Artwork of Shtetl Houses by Avrom Yanovsky (Canada, 1911-1979)
The UJPO was established in August 1945 following a national conference in 1944 of similar autonomous secular left-wing Jewish-Canadian organizations. As a national organization it was and is the public voice for and representative of its constituent members. True to its origins, over the years the UJPO became and remains notable for its prominent cultural institutions to preserve progressive Yiddish culture, its steadfast support of unions and workers’ rights, its activism against anti-Semitism and all forms of racism, its campaigning for world peace, and its opposition to all manifestations of oppression and exploitation, sexism and homophobia.
The head office of UJPO (currently UJPO Canada) was established in Toronto. UJPO‘s Branches, lodges and institutions in each centre served specific members’ interests (trades, culture, politics, theatre, music, etc.), each programming its own social and cultural events in addition to centrally planned events. At its peak membership, the UJPO boasted more than 2,500 members nation-wide; additional branches were established in Hamilton and Niagara Falls (Ontario), Calgary (Alberta) and Vancouver (British Columbia), among others. As newer members joined from the ranks of “white-collar” professions rather than the “blue-collar” trades, all branches were merged.
Because Toronto’s predecessor organization had grown during WWII, UJPO Toronto purchased a building at 83-85 Christie Street to better meet its members’ needs. In Montreal UJPO‘s home was in the Morris Winchevsky School’s edifice and in Winnipeg, in the Sholem Aleichem School building. In 1960 the Toronto UJPO moved into the Morris Winchevsky School’s newly built Winchevsky Centre which also houses UJPO Canada’s office.