Explore five of Toronto’s oldest synagogues

Anshei Minsk 

Located in the heart of Kensington Market, this congregation is downtown Toronto’s only congregation with daily prayer services. In 1913, the congregation purchased a duplex in Kensington due to the growing Jewish population in the area at the time. Three years later they moved into their current location. According to the shul, at its peak in the area, the Jewish community had roughly 30 places of worship in Kensington Market ranging from modest shtiblach to buildings like Anshei Minsk.

The Kiever Shul 

A close walk away from The Minsk is Kiever Synagogue built in 1927 by a small congregation of Jewish immigrants from Kiever Gubernia (Ukraine).

“This is the only documented shul in Toronto known to be built by the people for the people,” David Moyal told Niv.  “The congregants were trace people from the old country like Ukraine and Russia. They built the brick layers and carved the wood by where the Torah is kept.”

First Narayever Congregation

Not far from Kensington Market is the First Narayever Congregation. The name derives from the town Narayev which was a small market town in eastern Galicia, now in modern Ukraine. In 1900, the town was home to 1,000 Jews making up close to one-third of Narayev’s population.

The First Narayever Congregation was established in 1914, comprised mostly of the working class, many of whom worked in the garment industry.

In 1943, after 20 years of renting a small house on the corner of Huron and Dundas the congregation purchased a building at 187-189 Brunswick Avenue. It was originally built in the 1890s later serving the first English-speaking Mennonite congregation in Toronto. The First Narayever purchased the building for $6,000 in cash—equivalent to $82,879 today.

The Junction Shul 

The Congregation Knesseth Israel was established in 1909 in the west-end neighbourhood known as The Junction. The congregation consisted of a small number of immigrant families and in 1911 some land was purchased by the families of the congregation and construction of the present-day synagogue began.

The synagogue has only had one rabbi, Mordecai Langner, who was employed in 1925. After his departure in 1939 services were led by a cantor or the members of the congregation. Now the shul is open only for significant Jewish holidays.

Interior photos are by Mark Wolfson. You can visit his website here

Beach Hebrew Institute 

In 1920, Jewish residents in the area purchased the building that was originally built in the 1890s as a Baptist Church. The residents changed the name to the Beach Hebrew Institute and the building was moved to its present location (109 Kenilworth Avenue) and re-oriented to face east.

In the 1970s the Beaches were rediscovered and young Jewish families were attracted to the area, giving the synagogue new life.

Text is by Clarrie Feinstein. The feature image is by Mark Wolfson.

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