Following the end of World War II, a growing Jewish population in what was then the northern fringe of Toronto’s Jewish community became acutely aware that a traditional Conservative Synagogue was needed to address the spiritual and educational demands of the residents and their children.
A small congregation was formed in 1946 and incorporated Beth Sholom Synagogue on January 25, 1947, holding its first services in the basement of a local pharmacy. Shortly after, the ground-breaking for the future site of Beth Sholom Synagogue took place. Under the vigorous leadership of our founder, Rabbi David Monson, and the conscientious labour of the original lay founders, Beth Sholom Synagogue took shape on its present site on Eglinton Avenue, right in the heart of the Cedarvale-Forest Hill communities.
Beth Sholom Synagogue quickly grew as it attracted families from the area who had searched for the paradox of a large, beautiful synagogue that could support their needs for celebrations, education, High Holy Day services and community — while at the same time providing the warmth of a small, family type of shul where the rabbi knew your name, where the sanctuary was warm and comfortable and where there was a sense of accessibility. Beth Sholom Synagogue answered all of those needs.
Beth Sholom quickly established leadership in areas of youth with a brimming afternoon Hebrew School, as well as an active Sisterhood and Brotherhood. Beth Sholom became the first synagogue in Canada to institute the now established ritual of the Israel Bonds Appeal on Kol Nidre night. We were pioneers in interfaith dialogue and community service, saluting distinguished leaders who have contributed to the cause of religious tolerance and understanding with our Brotherhood Humanitarian Awards, establishing a kosher food bank, and providing hot meals, clothing and the safety of overnight shelter to the homeless.
A long line of prominent cantors, notably Ephraim Rosenberg and David Bagley, distinguished Beth Sholom internationally. Rabbi Jacob Mendel Kirsheblattz (“Kirshy”), who passed away at 99 years of age, taught thousands of Jewish men and women in Toronto their bar and bat mitzvah portions with love and dedication.
In the early 1990s, Beth Sholom undertook a substantial renovation of the original building and major renovations to the Chapel and Banquet Hall were completed. Young clergy were hired, reflecting the younger generation of Jewish families living in the Cedarvale-Forest Hill communities, and our membership grew to almost 1,000 families.
There are few alive in Toronto who could say that in some way their lives, or the lives of a family member or friend, have not in some way made its journey through Beth Sholom Synagogue. This is our legacy, and we are proud of it.