When I was a kid, I didn’t realize that everything started at some point, that all things, sentient or otherwise, were created. I didn’t know that one day someone, somewhere, established Shaarei Shomayim Congregation. I figured it was all just there, and I simply happened to pass it by, as thousands had before me.
I thought the same thing about Richman’s Bakery and the Negev Book and Gift Store, both on Bathurst Street. When I was little, I just figured that those honourable establishments had always stood there, at their crossroads. I thought that chocolate éclairs had sat next to their sister, the air-kichlach, in those cases at Richman’s forever and that Hebrew DVDs were simply the younger brothers of eight-track Yiddish tapes, all of which could be purchased at Negev year-round, always.
Then I learned there was indeed a time when a local Jew figured it was a decent time to launch a bakery at York Downs Drive and another Jew decided the Toronto Jewish community needed a solid Judaica store selling sfarim and books. I realized that there was a time before Richman’s Bakery and Negev Book and Gift Store.
Years later, though, I’ve learned, with great sadness, that community icons do disappear, that they can run out of wheat and can lose their market for havdalah candles. I know now that landmarks have their day and will be replaced.
Nothing stays the same except memories, and even they crumble and change over time.
I would like to thank Richman’s Bakery and all of its owners for years of happiness and dancing paletes. Four generations of my family loved your rolls, pastries and cakes for all occasions. One of my finest memories while at Ner Yisrael Yeshiva was Thursday nights after hockey, when we would drive to Richman’s and buy freshly made boston cream pies. In those days, given the chance, I could eat the whole cake by myself, with pleasure.
And I remember so well Mrs. Greenwald, Chavchi’s mother, pointing to the freshest rum ball, coaxing me into purchasing it along with the tastiest-smelling cinnamon buns in the entire town. Richman’s Bakery was a Toronto Jewish community emblem.
On behalf of the Jewish community, I would like to offer my appreciation to all the owners of Negev, for the annual Jewish calendar, mezuzot, books, tfillin, sfarim, wooden and plastic dreidels and the Forward newspaper. And I watch my father in my daydream as he fingers through a brand-new Chumash, standing, leaning as he perused the new edition in the way only a bibliophile would know how. Negev was integral to our landscape. Negev was central to our community.
While the backdrop of our community will be lonely without you. Your signs, windows, and nutritional and educational hospitality will forever be in our hearts. I realize now, more so than ever, that when I used to come from Kitchener, Ont., and drive onto Bathurst Street, Richman’s was always there, without fail, and Negev stood long and welcoming, without disappointment.
But today, instead, I thank Lailah and Jonah for some fine desserts and the Kaplan brothers for some good stuff to read and for religious garments to wrap ourselves in.
Like the bakery and bookstores of old, you will always be part of our community narrative, archives and joyful memories. A dozen bagels, please, and a velvet tallit bag to go. Yasher koach.