Y Member Spotlight: Roy Salomon

Roy Salomon, George Balcan and Dr. Ruth

On a typical morning, when the Sylvan Adams YM-YWHA is open, if you’re ever looking for Roy Salomon, you can usually find him walking and chitchatting in the gym with a group of friends. Or you’ll find him exchanging daily catch ups with the Y’s breakfast gang in the Atrium.

One would think that these interactions would have stopped since the Y’s forced closure due to the  COVID-19 pandemic. They have in the physical sense. Yet, the friendship between Roy Salomon and his Y buddies is decades strong.  An unbreakable bond that has encouraged these Y friends to start connecting twice a week over 40 minute Zoom sessions. “We get together. We have a lot of good exchange. It keeps me connected to my Y friends,” expressed eighty-three-year-old Roy in a recent phone conversation.

Although Roy is grateful that technology has made it possible to keep in touch with his friends, there’s no denying that he misses the physical, face to face interaction, “I miss my walks, using the cardio machines, lifting the light weights with my friends. I miss the Y in general.”

The Y has been part of Roy’s life since 1960, when as a newlywed, he moved from New York to join his brother who was already living in Montreal. “Because I was very active in sports and in order to meet people it was suggested to me to join the Snowdon Y.” Soon after, when the new Davis Y branch opened in Cote-St-Luc, Roy, the Chairman of the sports committee, and a few friends started a Basketball team, to honour the memory and to continue in the tradition of all of the great Y Teams that played at the Davis Y on Mount Royal. As a keen basketball player, Roy played in the Maccabiah Games and was president of Maccabi Canada for eight years. 

Throughout the decades, Roy has held various significant roles and has been an integral member of the Y. He recounts how in the eighties he reached out to Ben Weider to ask if he was interested in donating some very much needed weight lifting equipment. And thanks to Roy, this donation led to the expansion of the current weight lifting space and eventually to the Y’s “first modernization”.

He was inducted into the International Jewish Hall of Fame in 2018.

Roy recounts a fond memory about his involvement as Chairman of the Heart and Health Month at the Y.  “Dr. Ruth had come to speak at two sessions. The first one was for a group of teens. During the evening adult session, the gym was packed. My job was to select from a list of submitted questions that I thought to be most interesting and appropriate. I guess that Dr. Ruth really liked the last one, and she gave me a big handshake and big smile at the end.

My late son Danny and I drove Dr. Ruth back to Ruby Foos, where she was staying. I asked her if she would like to join us at the coffee shop for a snack.  She replied, “I’m not really hungry, but I will join you”. She proceeded to eat a hamburger, about half her size, a full order of French fries and a beverage. Danny and I gave each other a knowing glance, one that questioned what Dr. Ruth might eat if she were really hungry.

Roy Salomon

She was very pleasant to be with and finished the evening with a story. ‘Something happened at this event that never happened to me before. Three older men came over to me after the presentation, not together but with the same message, ‘we could teach you a thing or two’.  We had a great laugh…a special Y memory with my wonderful son and a very special lady.”

Marla Gold (Sylvan Adams YM-YWHA Executive Director 2014-2020) and Roy Salomon

Naturally, the Y  is different from the days of Dr. Ruth and from its very early days. Back at the start of the 1900s, the Y, as Roy explains was built as the place to welcome immigrants and low-income Jews. It represented home for many; a place where they could take a shower. Many became top athletes and leaders in the community. “People felt close to the Y. It was in their blood,” says Roy.

That feeling of connection, of belonging, the closeness that once was, continues to permeate throughout the facility and between the relationships that have been born and fostered thanks to the Y. That feeling exists today, not only because of the Y’s unique history and legacy, but also because as Roy believes, in its unique programming. “Our programming makes us stand out, from wrestling thanks to George Reinitz, David and Victor Zilberman, to our Wolves Basketball, to our special needs programming, to the Y Country Camp, all of these are integral parts of our Y, which for me is a key organization of the Montreal Jewish Community.”