A Brief History of Shalom Village

Shalom Village

Shalom was a dream…

The following is from Sheila Burman’s speech on the occasion of our 40th Anniversary in 2014.

In 1970 we had 54 Jewish people in 17 different homes. Our vision was to provide one home, where each person’s individual needs were accepted and honoured and where they could share their days with their co-religionists in a Jewish environment. I went to the Ministry and asked what do we have to do to have our own Jewish, Kosher home. The answer was – a survey of need. Sometime later this was accomplished. The answer was simple — something was needed but no specific recommendation was made.

Any form of home was a popular idea. Many community leaders were afraid any kind of facility would be too costly and an ongoing burden to the community as a whole. Suggestions were made that it should be attached to the old Jewish community centre on Delaware and various other inappropriate locations. Loud arguments for and against were rampant. It was a difficult time – to say the least.

Ludwig Benario, myself and Sam Smurlick as volunteers were determined that we would proceed to see what could be done. We surveyed the surrounding communities, examined existing small homes for the aged and developed committees to investigate design, support and financial help in the community.

Satisfied that the future looked promising, the Hamilton Jewish Home for the Aged was incorporated and became a legal entity in 1974 (40 years ago) – and a full working Board was established. The first major financial donation was made by Frank Levy to Shalom.

A site was made available and purchased on Macklin St. where it is today. Antagonistic community meetings were held again and it was a struggle to convince the community that we needed and kind of home, especially on Macklin St. It was argued that there were too many mosquitoes and it had been a garbage dump!! (Not true!!!)

We proceeded with the idea of building a traditional home for the aged with some independent apartments on site. Design committees worked, fund raising began and we were just about to hire the administrator (stolen from another Jewish home) when I got a call in the afternoon at home from the Ministry, saying – STOP – there is no more money for nursing beds. This was in 1975/76.

So the idea of supportive housing was born. After finally convincing everyone that a traditional home for the aged was good, we now had to change our tune and talk more about a kind of retirement home. Again more angry meetings. As this was a relatively new concept proof was needed that supportive housing would work.

A consultant was brought in from out of town to correlate all the information which had been gathered by us. He complied a document which finally convinced many people that it was all possible. That it didn’t need to stay an unfulfilled dream.

As there was no direct funding possible for supportive housing, both building and care, innovative ways had to be found to fund our dream. Countless meetings with Canada Mortgage and Housing, Ministry of Community and Social Services, Ministry of Housing and the region took place, things started to progress. Then along came an amazing bequest from Jacob Rosenstadt which really allowed us to push forward. His stipulations was that we had to be in operation within three years from the date of his death. This led to the purchase of a house on Queen St. S. By the Hamilton Jewish Home for the Aged which housed four elderly persons, and our office. This was 1978. We were in business!!

Our name was chosen – Shalom Village

We started building in 1980 and the first five residents of Shalom Village moved in in December 1981. The building officially opened in 1982.

A nursing home continued to be a major goal. We finally were able to secure extended care nursing home beds when St. Elizabeth’s Nursing Home was closed by the Government. The allocation was announced to us in 1988. The Jewish community stepped forward again and raised the capital needed to build the original nursing home which opened in 1990 this time with no arguments!!!

I have tried to capitalize as briefly as possible what were 12 tumultuous, frustrating, exhausting, memorable, tearful, exciting and oh so joyful years before Shalom Village opened its doors.

And look at us now – a jewel in the crown of Hamilton and an object of admiration by all of Ontario.

The ongoing staff, Board, volunteer and community have made this happen. Let’s give ourselves a communal pat on the back for this remarkable achievement. They all have made sure that only our residents address has changed, not their enjoyment of life.