In 1997, 70 people, some previously unaffiliated and others who migrated from various congregations, came to our first High Holy Days services downtown at OISE (U of T), led by Aviva Goldberg, our rabbi today and a co-founder with four other women.
- For several years afterwards, we used the bigger Cecil Community Centre, (formerly the Anshei Ostrovtzer Synagogue) in the Kensington Market/Chinatown area, and we regularly filled up the sanctuary.
- Increased demand inspired us to locate at the bigger mid-town venue of First Unitarian Congregation of Toronto in 2010, whose community has welcomed us since then for High Holy Day services and other events. Today more than 300 people are members of our congregation, and our High Holy Day services attract more than that regularly.
- In 2007, after years of sporadic holiday and Shabbat services in various venues, we signed a contract with and then became a community partner of the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre (MNJCC) downtown, and have been holding monthly services, as well as other programs, holiday celebrations and other events, there since. We always enjoy a kiddish after our services, sometimes sponsored by members to mark milestones or honour people in their lives. Life-cycle events, including aufrufs, baby namings and memorial tributes, are a regular part of our services, led by Rabbi Goldberg, as well as Daniela Gesundheit, who became our chazzan and music director in 2008. As part of our services, we have honoured Holocaust survivors and their families, our elders, writers and artists, and in 2007 were the first congregation in Toronto to hold a Pride service, which we still celebrate every year.
- Since our start, we have offered free childcare and Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur programming. In 2013, we began a concerted children’s program that runs alongside our regular services. It encompasses enriching sessions with storytelling, crafts and other activities for children ages three to eight years old. Children are always welcome at all our services and we offer plenty of holiday celebrations that include them and their adults. In 2017, we added a junior congregation (Shabbat) and supplemental school project for those ages eight to 11 years of age.
- Over the years many members have included the community in celebrating their childrens’ bar and bat mitzvas, which were led by Rabbi Goldberg. In 2014, we started our own concerted bar/bat mitzvah program with a small cohort of young people. That same year saw us start up an enriching after-services adult education program, when experts in various fields enlighten small groups of interested congregants on ritual, history and Torah study.
Over the past decade, we have participated with various organizations as a community partner or co-sponsor to bring enriching programming or make contributions to a wider community. They include: Holocaust Education Week since 2007 ( co-sponsored an event with First Unitarian Toronto also in 2011); the Daniel Pearl Foundation; Pride Toronto including World Pride events in 2014 as part of an interfaith initiative and a supporter of Rainbow Railroad; Jewish Family and Child Services; Women of the Wall (WoW); Heart to Heart; and the MNJCC for various events, including the annual Tikkun Shavuot.
- On November 22, 2014, the community celebrated the formal rabbinic ordination of Aviva Goldberg, who had served us for 18 years as our “all but in name” rabbi.