ca. 83 photographs : b&w and col. (56 negatives) ; 18 x 13 cm or smaller
7 cm of textual records
Scope and Content
Accession consists of records related to the planning and production of a centenary journal and dinner in honour of the 100th anniversary of The Beth Jacob V’anshe Drildz Congregation. Included are submissions for the journal including a detailed history of the Beth Jacob Synagogue, print proofs of the journal, congratulatory letters from politicians and Jewish organizations and congratulatory ads. In addition there are copies of speeches from the dinner held on June 26, 1997, a sample of the invitation and general planning correspondence.
Photographs taken for the journal feature exterior shots of the Beth Jacob Synagogue on Henry St and Wilmington and interior shots of the Bimah, Aron ha-kodesh, stained glass windows, sanctuary from the Wilmington Street location along with clergy, members of the sisterhood and brotherhood, presidents and others involved in the synagogue.
Beth Jacob congregation was founded in 1897 and was located in three different locations in St. John’s Ward before the land at 23 Henry Street was purchased in 1919. Known as the Henry Street Shul or the Polishe Shul, the new purpose-built synagogue was dedicated in 1922. The dedication ceremonies attracted so many onlookers that the police had to be called in to manage the crowds.
The synagogue could accommodate up to 800 worshippers – 500 in the men’s section and 300 in the women’s balcony. According to Orthodox tradition, men and women sit separately during synagogue services. Its neo-Romanesque design was typical of other North American synagogues of the period that borrowed heavily from church architecture, often featured arched entranceways, rose windows and twin towers. Its vaulted ceiling was capped by a massive central dome and four smaller ones. It boasted a mikvah (ritual bath) in its basement as well as an assembly hall, a smaller chapel, a brick sukkah and a caretaker’s apartment. The synagogue’s intricately carved Aron ha-kodesh and Bimah were also designed by Brown and were removed in the mid 1960s when the congregation relocated to its current location in North York. The building was sold and converted into the Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church.
Benjamin Brown considered Beth Jacob Synagogue to be his crowning achievement. It was the first synagogue in Toronto (perhaps Canada) to be designed by a Jewish architect and signified the Jewish community’s increased confidence in its new generation of emerging professionals.