Knesseth Israel
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Maria Street

Congregation Knesseth Israel is located on Maria Street in the west-end area of Toronto known as “The Junction”. Settlement by Jews to Maria Street began with a few immigrant families at the turn of the nineteenth-century. By the 1920s, Maria Street was the most densely populated Jewish street in the Junction.

The Junction was a fair distance from the downtown neighbourhoods of Kensington and the Ward, which were the most established Jewish neighbourhoods in Toronto. Industry had realized the economic benefits of locating in the Junction, and soon residents did as well. The land was cheap, there was access to sewage and water supplies and the area was far less crowded than the downtown core.

Many of the new Jewish residents who settled in the Junction were peddlers by trade and the west-end location afforded them many economic advantages. Peddlers often used horses to pull their carts full of wares, and the land lots in the area were big enough to house a horse stable. In addition, most of the farms were on the outskirts of the city, an hour from the downtown area. The close proximity of the Junction to these farms meant that fruit and vegetable peddlers had an hour lead on the peddlers coming from the east from other neighbourhoods.

However, Maria Street had an additional incentive for relocation. By the early 1900s, a building project was developed by Gaffeny and Casselman. The aim was to create a co-operative housing and employment plan whereby each resident would buy a house on the street and would commit hours of labour to build others. In exchange, the buyers would be provided with jobs at a new needleworks being built nearby. The plan appealed to many new Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, who were trained as needle workers and were enticed by the prospect of a new home and employment in a time of financial uncertainty. The houses were all purchased, and once Knesseth Israel synagogue was built, more Jewish families were drawn to the area. Unfortunately, the factory didn't last, but the homes are still standing today as a reminder of the history of this early Jewish street.




Sketch of a survey for Lot 58, Plan 740 on Maria Street in the Junction (April 2, 1923)

Joseph Alexandroff describes how many immigrant Jewish families came to live on Maria Street


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