A Look at South End Jewish Winnipeg Before 1945

November 20, 2020

                 The tension that has existed between South End and North End Jews for much of our history is exemplified by complaints in 1911 that South Enders “were determined [to] impose their undisputed power” over the large majority who lived North. At that time, the population balance was 85% North and 15% South. Little changed until after World War II when migration created the present balance of 55% south, 17% north, and 32% elsewhere. Thinking in traditional terms, today’s readers may be surprised to learn that South End Jews before World War I lived mostly between Bannatyne and the CPR tracks and only slowly edged further south to streets near the Provincial Legislature before spreading west into Wolseley. Many attended Shaarey Zedek on Dagmar near William although a few rented space along Westminster for the High Holidays so they could walk to services.

Before World War I, only a handful of Jews lived south of the Assiniboine River in Ft. Rouge on both sides of Osborne before moving into Crescentwood and River Heights as these neighbourhoods developed in the 1920s and 1930s. A so-called gentlemen’s agreement closed Old Tuxedo to Jewish settlement while today’s South River Heights and Tuxedo only emerged after World War II when the City cleared the largely Méti “Rooster Town.” Some South Enders founded the Ft. Rouge Hebrew Congregation in 1923 on Nassau near Macmillan as an Orthodox house of worship and community centre. The new synagogue remained small and lacked a permanent rabbi. Many residents commuted to Shaarey Zedek until it absorbed the South End congregation in 1936 and moved to Wellington Crescent in 1950.

Despite some continuing estrangement between North and South, personal contacts were generally close and friendly. South End Jewish families mostly got along with their gentile neighbours at home and at school but they generally socialized with each other and with their North End relatives. Young people from both districts mixed freely and hung out together at the Albert Street “Y” despite some sense of difference. South Enders travelled north regularly to see family and to buy Jewish foods.

Like their North End counterparts, South End Jews mostly came from Eastern Europe although there was a scattering of Central and West European Jews too. The big difference was that many South Enders immigrated a generation or two earlier so they had more time to learn English and establish themselves economically. A noticeable subgroup owned stores in English-speaking small towns before moving to Winnipeg.

These differences gave a different flavour to Jewish life in North End and South End Winnipeg. The Yiddish, socialist, and religious elements that dominated North End life disappeared in the South or were kept private, while the more moderate politics and liberal religious tendencies of the South were completely overshadowed in the North. Some prosperous North Enders chose to keep closer to their roots by moving to middle class areas that developed east of Main Street between the two world wars and further north but more Jews moved south before and after World War II as integration into mainstream Canadian life progressed.



Daniel Stone, “The Other Jewish Winnipeg: Jews in the South End before 1945,” Manitoba History, #76 (Fall 2014), pp. 2-10.