Hyman Engel moved his family to Oshawa in 1905. He began working in the ready-to-wear business, where he amassed enough success to build 16-18 Simcoe Street North in 1921.
By the time of his death in 1930, he owned two stores in the downtown area. In addition to being a prominent businessman, Engel was a leading member of Oshawa’s early Jewish community. He was a generous contributor to many community projects, and belonged to organizations like the Independent Order of the Bnai Brith, the Maccabees, as well as the Machziki Hadas Congregation on Bay Street in Toronto.
As the community formed the first Oshawa Hebrew Congregation in 1926, Engel was named its President. 16-18 Simcoe St. N was not only his storefront but also the location of the meeting place known as Engel’s Hall.
Prior to 1926, Engel’s Hall seemed to be where many people in the Jewish community gathered for social and religious events, as well as business related activities. It provided a place to hold fundraisers to support immigrants during a time when Canada made it very difficult for Jewish people to enter the country. In 1924, the Oshawa community hosted the Hebrew Immigrations Aid Society of Toronto at a meeting for the Jewish residents of Oshawa. They collected $500 for the purpose of funding two immigrant families and five people travelling on their own. Hyman Engel and his wife, Annie Engel, personally donated $25.
While many people within the early Jewish community were members of synagogues in Toronto, Engel’s Hall was a place to congregate closer to home. It was also a place where members of the Jewish families could conduct their businesses. Samuel B. Collis, another Oshawa businessman, would often advertise his offer to give violin lessons out of Engel’s Hall in the local newspapers. In fact, Engel’s Hall was usually somewhere to enjoy good music, as it was often the location of dances and concerts that featured various orchestras.