Accession consists of the records related to the activities and operations of the First Narayever Congregation. Included are board and general meeting minutes (1984-1996); general correspondence, high holiday tickets and membership lists (1970s-1990s); membership and dues ledger (1929-1983); Ritual Committee meeting minutes (1984-1988); Implementation Committee records (1970s-1980s); constitutions (1980s); newsletters (1983-2004); a blank seat deed (1920s); a cemetery map (1950s?); records regarding burial rights for the Owen Sound Hebrew Congregation (1966-1980); records regarding a court case filed by members of the congregation surrounding the egalitarian changes being planned; an album documenting SHTICK! A Celebration of Jewish Playrights (2005-2006); an album documenting the congregation's participation in a UJA Mission to Israel (2003-2004); a binder of material containing photocopied and original records in support of the research for the congregation's 100th anniversary celebrations (1970s-2014); photographs and a video recording of the 100th Anniversary exhbition opening at the Miles Nadal JCC; photographs of events hosted by the congregation; and 9 video interviews with individuals connected to the shul conducted by Sharoni Siboney for the anniversary celebrations. Interviewees are: Peter Gold, Sharon Weintraub, Murray Teitel, Rosalyn Katz, Julia Gluck, Shaya Petroff, Stuart Schoenfeld, Sylvia Solomon and Ben Rothman. Also included are family photographs and written transcripts of oral interviews conducted with members of the Hersh Petersiel family, who lived in Hastings, Ontario and had early connections to the Narayever Congregation.
The records related to Hersh Petersiel were given to the First Narayever by Marsha Beck for their upcoming 100th anniversary. Marsha agreed to donate them to the OJA along with the Narayever records.
In 1914, Jews from eastern Galicia (now in modern Ukraine) established the First Narayever Congregation in Toronto as a landsmanshaf, i.e. a society of Jewish immigrants from the same town or region. The synagogue takes its name from the small market town of Narayev, which is located in eastern Galicia. The synagogue's founders belonged to the working class and many worked in Toronto's garment industry.
Initially, congregation members met in different locations, but by 1923 their numbers and financial means had grown such that they were able to rent a small house at 70 Huron Street at the corner of Huron and Dundas. This house served as the congregation's home for twenty years.
The congregation's first president was Israel Chaim Katz and its first meeting was held at the Katz home at 156 William Street. The congregation's first rabbi was Solomon Langner, who was hired by the congregation in 1923. He retained this affiliation despite serving the Kiever Synagogue as a full-time rabbi from 1929 until he died in 1973.
In 1943, the congregation purchased property at 187-189 Brunswick Avenue from Bethel Church. This is where the the synagogue is located today.
In 1950, Henry Young became president of the congregation. He occupied that position until his death in 1976.
Shalom Langner, the son of Rabbi Solomon Langner, succeeded Young as president.
As Toronto's Jewish population began to move north, the First Narayever continued to serve Orthodox Jews living downtown. In the 1980s, the congregation struggled to balance the needs of this older generation with the young generation's desire to make the synagogue more egalitarian with respect to gender. In 1983, the congregation's new leadership team successfully advanced a proposal to allow the full participation of women in traditional services. This innovation led to several long-standing members taking legal action, but their case was dismissed on the grounds that it was not a matter for civil law.
The First Narayever's identity continued to evolve. In 2009, its membership voted to allow its rabbi, Edward Elkin, who began serving the congregation in 2000, to officiate at same-sex marriages.