TORONTO — It’s been called “the little shul that could,” but these days, Beth Torah Congregation’s building is quite a bit larger than it used to be.
Shul’s past presidents carry Torahs in the new sanctuary. [Cara Edell photo]
The unaffiliated conservative shul in the Dufferin Street and Lawrence Avenue area last week marked the culmination of its “Completing the Dream” campaign, which began in 2005. The major renovation includes a new sanctuary, as well as a revamped chapel and refurbished social hall.
Under the leadership of Rabbi Yossi Sapirman, the almost half-century old shul has more than doubled in size from 200 to 500 families in the past few years, and now it’s no longer bursting at the seams.
The grand re-opening, held Sept. 13, allowed old and new members to pay tribute to donors who contributed $6 million to the campaign, including a $1.5 million contribution from Harry Turk.
“As we complete the dream of our founders and our congregation, we are all in awe of what our collective determination has accomplished,” Rabbi Sapirman said.
“Our future and our past are contained in an exquisite place created by a beautiful community.”
Harold Wolkin, campaign co-chair along with David Glick, said Beth Torah’s new addition was built upon the shul’s original foundation of values and traditions.
“We vividly remember the awe we felt when presented with the first concept drawing by our talented architectural team of Cindy Rendely and Jerome Markson. To be able to touch and feel their magic in transforming these drawings into the spiritual reality of today has been uplifting,” Wolkin said.
The new sanctuary, reflecting a minimalist and environmental esthetic, is illuminated with natural light and constructed from wood, stone and metal. The ark is the focal point, and its copper mosaic, reminiscent of the Temple layout, is an abstract replica of a page from the Talmud, said Rabbi Sapirman.
The bimah, built for accessibility and participation, features three wide stairs and a ramp.
“As I stand on the bimah as your cantor and enjoy the beauty of our sanctuary, I will be reminded of the shul’s beginnings and what it took to get here today,” said David Young, Beth Torah’s cantor since 1999.
“Joseph was a dreamer whose dreams came true. We, too, had a dream that has now been fulfilled.”
Toronto Councillor Howard Moscoe, who has been a member of the synagogue with his wife for 30 years, said while many shuls are struggling to survive, Beth Torah is flourishing. He said what attracted him to the synagogue was its vibrant community spirit and friendly family atmosphere – an energy he said that will last for many more decades.
Also in attendance at the grand opening were Lieut.-Gov. David Onley, MP Joe Volpe, city Councillor Adam Giambrone and Amir Gissin, Israel’s consul general in Toronto.
“As you celebrate this significant event, you can all take great pride in the knowledge that Beth Torah and its educational and community programs will be able to grow in the years ahead, while maintaining its role as an intimate family shul,” Gissin said.
“Toronto is the closest place to Israel at heart. It is the battlefield for Israel’s image, and it is people like you who ensure that.”