Welcome To The Toronto Jewish Quarter
The Golden Age of Toronto Jewry
Imagine that a future archaeologist is surveying New York, maybe thousands of years in the future. What do you think they would find? What would it say about Western Culture? While not as far removed as the example above, I feel the very same way when I enter some Toronto synagogues and buildings. I see hints of vibrancy, suggesting a time when the community was unified and shared common spaces and events. Their sanctuaries accommodate numbers far exceeding the modest traffic of elderly congregants. Their seats are now empty, with their children (and grandchildren) living an hour away from the closest shul. Their names are etched into the metal panel, perpetually illuminated by the Ner Tamid.
Knish, you meant kugel. Eat the knish
When I was growing up, we had so many Kosher restaurants. We all knew that they were overpriced, often full of salt and other harmful chemicals. We were served by a waitress with a bad attitude, insisting that “you” made the mistake ordering (and not her). You could call this poor customer service but I called it Heimish, with kosher restaurants being my favourite (still, at this stage of my life). While others complained about the noise at the Bathurst JCC, it reinvigorated by spirit and identity.
With its ebb and flow of new workers coming to find jobs in Toronto, others are moving out to Innisfil, Prince Edward County, Belleville and beyond. With all this being said, Toronto does have a Jewish core, something that (I think) demands attention and preservation. I would say that it starts around Beth Tzedec, going north on Bathurst Street until (roughly) Major Mackenzie. We are fortunate enough to live in the most multicultural country in the world, with areas designated for every ethnic group, tongue, and lifestyle.
On that note, I would like to advocate for a Jewish Village, not unlike the Gay Village (Downtown) or Chinatown (Spadina and Markham). This idea is not new, having been suggested by minds greater than my own.
- Mark the boundary with a sign reading “Welcome to the Jewish Quarter”.
- Offer street signs in Hebrew and Yiddish.
- Put up Canadian and Israeli flags along Bathurst Street.
- Use the term “Jewish Quarter” on bus and transit stops.
- Establish zoning regulations that promote the building (and maintaining) of synagogues, Jewish cemeteries, schools, and relevant infrastructure.
Building The Jewish Community
After the tragedy of the Holocaust, thousands of survivors came to Toronto and reinforced the generations that came before. While most of them have passed on “To Their People”, their memory can serve as the catalyst for good. If you are interested in any of my ideas, please reach out to me in the comments or by clicking here and hitting “contact us”. Perhaps someone else has already set up a petition, needing someone to circulate for signatures.
Like many of you, I care deeply about my home, the Toronto Jewish Community. It would give me great nachas to welcome visitors to our corner, sharing our fascinating culture, faith, and way of life. I see this as an opportunity to formalize our connection to this community, letting others know about who we are, where we come from, and where we are going.