The Kiever
Early History Architecture Religion Social Restoration The Synagogue Today      

The Kiever became a social institution as well as a religious one when it was first established in 1912. The congregation was formed under the landsmenshaftLandsmenshaft: connection felt between people originating from the same town or region after immigrating to a new country. Landsmen: people originating from the same town or region. trends: the congregants originated from areas near Kiev and shared similar traditions. While they created Rodfei Shalom Anshei Kiev for religious reasons, the Synagogue also provided a place where landsmenLandsmenshaft: connection felt between people originating from the same town or region after immigrating to a new country. Landsmen: people originating from the same town or region. could meet.1 The founding members immediately created an Executive in 1912, and although it was largely administrative, it was also a social body. There were many positions from which members could choose to become involved: President, Vice-President, Trustee, Treasurer, GabbaiGabbai: treasurer of the synagogue. The Gabbai was entrusted with the responsibility of collecting funds for charity from congregants., etc. The attraction to these positions has transcended generations. Many of the family names that appeared in Executive lists in the 1920s, continued to be seen well into the 1980s. Names such as Ross, Litvak, Lukatch and Bossin have remained part of the Kiever Executive. The history of the Kiever is therefore closely tied to many family histories.

The Executive held meetings to discuss synagogue ‘business’, but in a social setting, discussing issues while partaking in a snack or meal. This gave the members the chance to get to know their community and to find a role in its management. The last meeting before the summer was an excuse to hold an event. A bulletin from 1958 advertises a “Special Closing meeting” with guests and a “fine breakfast”.

The Executive was also responsible for organizing services and events for the congregation. Around 1930, the Executive formed a credit society that provided financial assistance to members in need. For new immigrants, this service provided some relief from the struggle to make ends meet, particularly during the Depression years.2 Current President of the Kiever, Dave Pinkus called it a “safety valve and security blanket” for Jewish immigrants.3 The Executive also organized m’laveh malkahM’laveh Malkah - festivities that occur after the Sabbath ends as a way of saying farewell to the Sabbath: usually includes a meal, speeches, and songs. social gatherings (celebrations that took place after the conclusion of the Sabbath). The Kiever invited special guests and speakers including Rabbi Nahumtzi Twersky, who visited the congregation often. In 1963, the Executive arranged a celebration in honour of the Kiever’s 50th anniversary. All members were formally invited to a banquet in which the history of the congregation and its significance to the lives of each member was recalled.

While the Kiever helped its own members by providing a healthy Jewish social atmosphere, the congregation also contributed to the Jewish community at large. When looking through Kiever documents, one cannot ignore the number of certificates of donations. The Kiever donated to Youth AliyahAliyah: [literally, "ascent"] ceremony of being called upon to recite a blessing over the reading of a portion of the Torah during services. Getting an aliyah is a great honour; men often pay money in order to be called up to the Torah. This money usually goes to charity or to synagogue funds. Also, aliyah can refer to moving to Israel, i.e. "to make aliyah". organizations, Histadrut, and the Jewish Home for the Aged, to name a few. Rabbi Langner, who led the congregation, was renowned for his hospitality and his charity work. His congregation certainly adopted his philosophy.

The women in the congregation set up the Ladies’ Auxiliary a few years after the shul was established. The Ladies’ Auxiliary helped out with functions and was responsible for collecting charity from the congregation and donating these funds to important charities. The Auxiliary also organized its own events. One event they held was in the form of an annual tea.

The Kiever was a social outlet for men, women, and youth as well. Boys were able to participate in a youth minyanMinyan: In an Orthodox congregation, at least 10 men over the age of Bar Mitzvah (13) are required in order to form a congregation to begin services. This group is called a minyan. that was held in the basement of the Kiever. Fischel Cooper led the group of boys and would take them on social outings to High Park and Queen’s Park. Albert Gellman, who participated in Cooper’s group, remembers Cooper as a “Jewish grandfather, prophet, teacher, coach, and pied piper all rolled into one.”4

The Kiever synagogue was a popular site for a wide range of social events. Numerous wedding receptions, bar mitzvahBar-Mitzvah (pl. Bnei-Mitzvah): A ceremony for boys who reach the age of 13 in which they read from the Torah on the Sabbath falling closest to their Hebrew birthday. (Judaism follows a lunar calendar.) At this age, boys are considered accountable for their own actions and have higher responsibilities to God. Girls reach this level of responsibility at the age of 12, in what is called a Bat-Mitzvah. However, according to Orthodox tradition, girls do not read from the Torah. celebrations, and anniversaries were celebrated in the Kiever. Aside from personal celebrations, the hall in the basement of the Kiever provided a space for social gatherings ranging from member luncheons to a dance for Young Judea Zionists.

The building itself has been a reason for people to celebrate together. The historic building has been the site of many tours and exhibits. In 1974, the Jewish community organized the Sense of Spadina tour that allowed people to explore the history of the area. The tour was organized by the Ontario Jewish Archives Committee. The Kiever was the last site on the tour, where music and food were offered to the guests. The building was also a site for tours that were organized in conjunction with an exhibit about the history of Jews in Western Canada, sponsored by the Jewish Historical Centre of Western Canada. The building was so popular as an educational site that in the late 1970s, there was discussion of creating a museum in its basement.

1. David Pinkus, “History of the Kiever”.
2. Ibid.
3. Ibid.
4. Albert Gellman, Beth Tzedec Bulletin (July 20, 1975) p. 5.



Male congregants attending a meeting over a meal, April 1974
Early members of the Kiever (c. 1941)

Male congregants attending a meeting over a meal, April 1974
Male congregants attending a meeting over a meal (April 1974)

An invitation to the Kiever’s 50th Jubilee celebrations, 1963
An invitation to the Kiever’s 50th Jubilee celebrations (1963)

The Ladies Auxiliary of the Kiever, c. 1963
The Ladies' Auxiliary of the Kiever
(c. 1963)

Fischel Cooper and Isaac Mosten with youngsters, c. 1938
Fischel Cooper and Isaac Mosten with youngsters (c. 1938)

A Ketubah (certificate of marriage), dated 5690 (1930)
A Ketubah (certificate of marriage), dated 5690 (1930)

50th Anniversary celebration of Mr. & Mrs. Gutkin Fruitman, 1940
50th Anniversary celebration of Mr. & Mrs. Gutkin Fruitman (1940)

Invitation to the wedding of Isidor Eisen and Rebecca Gelbwachs, 1921
Invitation to the wedding of Isidor Eisen and Rebecca Gelbwachs (1921)

Members of the Sense of Spadina Walk Committee, June 16, 1974
Members of the Sense of Spadina Walk Committee (June 16, 1974)



CanadaUJA Federation of Greater TorontoThe Ontario Jewish ArchivesRyerson UniversityCanada's Digital Collections