Imperfect Compromise Reached With Montreal Y Regarding Opening On Shabbos


montreal-yJoel Goldenberg of The Sububran reports that officials at the Ben Weider Jewish Community Centre – Snowdon Y – in Montreal have reached an agreement with local rabbonim regarding the decision to open the Y on Shabbosos. As first reported on, for decades, an unspoken agreement existed between Montreal’s shomer Torah tzibbur and the secular Jewish community. The emphasis on tradition is strong, even amongst the irreligious community, and thus, a deep respect was always shown for the basic tenets of our faith, such as Shabbos and kashrus, in the secular Jewish institutions.    

The hospital, the YM-YWHA, and all the various Federation-funded facilities in Montreal all insisted that their various eating establishments remain under the hechsher of the MK, under the auspices of the Va’ad Ha’ir of Montreal, and all on-site retail outlets were closed on Shabbos.

Recently, the local Y broke with tradition and announced that they intended to open on Shabbos. This was not only a blow to the many shomrei Torah Yidden who frequent the Y, it’s painful to all Montrealers who appreciated the sensitivity of the wider Jewish community.

Starting in late October, the Y will be opening 1 p.m. on Shabbos. The later opening was decided on, so as not to interfere with Shabbos services. There will also be no exchange of money, no organized classes, and the front desk and restaurant will be closed.

The decision, reached by a clear majority of the board this past summer, pleased many who wanted to work out on Shabbos, but displeased those who felt the Y should continue its longstanding tradition as a Montreal Jewish community institution of not opening on Shabbos. Most JCCs in North America open on Saturdays.

In recent weeks, local rabbonim engaged in negotiations with the Y.

The decision reached this week was that no electricity would be turned on or off on Shabbos.

“The Y will be open on Shabbos for Jewish programming, the basketball court and the swimming pool will be open, but in terms of the cardio room, where the real Sabbath violations occur, that will be closed off,” said Rabbi Reuben Poupko of Côte St. Luc’s Beth Israel Beth Aaron Synagogue. “I think it’s a compromise most people can live with.”

Rabbi Poupko was one of several rabbis involved in the extensive negotiations.

“I’m sure there will be people who aren’t happy the Y is open at all, and many people will be unhappy that the cardio room is closed, but to me it’s the solution that maintains the sanctity of Shabbos and the unity of the community.”

Asked if all the rabbis involved are satisfied with the accord, the rabbi said “there are various degrees of satisfaction, but I believe the overwhelming consensus is that” this is the best solution.

{Noam Suburban}


  1. Have you ever meet a compromise that is perfect? The vocabulary word ‘compromise’ means that it will be a little of this, a little of that, and some of this.