First Minyan and Synagogue

Kingston's Jewish population grew slowly through the last half of the 19th century. The first move that the community made towards formal organization came in 1897, when they created the "Hebrew Cemetery Company" to buy plots in the Cataraqui Cemetery. Five years later, on April 15, 1902, the "Kingston Independent Hebrew Congregation" was inaugurated. The community's German Jewish patriarch, Simon Oberndorffer, was the first president. Saul Bennett and Louis Abramson were the first secretary and treasurer and Barnet Lipman, Evan Zacks and Louis Abramson were named as trustees. Membership dues were $3 per year, or $1 per quarter.

We know from A.D. Hart's 1926 book, The Jew in Canada, that a second congregation was organized after the first one in part "through the dispute between members of the original institution ...". Whatever the cause of their disagreement, Hart writes that on the occasion of the brit milah of his son Harold in January of 1908, Kingston entrepreneur Isaac Cohen promised that if the two congregations united, he would build a synagogue. This they did, later on that year. In the years preceding the completion of the building, the community gathered for services at different venues including the Oddfellows' Hall and the Windsor Hotel, both on Princess Street.

On October 9, 1910, Simon Oberndorffer laid the cornerstone for Kingston's first synagogue building. The shul was located at 148 Queen Street and adopted the name, Beth Israel Orthodox Congregation. Rabbi Dr. H. Abramovitz of Montreal delivered an address and led the proceedings, at which Oberndorffer as well as Kingston mayor Daniel Couper and local clergy also spoke. The projected cost of the building to house the congregation was something over $10,000. Of this, the generous sum of $1600 was contributed by Kingston's Christian congregations as well as $200 from the Canadian Locomotive Company.