Oakville Town Profile
A small Jewish community located on Lake Ontario
By Alanna Petroff, revised by Sarah Bleiwas
Oakville is a picturesque town of 165,000 people just west of Toronto. It’s a predominantly white, middle-class Catholic and Protestant community, yet in recent years the area has become more diverse. Small groups of people from different backgrounds including Jews, Sikhs and Muslims now call Oakville home.
Oakville has many of the advantages of a well-serviced municipality, while maintaining its small-town ambiance. Along historical downtown streets, Oakville offers a mix of converted 19th century buildings which accommodate over 400 fine shops, services and restaurants.
Some areas of Oakville are being filled with newer developments where families with school-aged children have flocked. Other areas have a larger senior population and older homes. Some established main streets are dotted with construction trucks where older homes are being demolished to make room for multi-million dollar homes.
Oakville by the numbers
143,700: city population*
1,960: Jewish population**
420: increase in Jewish population since 2001**
2: number of synagogues
$414,950: median price for a single detached house
$1,060: average rent for a two-bedroom apartment
* 2001 Canada Census
** UIA Canada's National Task Force of Jewish Demographics, 2009
Houses in Oakville range from modest apartments and $100,000 cottages to multi-million dollar homes. Most houses in Oakville have large lots with well-tended gardens and freshly cut lawns – a paradise for anyone with a green thumb. There are various retirement residences in the town as well.
Many families have chosen to live in Oakville because of its cottage-y feeling. There are many sidewalks in this town and on warm days, locals can be found walking their dogs, rollerblading, biking and jogging. The popular downtown district runs along a section of Lakeshore Rd., and one can stroll the length of this posh area in less than an hour.
Most Jews living in Oakville are either unaffiliated or attend one of a number of synagogues in Oakville, Mississauga, Hamilton, Brampton or Toronto. Many Oakville Jews are originally from Toronto, Montreal and Winnipeg.
“Oakville is very much like the West Island of Montreal,” says one former Montrealer. The Jewish population is spread out in Oakville, so there is no particular area that is predominantly Jewish.
In 1955, a small number of Jewish families in Oakville founded the Conservative Beth El Congregation. The congregation grew slowly, and by 1962 a synagogue was built on Morrison Rd. to house the congregation.
In 1982, the Jewish community of nearby Burlington merged with the Beth El congregation of Oakville. This combined congregation changed its name to Shaarei-Beth El. By 1986 the original Oakville synagogue proved to be too small for the congregation and so new additions were added to the original building. The congregation became affiliated with the Reform movement in 1988. Congregants often come from the surrounding areas of Burlington and the Halton region.
The synagogue continues to grow every year and currently boasts a membership of 140 families. Rabbi Stephen Wise explains why he is excited about joining the congregation - " to move back to Canada, to be close to family and friends who live all across the Toronto area, and to energize the Jewish community of Halton."
The shul has services on Shabbat and holidays, monthly Friday night services, and a comprehensive supplementary school for children from preschool to grade 10. Congregants at Shaarei-Beth El form a very active group with a strong sense of their Jewish identity. Congregants feel that simply being Jewish is not good enough, so they are constantly reaffirming their Judaism through synagogue activities and programs.
B’nai Shalom Congregation of Halton-Peel is a newly formed egalitarian Conservative shul serving Oakville, Burlington, Brampton and Mississauga. The congregation currently consists of approximately 70 families and meets for monthly services in a local hall.
Most Jewish children attend the various public and private schools in the town. Parents often make a point of sending their children to schools where they know there will be other Jewish students so often there is more than one Jewish child in the class.
Shops and Services
During the year, Oakville supermarkets do not carry kosher meats or kosher prepared food. However, for Passover some stores carry a limited selection of kosher foods. Most Oakville Jews choose to go to Hamilton or Toronto to buy their kosher groceries and meats.
For more general shopping needs, the quaint downtown core of Oakville offers charming shops, services and restaurants.
Recreation and Entertainment
For entertainment, residents can enjoy theatre, dance, music and comedy performances at the Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts. Other points of interest include galleries, historical societies and local architecture, especially in heritage neighbourhoods. Additionally, Oakville's annual Waterfront Festival, Festival of Classics and Jazz Festival draw crowds from around the GTA.
There are numerous parks and parkettes throughout Oakville, including the 16 acre Taras Shevchenko Memorial Park with hiking trails. Recently plans have also been approved for the building of a new complex which will include a community centre, gymnasium, library and indoor soccer field. As of now, Oakville is home to three community centres which boast swimming and skating facilities, medicinal acupuncture and fitness memberships. The community also provides plenty of recreational opportunities. Golfers can play at one of seven golf courses.
Area residents drive everywhere. Residents who live in Oakville have easy access to Highways 401 and 403 and the Queen Elizabeth Way. During rush hour, it can take up to one and a half hours to drive to downtown Toronto. Yet on a weekend, the drive downtown can take 30 minutes or less. Oakville is also only an hour away from the US border.
Oakville has a public transportation service, called Oakville Transit, and GO Transit also has commuter trains to downtown Toronto. Oakville Transit connects with Burlington Transit to the west, Mississauga Transit to the east, and Hamilton Street Railway on peak hours. From these points, passengers can transfer to access the Toronto subway line. Oakville Transit also provides late night buses from the Oakville GO Station until 1:30 a.m. to coincide with the arrival times of the last two trains from Toronto Subway.
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