YM-YWHA – 100 Years Young!

YMHA

The YMHA story in Montreal is one of growth and community. Like many community groups, the YMHA started small; meeting in a little room that cost $7.50/month to rent. A small group of men paid 25 cents/week in membership dues, but when the rent was raised to $25/month, the fledgling club had only $15 in the bank and still needed more for tables and chairs to sit upon. They pooled their resources and each of the ten members contributed $2.50 for the cause. They paid their rent, put down a downpayment of $9 for furniture, and even had $1 left over in the bank account. These humble beginnings laid the way for educational opportunities that would open up the world of sport, literature, arts and crafts, and social engagement for thousands of young people in the future. In just a few years, the Montreal YMHA grew to be the second largest “Y” in North America, second only to the famous 92nd Street “Y” in New York.

 The Montreal Buildings:

The first rented room was located in the Baron de Hirsch Institute, followed by a series of moves to progressively larger and larger facilities. In 1929, a new home for the YMHA was officially opened, thanks to a generous donation from Sir Mortimer B. Davis. From this point on, the YMHA was regarded as a community centre, not just a private club. With more than 4,300 members in 1940, plus an additional 1,100 young women involved in the Young Women’s Hebrew Association (YWHA), the “Y” once again needed a new home. Both the men’s and women’s buildings were overflowing. The idea to combine the buildings and associations into one YM-YWHA was forming. In 1950, the two groups merged and both moved into the new YM-YWHA in Snowdon. Other community centres followed, as well as a cultural centre in 1967, with theatre, art classes, lectures and exhibitions.

YWHA

The Young Women’s Hebrew Association in Montreal began as the Friendly League of Jewish Women in 1913. Mrs. J. Goldstein invited the first group to meet at the Baron de Hirsch Institute, where they agreed that it would be worthwhile to dedicate their time and effort to providing social engagements and learning opportunities for young women, particularly those young women who had little money or opportunity. They began by forming ‘the Welcome Club’.

The Welcome Club consisted of a small group of young men and women who agreed to volunteer one or two evenings a week to mix and mingle with underprivileged young women, women newly arrived to Canada, or others who were interested in social gatherings, character development, and skills improvement. Some of the social activities the club participated in were tobogganing parties, dances, concerts, lectures, as well as classes in sewing, English, French, hygiene, cooking, typing and more.

The broad range of activities and the successfulness of the friendships developed, meant that membership in YWHA grew.  The young ladies were encouraged to ‘make the club their own’, elect their own president, vice-president, treasurer, etc. and to be responsible for the decisions and actions of the club.

Some of their most important decisions and actions involved taking care of immigrant girls. Through international organizations, they were informed immediately if a Jewish girl were leaving England or the United States so that upon her arrival in Canada, she could be met, cared for and orientated to this new world. Those who were just passing through Canada on their way to another country, were assisted along their journey also.

In 1919, the Friendly League of Jewish Women merged together with the Young Women’s Hebrew Association. In 1919, the first Jewish troop of Girl Guides in Montreal was also formed from this strong association of young women.

Following many years of discussion and cooperation, the YWHA merged with the YMHA in 1950 to become the YM-YWHA.

Digitized materials currently housed on this site include the Spring Beacons of the YMHA as well as a youth club publication on the history of the book.

YM-YWHA

1929 YMHA Spring Beacon

1930 YMHA Spring Beacon

1931 YMHA Spring Beacon

1932 YMHA Spring Beacon

1933 YMHA Spring Beacon

1934 YMHA Spring Beacon

1935 YMHA Spring Beacon

1938 YMHA Rothschild Memorial Club_History of the Book