First Narayever
Early History
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The First Narayever Congregation began as a 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.—an association of Jews from the town of Naraiev in Galicia, which was part of Austria-Hungary, later Poland, and today is in the Ukraine. As more and more Jews left Galicia for Canada, a group was formed that settled in downtown Toronto. The Narayever Congregation was founded in 1914 and received a provincial charter in 1918. They became the First Narayever Congregation because they were the first to establish a congregation in North America. Another group from Galicia went to New York, but had not yet founded a congregation.

The First Narayever met for many years in a house at the corner of Huron and Dundas streets. Some copies of seat deeds for this location still exist, which were used to ensure members’ rights to sit in particular seats for the services. In 1940, the congregation moved to its present location at 187-189 Brunswick Avenue. The Brunswick building was originally used as a Forester’s Lodge and later as a church.

The first Rabbi of the Narayever Congregation was Shlomo Langner, who was also a Rabbi for the Kiever Congregation and Shaarei Tzedec Congregation. Rabbi Langner did not lead services, but acted as spiritual leader, teacher and an authority on Jewish law. In addition to providing an Orthodox religious community, the congregation also worked to provide support of other kinds for its members. There is evidence to suggest that the congregation temporarily employed a neighbourhood doctor to look after the medical needs of its members, as there was not any medical insurance available at the time. Members of the congregation kept in touch with their relatives in Naraiev, and when necessary, the congregation would provide financial assistance to their kin overseas.

As the Jewish community, including many of the original Narayever members, moved north of the downtown core, the congregation underwent a transition in terms of its composition and services. The Narayever Congregation ceased to be primarily immigrants from Galicia; eventually the congregation was made up of neighbourhood residents whose synagogues had moved north, and, as well, of new Toronto residents who had recently settled in the downtown area.

During the early 1980s, the newcomers introduced an alternative egalitarian service downstairs, which drew in many new members. The non-members who attended the Orthodox services upstairs were not numerous enough to sustain a 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. on their own, as well, the older Board members had resigned and eventually those seeking a more Orthodox service left for other nearby congregations. Thereafter, the gender egalitarian service was moved upstairs. This transition marked the beginning of a new era for the congregation.

The Synagogue underwent renovations in the early 1980s, and again more recently, in an effort to accommodate its new members and to provide for its future as a neighborhood synagogue. The renovations included converting the cellar into a social hall, and also adding a kitchen and modern washrooms. Previously, the Synagogue had been unable to accommodate any social events due to the lack of useable space. In recent years, the First Narayever has become the most well-attended and active synagogue in the downtown area.

1. Stuart Schoenfeld’s “History of the First Narayever”



Letters of Incorporation for the First Narayever synagogue, 1918
Letters of Incorporation for the First Narayever synagogue (1918)

Notice of meeting and invoice from the First Narayever Congregation and Sick Benefit Society (c. 1941)
Notice of meeting and invoice from the First Narayever Congregation and Sick Benefit Society (c. 1941)

Seat deed for Arthur Pasternack, January 1928
Seat deed for Arthur Pasternack (January, 1928)

Early financial journal from the First Narayever synagogue, 1914-1917
Early financial journal from the First Narayever synagogue (1914-1917)

Minute book, 1914-1922
Minute book (1914-1922)

Meeting announcement for the First Narayever, c. 1930s
Meeting announcement for the First Narayever (c. 1930s)

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