Today, the Beach Hebrew Institute once again boasts a thriving congregation. The tremendous restoration and fund-raising efforts of the 1970s and 1980s have given the synagogue a very visible presence in the community, and a large degree of financial stability. With the Beach area’s growth and increasing popularity, more and more Jewish families have relocated there. The shul now supports a membership of around 150 households, including singles, couples and families.
The Beach Synagogue, as it is now known among its members, has become an active centre for Jewish life in the area, and offers educational and social programming. The synagogue supports weekly Saturday morning Shabbat services, a Sunday School program with approximately twenty students, and a weekly “Aleph-Bet” Hebrew reading class for adults. It also hosts annual Purim parties, Sukkoth celebrations, Passover seders, bar- and bat-mitzvahs, and weddings.
The synagogue prides itself on being an inclusive and accessible “liberal Conservative” congregation. Services are conducted in traditional Hebrew with occasional prayers in English. Women play an active role in services and are welcome to read from the Torah and receive Aliyahs. In 1999, a women’s Rosh Chodesh group was organized, which meets to celebrate the beginning of each Jewish calendar month. The group also hosts a special women’s Shabbat service each year to mark International Women’s Day.
The shul has also become a highly visible part of the Beach and has hosted concerts, historical society meetings and political debates. In 2006, over 175 people visited the shul during Doors Open Toronto. The congregation is also extremely proud of its involvement with the Beach Interfaith Outreach program, through which the area’s religious institutions take turns hosting lunches for the district’s poor and needy. As many as fifty people attend the synagogue’s weekly lunches, as much for the social atmosphere as for the meal.
Most importantly, after many decades of financial insecurity, the Beach Synagogue has finally attained some stability. After Mr. Schechter passed away in 1981, the presidency was filled by several members, until Arie Nerman, who holds the post today, took on this vital position. Mr. Nerman has done a tremendous job marshalling the talents of the congregation, managing the budget and overseeing the many activities that take place within the shul. In fact, in 2005, he was named the citizen of the year by the East York Community. Nerman calls the Beach Institute the “people’s shul,” as they often host as many as 250 people during their High Holiday services and try not to turn anyone away. With a steady income from membership dues, donations, bar and bat-mitzvahs and weddings, the Beach Synagogue is now able to sustain itself, as well as make improvements to the building. A recently installed air conditioning unit, along with beautiful front landscaping, make summer services much more enjoyable for congregants.
Toronto’s Beach area is becoming more and more popular as a place to live. And as the Jewish community there has grown and evolved over the years, the Beach Hebrew Institute has continued to provide them with a home for Jewish faith, learning, and socializing throughout the years. In 2005, the congregation celebrated its 85th anniversary and should continue to thrive in the years to come.
85th Anniversary celebrations at the Beach Synagogue, 2005.
Exterior view of the Beach Hebrew Institute, 2003.
A site of historical significance, 2006.
First Chanukah menorah in Kew Beach Park, 1985.
Sukkot celebrations, 2004.
Annual children’s Chanukah candle-lighting, 2004.
Observing Passover at the Beach Hebrew Institute, 2006.