Leo Baeck Day School’s decision to sell its Thornhill building has left its tenants, including a school and a synagogue, wondering what the future holds for them.
The Reform day school announced last month that it’s moving to the northern campus of the Anne and Max Tanenbaum Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto for the 2017 academic year in an effort to shore up both schools’ declining enrolments.
Leo Baeck’s 60,000-square-foot building on Atkinson Avenue is also home to Zareinu Educational Centre, a school for students with physical and developmental challenges; Temple Kol Ami; and a mikvah used by the Reform and Conservative movements. Temple Har Zion rents classroom space in the building on Sundays.
Zareinu, the newest tenant, just moved into the building at the start of this academic year and rents five classrooms and an office.
“We understood that this was in the realm of possibility when we moved in there,” said Zareinu chairman David Gordon. “We didn’t think the timing would be tomorrow.”
Ideally, Zareinu would like to spearhead a campaign to buy the building with other groups that serve Jewish children and adults with disabilities and create “a centre of excellence,” Gordon said.
“What donors want to see is a number of institutions getting together and combining their efforts,” he said.
He envisions that the centre would offer programs for children, teens and adults, with daytime as well as after-hours and summer programs.
When Zareinu announced plans to move into the building last year, both schools were excited at the possibility of encouraging interaction among their students.
Leo Baeck “took us in, we became part of the school,” Gordon said.
Zareinu would not consider following Leo Baeck and moving farther north to the Lebovic Jewish Community Campus, where TanenbaumCHAT is located, because it is too far for students and teachers to travel, he said.
Other buyers are also believed to be looking at the school, Gordon added.
Meanwhile, the other tenants are waiting to see who will buy the building, which is not expected to be finalized for at least a year.
The Reform Mikvah of Greater Toronto, which was included in the building when it was constructed more than 20 years ago, has an agreement in principle with Leo Baeck that gives it access whenever the building is open.
The mikvah has been assured that a new owner would honour the existing agreements, said mikvah co-chair Robin Leszner.
“In the meantime, we’re hoping for the best,” she said. “It’s really an important institution.”
Temple Kol Ami, which has been in the building for more than 20 years, also has a long-term lease with Leo Baeck, said synagogue president Mark Wolpert.
“What we have been told is that the prospective buyer [is] interested in assuming the existing leases,” he said. “They need the existing tenants to make their finances work.”
Wolpert said he did not know the identity of the potential buyer.
The temple has office space, meeting space, classrooms and a chapel, much of which is shared with Leo Baeck, since the two organizations use the building at different times.