Toronto Federation of Jews of Hungarian Descent

As told by Andy Winter

The history and contributions Hungarian Jews made to the fabric of Toronto society is vast. Many people deserve recognition, including my father, Eugene Winter, who was born on December 31, 1910, in Budapest, Hungary. My father’s life was filled with a love for Judaism and a kinship to the Jewish people and her history.

In 1934, when the “Numerus Clausus” began to limit Jewish rights, he joined a Jewish anti-fascist group and strongly spoke out against such policies. He became the leader and spokesperson for the many Jews in his labour camp that faced persecution. Following the war, in 1945, upon hearing of his imminent arrest because of his opposition to Soviet occupation of Hungary, he escaped with his family to Austria and then to Israel where he became the first Mayor of a Hungarian Jewish settlement in Bat Shlomo.

In 1951, the Winter family moved to Canada to join other family members. Eugene soon realized there were many new Hungarians and Jews that had settled in Canada. With his own feet newly but firmly planted in Toronto, my father initiated and/or supported many efforts to assist those already here to connect with their heritage. This included the founding of the Toronto Federation of Jews of Hungarian Descent for social programs, which in 1954 spawned the Beth Hazikaron Congregation to provide Toronto’s Hungarian Jewish community a place for ethnic worship.

The Hungarian revolution in 1956 brought an influx of refugees to Toronto. With no government structure to welcome them, the organizations my father founded, including the Menora Newspaper, and the Hakoah Sports Club, coordinated their settlement. He was also on the executive of the Raoul Wallenberg Memorial Fund which helped establish The Raoul Wallenberg Memorial in Earl Bales Park.

In years to come, new organizations from the community surfaced, such as the New Horizons Day Center for Seniors, led by a group headed by the Gaspar Family. The New Horizon could no longer sustain its charter due to its aging membership. The remaining members asked me and a few others to become directors to wind down the corporation and direct its assets to Jewish charitable causes.

Partnering with the Jewish Federation of Toronto, we allocated our support to Bnai Brith, Baycrest, the Betel Centre and Jewish Federation of Toronto. Also, $200,000 was set aside to create the Toronto Hungarian Jewish Heritage Fund, a perpetual fund to continually support Senior care, Brain research, the Fight against Antisemitism, and Never Forget—a campaign in memory of the Holocaust.

Our hope is that Hungarian Jews are recognized and remembered in history for their contributions that were integral to the fabric of our society. And that our giving will keep on giving.