Accession consists of records of the Congregation Habonim. Included are synagogue bulletins, general correspondence with the membership, event programs and flyers, three financial statements from 1981 and 1987, and records related to invited speakers at the synagogue's breakfast club.
Congregation Habonim Toronto, founded in 1954, is a liberal synagogue located at 5 Glen Park Avenue in Toronto, and one of the first Holocaust refugee/survivor congregations to develop in Canada. Although currently independent of any official denomination, its early founders modeled the synagogue on the example of early Reform Judaism in Germany.
Most of the early members were refugees from Central Europe: some were Holocaust survivors; some were part of the Kindertransport. All arrived in Canada after the Second World War and began to frequent the New World Club, an organization that was dedicated to helping these newcomers settle into Canadian life. In 1953, they organized High Holiday services, and in 1954, they began to hold regular religious services. In 1955, the Congregation was officially chartered. They began holding services in rented premises at 44 St. George Street, Toronto and then moved to the Borochov Centre on Lippincott Street. In 1958, the present building at 5 Glen Park Avenue was rented, and then purchased in 1968.
One of its founders and first President was George Spitz, a Jewish refugee from Berlin, who unsuccessfully attempted to bring over his family from Germany in 1939 on the ill-fated MS St. Louis. Paul Alexander, also a refugee of Berlin, was an early Vice-President of the synagogue. Some of the notable figures associated with the Congregation are Esther Ghan Firestone, the first female cantor in Canada; Rabbi Reuben Slonim (author, and also associate editor of The Toronto Telegram), known for his outspoken views on the Israeli-Arab conflict; Cantor Henry Weingluck, a well known artist who was a pupil of Max Liebermann; and Avrum Rosensweig, founder of Ve’ahavta, the Canadian Jewish Humanitarian Relief Organization.
The synagogue makes its facilities available to a number of other organizations, including Ve’ahavta, co-sponsoring a Passover Seder for the Homeless every year and the Toronto Partnership Minyan, an Orthodox egalitarian initiative in Toronto spearheaded by Professor Martin Lockshin, and has co-sponsored events with other organizations outside the Jewish community such as Free the Children and Me to We. The Congregation supports a choir, the Habonim Youth Choir and is also home to Canada's only multi-denominational introductory conversion course.