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Beth Sholom Synagogue History

In 1946, the growing Jewish population in the Eglinton-Bathurst district of Toronto became acutely aware that a traditional Conservative Synagogue was needed to address the spiritual and educational demands of the residents and their children. These same people were accustomed to pioneering ideas as they were among the first to leave the downtown district of the city for the wider spaces of the “north”.

Nearly two years later, coinciding with the establishment of the State of Israel, the ground breaking for the future site of Beth Sholom Synagogue took place. Under the vigorous leadership of the founding rabbi, David A. 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. Rabbi Monson, known affectionately as “the peoples rabbi”, became an instrumental component of Jewish and non-Jewish life throughout Toronto and Canada.

Beth Sholom Synagogue quickly grew as it attracted families from the area who had searched for the quintessential paradox – a large, beautiful synagogue that could support their needs at a time of celebration, education, High Holyday services, and community activity, yet having the warmth of a small, ‘family’ type of synagogue. The kind of shul where the rabbi knows your name, where the sanctuary is not a stadium and there was a sense of accessibility. Beth Sholom Synagogue answered all of those needs.

What quickly followed was leadership in areas of youth, a brimming afternoon Hebrew School, and an active sisterhood and brotherhood. Beth Sholom became the first synagogue in all Canada to institute the now established ritual of the Israel Bonds Appeal on Kol Nidre night, which has since been patterned by many hundreds of others. A long line of prominent cantors, notably Ephraim Rosenbloom, and David Bagley, also distinguished Beth Sholom internationally. We were also served with great dedication by our beloved assistant rabbi, now emeritus, Jacob Mendel Kirshenblatt. Rabbi Kirshenblatt, now 96 years of age, has taught thousands of Jewish men and women in Toronto their Bar and Bat Mitzvah portions with love and dedication. In fact, there are few alive in the city of Toronto who could say that in some way their lives, or the lives of a family member or friend, has not in some way made its journey through Beth Sholom Synagogue. This is our legacy, and we are proud of it.

Now, nearly 50 years from our auspicious and proud beginnings, Beth Sholom undertakes a new mission. It is the task of revitalizing the original message of its founders. 8 years ago the congregation undertook a substantial renovation of the original building, with the hope of expressing its wish to become ‘new’ again. And, as we broaden and define this identity, we have come to touch the lives of a younger generation of Jewish families living in the Cedarvale-Forest Hill communities. Much as our predecessors had done years before. In response to these changes, our membership has steadily grown to over 1000 families, our Out of the Cold homeless project and Kosher Food Bank have given active meaning to the idea of Jewish love and care, and our adult education and family education programs are focused on making sure that everyone has a place in this Jewish ‘home’.

The future is an unsure place, none of us are privy to what it may hold for us. But with the determination and legacy of our founders, we are certain that Beth Sholom will remain a significant force in the lives of Jewish Toronto for many years to come.

ABOUT BETH SHOLOM

A synagogue is many things: a Beit Tefilah – a house of prayer, a Beit Midrash – a house of learning, and maybe most importantly, a Beit Knesset – a house of where we gather to celebrate, mourn and support. 
For more than 1,000 families Beth Sholom is this place. All of these special roles are experienced on our signature Shabbat Beth Sholom service; a service where Saturday turns into Shabbat, where ‘the old turns into the new and the new into the holy’. Our numerous programs and family activities cater to a wide spectrum and extend beyond our membership: adult Education, music, Chai Society, B’nai Mitzvah and Youth Programs form the cornerstone of our efforts to inspire and educate our community.
 The sanctuary with its beautiful stained glass windows provides a warm, traditional and meaningful place to daven on Shabbat and holidays. Our facilities offer many options for simchas and special occasions. In times of need you will find comfort, consolation and understanding. For a more up to date listing of our programs and activities, as well as further information about joining Beth Sholom call (416) 783-6103, visit our website at www.bethsholom.net or inquire via email to: 
stephanie@bethsholom.net.
 The ideas of Jewish love and care are expressed in our Out of the Cold Program and Kosher Food Bank. Our Adult and Family Education programs are focused on making sure that everyone has a place in this “Jewish” home.

OUR HISTORY

Shortly after the Second World War - in 1946 - a small congregation was holding its first religious services in the basement of a local Toronto pharmacy. It proved to be both a great and challenging idea: the space was too small and the demand for a synagogue was great. With that realization Beth Sholom Synagogue was about to be “born”. Three years later those families undertook the construction of a sanctuary and Hebrew school located in the heart of Cedarvale-Forest Hill community. For the growing families looking for a beautiful Synagogue community that could support their celebrations, education, High Holy Day services and need for community Beth Sholom would prove itself to be a destination of choice. Their leap of faith was rewarded as the Synagogue would go to flourish along with the area’s Jewish life that it was built to support.
 The revitalization of our Shabbat morning services, approaches to educating our children the future looks like the past: 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. We are sure there will be many more who will continue to say those very words.

MISSION STATEMENT

To enrich the lives of our congregants and community through the ideals of Torah, Gemillut Chasidism (Social Action) and Achdut (Jewish Unity).

TORAH

The Torah is the lifeblood of the Jewish people.  Through this remarkable document, Judaism has not only survived, but has thrived through the expansion of its great ideals of love, justice and spirituality throughout the world.  Beth Sholom, through a progressive series of programs enriches the lives of our congregants. Through the devotion of prayer we further our understanding of our people’s unique mission in this world.  For we not only connect with G-d as individuals, but also as a community through our shared desires and concerns.

GEMILLUT CHASIDIM

Judaism has never believed that we could achieve our goals by removing ourselves from the world that we live in, or from the people with whom we share it.  Therefore, Beth Sholom has a variety of programs that reach out to the community.  From our annual Interfaith Dinner where clergy throughout the city attend, to our Out of the Cold and Kosher Food Bank Hesed Committee programs you will discover how making a better world leads to making better people and Jews.

ACHDUT

Beth Sholom has long been a leader in community affairs, and a strong advocate of Jewish strength comes from Jewish unity.  By hosting and participating in various community events throughout the year, our membership becomes one with the Jewish community of  Canada.  Through our strong suppport of a Jewish homeland, we further this unique tie and relationship to the State of Israel.  Above all else, we encourage tolerance and respect, dialogue and cooperation amongst all branches of Jewry to build a better today, and an even greater tomorrow for everyone.

Fri, 3 July 2020 11 Tammuz 5780