First Narayever
The Synagogue Today
Early History Architecture Religion Social The Synagogue Today    

The First Narayever is centrally situated, drawing its members from the downtown community. The congregation is comprised of many professionals and academics, as the Synagogue is close to the University of Toronto. the Synagogue’s fast-growing membership directly reflects the revival of the Jewish community within the downtown neighbourhood. Jews who had previously moved out of the downtown area to leave behind the reminders of a difficult past are returning to the city’s core now that it is more prosperous and accessible to the conveniences of downtown Toronto. Today, the congregation stands at approximately 600 members, marking a huge expansion from the 40 or so founding members.

Presently, the Synagogue has a thriving membership and is increasingly involved in the community, providing a space that welcomes the creative and spiritual growth of its congregation. The service is still conducted mostly in Hebrew. However, due to its location and egalitarian format, the Synagogue attracts a large and diverse membership. Increasingly, the shul is adopting a more participatory philosophy, where members are encouraged to be active in shaping the future of the Synagogue.

The First Narayever offers as its mission statement, “The First Narayever Congregation is a synagogue community located in downtown Toronto which combines the observance of traditional Jewish liturgy and ritual with a deep commitment to equality for men and women.”1 the Synagogue aims to provide an informal, community-based environment in which neighbouring Jews can observe and practice their faith. This goal has been realized, and the congregation has expanded beyond the physical constraints of the small synagogue. In fact, demand for High HolidayHigh Holidays: The holidays of Rosh Hashannah (New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), when Jews must humble themselves before God and ask forgiveness for their wrongdoings. seats have led to services being held at the local Jewish Community Centre in order to accommodate the burgeoning crowds.

Keeping in step with the times and its egalitarian mandate, the First Narayever has recently voted to allow same-sex life-cycle events to be recognized and is in the process of voting on offering same-sex marriage ceremonies at the Synagogue. In order to prepare the congregation for such a controversial decision, Rabbi Elkin organized several educational sessions including panel presentations, guest lectures and a viewing of the film Trembling Before G-d. The First Narayever Congregation voted on this decision in January and although it didn't pass in accordance to the Congregation's constitution, an overwhelming 71% voted in favour of offering same-sex marriage to its congregants.




Exterior view of the First Narayever, 2003
Exterior view of the First Narayever (2003)

Interior view of synagogue, 2003
Interior view of synagogue (2003)

Interior view of the First Narayever synagogue, 2003
Interior view of the First Narayever synagogue (2003)

Interior view of the First Narayever synagogue, 2003
Interior view of the First Narayever synagogue (2003)

Photograph of Rabbi Elkin standing outside of the First Narayever, 2001
Photograph of Rabbi Elkin standing outside of the First Narayever (2001)

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