Pickering and Ajax
Durham County Communities
By Elysse Zarek, revised by Sarah Bleiwas
Pickering is the first municipality east of Toronto. It was founded in the mid-1880s and was known for its flour mills. The city grew slowly until 1974, when it became part of the regional municipality of Durham.
The price of housing brings and keeps many in Pickering as do the excellent hiking trails and unique mix of woodlands, valleys and farmlands. As of the 2001 census, Pickering’s population was 87,145.
Ajax is directly to the east of Pickering. Until the start of World War Two, the area we now call the town of Ajax was nothing but farmland. At the start of the War, it became the site of a munitions factory and workers were brought in. The new community was named after the British warship HMS Ajax that fought against the German battleship Graf Spree in the Atlantic Ocean in December 1939.
After the war, the University of Toronto leased the factories and transformed them into laboratories and classrooms for engineering students. Although U of T closed down its Ajax campus in 1949, many residents stayed in the area. As of the 2001 census, Ajax’s population was 73,745 and there were 720 Jewish residents in Pickering, Ajax and the neighbouring town of Uxbridge.
Those looking for kosher food travel to other parts of the Greater Toronto Area. The newly formed Chabad of Durham Region holds Shabbat and holiday services along with family celebrations. There is also the Beth Zion Synagogue on King Street East in Oshawa. It's a diverse congregation with traditional services on Shabbat with mixed seating. They hold monthly Egalitarian services. They also have a Hebrew School which meets twice weekly.
For those looking for a Reform synagogue Bnai Shalom V'Tikvah offers Shabbat and holiday services in Ajax. It also has a Hebrew School from Kindergarten to Grade 7. The school recently joined forces with the Beth Zion of Oshawa. This arragementworks well for both congregations as it allows them the opportunithy to share educational resources.
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