Convivium was a project of Cardus 2011‑2022, and is preserved here for archival purposes.
Changed By FriendshipChanged By Friendship

Changed By Friendship

Led by faith, Joseph Cramer founded the House of Friendship – a place to help those new to Canada, especially Jewish refugees. Grade 8 student Kara Brunsting reflects on his impact on his Canadian community.

Kara Brunsting
3 minute read

In late June, we received beautiful stories of faith from teacher Barb Van Pelt at Laurentian Hills Christian School in Kitchener Ontario. The stories were written by Grade 7 and Grade 8 students at the school. We will run them over the course of the summer on the Thread of 1000 stories. We hope you'll enjoy the innocence, the honesty and the deep attachment these eloquent young Canadians have to their faith, and the faith of those who inspire them. We also hope they will move you to share your story of faith with us on the Thread. And don't forget to check out our $5000 Golden Thread contest for Canadians 30 and younger.

Joseph Cramer was a immigrant from Russia who made a huge impact on his community. His faith helped him start House of Friendship. He personally affected the lives of many Canadians, and House of Friendship continues to affect Kitchener Waterloo today. Today in Kitchener Waterloo, people are still feeling the positive affects of Joseph Cramer’s faith.

He was born on July 13, 1892, as a Jew in Russia. Cramer almost never spoke about his family, who were killed during the Russian revolution. Cramer saw his father killed before his eyes. After fleeing Russia, Cramer got a philosophy degree, before finally moving to Toronto. It was in Toronto where Cramer became Christian.

After attending a Christian church service, Cramer slowly realized he wanted to be Christian instead of Jewish. When he finally converted, his remaining family members held a ‘funeral’ for him. Shortly after this, Cramer felt God calling him to the KW area. He soon moved, and later started a charity called House of Friendship to help all people, from any background. He dedicated the rest of his life to the charity he started.

When Cramer fell sick, he refused to leave House of Friendship, where he lived in a small room. Joseph Cramer died on July  28, 1989.

Joseph Cramer was a crucial part to starting House of Friendship. After moving to KW, Cramer joined a local church. He was a very active church member and eventually decided to start a ‘House of Friendship for All Nations’ with a women's prayer group.

House of Friendship’s purpose was to help those new to Canada, especially Jewish refugees. They also did work all around the community of KW, helping anyone who needed it. House of Friendship started work out of a storefront on King Street. Cramer's faith encouraged him to keep going, even when no one knew what was in store for House of Friendship.  On January 15, 1939, House of Friendship officially started. Cramer continued to be a huge part of House of Friendship until his death.

Joseph Cramer personally impacted the lives of many people in KW. He was able to speak eight languages, which helped him welcome and assist new immigrants to Canada. Cramer held many church services, and always, at the end of the service, he asked if anyone wanted to give their lives to Jesus. Many people came to faith through Joseph Cramer. Cramer also made hundreds of hospital visits and delivered thousands of meals to those in need. One example of his generosity is when he used all his week’s pay – $5.00 – to buy a bicycle back from the police station for a young boy.

After he died, dozens of small receipts for donations that Cramer had written for charities were found. Cramer helped many people throughout his life, and even after his death House of Friendship continues to help hundreds of needy people in KW.

Each year, House of Friendship helps more than 42,000 people. They are helped through substance abuse centers, food distribution, subsidized housing, and different family services. House of Friendship has five different substance abuse centers in the KW area. They also do emergency food hampers and Christmas food hampers.

One of the more well known things House of Friendship does is the Potato Blitz, where House of Friendship collects potatoes for those in need. Last year they collected 300,000 pound of potatoes. They also offer places to stay for the homeless who are looking for a permanent home, and help many people find an affordable house to live in. House of Friendship even helps repair appliances! House of Friendship also runs summer camps, and last year sponsored over 100 children to go to camp. They run various community centers to help connect and support families, especially those new to Canada. Joseph Cramer may not personally help thousands of people a year, but through starting House of Friendship, he has made a huge impact.

Joseph Cramer's faith made a huge impact in KW. He started an important charity that personally improved the lives of many Canadians, and through the work of House of Friendship, people are still feeling the affects of his faith today. You may not realize it, but KW has been changed by Joseph Cramer and House of Friendship.

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