Social Activities

Soon after its inception, the Kitchener-Waterloo Jewish community formed organizations for social opportunities and community service. These included the original Ladies’ Aid, later renamed Sisterhood; Hadassah chapters; a B’nai B’rith Lodge; as well as several youth groups. There was also the Sunday morning Tfillin Club for fathers and sons, established in 1955 by Rabbi Rosensweig. It featured a synagogue service followed by a breakfast cooked by the Sisterhood, and a new cultural program each week.

In addition to formal organizations, the Jewish community would get together for informal social and cultural events. In the 1920s, there was a thriving Yiddish theatre group that charged $1 admission for its plays. Local stars included the Sidersons, Donners, Migdals and Lafells. In those days the shul served as a community centre as well as a place of worship. Alec Orzy has fond memories of Sundays at the shul describing it as, “a hopping place.” Men got together to play cards while the children had Talmud Torah classes. In the 1950s, as Martin Levene recalled, there was a close-knit group of young married couples who got together every week, who called themselves the “Saturday Night Club.” Gordon Strauss remarked “It wasn’t that small a Jewish community, but it was a very warm, closely-knit Jewish community. The world, and their whole social life, revolved around the Jewish community, their friends and family here.”

Athletics were another important part of Jewish life in Kitchener, particularly for youth. There were always sporting events and leagues. During the early 1950s, Beth Jacob had a basketball team that took part in the “church league” that existed at the time. They were quite strong, winning the championship two years in a row. The league eventually folded later that decade. In the 1960s, Joe Levy ran an active program that included badminton, volleyball, a basketball league and gymnastics. Mother-Daughter and Father-Son Athletic Days were held regularly, with the winners and others with outstanding fitness performance receiving awards at an annual athletic banquet.