Accession consists of material documenting the First Narayever Congregation of Toronto. Included are membership books, minute books, insert cards used to record aliyah pledges, correspondence, ledger sheets, contracts, and other material.
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.