaries, and the support it received, at first only a small sum, has steadily increased so that it now accounts for a major portion of the school’s income. [73]

If the kindergarten is considered the root of the school then the day school is its backbone. Since 1929, the trend has been towards diminishing enrolment in the evening school and increasing numbers in the day school. [74] Parents became convinced that their children could master a combined public school and Jewish education. The day school was also convenient since children would be free at the end of the regular school day; evening school elongated the school day. Jewish educators came to view the structure of the evening school as unhealthy; children considered it a supplement to a full day’s public school programme. This supplementary character can be traced to the first Jewish schools that served to supplement the public school with a religious education. When Yiddish schools came into existence, they too, supplemented the public school, but with progressive Yiddish education. The day school, however, divides the school time equally between English and Jewish studies, and because of this, the child attaches, more or less, equal importance to each.

When the Jewish population moved further north, the Peretz School moved into the new district. A new modern building was erected, in 1950. [75] When the Jewish population in West Kildonan increased, the Peretz School constructed a branch in this new area. [76] This school has grown since, and now has a kindergarten and five grades of day and evening school.

The Peretz School was awake to the changing times and needs not only in the relocating the school but also in the adapting of its curriculum. It was essentially a non-religious school that provided weltliche education—secular, universal education. Under pressure of change, it introduced Hebrew and religious elements into its school, even bar’mitzvah preparation classes. To many of the school’s elders, this step represented a deviation from and an abrogation of the fundamental weltlichkeit—universalism—that characterized the school in its earlier years. Others interpret this trend not as a contradiction but as a confirmation of weltlichkeit, that is, the school is not a static machine but a living institution that influences the community and is in turn influenced by the community. To be cognizant of the changes within the community is in itself an expression of weltlichkeit; the prime objective—“the Jewish Child for the Jewish People”—remained unchanged. The programme of the school, broadened to encompass more Hebrew and aspects of Jewish tradition, testifies to the capacity of the school to grow and change with the times and needs of the community.

Changing times and needs manifested themselves also in the school administration. The ranks of the pioneers thinned over the years and the few that remained gradually transferred the reins of the school into younger and more energetic hands. In 1950, a Parents’ Association with its Junior Men’s Section was organized under the guidance of old-timers to attract the younger generation to the school, to take on administrative responsibilities, and to gradually replace the older members. The Parents’ Association, many of whom were former students and graduates of the Peretz School whose children were attending the school, injected a youthful note into the social and cultural work. Gradually, the group decreased in size, but those who remained were earnest in their desire to carry on the work of the school. These have taken over the leadership of the school. The Peretz School can justifiably claim that of the generations it educated some have remained close to the school and have undertaken the task of perpetuating it. The leadership is in the hands of those who have received a progressive Yiddish education; they are products of change and they see the need for an even more modified curriculum to meet changing conditions and needs.

Yet the enrolment of the school has steadily dropped. The reason for this may be in the basic fact that in spite of curricular modifications, the Peretz Folk-School is essentially a secular, non-religious school. The incorporation of the study of Hebrew, so that it is on an almost equal basis with Yiddish, did not alter the fundamental character of the school. The Peretz School may have failed to appeal to those who embraced a brand of religiousness that suits present-day needs. These send their children to religious schools.

VII. Yiddish Socialist Schools

Arbeiter Ring School

The radical socialists who broke away from the Peretz School organized the Liberty Temple Association and moved into its own home in 1917. [77] This group was greatly influenced by the Russian revolution and displayed a great sympathy for it. The existing Jewish educational institutions, the Talmud Torah and the Peretz School, failed to satisfy certain circles of workingmen in Winnipeg, and these joined the Liberty Temple Association. Many members were against a Yiddish school in the belief that socialist education in the English language was more suitable to Canadian conditions; such assimilatory views were prevalent among many revolutionary socialists at that time. A Sunday school, to teach socialism with English as the language of instruction, was started. Within a year the school closed.

The failure of this experiment opened the way for the founding of a Yiddish school, the Arbeiter Ring School, where the principles of the Arbeiter Ring [78] were to be implanted in the young minds of the children. From a modest beginning, in 1921, with eighteen children, the school grew and by 1927 had an enrolment of 260, in the kindergarten, elementary evening school, Mittle Shule, and Pro-Seminar for higher studies. Around the school grouped radical organizations, labour unions, a library, fraternal organizations, and a very active Mutter Farein.

The curriculum was a cosmopolitan socialist programme that did not stress Jewish national hopes and traditions as did the Peretz School and Talmud Torah. It is understandable that members of the Liberty Temple Association found no place for themselves in the other schools. The Arbeiter Ring School was a socialist school where the language of instruction was Yiddish. The syllabus of the school included the Yiddish language and literature, Jewish history, history of the working-class movements, current events, and singing. Extra-curricular activities were carried on in the many clubs of the school.

The school was progressing, but ideological differences between the various socialist groups caused dissension and strife. The Social Democrats viewed the events that unfolded in post-revolutionary Russia and the dictatorship of the proletariat as abnegations of socialism; Communists interpreted the developments as necessary steps to the fulfilment of the proletarian revolution. Then there occurred a split in the Communist ranks on the doctrinal issues of Stalinism and Trotzkyism.

But, in order to preserve the school, all factions observed a self-imposed truce-a shaky and uneasy truce that lasted a number of years. Bickering and flare-ups continued, and after lengthy discussions, the name of the school was changed to Arbeiter Ring Liberty Temple School, in 1930, obviously a move to appease the leftist elements in the Liberty Temple Association. However, within two years occurred the final break and the school split. The Arbeiter Ring members withdrew from the school. On a discordant note, friends and co-workers separated, and the ill-feeling generated at that time has, in many instances, fasted to this day.

The Arbeiter Ring carried on with a school, first in rented quarters and later in its own home, [79] with the help of a small group of faithful supporters. In 1937, the school closed. Thus came to an end an educational institution that for many years was active and was supported by Jewish workingmen who believed in a Yiddish socialist school. Now, many Arbeiter Ring members rejoined the Peretz School.

Sholem Aleichem School [80]

When the Arbeiter Ring withdrew from the Arbeiter Ring Liberty Temple School, the leftist majority gained possession of the physical assets of the school. The school changed its name to Liberty Temple School and modified its programme to suit the members. The curriculum of such a school, naturally, injected Marxian interpretations into the studies. The syllabus included Yiddish language and literature, history of the working-class and socialist movements, Jewish history, political economy, singing and club activities. The school, carried on with a kindergarten, seven grades of elementary Yiddish classes, a Mittle Shule, and a seminar class for higher studies.

The school, evolved during the economic depression, experienced financial difficulties and it had to appeal for help to the Jewish workingmen in the community to meet the mortgage payments. When the Jewish Welfare Fund in 1938 undertook to support Jewish educational institutions, it did not include the Liberty Temple School. The school demanded that its application for affiliation with the Jewish Welfare Fund and for support should be favourably considered since the Liberty Temple School was an educational institution where 175 children attended. It was not till 1942 that the Jewish Welfare Fund included the Sholem Aleichem School as a recipient of support from communal funds. [81] In 1953, the school was again excluded from the Jewish Welfare Fund. This brought forth vehement protests from the Sholem Aleichem School which claimed that the Welfare Fund was not a political institution and it had no right to discriminate against the school on political grounds. The Jewish Welfare Fund’s reason for the exclusion was that, in the opinion of the Board, the objectives of the school were not in consonance with the basic aim of Jewish Education-Jewish survival. [82] In subsequent years, the school’s numerous demands for reinstatement in the Jewish Welfare Fund were declined.

It was a difficult path for the Sholem Aleichem School. The financial strain placed a heavy burden on the remaining members of the school organization. The vicissitudes and fluctuations of politics in the leftwing movement caused some members to abandon their affiliation with the school; only the stalwarts remained. Their lot was not easy. Because of anti-Communist feeling the school had to withstand the onslaught of members of the Jewish community, and the Jewish Welfare Fund, under pressure of anti-Communists, released itself from its obligation to support the Sholem Aleichem School, a Jewish educational institution where children received a Jewish education. The problem that faced the Jewish Welfare Fund was similar to that faced by other agencies; is there room within a democratic community for non-conformist political groups. The Jewish Welfare Fund ruled that the Sholem Aleichem School did not serve the interests of the Winnipeg Jewish community and, therefore, it refused to support it.

Financial problems, decreasing membership in the school organization, and falling enrolment brought about the collapse of the school. The leaders of the Sholem Aleichem School would like to place the blame for the closing of the school solely on the Jewish Welfare Fund. They overlook, unknowingly or deliberately, other reasons why the school failed to survive. The revolutionary era in which the school was conceived either passed or paled over the years. General reformism the welfare state-crept into all political parties; and the progressive slogans were no more the property of the leftist group only. Furthermore, the Sholem Aleichem School did not react to the shift of the Jewish population northward; schools must be located in the midst of the community they serve. Other schools relocated in newer districts, the Sholem Aleichem School failed to do it. In September 1963, it ceased to exist as an organized educational institution.

VIII. Congregational Schools

Shaarey Zedek Religious School

The Shaarey Zedek Congregation was one of the first to devote itself to Jewish education in Winnipeg. However, it relinquished this field when the Talmud Torah came into existence. From 1915, the Shaarey Zedek conducted very successful Sunday morning Bible classes where the children of its members studied the Bible and Jewish history, in English.

Many members perceived the inherent limitations and weaknesses in the Sunday school education. When the new synagogue was completed, an evening school was established with classes three times a week. Later, the Sunday school was discontinued with the introduction of a new type of Jewish education which went beyond the rudimentary instruction of the Sunday school. The curriculum embraced: the Hebrew language—the key to Jewish studies and a link with a revived Israel; Jewish culture-the study of history and literature; Jewish religion the teaching of ceremonies and observances of Jewish customs and holidays as well as their ethical meanings; preparation for bar-mitzvah and bat-mitzvah; [83] and social and communal responsibilities—the inculcation of a sense of identification with world Jewry and of responsibilities as a citizen of Canada.

Increased enrolment was the compelling reason for the construction of a school building, separate from the synagogue. [84] It started as an elementary evening school but it was not too long before the school included a day school. The Ivrit B’Ivrit method was used, and teachers from Israel were employed to afford the opportunity for conversational Hebrew.

The Shaarey Zedek Religious School has shown rapid growth since its beginning in 1949.85 It now operates a nursery school, kindergarten, an evening school, and six grades of day school. As a Congregational School, it is not affiliated with the Jewish Welfare Fund. Although tuition fees alone have not covered expenses, the congregation was convinced that benefits derived from the educational programme warranted subsidization to offset the deficit.

Rosh Pina Hebrew School

The Rosh Pina Congregation with its synagogue was established in 1952 to serve the needs of Jews in North Winnipeg. To provide education for the children of its members, the Rosh Pina Herbew School was started immediately. At the outset, it comprised a nursery school, a kindergarten, and an evening school. The aims of the school are the same as those of the Shaarey Zedek Religious School; both follow the basic programme suggested by the United Synagogue Commission on Jewish Education.

The Rosh Pina Hebrew School, like the Shaarey Zedek Religious School, is not affiliated with the Jewish Welfare Fund. Tuition fees are its main source of income and deficits are offset by the congregation; it considers the educational institution worthy of support.


In summary, the synagogue, in recent years, has sought to recapture some of its former activities. The Hebrew language has three words for a synagogue; each denotes an important function the synagogue performs. It is primarily a Beth Tefila—a house of worship—and it has continued to be one, although modified through changing times and needs. It is also a Beth Haknesseth—a communal centre—the centre of Jewish life. This was true in the villages and smaller communities in all parts of the world. In North America, in pioneer days of Jewish settlement, the immigrants attempted to incorporate this function in their synagogue. But it was not long before societies, clubs, and landsmanshaften replaced the synagogue as the social centre. It is this lost position that modern synagogues have attempted to restore. They have become centres of Jewish identification through brotherhoods and sisterhoods who concern themselves with all matters pertaining to the synagogue. The success of the synagogue centre depends to a great degree on the rabbi, whose function over the years has changed. At one time, the rabbi interpreted the laws, studied, did research, and ministered to the needs of the people. The modern rabbi also ministers to the needs of his congregation, but these are mostly social needs. He is involved in all activities around the synagogue: he is a director of the synagogue, he is a social organizer, he is the preacher, and at times he may also be the teacher in the school. However, a successful rabbi must display adaptability and diplomacy; rhetorical ability is most imperative for sermons and services for the part-time religion that has been developing in North America—a few short hours on Friday evening and Saturday morning. Poor speakers—even if they are rabbis—are not too well received. The synagogue is also a Beth Hamidrash—a house of study—where the cheder had its home and also where adults studied the Holy writings under the guidance of the rabbi. This function of the synagogue lapsed early in this century. Congregational schools, a development since the end of World War II, are a reaffirmation that the synagogue is a house of study. Not only are children instructed in Judaic studies, but also adults, in increasing numbers, have been using the synagogue for education in evening classes in Hebrew and related Jewish studies. The synagogue has entered the field of education to win the youth to Judaism, through a modern religious curriculum. Many responsible leaders fear that, with the rapid spread of religiousness among American Jews in the form of religious identification and synagogue membership, the very meaning of religion in its authentic sense may be lost for increasing numbers. [86]

To prevent this, a rabbi cautioned:

... against the trend of transforming synagogues into country clubs. We must offer a brand of Judaism rooted in knowledge of Jewish sources, relevant to the social needs for our day, and presented in very simple terms. [87]

It is the function of the Congregational Schools to impart the “deep rooted knowledge” in order not to lose the “authentic sense” of religion.

IX. Private Education

The Melamed—the Private Itinerant Teacher

The melamed in Winnipeg in the earlier days played an important part in the religious education of young Jewish children. However, he did not disappear with the formation of the cheder, Talmud Torah, and Yiddish schools; the itinerant teacher existed for decades. This part of the paper utilizes advertisements in the Yiddish paper inserted by the private teachers. Many such advertisements conveyed unique appeals.

A careful analysis of these advertisements reveals the qualifications of the private teachers, certain trends, and changes of attitude towards Jewish education. Aside from teachers of Jewish schools who supplemented their earnings through private tutoring, there were others who claimed their qualifications on different grounds; they knew Hebrew, sufficient to teach children; they were a shochet or cantor, that is, they had associations with Jewish religious life which implied teaching qualifications. They all, however, promised “satisfaction guaranteed”. But with the rise of modern schools, these qualifications became increasingly obsolete; teachers then began to state they were from the old country—the reservoir of Jewish teachers in America—“from Rumania”, “not long from Poland”, “not long from the old country”, or “from the Leningrad school”. It is not the intention of this work to imply that all used these catchwords to insinuate that they were qualified teachers. Many did have experience in the teaching profession in these places and these became the reputable, well-paid, and respected “Hebrew Teachers”.

The subjects taught underwent a metamorphosis; private teaching, at first confined to religious studies, soon included Yiddish subjects and the Hebrew teacher became a Hebrew-Yiddish teacher. It was not till 1946, that teachers began to advertise “preparation for bar-mitzvah”, and in time, this aspect became the principal area of operation for the private teacher. The bar-mitzvah ceremony became the most important moment in the life of a Jewish boy, and also an expensive social function for the parents. Jewish teachers adjusted themselves to this development and they became “specialists” in the art of bar-mitzvah preparation. Eventually, all Jewish schools introduced bar-mitzvah preparation classes and deprived most of the private teachers of their livelihood.

Thus came to an end the work of the private Jewish teacher who for several decades had performed an educational function in the Winnipeg Jewish community.

Private Schools

The first announcement of a private school in the Yiddish newspaper, not necessarily the first private school in Winnipeg, was in 1911. It was a cheder where rudimentary religious education was given. In 1914, a private school offered a course of studies much fuller than that of the me lamed, the cheder, and even the Talmud Torah. The owner of the school was certain “that every father will send me many letters of thanks”. In the same year another school opened, and it emphasized Hebrew as a living and spoken language. The extra-curricular activities planned, designed to further the Hebrew language, were an innovation in Hebrew schools. In 1922, a school opened which realized that there might be a demand for Yiddish, and the school was willing to go along with the times and institute Yiddish courses if “desired by parents”. The effect of the Yiddish progressive schools filtered into the private schools. There were many private schools, but most were either chederim or modified chederim. The last announcement of a private school was in 1944, a cheder in which bar-mitzvah was stressed; obviously the school was attuned to the times.

Only one other private school will be dealt with, the National Hebrew School which opened in 1921. It was started by a former teacher of the Talmud Torah. It was different from other private schools in its organization, curriculum, and activities. The school prided itself that it maintained itself by tuition fees only, and never resorted to appeals for donations; it was independent and this prevented domination by boards of education that might hinder the educational process. It was a school that stressed national culture in a social and moral Jewish atmosphere, “under no circumstances the cheap teacher-peddling (melamed) that has spread in the city”.

The curriculum reflected a wide range of Jewish education in Yiddish and Hebrew. The school, an evening school, was proud that its graduates had a good knowledge of the Bible, of the Prophets, Yiddish and Hebrew literature, Jewish history, and Zionism. The school organization catered to both the children and their parents. The school demanded regular attendance and scolded parents who allowed dancing or piano lessons or scouts to interfere with it. Poor attendance was bound to reflect poor results.

In the early 1930s, the enrolment of the school began to drop because the Jewish population moved northward away from the school, private teachers catered to these at much lower fees, and the economic depression made it difficult for parents to keep their children in the school. By 1932, the school closed.

In summary, the transformation of Jewish private schools from the cheder to the modern Hebrew-Yiddish school was an evolutionary process that followed Jewish educational trends in North America. Schools that did not heed the changing times went out of existence. Those that remained, succumbed to the depression and to the widespread extension of Jewish education in the Hebrew, Yiddish, and Congregational schools. No private school has been in existence since 1946.

X. Summary

The early immigrants to Winnipeg made the greatest effort, in the face of difficulties, to build religious, organizational, and cultural institutions. They realized that none of the institutions they built would endure unless the younger generation were educated in and made aware of the Jewish heritage and tradition. To educate their children they turned to the me lamed, inept and often untutored, and to the cheder, synonymous with the most inadequate Jewish education; a comparison with a cheder was considered an insult to a Jewish educational institution. In spite of their shortcomings, these performed important functions; they were part of Jewish life and they instructed generations of Jewish youth.

It was due to the vision and inspiration of the immigrant generation that the King Edward Hebrew School, superior to the cheder, was built. But this school was primarily interested in preserving the old; the curriculum and methods were antiquated and did not suit the Zionist group. The latter started its own school-a more modern Hebrew religious school, but it did not last too long. It was handed over to the Jewish community and became the Talmud Torah which was an amalgam of the ingredients of the King Edward Hebrew School and the Zionist ideologies-religious Mizrachi Zionism.

The orthodox, religious education in the Talmud Torah did not satisfy progressive immigrant youths who had caught the breath of socialism in the countries of their origin; they set up a Yiddish secular school that became the Peretz School. It was evident that this school reflected a particular philosophy of Jewish life. Its slogan “The Jewish Child For the Jewish People” did not mean isolation but rather, in the light of his Jewish heritage, participation as a good citizen of his country and of the world.

Jews did not live unto themselves; they were affected by the changes around them. Revolutionary socialism had its impact on Jewish immigrant youths and these found the Peretz School too nationalistic, even chauvinistic, and they left the school to establish the Arbeiter Ring School. But here they found no peace; the aftermath of the Russian revolution split their ranks. The rightist started their own school which lasted only a few years; they drifted back to the Peretz School. The leftists, in possession of the school, in turn were torn by dissension the question of Stalinism and Trotzkyism, and shifting “party line”, and the unfolding events in the Soviet Union led to fragmentation of the leftist camp. The school was weakened, lost membership, and finally closed.

Aside from the splinter groups of the left, the Peretz School lost the Labour Zionists who established the Folk School; it lasted a number of years and eventually rejoined the Peretz School. The Talmud Torah was spared the problem of fragmentation, but it was not free of troubles. Internal dissatisfaction, financial difficulties, and the question of curriculum caused friction for several decades, but none of these led to the breaking away of groups from the parent school. The Congregational schools, a recent development of the Jewish educational system, have been relatively free from these problems.

What can be deduced from these dissension and fragmentations? They were manifestations of growth, development, and evolution of the idea that schools should reflect definite ideologies and philosophies. None of the schools considered it of paramount important to impart only knowledge to the child. What was equally essential was to inculcate an attitude, a mood, a cultural atmosphere-religious, Conservative Judaic, Zionist, Socialist, or Yiddishist. The sum total of the body of knowledge was not as important as the indoctrination of principles that would remain long after the mundane informative knowledge would be forgotten.

The Talmud Torah and the Congregational schools saw in religion that force that would link the heritage of past ages with the present and the future and identify Jews with Jewry in other parts of the world and in the emerging State of Israel. The Peretz School did not regard ritualistic religion in itself as the binding force, but the moral teaching of religion was compatible with humanitarianism, social justice, nationalism, and democracy. The socialist schools based their teaching on internationalism, socialism, and class-struggle. Their belief in the class-struggle obscured that intangible thread that binds nationalities; their idealistic views of society denied that blood is thicker than water.

Jewish education was characterized by change; the times and needs of the Jewish community affected the curricula of the schools. The religious schools were ultra-orthodox and based their studies on the Hebrew language to the exclusion of Yiddish. The Yiddish schools revolved around Yiddish to the exclusion of Hebrew. The socialist schools shied away from Jewish traditions and all traces of nationalism. They all changed. Yiddish was no longer the ghetto language and it was included in the curriculum of the religious schools. Hebrew was no more anathema in the Yiddish schools, and they also introduced religious studies in their programme. The socialist schools taught some Hebrew, but were adamant in their stand on religion.

The views on Zionism changed. The Talmud Torah and the Congregational schools were either Zionist or Mizrachi. The attitude of the Peretz School, at first non-Zionist, caused the departure of the Labour Zionists from the school. The socialist schools were non-Zionist or anti-Zionist. The creation of the State of Israel affected the outlook on Zionism. The religious schools remained Zionist and put greater emphasis on spoken and conversational Hebrew, the language of Israel. The Yiddish school’s identification with Zionism is the acceptance of Israel as the national home for Jews. The leftist school does not deny the existence of Israel but identifies itself with the radical socialist movement there. Unfortunately, leftists are caught in the dilemma of Soviet policy in the Middle-East which is incongruous with Jewish aspirations there. It is difficult for leftists to reconcile both views and because of this they have been subject to condemnation by the Jewish community in Winnipeg. It cannot be denied, however, that generally, the existence of the State of Israel strikes a respondent note in leftist circles, however tenuous the strings of attachment; leftists have found that blood is thicker than water.

Each of the schools made its contribution to Jewish education in Winnipeg. The Talmud Torah was one of the first institutions of learning in the community and it offered free education to the children of the poor. The Peretz School was the innovator of many reforms in Jewish education. The emphasis on Yiddish in this school prompted all Hebrew religious schools to include it in their curriculum. Through its stress on Yiddish it gave the community a cast which is so different that the Winnipeg Jewish community has been referred to as the “Yiddish Jerusalem of North America”. It pioneered in kindergarten education; it was the first to institute a day school; its Mutter Farein became the model for women’s organizations in other Jewish schools. The socialist schools served the needs of the radical groups. It is heartening to think that the Jewish community reached such maturity that it had room in its midst for these schools which added colour to the cultural and political spectrum of the community-a sign of a vigorous and active community. The Congregational schools freed the synagogue from the inadequacy of the Sunday school. Their educational programme instilled a regard for Jewish education that at times was lacking in these congregations. Through the schools, the synagogue was restored as a Beth Hamidrash—a House of Study.

The Nazi decimation of European Jewry aroused within world Jewry the age-long sub-conscious will to survive. Jewish education is looked upon as the key to Jewish survival. If this is the object, then the stress on elementary education could be the greatest weakness in the Jewish school system. It has been tacitly accepted by children and some parents that bar-mitzvah, coinciding with the elementary school leaving age, is the terminal point of Jewish education: that is, it is assumed that at the age of thirteen the child mastered all it needs to know of Jewish education. For those who equate numbers with quality, the increasing school population is a sign of the unqualified success of Jewish schools; others have expressed caution and reservations. The latter maintain that children have been exposed to Jewish education on an elementary infantile level, but when more advanced studies could be undertaken, of a more lasting impact, most of the children have terminated their contact with the school. However, there are no criteria for measuring the residuum of education. But it has been the maxim that the longer the period of education, the more profound the knowledge, the more intense the enrichment, the more positive and effective will be the identification with Judaism.

The shortage of teachers is a serious problem. The seminaries of eastern Europe, the reservoir of Jewish teachers, were obliterated by the Nazi extermination of European Jewry. To some extent, the shortage is being overcome by Israeli teachers. From Jewish schools on this continent, only small numbers enter the Jewish teaching profession and the Canadian Jewish Congress has undertaken the task of recruiting suitable students.

Through the years cost of education has steadily increased. Tuition fees account for only forty-two per cent of the operating cost of the Jewish schools in Winnipeg. On this alone, Jewish schools could not exist. The Winnipeg Jewish community, from its earliest beginning, realized this and has, therefore, undertaken the obligation of supporting Jewish schools; the Jewish Welfare Fund has only systematized this support. The ever budget-conscious Jewish Welfare Fund is favourably disposed towards mergers into Community Schools which would operate on the basis of shared facilities and services, giving, at certain levels, a more realistic teacher-pupil ratio.

The Jewish Welfare Fund is aware that each institution is jealously protecting its own philosophy of Jewish education and it, therefore, realizes the difficulties in implementing into Community Schools even the most favourable and least controversial Jewish subjects. But each school is clinging to its own traditions it has established over the years. In the day school, the English subjects, which follow the uniform public school syllabus, could be more easily merged into a Community School.

What could perhaps help Jewish schools is government support for parochial schools as recommended by the Report of the Manitoba Royal Commission on Education of 1959. The Jewish community, almost evenly split on this issue, took no stand on aid to parochial schools and did not present a brief to the Commission. This is perhaps an indication, that the Jewish community felt, as in the past, that the burden of Jewish education should be borne by the Jewish community.

This treatise, a modest contribution to the history of the Jewish community and its educational institutions, left many areas untouched. These can serve as fields for future investigation and research. Needful scrutiny is required into the effectiveness of the day school in Jewish education. Another phase of study is the extent of the residuum of Jewishness in graduates of the elementary school as compared with those of post-elementary. Perhaps a follow-up on graduates of Jewish day and evening schools as to their integration within the general community would constitute a worthwhile project. A most intriguing undertaking would be an analysis of the effect that religious education of children has on their homes. Another study could be an examination of Jewish education in relation to socio-economic conditions. A statistical work—the correlation between the ideologies of the schools and the political affiliations of their graduates—would be most revealing.

There are difficulties in some of the investigations suggested. Certain criteria are not available to measure many aspects of the suggested topics. Because of this, the pursuit of these would be more challenging.


1. Based on, Harvey H. Herstein, “The Growth of the Winnipeg Jewish Community and the Evolution of Its Educational Institutions” (unpublished Master’s thesis, The University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, 1964).

2. Newspapers from 1911 to 1963 were consulted. This newspaper started in September, 1910, as The Canadian Israelite (Der Kanader Yid), changed its name to The Israelite (Der Yid) in May, 1912, and to The Israelite Press (Dos Yiddishe Vort) in August, 1916.

3. John Macoun, Manitoba and the Great North-West (Guelph: World Publishing Company, 1882), p. 684, gives the Jewish population of Manitoba in 1881, as 33. Benjamin G. Sack, History of the Jews in Canada (Montreal: Canadian Jewish Congress, 1945), Vol. I, p. 179, states that of the 33 Jews in Manitoba in 1881, 21 were in Winnipeg.

4. Rosh Hashonah—New Year—celebrated for two days, falls in September or October. It is also referred to as Day of Remembrance and Day of Judgment. Yom. Kippur—Day of Atonement—is the holiest and most solemn day in the Jewish religion. It is a day of fasting that marks the end of Ten Penitential Days which begin on Rosh Hashonah.

5. A ritual slaughterer of fowl and cattle.

6. Meat slaughtered according to Jewish religious practices.

7. Charles M. Segal, Fascinating Facts About American Jewish History (New York: Twayne Publishers, 1955), p. 126 “Reform Judaism originated in Germany in 1810, as a means of modernizing traditional, Orthodox services. In 1824, Reform Judaism originated among members of Congregation Beth Olim (House of God) in Charleston, South Carolina. But it was not until 1873 that the first Reform movement was organized in the United States.”

8. Sack, op. cit., p. 183.

9. A. Osovsky, “Jews in Winnipeg,” The Israelite, May 23, 1912.

10. H. E. Wilder, The One Hundredth Anniversary Souvenir of Jewish Emancipation in Canada (Winnipeg: The Israelite Press, 1932), p. 19.

11. Arthur A. Chiel, The Jews in Manitoba (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1961), p. 78. Corner King Street and Henry Avenue.

12. Ashkenazic-since the tenth century, applied to those Jews living in Germany and northern France. Later, Jews of Poland, Russia, and Scandinavian countries were included. Sephardic-Jews in Spanish and Mediterranean countries. They differed on the rituals to be followed.

13. Martha Street and Henry Avenue.

14. In 1907, it erected its own building on Dagmar Street.

15. At present, this area is considered Central Winnipeg.

16. On Schultz Street between Dufferin and Jarvis Avenues.

17. Herstein, op. cit., p. 186, Table IV. In 1901, the Jewish population of Winnipeg was 1156. Of these, 1023 lived in the North-End.

18. The Russian Jews, unfortunately, resented and mistrusted the charity work of the Montefiore Hebrew Benevolent Society, a Reform Judaist group, started in 1884. The Russian Jews were apprehensive of the assimilatory tendencies of the Yahudim—an unsavory epithet for Reform Jews.

19. Herstein, op. cit., p. 186, Table IV. The Jewish population of Winnipeg grew from 1156 in 1901, to 9023 in 1911.

20. Herstein, op. cit., p. 186, Table IV. The numerical distribution of the Jewish population of Greater Winnipeg:





Winnipeg North





Winnipeg South





West Kildonan





21. On Matheson Avenue.

22. On Enniskillen Avenue.

23. On Jefferson Avenue.

24. At Wellington Crescent and Academy Road.

25. At Brock Avenue and Fleet Street.

26. The Israelite, Dec. 24, 1914.

27. The Israelite Press, Oct. 12, 1915.

28. Herstein, op. cit., p. 187, Table V. The budget of the Jewish Welfare Fund grew from an initial $50,000 in 1938, to $709,000 in 1963.

29. On Selkirk Avenue East.

30. The old St. Giles Church on Selkirk Avenue, in the heart of the Jewish community, was converted into a theatre.

31. In 1952, the Y.M.H.A. moved into its newly-completed building at Hargrave Street and Qu’Appelle Avenue.

32. See footnote No. 2.

33. Editorial in the Winnipeg Daily Times, Aug. 9, 1882. Comments on the life of the Jewish immigrants in the immigration barracks bore a vicious attack against them as idlers and a blight on the community and even demanded that they be deported. It also advised “people of their own faith resident among us should give them a good plain talking to, and point out to them in strong terms their present mode of life must be abandoned with the least possible delay,” cited in Chiel, op. cit., pp. 10-14. The rival Free Press came out in defence of the immigrants.

34. Louis Rosenberg, Language & Mother Tongue of Jews in Canada (Canadian Jewish Population Studies, Population Characteristic Series, No. 1. Montreal: Canadian Jewish Congress, 1957), Tables 1 and 2, p. 18. In 1938, the year before the outbreak of World War II, 6,800,000 Jews, 40.7% of the world Jewish population, used Yiddish as their main language of communication.

35. Survey Committee on Jewish Education, A Study of Jewish Education in Winnipeg (Winnipeg: Jewish Welfare Fund of Winnipeg, (1963)), pp. 2223. From a brief submitted by the Talmud Torah.

36. A. Goldberg, “The Orden School and their Programmes,” Sholem Aleichem School Twenty-Five Years Jubilee-Book (Winnipeg: The Israelite Press, 1946), pp. 13-15.

37. The Rosh Pina Hebrew School has the same objectives.

38. A Study of Jewish Education, pp. 25-26.

39. Chiel, op. cit., p. 93. Rev. Abraham Benjamin, in 1881, was the first melamed in Winnipeg.

40. The most universally celebrated event in Jewish life. A Jewish boy reaching his thirteenth birthday assumes the religious responsibilities of an adult Jew.

41. A mourner’s prayer in the synagogue for the first eleven months following the death of a parent or relative.

42. Chiel, op. cit., p. 94. Rev. J. Freedman established the first cheder in 1884 with twelve students. The curriculum consisted of prayers and Bible studies. The language of instruction was Yiddish.

43. Hamelitz (St. Petersburg, Russia), No. 43, 1882. A letter from an immigrant in Winnipeg, as cited in Sack, op. cit., p. 47. Chiel, op. cit., p. 93, identifies the writer as S. F. Rodin.

44. In America, “Talmud Torah” generally referred to a school which met in the afternoon after secular school sessions were over. Originally, Talmud Torahs were religious schools maintained and administered by the community as public institutions to provide for orphans or children of parents who could not afford private teaching.

45. At Dufferin Avenue and Charles Street.

46. In 1907, he was brought in by the orthodox Beth Jacob Congregation. He soon gained the stature of Chief Rabbi, recognized by almost all Jews of Winnipeg and in the widely dispursed settlements in the West. He served as Chief Rabbi till his death in 1945.

47. At Dufferin Avenue and Aikins Street.

48. At Flora Avenue and Charles Street.

49. The Israelite, Aug. 29, 1912.

50. Herstein, op. cit., p. 71, Table I. For the month of January 15 to February 15, 1919, of 634 students, 101 paid no tuition fees; 4 paid 50 cents; 28 paid 65 cents; and 7 paid 75 cents. That is, 1670 of the students attending paid no fees and 6% paid less than one dollar a month.

51. Herstein, op. cit., p. 116, Table II. During the school-year 1932-1933, of its 480 students, 119 or 25% paid no tuition fees.

52. At Magnus Avenue and McGregor Street. In 1923, this branch school moved into its own newly constructed building at Magnus Avenue and Andrews Street.

53. At 166 McIntosh Street.

54. At St. John’s Avenue and Main Street.

55. Herstein, op. cit., p. 188, Table VI. The enrolment for the school year 1924-25, was 800; for 1930-31, 550.

56. Herstein, op. cit., p. 190, Table VII. Grants from the Jewish Welfare Fund rose from $7,511 for the school year 1939-40, to $67,324 for 1960-61.

57. Ibid., p. 188, Table VI. Distribution of enrolment of the Talmud Torah:




Day School

Evening School











58. The other branches were discontinued many years before.

59. At Matheson Avenue and Powers Street. An addition was erected in 1954 to take care of the ever-growing enrolment.

60. See pages 9, 10.

61. Many members of the Peretz School claimed that it was not a “merger” but a “take-over”; financial and numerical strength pushed the progressive Yiddish school out of existence in the South-End.

62. The building was completed in September 1955, at Brock Avenue and Fleet Street.

63. Herstein, op. cit., p. 199, Table XII. Grants for the Jewish Welfare Fund rose from $10,487 for the school year 1959-60, to $20,484 for 1962-63.

64. Ibid., p. 198, Table XI. Distribution of enrolment of the Herzlia Academy:




Day School

Evening School











65. At present, the Maimonides College is on a high-school level.

66. Herstein, op. cit., p. 200, Table XIII. Distribution of students of the Joseph Wolinsky Collegiate based on enrolment in the English grades, for the school year 1963-64: Total 128, VII 49, VIII 26, IX 27, X 13, XI 13.

67. For the sake of continuity, the Folk School will not be treated separately; it will be incorporated in the Peretz Folk-School. The Folk-School broke away from the Peretz School in 1930, and rejoined the latter in 1944.

68. In 1915, in a rented building at Pritchard Avenue and McKenzie Street; in 1917, in a remodelled house at 412 Burrows Avenue.

69. In the former home of the “Pilgrim’s Institute”, 418 Aberdeen Avenue.

70. It started in the Peretz School building on October 29, 1922. The library was open five nights a week and on Sunday afternoons. It started with approximately 1000 books and it provided journals and newspapers in the reading room. Here was its home until 1937, when it moved into a new home at 980½ Main Street.

71. Both were started for the 1924-25 school year. One branch was located in the King Edward public school and the other in Elmwood.

72. Figures compiled from school reports indicate that between 1925 and 1944 inclusive, of the graduates from the elementary school, 70% were girls. Also, available attendance figures in all grades, between 1929 and 1933 inclusive, showed that girls comprised 6111t of the total enrolment.

73. Herstein, op. cit., p. 194, Table IX. Grants from the Jewish Welfare Fund rose from $5,257 for the school year 1939-40, to $75,699 for 1962-63.

74. Herstein, op. cit., p. 192, Table VIII. Distribution of enrolment of the Peretz School:




Day School

Evening School











75. At 601 Aikins Street. This building was enlarged in 1957. Classes were held in the old building on Aberdeen Avenue till 1957.

76. In 1958, at Jefferson Avenue and Teakwood Street, in the Garden City section of West Kildonan. The school was enlarged in 1952.

77. At Pritchard Avenue and Salter Street.

78. Branch 169 of the Arbeiter Ring, a socialist fraternal organization, started in Winnipeg in 1907.

79. At 240 Manitoba Avenue.

80. The Arbeiter Ring Liberty Temple School changed its name to Liberty Temple School, in 1932, and to Sholem Aleichem School, in 1940.

81. Herstein, op. cit., p. 196, Table X. Grants from the Jewish Welfare Fund rose from $1,100 for the school year 1942-43, to $6,609 for 1952-53.

82. A Study of Jewish Education in Winnipeg, p. 21.

83. Confirmation ceremony for thirteen year old girls, similar to the barmitzvah for boys. This is a new development in North America.

84. Completed in 1956, at Lanark Avenue and Grant Street.

85. The enrolment has grown from 125 in 1949, to 800 in 1963.

86. The Israelite Press, June 14, 1957. This was part of an address delivered by Will Herberg, Professor of Judaic Studies and Social Philosophy at Drew University, Madison, New York, at the General Assembly convoked by the Synagogue Council of America.

87. Loc. cit. From an address delivered by Dr. Bernard J. Bamberger, Rabbi of West End Synagogue, New York City, at the General Assembly convoked by the Synagogue Council of America.

88. M. Averbach who later became a school trustee and alderman of the city of Winnipeg.

Page revised: 28 February 2015

MHS YouTube Channel

Back to top of page

For queries on the above page, please contact the MHS Webmaster.

Home  |  Terms & Conditions  |  FAQ  |  Contact Us  |  Privacy Policy  |  Donations

© 1998-2023 Manitoba Historical Society. All rights reserved.