Worker’s Circle

In 2007 the Arbeiter Ring (now Worker’s Circle) celebrated their 100th anniversary in Montreal. The organization, which was originally founded in New York in 1892 by mainly Russian Jewish immigrants fleeing Czarist pogroms, conducted itself as an “irretrievable part of the radical labour movement.” An advocate for change, the Workmen’s Circle also provided education, enlightenment, health benefits, open forums, a library, clubs and cemetery plots for its members. The work of the group extended to emergencies such as operating a soup kitchen during the Depression or organizing the Action Committee for Soviet Jewry in the late-1980s and early 1990s to aid immigration. Their involvement in politics saw support for the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation and candidates such as A.M. Klein, David Lewis and Kalman Kaplansky. In 1940, two Workmen’s Circle members from Branch 151 were elected to the Montreal municipal council, Michael Rubenstein and Albert Eaton.

The first Workmen’s Circle school in Montreal was established in May 1920 in Mile End at 56 Mozart Street. By 1924, there was also a second school at the Workmen’s Circle centre, then located at 839 St. Lawrence Boulevard. It was in 1941 however that the institution which later became known as the Abraham Reisen Schools was established. By 1957, there were three schools with approximately 300 students. The last school closed in the early 2000s.

The Workmen’s Circle acquired land on St. Lawrence Boulevard in the late 1920s. The Depression stalled fundraising efforts until 1935. In 1936, the Workmen’s Circle Centre at 4848 St. Lawrence was completed. The organization is now located at 5165 Isabella Avenue.