The Y.M.-Y.W.H.A.’s community activities included fundraising, social events, daycare services as well as other initiatives. Most importantly, however, the Y.M.-Y.W.H.A. provided athletic, cultural, and educational services tailored to the Jewish community. For many Jews, the 'Y' was one of the few places where they could meet and socialize with their friends, outside of the synagogue. Members came from all over the city, and on any given Sunday, there would be hundreds of people using the Brunswick 'Y’ facility.

Overwhelmingly supported by the Jewish community, the ‘Y’ also reached out to other sections of Toronto’s population. Anyone could become a member of the ‘Y’, and by the 1950s, for example, there were several non-Jewish members on the ‘Y’ basketball teams. Intra-mural meets and competitions which included non-Jewish and Jewish athletic teams from Toronto took place frequently. In addition, the ‘Y’ strove to educate the general public about important issues in the Jewish community through its lecture series and community outreach initiatives.

The great success of the ‘Y’ can be attributed to the strong volunteer spirit of its membership. For example, during the Second World War, ‘Y’ staff and volunteers organized many activities at the Canadian Jewish Congress’ open house for visiting servicemen at Community House, 44 St. George Street. These activities included dances, parties and special events designed to entertain the servicemen on leave. The ‘Y’ also provided programs for religious holidays, such as communal candle-lighting ceremonies for Chanukah and Purim balls.

The ‘Y’ was also active in promoting various fundraising campaigns, such as the United Community Chest, a yearly fundraising initiative of the United Way. Furthermore, the Y.M.-Y.W.H.A. helped raise funds for the United Jewish Appeal campaigns, most notably through the participation of its teenage members in the Combined Youth Appeal Division. The Youth Division organized community canvassing drives and other fundraising events such as fashion shows and carnivals. As well, the ‘Y’ organized leadership conferences and retreats for its younger members, to introduce them to leadership roles and responsibilities within the ‘Y’ and the larger community.

During the 1950s, the Community Service Committee of the 'Y' provided programming advice to youth groups in Toronto’s newer synagogues. The 'Y'  Overseas Club offered services to recent immigrants: these new arrivals received membership privileges, English classes, and the benefits of social clubs and camps for their kids.

Over the years, the Y.M.-Y.W.H.A. was at the heart of the Jewish community. It fostered Jewish identity and camaraderie amongst its members, providing the community with an athletic, educational, cultural and recreational centre they could call their own.




Canadian Jewish Congress’ Service Men’s Club held at 44 St. George Street, ca. 1944.

Young Adult Leaguers light the Chanukah candles at the Bloor ‘Y’, December 1953.

Pamphlet for the first annual leadership conference, 1954.

Rabbi Albert Pappenheim, on left, discusses the United Appeal campaign with Y.W.H.A. youth, 1964.

Rabbi I. Schild, Joe Straucher, Grace Longert and Bill Amon at Bloor Street and Spadina Avenue during the Second Annual Y.M.-Y.W.H.A. United Appeal Run/Walk from the Northern ‘Y’ to the Bloor ‘Y’, 9 November 1969.

Members of the Bloor 'Y' celebrate the acquisition of a new Torah for their chapel, donated by Alex Solomon, 1975.

Community roof-top barbeque at the Bloor ‘Y’, 1972..