Monty Grunebaum and Barnie Sher are two of the founding members of Kehillat Shaarei Torah, a Modern Orthodox shul located on Bayview Avenue in North York. Monty, who immigrated to Canada in 1977, says that the impetus for starting the shul derived partly from South Africans wanting to recreate their memories of Jewish life in South Africa in their new country. A group began to look at different venues in the city and applied for a rabbi. Because many of the South Africans who immigrated to Canada were of modest means, it was a challenge raising funds. With the support of the established Toronto community, eventually, the group was able to purchase a property and hire a rabbi. In November 1980, the shul was incorporated as Kehillat Shaarei Torah of Toronto.
Kehillat Shaarei Torah has had four rabbis since its incorporation in 1980. Rabbi Eliot Feldman served the community from 1981 to 1988 and was instrumental in getting the shul established. Rabbi Steven Cohen succeeded Feldman, serving the congregation from 1988 to 1992. Rabbi Reuven Tradburks came next, caring for the community from 1992 to 2009. The current rabbi, Rabbi Joe Kanofsky, has led the community since 2009.
Kehillat Shaarei Torah (Toronto, Ont.)
00:29 Monty explains the impetus for starting a synagogue for South African Jews in Toronto.
01:37 Monty discusses where he lived in Toronto when he arrived in 1977. He discusses the main locations where South African Jews settled.
02:50 Barnie describes a large presence of South African Jews in the Bayview/York Mills area.
03:11 Barnie discusses the origins of the synagogues in South Africa.
04:14 Barnie discusses the importance of cantorial singing in South African synagogues.
05:20 Barnie describes some of the synagogues and their primary influences from Lithuania and Germany.
06:24 Barnie recounts his first experience at a Toronto synagogue for the High Holidays.
08:13 Monty recounts his first experience at a Toronto synagogue for Rosh Hashanah and how it served as a catalyst to establish a synagogue that would feel more comfortable.
09:47 Barnie describes funeral traditions in South Africa. He contrasts these practices with his personal experience in Toronto.
14:19 Barnie and Monty discuss the early attempts to establish services to meet the needs of their South African Jewish community.
18:21 Barnie highlights the importance of having a separate section in the cemetery in order to maintain South African burial practices.
19:23 Barnie and Monty discuss the role played by Bernard Isaacs in the formation of the synagogue.
00:00 Barnie discusses some of the earliest founders and promoters of the synagogue: Rabbi Whitty, Kurt Rothschild, Harvey Hecker, ?Bernie Gert. He describes fundraising efforts.
01:19 Monty explains how the property for the synagogue was purchased.
03:23 Barnie describes the acquisition of the aron kodesh, pews, and prayer books from an Ontario synagogue donation and from membership donations.
04:25 Monty discusses the limited financial resources of new South African immigrants. Financial support for the synagogues came from membership donations.
05:20 Monty notes that the synagogue attracted a number of Jews who moved from Montreal.
06:26 Barnie discusses the synagogue's first rabbi, Rabbi Feldman.
07:50 Barnie discusses resistance to the synagogue from Jewish neighbours.
09:36 The synagogue's name, Kehillah Shaarei Torah, was the name of Rabbi Feldman's congregation in Syracuse. Barnie and Monty reminisce about Rabbi Feldman.
12:55 The synagogue was incorporated in November 1980.
14:45 Barnie describes the operation of the synagogue before a building was constructed.
19:13 Monty recalls that Beth Tikvah Synagogue lent them Torahs.
19:51 Barnie reminisces about the first Rosh Hashanah in their new building.
20:48 Barnie recounts how the synagogue received a generous donation from the Reichman family.
00:00 Monty lists the rabbis who served the synagogue.
00:26 Barnie recounts a humorous incident about meeting a new rabbi.
02:50 Barnie and Monty discuss Rabbi Tradburks and his contribution to the synagogue and the greater Jewish community in Toronto.
09:29 Barnie discusses an attempt to change the synagogue's direction from Orthodox to Conservative.
10:28 Barnie and Monty continue to reminisce about Rabbi Tradburks.
00:00 Monty discusses Rabbi Joel Kanofsky.
02:40 Barnie identified demographics as a concern for the continuity of the synagogue.
04:50 Barnie continues to discuss membership. Membership has remained relatively steady at a 220-230 family core.
06:00 Barnie and Monty discuss outreach methods and various synagogue services, education, and events.
11:00 Barnie discusses some humorous incidents involving their group of four friends, including a Purim skit and a birthday gag.
18:17 Barnie discusses Rabbi Tradburk's involvement in the formation of the Coby Mandel Foundation, a support group for youth in Israel who have lost family members as a result of terrorism.
00:00 Barnie discusses changes that are occurring in the synagogue with a change of demographics and new membership.
02:24 Monty raises concerns about loss of membership.
04:18 Monty lists some programs and services offered in the synagogue, including a youth program.
04:43 Barnie discusses the current status of the synagogue. He cites some of the problems with the existing synagogue (e.g. no elevator, lack of parking, no banquet hall).
07:34 Barnie mentions the synagogue on Green Lane, another synagogue with a large South African membership.
08:44 Barnie describes the process of hiring a new rabbi for their synagogue.