A Bit of History
The Peretz Centre for Secular Jewish Culture in Vancouver, Canada, is one of dozens of schools, cultural centres, libraries, organizations, streets and plazas, from Buenos Aires to Birobidzhan, named in honour of I.L. Peretz, considered the single most influential person in the development of modern Jewish culture.
The Peretz Center, formerly known as the Peretz Shule, was founded in 1945 by an assorted group which included apolitical persons as well as Labour Zionists, Socialists and Communists, that shared a common goal of establishing a school which would provide children with a non-political, secular Jewish and Progressive education. Its first principal was Ben Chud who, in 1945, had just returned from the war and was active in the United Jewish People’s Order (UJPO). At the time, there was a small but growing Progressive movement in Vancouver.
The first Vancouver Peretz School was located in the basement of the old Jewish Community Centre on Oak Street and 11th Avenue. There were 15 kindergarten students and 24 children attending afternoon classes. Early teachers included Sara Sarkin, Annie Wyne, Ruth Korn and Ruth Popesky. Then, in 1946, the founders bought a house at 1173 West Broadway where the school was located for 15 years.
The Peretz Centre has had a rich and vibrant history, overcoming many obstacles in its effort to maintain its unique role in the Vancouver Jewish community. Offering Family Education and Bar/Bat Mitzvah programs, lecture series, the largest Yiddish library in the province, the Jewish Folk Choir, community Shabbes dinners and Jewish celebrations, Peretz provides a vital service as the only institution in the city to offer a secular progressive Jewish education and community. We are proud to offer a space where views on Jews and Jewish history can be discussed in a candid, respectful, welcoming atmosphere.
The Peretz Centre is grateful to all the members, teachers, staff, donors and volunteers who, over its seven-decade history, have worked tirelessly to ensure its continued service to the Vancouver community.