1984, Knesseth Israel was designated a Heritage Site for
being the oldest surviving Toronto synagogue still in
use today. In September 2001, Knesseth Israel synagogue
unveiled a provincial plaque presented by the Ontario
honouring the Synagogue on its 90th birthday. This plaque
commemorated the historical significance of Knesseth Israel
and honoured the value that the Synagogue holds to the
Toronto Jewish community today. The survival of Knesseth
Israel synagogue provides tangible evidence of the Jewish
community’s rich history in the Junction. The community’s
past is inseparable from the Synagogue and its activities.
the early 1990s, Knesseth Israel had undergone extensive
renovations. Work focused primarily on removing the dirt
and grime that had accumulated over the years on the Synagogue
walls as a result of the shul’s close proximity
to the railway lines. The vibrant colours and details
of the painted murals were carefully restored to their
original elegance. The exterior and interior architectural
features received maintenance and restorative work as
Knesseth Israel is cared for by the descendents of the Synagogue’s
early members and founders. For example, Mr. Edwin Goldstein
is the Synagogue’s current President and the grandson
of Joseph Goldstein, one of the shul’s founders. His
father, Al Goldstein, was the shul’s former President
for over 25 years, from the late 1950s until 1983. Mr. Harry Alexandroff
is the current Vice-President of the shul. His father,
was a founding member, and the shul’s first President.
Mr. Joey Tanenbaum
is currently a major supporter of Knesseth Israel and was
responsible for providing the funding for the extensive
renovations. He is the grandson of Abraham Tanenbaum ,
also a founder of the Synagogue. Mr. Jules Kronis
is often involved in conducting tours of the Synagogue,
and lectures on the significance of the building. He is
the grandson of Nathan
an early officer of the Synagogue and long-time supporter
of the shul.
Knesseth Israel now has a membership of
approximately 75 to 80 full-time members and 300 associate
members, most of whom no longer live in the Junction.
Due to the geographic shift in the community to the northern
suburbs, the Synagogue can no longer support full Shabbat
services, as it has become very difficult to bring together
However, in addition to offering services during the High
the shul also holds services for some minor holidays.
Cantor Howard Kamen has led services since 1978, typically
with the assistance of one of the Synagogue’s elders.
Cantor Kamen also tutors young boys preparing for their
bar mitzvahs in the school room located in the shul’s basement.
Currently, the Synagogue hosts several bar mitzvahs
and weddings each year.
the past, the Synagogue has also offered tours to school
groups, lodges and various other interested organizations.
Five seperate film and television ventures have used Knesseth
Israel as a set location for their productions, under
the strict observance of the Synagogue's Executive. Knesseth
Israel has also taken part in the “Doors
Open Toronto” program for several years.
This participation has enabled those from inside and outside
the Jewish community the opportunity to visit the shul,
view its interior, and learn more about the Jewish community’s
history and presence in the Junction.
Interior view of the ark and the mural on the east wall
Mural of a lion on the ceiling above the women’s
Mural of a house and tree on the ceiling above the women’s
Mural of a tiger in the women’s gallery (1984)
Interior view of the painting on the ceiling above the
women’s gallery (2003)
Interior view from the women’s gallery (2003)
The aron kodesh
by candlelight (1996)