To provide social, educational, recreational & cultural services within the framework of Jewish tradition.
The JCC provides a forum for the Community and also seeks to reach out to other ethnic and religious groups in the hope of building bridges to overcome stereotypes, prejudices and ignorance.
The Hamilton Jewish Community Centre is over 122 years old, the oldest JCC in Canada.
Proof of the Hamilton JCC’s claim to over a century of existence can be found in a small book about the history of the Jewish Welfare Board. This was discovered by former JCC and Hamilton Jewish Federation Executive Director Sid Brail in 1987, when he was making a final check of old books that were to be discarded prior to the JCC’s move from temporary quarters at a West End High School to its new home on Lower Lions Club Road.
Further proof came at the JWB Biennial Convention in Washington in 1989, when Executive Director Howard Shapiro accepted a plaque and official Certificate of Recognition on behalf of the JCC. The certificate recognizes the Hamilton JCC’s 100th Anniversary in 1990 and commends the organization for having “during those years…enriched the fabric of Jewish Life for all of its community’s members.”
The JWB is the New York-based National Welfare Board, the Association of JCC’s and YM-YWHA’s in North America, and Brail was leafing through its official history when he came upon a list of Jewish Community Centres active in North America in 1890-91. “From that,” Brail said, “I concluded that the Hamilton JCC must be the oldest one in Canada.” He then wrote to the JWB in New York, “Where no one disputed” the claim, and which was subsequently confirmed at the Washington Biennial.
The first Jews known to have been in the Hamilton area were mentioned as far back as 1783 but it was not until 1851 that four Jewish residents were actually listed. The earliest Jewish settlers here were mostly of German origin and records show that in 1853 several families joined to form the Hebrew Benevolent Society Anshe Sholom. The last two decades of the century brought an influx of Jewish immigrants, first primarily from Russia and later from Poland, and in 1916 the newly formed United Hebrew Association, which was responsible for philanthropic and cultural programs, purchased a house at 58 Vine Street.
Known as the Jewish Community Building, it housed the Talmud Torah, Vaad Kashrut, the Immigrant Aid Society, provided meeting rooms for other organization and for children’s and youth activities.
In 1934, the property at 54 Vine Street (the old United Hebrew Memorial Chapel) was purchased to provide offices for the Jewish Social Services and additional meeting rooms. But as the community grew, so did the need for more space and in 1941, the house known as the John Street Building was purchased to accommodate youth groups with their expanding activities, and to provide still more meeting rooms. It was so evident, however, that these buildings were inadequate and in 1946 a campaign was launched by the Council of Jewish Organizations, which had been established in 1933 to raise money for a new community centre.
In Marc 1949, the sod was turned for a new building at 57 Delaware and in November 1950, the Jacob N. Goldblatt Jewish Community Centre was dedicated. However, Jewish families were beginning to move to the west end and the western suburbs, and by the mid 70’s, 57 Delaware was not only out of the way, but could no longer adequately serve the community’s changing requirements. A search for a new property was launched, the building was sold in 1986, and after one year in temporary quarters at the vacant Agnes McPhail Vocational School (Shalom Village’s new building), the Hamilton Wentworth & Area Jewish Community Centre moved to its new 45 acre property on Lower Lions Club Road.
(Adapted from “Our 100 Year History” written by Moura Wolpert for the JCC Centennial in 1990)
In June 2016 the community said goodbye to the Lower Lions Club Road property and warmly embraced a new era of a JCC without walls (for now). The JCC has so much gratitude to all of the community organizations who offered support in this process and are we are looking forward to a bright future working together on building our community & new and innovative programming.
Our new home base is a shared office with the Hamilton Jewish Federation, down the hall from JNF and Beth Tikvah. And don’t want to forget BT!