The “Shuls Project” was the work of three University of Toronto architecture students, who in 1977 wrote a research paper on the eight Toronto synagogues built before World War II. Concerned at the lack of resources on these synagogues, Sidney Tenenbaum, Lynn Milstone and Sheldon Levitt foresaw the loss of communities’ recorded history as membership dwindled and elders passed on. The students conceived a project that would photograph and document every synagogue in Canada, gathering visual evidence, memorabilia, plaques and stories before they disappeared and history was lost. The students’ goal was to document synagogues’ architecture, art, and historical development through research, interviews and site visits.
The students secured a large portion of the required funding for the project from the Samuel and Saidye Bronfman Family Foundation in Montreal, funding which was matched by the Canadian Jewish Congress. This financial support enabled Levitt, Milstone and Tenenbaum to begin their study, named “Shuls… A Study of Canadian Synagogue Architecture.” They began in the summer of 1977, traveling through the Western provinces. The next summer, they visited eight Maritime cities, Montreal and other Quebec communities. Financial support in the project’s second year was again provided by the Bronfman Family Foundation, along with the Canadian government and donations in kind from businesses, including Benjamin Photo Finishers in Toronto, and Polaroid. The summer of 1979 was spent in Ontario, with an added grant from Wintario. In total, the Shuls project team traveled over 24,000 kilometres, taking thousands of photographs and conducting several hundred interviews. Photographs were taken by Tenenbaum, with Levitt and Milstone assuming primary responsibility for researching synagogues’ history and gathering historic records. Interviews were conducted by all three researchers, in both English and Yiddish.
With no handy index of every shul in Canada, the researchers located small shuls by word of mouth. They spread word of their project and solicited assistance using press releases, letters to known communities, and slideshow presentations as they traveled. They would first examine a building to get an idea of a community’s character and heritage, then conduct interviews with designers, architects, rabbis and other prominent community members.
With the research and photographs created, the team compiled three catalogues of the Western, Eastern/Quebec, and Ontario phases of the project. These catalogues have entries on each synagogue that include historical summaries highlighting the founding, growth, mergers and decline of Jewish communities, their changing needs, changing architectural expressions and trends, and the evolving uses of synagogues over the course of the twentieth century. There are also building descriptions, some with critical comments by the authors, and lists of the photographs and slides produced.
The compilation of materials and preparation of these catalogues took place at the Project’s offices at 26 Ava Road in Toronto, and continued through the summer of 1980 when the Ontario catalogue was completed. In 1985, Tenenbaum, Milstone and Levitt published a book highlighting their work, called Treasures of a People: The Synagogues of Canada.
Scope and Content
Fonds consists of the records created and collected by the team of students conducting the Shuls study from 1977 to 1980. The majority of the fonds is made up of graphic material, in the form of 35mm colour slides and black-and-white Polaroid prints and (print-size) negatives. There are approximately 5110 photographs in the fonds. Fonds also consists of notes and inventory forms of buildings' architectural features. There are no interview transcripts, but the fonds does include three audio cassettes with recorded interviews and shul tours. Reference materials used in researching the history of the shuls include dedication and anniversary commemorative books and programmes, newsletters, articles and newspaper clippings. In addition the fonds contains 47 blueprints, the majority from Montreal synagogues. The fonds is arranged in the following series: 1. Quebec synagogues; 2. Ontario synagogues; 3. Western Canada synagogues; 4. Eastern Canada synagogues; 5. Reference.
Physical description note: includes 92 cm of textual records, 42 architectural drawings, 3 audio cassettes, and 1 drawing.
Physical extent note: many of the slides were culled because they were felt to be reproductions. Some of the synagogue images in the research book may therefore not be included in the fonds.
Copyright is not held by the Ontario Jewish Archives. It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain permission prior to use.
5593 photographs, 25 x 20 cm and smaller, and other media
The Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of Toronto was incorporated in Ontario in March 1917 to coordinate the fundraising activities of Jewish charitable, philanthropic, and social service agencies in Toronto. In 1918, ten separate agencies were funded by the FJPT. By 1937, fourteen agencies were funded. The Great Depression of the 1930s and the development of several newer Jewish aid, education, and medical care organizations created both increased need for resources and growing competition for ever-more scarce dollars. Within a very few years this funding crisis forced a major review of the organization.
During 1936 a series of special meetings of leading individuals were held to examine the income and expenditures of all Toronto Jewish agencies and also to speculate about the need for a new Toronto Jewish "Community Chest" as the sole fund-raising organization for a federation of all Jewish agencies including the FJPT. In 1938, the new United Jewish Welfare Fund was formally constituted. Added to the FJPT's previous list of Toronto client agencies in 1938 were: the Canadian Jewish Congress, the Hebrew National Association, the Jewish Immigrant Aid Association, the Mizrachi Society, the Toronto Free Loan Association, the Geverkshaften, and Old Folks Home, and the United Palestine Appeal, raising the total number of agencies to 22.
When the State of Israel was established in 1948, the UJWF's annual fundraising campaign was combined with the CJC's United Palestine appeal to form a new, combined campaign named the United Jewish Appeal (UJA). In 1967, the UJA name was legally changed to the United Jewish Appeal of Metropolitan Toronto.
In mid-1976, the organization's public name was changed to the Toronto Jewish Congress. Although initially thought of as a merger between the UJWF and the CJC, the actual result was the expansion of the UJWF responsibilities to include local education and welfare services previously shared with the Canadian Jewish Congress, Central Region. The UJWF, however, remained the legal senior entity.
In 1991 the public name was again changed to the Jewish Federation of Greater Toronto and in 1999, to UJA Federation of Greater Toronto. By this date, over 30 beneficiary and affiliated agencies, 49 affiliated schools and five Federation departments were fully or partly funded by the UJA Federation.
In June, 2010, the organization altered its legal structure, with the senior legal entity becoming the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto.
Scope and Content
Fonds consists of 25 series: Annual Meetings, Annual Reports, Board of Directors, Constitution Committee, Executive Committee, Officers Committee, Budget and Finance Committee, Administration Committee, Social Planning Committee, Committee on Capital Needs and Planning, Central Committee on Scholarships in Aid, Joint Committee of the BJE and UJWF Study on Jewish Education, Nominations Committee, Pension Fund Committee, Coordinating Committee, Special Ad Hoc and Temporary Committees, Annual Campaign, Client Agencies, Joint Committee of the CJC and the UJWF, Committee on Community Organization, Sub-Committee on Construction and Administration of Community Schools, Joint Committee on Fundraising, Personnel Committee, Community Leadership Development Council, and Israel at Fifty Community Celebration.
Over 4500 photographs and a variety of other media are managed within Series 17, Campaign records.
For exact details about the contents of individual series and sub-series, please review their scope and contents notes.
United Jewish Welfare Fund
Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of Toronto
United Jewish Appeal
Toronto Jewish Congress
Jewish Federation of Greater Toronto
UJA Federation of Greater Toronto
Partially closed. Researchers must receive permission from the OJA Director prior to accessing some of the records.
For records of the predecessor of the UJWF, see Fonds 66, the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of Toronto fonds.
Further detailed documentation of the proposed merger between the UJWF and the CJC (creation of the TJC) may be found in Fonds 67, Sub-sub-series 5-5-1, Files 171 and 221.
Further documentation on the United Jewish Welfare Fund may be found within Fonds 9, Series 7, records of the Jewish Immigrant Aid Society.
For further detailed records of a key community leader's involvement with the UJWF see Accession 1982-8-8, the records of Samuel Godfrey, 1943-1972.