Exploring Our Windsor Roots
The Windsor Jewish community began in the late 1800s with the arrival of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. The largest groups emigrated from Russia and Poland. These Jewish immigrants built the first synagogue in Windsor in the early 1900s. The Shaarey Zedek on Mercer Street was the focal point of Jewish life in Windsor in these early years. By 1911, just over 300 Jews lived in Windsor, and by 1921, the community numbered 980.
The second wave of Jewish immigrants, primarily from Russia, arrived in the 1930s and settled in Windsor predominantly because of its proximity to the United States. They established the Peretz School in the 1920s which stressed Jewish culture and history. In 1929 the Shaar Hashomayim Synagogue was built in Windsor. At this time the community had grown to 2200 persons. In the late 1930s, Jewish efforts focused on saving European Jewry. In 1938, the Jewish Council was formed in order to raise funds and coordinate efforts. Between 1945 and 1962 the Windsor Jewish community worked to raise money for the establishment and maintenance of Israel. Several Zionist organizations were represented in Windsor, and all worked towards this common goal. By 1951, the Windsor Jewish community had almost reached its peak population size, numbering over 2300.
Beginning in 1953, the Windsor Jewish community began fundraising to build a Jewish Community Centre for all members of the community. By 1959, the Centre was built. The Centre housed many local organizations as well as the offices of the Jewish Community Council. The Council was organized in 1938 and became known as the Windsor Jewish Federation in 1989. The Federation acts as the organizing arm of the Windsor Jewish Community, including the United Jewish Appeal (UJA), and as the local voice on Jewish issues and concerns in the general community of Windsor. The largest of the Federation agencies is the Jewish Community Centre which underwent a complete renovation of its facility in 1996.