YMHA 370 Hargrave Street

The YMHA: A Community Treasure

“Let it be Jewish, having the courage to contain in the program those matters of positive Jewish content. Let it be Canadian, let it represent the City of Winnipeg, and let it place the accent on youth.”  – Excerpt from Samuel Freedman’s opening remarks at the Hargrave Street opening, 1952

After the move from Albert Street in 1952, 370 Hargrave was home to the YMHA for 45 years. By the mid-1940s it was quite evident to the community that Albert Street could no longer meet its needs. An initial fundraising campaign that netted $200,000.00 and the recruitment of the architectural firm of Green Blankstein Russell were important ingredients in the quest for a new facility. David Slater was in charge of the building committee. Property was found on Hargrave Street. Owned by the United Church, the latter had resisted commercial offers to ensure that it be used for community activities and endeavours. The church accepted the Jewish community’s offer, so much so that the property was offered at a reasonable price. An additional $500,000.00 was secured from various sectors of the community. 

Within a year of its opening membership topped the 3,500 mark with 2,100 under the age of 21. The facilities reflected the range of community interests and commitment of the YMHA staff and volunteers in creating a top notch centre that boasted a swimming pool, health centre, club rooms, a library and gymnasium. 

As was the case with Albert Street, many of the Hargrave YMHA activities spoke to a concern for social welfare issues. During the polio epidemic of 1953 the organization invited the afflicted to use the pool and physiotherapy treatments. In the mid-1960s the Y under the presidency of Yude Henteleff, joined the United Way. 

In the late 1950s and early 60s the YMHA expanded its camp programs which consisted of Funland, Tikvah, Playmore and Kenora and offered a greater array of counselling services thanks to the efforts of Walter Lampe who was a faculty member of the University of Manitoba’s School of Social Work and appointed YMHA Assistant Executive Director in 1960. 

After thirty two years Executive Director Sam Sheps retired in 1967. The reins were handed to Les Marks who developed numerous programs for adults (parenting, marriage enrichment, and the Town Hall series of lectures, to name a few). The physical education program, the historical backbone of the YMHA’s modus operandi, included aerobics, aquatics, squash, racquetball, track and other activities. 

Beginning in 1973 and under the stewardship of Ken Kronson, the YMHA ushered in its annual sportsman’s dinner. Over the years featured guests have included Jesse Owens, Bobby Hull, Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford and Don Shula.  

By the 1980s YMHA faced numerous challenges. A steady decrease in membership due to competition from other sports facilities, shifting Jewish residential patterns from the North End to the South End, overall decline in Winnipeg’s Jewish population and the emergence of Jewish organizations offering their own programs all contributed to a rethinking of the role of the YMHA and its relationship to Winnipeg Jewry. Without going to any details, the final result was the opening of the Asper Jewish Community Campus in 1997 in the south end of the city. The Campus was to serve as the focal point for the YMHA (renamed the Rady Jewish Community Centre) and most other Jewish institutions.