The Brantford Hebrew Association, Congregation Beth David’s precursor, was founded in 1907 when Rabbi Backer officiated Brantford’s first public Jewish religious service in an upper hall on George Street. Services had previously taken place in the homes of Jewish families, who had begun settling in the area around the turn of the century. By 1911, services had moved to the old Conservative Hall at Dalhousie and King Street. In 1915, the congregation purchased a building at 33 Palace Street and remodeled it into a synagogue. This building was also used as a community centre and for the Congregation’s Hebrew school.
On October 13th, 1911 the congregation was incorporated, and the following year it purchased land for a cemetery in the northeast corner of Mount Hope Cemetery. Due to increasing membership, a new synagogue was built at 50 Waterloo Street in 1948. In January 1950, the congregation changed its name to Beth David in honour of member David Axler, who died during the Second World War while training as a pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force.
The congregation was at its peak in the 1960s with 150 member families. However, membership drastically fell after the children of this generation moved to larger cities and their parents followed after retirement. By 1999, only 28 families remained as members and services were reduced to being held on the High Holidays and special occasions, such as, b'nai mitzvah. Dwindling resources and membership forced the congregation to close around 2001. Throughout its existence, over 30 rabbis served the congregation, including Rabbi Saul Wolfe Gringorten (ca. 1910-1923). Its cemetery continues to be looked after by Allan Norris, a past president of the congregation.
Scope and Content
Fonds consists of records documenting the acitivities, religious programs and services, membership, and finances of Congregation Beth David, as well as the recognition and honours awarded by and to Brantford's Jewish community. Included are meeting minutes, photographs, plaques, a key, a marriage register, general ledgers, ledgers and lists of membership dues and receipts, audited financial statements, budgets, correspondece, bulletins, office stationary, newsclippings, certificates, library book cards, bookplates, rabbi contracts, and surveys.
Fonds has been arranged into the following six series: 1. Meetings ; 2. Religious programs and services; 3. Finances & accounting ; 4. Administrative functions ; 5. Bulletins ; and, 6. Events.
Includes 10 microfiches of textual records, 5 architectural drawings, 11 photographs (4 negatives), 3 plaques, 1 mounted letter and 1 key.
Fonds was reduced from ca. 1 metre to ca. 45 cm. See accession 2001-10-3 for further information about the culled material.
Congregation Beth David (Brantford, Ont.)
The binding on some of the general ledgers is fragile and coming apart. They have been stored flat to reduce any strain.
The architectural drawings have some tears and should be flattened.
Please see the Sadie Stren fonds 78 for other records documenting Brantford's Jewish community and the Beth David Congregation, including the synagogue's original letters of incorporation.
For records related to Beth David's namesake, David Axler, and photographs of its cemetery, please see accession #2004-5-71.
For records of Rabbi Gringorten, see accession #2009-2-5 and 2008-11-3
For additional records related to Brantford families and other Jewish organizations, such as the Hadassah chapter and B'nai Brith lodge, please see accession #2001-10-3; MG 2J29a, #2009-7-1, 1978-11-4, 1977-8-16, 1992-8-3, 1980-1-14, 1978-1-2, 2008-7-1, photo# 109, photo# 755, and photo #758.
Fonds is arranged to the file-level, but only described to the series-level. Three file-level descriptions exist for files attached directly to the fonds. Photographs with existing item-level descriptions were also attached to the fonds.