In the early days of the First Narayever Congregation,
the members met in a house on Dundas and Huron. It was
not until 1940 that the congregation was able to afford
a more permanent building for their synagogue. Rather
than constructing a synagogue, they invested in a building
on Brunswick Avenue, which was within walking distance
from most members’ homes. The area around Brunswick
Avenue was at that time, and remains today, mostly residential.
The First Narayever’s structure fits in nicely with
the residential houses in regards to its size and stature;
it is a humble synagogue with a warm, welcoming facade.
The only distinctive difference between the Synagogue
and the surrounding houses is the Yiddish writing “First Narayever” located above the
The First Narayever synagogue was originally a red brick
building with a pitched roof and a few small windows.
Today, the brick is painted a greyish blue, but the exterior
remains otherwise unchanged. Its design is not typical
for a synagogue, as it was originally built as a Forester’s
Lodge and later served as a Mennonite church. It is a
very modest structure with little ornamentation.
building is over a hundred years old. As a result, due
to its size and age, it differs dramatically from the
newer and vastly larger synagogues that have been erected
in Toronto recently. The First Narayever Congregation
began renovating the building in the 1980s. Originally,
the building was not equipped to accommodate social events
due to its size. The renovations therefore involved turning
the basement into a kitchen and social hall. Also, the
was acquired and now occupies the centre of the Synagogue,
replacing the podium that was once used to hold the Torah.
the transition, there was a wooden divider, called a mechitza,
at the back of the pews to separate the women from the
men; however, it was removed during the 1980s when the
congregation officially became Orthodox egalitarian. Other
changes to the interior include a new curtain over the
decorated with a mural of a tree and several candelabras
on the corners of the bimah,
which lend the sanctuary a warm and pleasant atmosphere.
Synagogue’s interior is in keeping with the building’s
humble design. The sanctuary is narrow and simple in appearance,
with white walls and a stippled ceiling. The walls, lights,
pews and windows are all unadorned with little ornamentation,
although pleasant and elegant in appearance. The aron
occupies the central area of the room at the front; it
is framed by two square fluted columns. Over the arch
is a passage from Hallel
and underneath the Ten Commandments are depicted on stone
tablets. On either side of the Ten Commandments are carved
lions symbolizing Jerusalem.
Exterior view of the First Narayever,
View of the interior of the First Narayever (1985)
Interior view of the sanctuary (1985)
Architectural plans for the First Narayever (2000)
Interior view of the sanctuary showing a close up view
of the ark (2003)
View of the synagogue’s interior showing the bimah
and ark (2003)