The Vancouver Peretz Institute, also known as the Vancouver Peretz Shule, was founded in 1945 in response to the threat to Jewish culture and Yiddish language posed by the Holocaust and WWII. The founding families felt an urgent need to establish a school to ensure the continuity of Jewish secular humanistic culture and thought. And they opened the doors to all—Jews and non-Jews—who felt a connection to Jewish culture, history and experience.
In 2001, we re-opened in our brand new building at the same location. To mark this occasion, we changed our name to the Peretz Centre for Secular Jewish Culture, and we continue to provide a wide variety of programs for all ages to individuals and families in the Greater Vancouver area.
The Peretz Centre is named after I.L. Peretz (1859-1915), who is, along with Sholem Aleichem and Mendele Mokher Sforim, one of the post-Haskalah (Enlightenment) pillars of modern Yiddish literature, culture and identity.
The Peretz Centre is affiliated with the International Federation of Secular Humanistic Jews, the Congress of Secular Jewish Organizations, and the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver.
Secular humanism emphasizes human endeavour rather than supernatural intervention. We believe that people have a kinship with all living things and that people working together creatively, adhering to ethical and democratic principles, can make the world a better place.
The first secular Jewish organizations arose in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in both Europe and the Western Hemisphere. Those organizations defined the Jews as a people whose history, traditions, values and cultures could be researched and understood rationally, using the methods and insights of modern thought and science. The encompassing term was Yidishkayt — Jewishness.
At the Peretz Centre, we believe that Jewish continuity is best assured in a pluralistic, inclusive society where mutual dignity and respect, justice, freedom and peace prevail. This is the lesson of Jewish history and this is why secular humanist Yidishkayt is at the core of Peretz Centre educational and cultural programs.
Peretz Centre for Secular Jewish Culture