HIGHLIGHTS FROM OUR LIVING PAST 1886-1998: Dedicated to the members and officers who made dreams into a reality.
The Tifereth Beth David Jerusalem Synagogue as we know it today, was established in 1965. It is the product of several mergers. The Beth Yitzchok joined the Beth David in the mid-fifties and was followed by the Kehal Yeshurin two years later. In a different part of town, The Jewish Community of Eastern Cote St. Luc and Hampstead was formed in 1958. This young congregation was joined by the Tifereth Jerusalem in 1962 under the name of the older and more established synagogue from Papineau. In 1964, Beth David with its amalgamated congregations joined the new Tifereth Jerusalem and after long negotiations, Tifereth Beth David Jerusalem was born. It was agreed however that the stationery of the new synagogue would continue to list the names of the original congregations. Each of the founding synagogues cherished its name and each wanted its name to be the first segment of the final name. Tifereth Jerusalem claimed that it was the first to amalgamate with the Jewish Community of Eastern Cote St. Luc and Hampstead and its name should have priority while the Beth David argued that unlike Tifereth Jerusalem, it was a thriving synagogue that had a right to have its name continued. The compromise was that the first word of Tifereth Jerusalem (Tifereth) would go first, Beth David in the middle and Jerusalem would go last. This resulted in Tifereth Beth David Jerusalem, our current name. The name became a mouthful and most people know the synagogue by the name of the street on which it is located as the Baily Shul or by its initials TBDJ
The purpose of this article is to review the history of the congregations that led to our illustrious synagogue.
The Beth David is named after the father of the first President whose name was Pinchas ben David Elimelech Pinsler.
It is the oldest of the amalgamated synagogues and was formed by Roumanian Jews who came to Canada in the 1880’s. At the beginning of that decade, there were close to 2400 Jews in Canada. Two thousand of them were equally divided between Ontario and Quebec. In Montreal, close to one quarter of the immigrants were of Roumanian origin and many more came during that decade. In 1886 a Kehila was organized and two years later they began to hold services in rented quarters on Fortification Lane. The following year, High Holy Day services were held on Notre Dame St. and in 1890, when the Shearith Israel (Spanish and Portuguese) Synagogue moved from Cheneville St. to Stanley St., the Beth David rented the vacated building for $20 per month. In 1894, as the membership grew rapidly, the building was purchased from the Spanish & Portuguese for $8000. At that time, the building was the oldest synagogue in Canada. It was used by the Beth David until 1929 when the congregation moved to St. Joseph Blvd.
The Cheneville St. building was unfortunately demolished in 1979 and is today the location of the Guy Favreau Centre. On August 30, 1903, the Ohel Moshe Synagogue amalgamated with the Beth David. On November 23, 1911, Beth David paid off its mortgage and was considered “in the best financial position”. On June 30, 1926, Mr. H. Gradinger donated the funds to erect an ornamental gate to the synagogue’s cemetery in Cartierville. In addition, he paid all related maintenance costs until the day of his death. On January 24, 1928, the Cheneville building was sold for $10,000. The congregation was allowed to remain in the building until December 1, 1928 without paying rent. The ten months following the sale were hectic. Meetings were held almost weekly to decide whether to build, buy or amalgamate. A chazan was engaged for Shavuot “on condition that he will have where to conduct services.”
On January 2, 1929, the congregation purchased a building on St. Joseph Blvd. for $105,000 and invested a further $10,000 for renovations. The Congregation awarded its president, Mr. M. Ruckenstein, a gold key in honour of the occasion.
In the same year, the Ladies Auxiliary was founded with Mrs. M. Ruckenstein as its first president. One of the most important functions of the ladies was the establishment of a tuition free school in the synagogue that served well over one hundred children.
The Congregation’s first spiritual leader was Rabbi Glazer and its first Baal Tefilah was Mr. Shmuel Cohen. Rabbi J. Herschorn joined the congregation on March 17, 1926. He was a very well respected scholar and became Chief Rabbi of Montreal. Rabbi Herschorn wrote several important halachic works some of which have been published and others that remain in manuscript. He took a very active role in the functioning of the congregation. We were told that he made it a point to spend time with the Junior Congregation every Shabbat. According to the minutes, he received no salary from the congregation.
As the congregation became increasingly integrated into American society, the Rabbi’s European accent became a point of discontent and after a quarrel that spanned ten years, Rabbi Herschorn left the congregation. He was succeeded by Rabbi Teicher who remained until the amalgamation in 1965.
By 1938 the synagogue owned 18 Sifrey Torah. Some of them are still in our Aron Kodesh and some date back as far as the late 19th century. On October 24, 1939, a special fund was set up for “war sufferers”. The “Roumanishe Shill” had all the markings of the leading congregation in Montreal. It was the hub of Jewish cultural activities and was the most frequently used facility for weddings by members and non-members alike.
In 1929, Beth David attracted a world renowned Cantor in Chazan Ephraim Schlepack, who earned the nickname “Der Fidelle” for his wonderful voice. Following Cantor Schlepack’s death, the Congregation was served by Cantor Joshua Dlin who was appointed in 1948 and remained with the congregation until 1970. Cantor Dlin was also a world renowned Chazan who officiated in some of Israel’s largest and most important synagogues.
As an increasing number of its members moved westward, the Beth David began to look for a new location. In 1965 it amalgamated with the Tifereth Jerusalem of Cote St. Luc and sold its St. Joseph building for $185,000. The amalgamation was completed under the presidency and dynamic leadership of Mr. Nathan Dermer.
Though our records tell the story of Tifereth Jerusalem from 1904, we know that Jews moved into “Papineau” a few years earlier. The synagogue was built on land donated to the Jewish residents by the Ross Realty Co. and was called the Rossland Synagogue in honour of the donors. The membership was made up primarily of Russian immigrants.
The Congregation was clearly an enigma. It was united by brotherly love and a very strong sense of community. Services would be followed by Kiddush in homes of different members. Minutes of meetings began with a moment of silence in memory of departed “brothers” or “sisters” as well as the appointing of special delegations to visit the sick. However, the community was at the same time severely fragmented by internal squabbles over such things as the presidency; Who would lead services? Who would read from the Torah? Why did the first Minyan finish late? If they cannot finish before the second Minyan is due to start let them be abolished; Should they charge rent to the Free Loan Association? etc. These arguments were so intense that a second synagogue had to be opened to accommodate one of the factions.
Tifereth Jerusalem was called “Die Roite Shul” because of the red bricks on its exterior while the newly formed synagogue was called “Die Veise Shul” because of the white bricks on its exterior. The Veise Shul was named Chaverim Kol Yisrael meaning ‘all Israel are friends’. How ironic!
Despite differing opinions, all community life revolved around the Shul. The congregation operated its own school on Marquette St. The school was funded by the Sisterhood. A Free Loan Association was instituted.
The building was erected in 1911 literally with the hands of the members. The sanctuary was heated by a wood burning stove. The ladies sat in an upstairs balcony and the basement contained the community hall.
The congregation purchased cemetery land on de la Savane. In the mid thirties, this land was still swamp filled. The Chalutzic spirit of the members was once again evident. The order of the day for Sunday used to be salami sandwiches, whisky and shovels as the younger members would hike to the cemetery to dig ditches to drain the swamps!
As members moved to the newer sections of the city and no immigrants were replacing them, it became increasingly difficult to hold a Minyan in both the Roite and Veise Shuls. It was therefore decided in 1954 to alternate services from one synagogue to the other every Shabbat.
In 1962, under the presidency of Harry Creatchman, Tifereth Jerusalem amalgamated with the Jewish Community of Eastern Cote St. Luc & Hampstead. It is interesting to note that the minutes do not use the word amalgamation. The event is recorded as “move from its present location and build a new synagogue on Baily Road in Cote St. Luc.” (April 23, 1960 moved by Ruby Dubrofsky and seconded by Jacob Glassman). It was also passed in the same meeting that no new members would be admitted until further notice.
Papineau was coming to an end, but the community spirit still remained. One Torah remained in the old Shul for those who still lived near Papineau and wanted to pray in the Shul. In 1965 the last remnant of Papineau vanished. Sometime between October 4th and 15th, the Rossland Jewish Synagogue was demolished. The safe that contained the minutes of the synagogue was left in the building and disappeared during the wrecking along with the minutes. The only minutes that survived are from 1950 till 1962. 1950-52 were written in Yiddish, while 1953-1962 were written in English.
What survives of the minutes of the synagogue is an account written by a Mr. Yechiel Herman, an active member who wrote a magnificent book called “The Pinkas” in which he wrote the history of the Tifereth Jerusalem Synagogue as he understood it. On comparing the surviving minutes with the Pinkas, one gets the impression that Mr. Herman had access to the minutes (1904-1955) which he summarized in the Pinkas. Mr. Herman had an exceptional talent for writing. The Pinkas is filled with interesting anecdotes written with a biting sense of humour. The Pinkas was written in scribal letters and it must have taken an inordinate effort to write. The Montreal Yiddish Drama Group put on a play called ‘Papinyu’ based on the Pinkas. This unique book was on display in Ottawa some years ago at ‘The Coat of Many Colours Exhibit’.
Today a white apartment building stands in the place of Die Roite Shul.
The synagogue building was originally owned by Mr. Abraham Yitzchok Luterman. The building was gradually converted into a synagogue though it is certain that during the early years, it also served as the residence of the Luterman family.
Mr. Luterman named the congregation after the same member of the family whom he himself was named after although we do not know who that person was. The congregation was established in 1904 with Mr. Zeve Goldsman being a member-spiritual-leader of sorts. The congregation was made up primarily of Russian (Ukrainian) Jews, many of whom wore beards. Like Tifereth Jerusalem, the membership here was primarily Sabbath observing and perhaps more knowledgeable Jewishly than at the Beth David. The twelve founding members donated $100 each towards the founding of the Shul. Given that the Luterman family owned and donated the building, we assume that these funds paid for the alterations from a residential structure to a Shul.
When the upstairs was converted to a ladies balcony, the Luterman family moved out of the building completely. The membership was very friendly and addressed each other as brothers and sisters. We see the same neighbourly concerns in the minutes of the Beth Yitzchok that we saw at Tifereth Jerusalem. The congregation did not have its own rabbi; however, Rabbi Herschorn visited the congregation once or twice per month as a part time rabbi. There were several learned men among the members who conducted classes on Shabbat afternoons and at one point Reverend Spiro conducted classes. In 1940, a Sisterhood was formed. Its members were intensely involved with decorating the synagogue as well as Jewish cultural affairs. One of the smaller rooms in the house was used as a daily chapel and was called Bayit Sheni – the second house. Elections were held on Chanukah.
The Sanctuary had three unique features. The Bimah was a raised platform in the center of the Shul. It had seats on its front for the officers of the congregation. Between the Bimah and the Ark there were seats for the Kohanim to sit while they were waiting to go up to the Ark for the Priestly Benedictions. The ladies sat upstairs in a horseshoe shaped balcony around the Ark which extended upwards almost to the top of the balcony. The Ark was transferred to the Beth David Chapel upon the amalgamation and eventually made its way to the Beth Hillel Congregation where it can be seen to this day.
For a membership fee of $12, members were entitled to a cemetery plot, a casket, one vehicle from Paperman & Sons and shrouds. All the above were paid for by the congregation.
Funds were collected for many Jewish community needs and some members were even involved in smuggling weapons to Israel in 1948. A daily Minyan was maintained to the very last day before the amalgamation even if it meant paying people to come and help complete the Minyan.
The congregation was established in 1904 on St. Catherine St. and later moved to Colonial Ave. The congregation relocated to 138 Fairmount Ave. when most of its members moved north. The congregation remained at this location until it was sold to Rabbi J. Klein, Tobber Rov when it amalgamated with the Beth David. We know of three presidents during the years that the congregation existed: Mr. Avrum Finkelstein, Mr. Sam Goldstein and finally Mr. Moishe Steinberg.
The Shul is described as a big happy family. Some of our current members grew up in it. We know of Mr. Shmarya Richler, father of Michael Richler; The Aronovitch family and the Shachter family. Mr. Reeven Rappoport, a shochet, was the Shammos who was replaced after he passed away by Leibel Rosenzweig. The Shammos had to come to Shul early in the winter to heat the Shul in time for services. On Shabbat this task would be done by a non Jew. Reeven Rappoport’s son was the chazan.
Reverend Fishel Avrutich was the spiritual leader. He learned Mishnayot and conducted services. On the occasion of his son’s Bar Mitzvah, the choir and chazan of the Chevra Kadisha synagogue came over to conduct services. When Reverend Avrutich passed away, he requested that only Shomrei Shabbat Jews be buried in his line. The request was honoured and this was written on the cemetery plan.
Simchat Torah was a memorable event in the Shul. A Mr. Fuxman would come to Shul with a high stovepipe hat. It was a great party with plums, apples beer, ginger ale and lots of peanuts. It took the shamash a week to clean up from all the peanut shells. Mr. Shugar, a retired milkman was the last shamash. A Mr. Yechezkel Lazarus acted as shamash in transition periods between shamashim.
It is told that the amalgamation left the congregation with a deep sense of loss.
The synagogue was the home of a thriving community. It had a Free Loan Society and a Chevra Mishnayes group that used to learn Mishna on the Yahrzeit of a departed member. The Chevra Mishnayot was formed in 1937. Members learned Mishna on Shabbat and Sunday and paid $1.00 membership fee. On March 15, 1956, the Kehal Yeshurin appointed a committee to discuss a merger with the Beth Hamedrash Hagadol. The committee was headed by the President of the synagogue, Mr. Moishe Steinberg. In March 1957, the synagogue held a general meeting to discuss its future existence and on May 26, 1957 at 10:00 A.M. a general meeting was held to vote on finalizing the amalgamation with the Beth David. There was some mild protest from the Beth Yitzchok people but in general, the amalgamations were considered very successful and members were very happy to belong to a large and active congregation such as the Beth David.
THE JEWISH COMMUNITY OF EASTERN COTE ST. LUC & HAMPSTEAD
This congregation was the product of a handful of determined traditional Jews who refused to compromise their Jewish Values. Rather than be part of a neighborhood Conservative synagogue, they dedicated themselves to establishing an Orthodox congregation in a fairly sparsely populated area known as Cote St. Luc and Hampstead. The driving force was formed by Bill Schoel, Arthur Gutner, Michael Engel, Henry Field and Harry Aronovitch. They began work in 1957-58. A sub group of the above gentlemen met with the authorities and it was determined that the best area for a synagogue building would be near the intersection of King George St. (now Cavendish) and the C.P.R. railway tracks (presently the Cavendish overpass area).
Delegations met with several downtown synagogues and dozens of meetings were held in an effort to find a congregation that would amalgamate, but all initial efforts were fruitless.
In May of 1959, a meeting was held at the home of Simon Cobrin and it was unanimously decided to form the Jewish Community of Eastern Cote St. Luc and Hampstead and to test the public response by holding High Holy Day services. Present at the founding were: Simon Cobrin, Michael Engel, Motek Messer, John Pencer, I. Harovitch, Arthur Gutner, Harry Aronovitch, Bill Schoel, Abe Dalfen, Nat Kerdman, Jack Lupovitch, Andre Landsman, Syd Shatsky, Max Shein, Leo Michael, H. Freedman and Ernest Fiederer. The first High Holy Day services were a great success. Over four hundred worshipers were present at the services which were held at the Merton School. The Snowdon Y.M.H.A. lent the newly formed congregation an Ark which remained in use in the chapel for several years. Sifrei Torah were borrowed from the Tifereth Jerusalem Congregation on “Papineau” and Mr. B. Lebovics acted as Baal Shachrit and Baal Koreh. Mr. Lebovics remained with the congregation until his passing in 1988. He served the congregation with distinction and dedication. He was followed by Reverend Shlomo Sufrin.
Tickets for the High Holy Days were sold from the Engel house which also served as the Shul’s office. In a short address after the first Kol Nidre service, the goals of the community were proclaimed: “We want to build a Shul with warmth, with emotion and with heart; a Shul where we dance on Simchas Torah and where we cry at Yizkor. A Shul which will bring together every Jew in our area in friendship and kindness.” By the time the services were held, the committee grew to include Harry Rottenberg, Maurice Cheifetz, Carl Zidle, Willy Dubrofsky, Michael Steinberg, Peter Freed, Saul Corber, Abe Dalfen, Irwin Tarasofsky and Dr. Douglas Wilansky.
Meetings were held at the homes of board members. The community had forty members and it was decided to rent a house on Baily Rd. so that regular services could be held. Except for the time when a blizzard hit Montreal, services have been held ever since the first Shabbat Shuva. There were times when neighboring doors had to be knocked on to get a Minyan, but no one ever refused to come. Until a Rabbi was appointed, Mr. Michael Engel, who was a graduate of an English Jewish Theological College, expounded the text of the Torah on Shabbat and Yom Tov.
A Sunday Breakfast group was formed and a Sisterhood was founded with Mary Steinberg and Bertha Engel as early presidents. A Building Site Committee was formed and an early bulletin was established. It was called ‘Candle Light News’ and its memory must evoke a warm feeling of sentiment among the early members of the congregation. In 1960, a constitution was adopted and Harry Aronovitch was elected as the first president of the congregation.
In August, Rabbi David Hartman became the first Rabbi of the congregation. His arrival galvanized every sphere of the congregation’s activities. Among his many innovations were the afternoon school, a daily Minyan, Tuesday evening public lecture, a Monday Teenage Study Group and a Shabbos Mincha Talmud Class. Rabbi Hartman joined the membership in going from door to door to attract new members. He spoke at private-home-meetings and can be credited with bringing some two hundred families to the congregation. He went to lecture at Jewish High Schools so that he could understand the needs of children better. He was admired by his congregants until he went on Aliya in 1971.
Rabbi Hartman was a most dynamic leader, who effected the lifestyle and character of his congregation more than any spiritual leader in the city. In fact, the influence of this young charismatic Rabbi was profound not only on his congregation but on the entire city.
The dedication of the membership of the Shul to Judaism and Jewish Learning quickly made the newly established synagogue into a model. Already in those early years, fifty to sixty people would attend the Rabbi’s classes. The congregation as a unit as well as its individual members remain at the helm of every type of Jewish activity in the community. It was said that Rabbi Hartman brought to Montreal a “Torah Study Revolution”.
Sam Lieberman, Alex Raider and Harry Karpman formed the Building Fund Campaign Committee. This committee ushered in an era of unrelenting toil and self sacrifice that made a vision into reality. Zeal and devotion became synonyms for their names. They planned, they campaigned and they were victorious. They were the generals, the captains and the privates. A former president told us “Harry Karpman raised more money for the Shul than everyone else put together”.
The initial site chosen had difficulties and our present location was finally purchased. In May, the sod turning ceremony was held in the presence of the community and many dignitaries. Mr. Harry Aronovitch, the President of the congregation was accorded the honour of turning the sod. Construction began in the spring and sidewalk inspection became the favourite summer evening pastime for many members.
In August, the building was sanctified in preparation for High Holy Day services. The Torahs were carried in a formal procession from the “House” on Baily Rd. to the new building. That Rosh Hashana, cement dust was everywhere. Wires hung overhead, and the windows were covered with plastic but the joy of achievement filled every heart.
TIFERETH BETH DAVID JERUSALEM
Following the amalgamations, Tifereth Beth David Jerusalem grew in size and stature in the community. As Jews moved into Cote St. Luc and Hampstead, the young and dynamic members continued to campaign literally from door to door to recruit new members for the congregation. Young families sent their children to the synagogue’s afternoon school which graduated the first class in 1964. The first group that began and concluded its studies at the synagogue afternoon school graduated in 1965. Joyce Reinblatt, one of the Sisterhood’s past presidents, was a member of that class. Mrs. Leah Sapochkinsky (known to students as Miss Yagod) was Principal of the afternoon school since its foundation in the bungalow at 6535 Baily Rd.
The need for an afternoon school diminished. In September 1993, due to a growing demand from within the community, the TBDJ Nursery was established under the direction of Nancy Honigman. In 1995, Donna Cooper took over as Director of the preschool program, and the nursery functioned until 2009.
The library was named the Nathan Dermer Library in honour of the last president of the Beth David Synagogue. Kay Lerner was a dedicated librarian for many years.
The early years of the congregation mapped out its orientation as a central pillar in the Montreal Jewish community. It was a model in Adult Education that was imitated by other synagogues. Lectures, seminars, retreats, weekends and Torah Institutes have always been central to the synagogue.
Cantor Joshua Dlin joined the Beth David Congregation in 1948 and moved to the new synagogue after the amalgamation. He was truly a world renowned chazan. He retired in late 1969 and was replaced in 1970 by Cantor Shimshon Hamerman.
In 1971, Rabbi Hartman made Aliya to take charge of the Sholom Hartman Institute named after his late father. He also became a professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
The synagogue was left without a rabbi for close to two years. At that time, the golf course in Hampstead was sold to land developers and though there was no rabbi, the synagogue grew substantially once again. The dynamic and learned nature of the membership allowed the synagogue to continue to flourish. Members conducted classes and delivered sermons. Rabbi Joe Drazin and Rabbi Jay Braverman spoke from the pulpit during this period. Rabbi Eliyahu Steinhorn was appointed Rabbi but only remained for approximately a year and a half.
In 1975, Rabbi Joshua Shmidman joined the congregation. Rabbi Shmidman has been a professor of philosophy at Brooklyn College, Stern College and Yeshiva College, and was a recognized Halachic authority who had published numerous authoritative articles including entries in the Encyclopedia Judaica. He played a significant role in the Halachic decisions that led to the establishment of the Mikveh and the Eruv in Montreal, and had a significant role in the community’s representation to the Canadian Government on the Get issue.
Jewish celebrations, especially Simchat Torah at the synagogue became a city wide spectacle that brought Jews from everywhere to join in the singing and dancing. The Shul also organized or supported activities such as Israel Independence Celebrations, Chanukah Dinners and support for Soviet Jewry. The synagogue also holds an annual Yom Kippur Appeal, with proceeds donated to various causes including some funds to the synagogue’s own needs.
In 1979, the Women’s Lib Movement confronted the congregation and after lengthy and controversial debates, it was decided that women be allowed to vote in synagogue matters, sit on the Board of Directors and that the President of the Sisterhood would sit on the synagogue’s Executive Committee. From the beginning, the Sisterhood became a vital force in the community. The women were then and are now involved with fundraising projects, decorations, Yom Tov Kiddushim, cookbooks, New & Nearly New Sales, Annual Donor Luncheons, calendars, Duplicate Bridge and Bridge lessons, the refurbishing of the kitchens, as well as independendent education programs.
A Scholarship Fund was designated to help youngsters pursue Jewish Studies in institutions of higher learning. Youth activities take place regularly. B’nei Akiva meets every Shabbat and the TBDJ youth groups function on Shabbat and Holidays. On two or three occasions during the year, the youth take over the Holiday services and conduct them in their entirety.
The Cemetery Committee is responsible for maintaining the synagogue’s cemeteries in good order and for attending funerals. The committee was chaired for many years by Harry Creatchman.
One of the oldest groups was the Free Loan Association, which was chaired by Harry Creatchman and Robert Hecht.
The Religious Services Committee of the congregation discusses issues pertaining to the services. This committee has been chaired over the years by Myer Richler, Lionel Rabinovitch, Jack Felder, Rabbi Sam Feder, Mayer Schondorf, Yossi Deitcher, Leslie Gal, Ralph Engel, Murray Vasilevsky, David Miller, Judah Aspler, Sander Wasser, and Ami Drazin.
The synagogue’s office is always maintained by a group of the most dedicated and conscientous professionals. One of our founding members, Michael Steinberg, held the position of Executive Director for many years. Together with Dorothy Grodinsky and Helen Vigderhous, they served the TBDJ family for over 20 years. Upon Mike’s retirement Helen became Exceutive Director until she relocated to New York in 1996.
Tomas Alonzo was our superintendent for 23 years. He returned to his native Spain just as the building expansion was being completed. His dedication will long be remembered. At the present time our Shul is fortunate to have Yakov Lev overseeing all its maintenance and catering functions.
Shabbat at TBDJ. is an inspiring event and brings together hundreds of worshipers. On Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur our building accomodates over 1200 people. The TBDJ Kiddush provides members with an opportunity to socialize following services.
Celebration of each holiday at the synagogue is a meaningful and unique experience. We usher in the High Holy Days with a Pre-Selichot and a Shabbat Hagadol Drasha delivered by the Rabbi. Sukkot with the hundreds of Lulavim and Etrogim forces us to open up the Social Hall for the parade of Hoshanot. Junior Hakafot and the annual candy distribution by Eddie Schachter are historic events. Purim is a unique day. Hundreds of parents and children come to “hear” the Megillah. They dress in costume, partake in our carnival and eat hearty at our Purim Seudah. The selling of Chametz for Pesach and the annual rush to get the Shul cleaned up in time are also part of the annual traditions along with the burning of the Chametz. Yom Haatzmaut is celebrated annually along with Yom Yerushalayim. Hundreds of people join in these days when the synagogue and the wider community identify with the State of Israel. The Yom Hashoah Memorial Service is held in our synagogue. Organized by the Holocaust Committee of the Canadian Jewish Congress, the Social Hall is filled with Holocaust survivors, their children and grandchildren, and members of the community for a solemn and touching service.
As the synagogue entered the eighties, the community continued to grow but the building failed to keep pace. The chapel became too small for daily services. The sanctuary could not accomodate Shabbat attendence without the additional seats in the back. The ladies section was too small and there was deterioration in some areas of the facility. The synagogue was enlarged between 1988-1990, under the guidance of Harry Karpman, who also served as chief fund-raiser for this expansion effort. On December 1, 1990, a dinner was held to rededicate the synagogue and pay tribute to Harry Karpman.
In 1990, Reverend Shlomo Sufrin was engaged to replace the much beloved Reverend Beryl Lebovics z”l as our Shul’s Chazan Sheini. Sadly, Reverend Lebovics passed away in 1988 and is still deeply missed by all who knew him. Reverend Sufrin relocated to Toronto in 1991, where he joined the Shaar Hashomayim Synagogue. He has also enjoyed a successful career as an interpreter of classical and neo-classical Hasidic and Jewish melodies.
Cantor Shimshon Hamerman was an involved member of our Shul community until 1992. He has gone on to enjoy great distinction as an educator and Rabbi, and is the current Principal of the Solomon Schechter Academy in Montreal. He and his family are also honourary Life Members of TBDJ.
In 1993, Cantor David Harel was hired by the Shul but returned to Israel after one year, and was replaced by Reverend Arnie Beiss, who served the Shul as an outstanding Baal Koreh and Chazan between 1994-1998. Reverend Beiss and his family have recently relocated to New York City. Rabbi Joshua Shmidman retired from the Shul in 1995 after having completed 20 years of distinguished service.
In 1995, a Search Committee was established to find a new Rabbi for our Shul. This committee was chaired by Arthur Gutner and deliberated for almost one-and-a-half years, before deciding on the appointment of Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz as our new spiritual leader.
Rabbi Steinmetz was an outstanding and compelling force in our Shul from the day of his arrival in 1996. Together with his wife Lisa and their family, Rabbi Steinmetz reached out to the members of our Shul in an effort to cement a young relationship that has grown into one imbued with Ahavat Israel and Jewish Learning, in a spirit of religious Zionism. Rabbi Steinmetz quickly turned up the pace in regard to many aspects of synagogue life, delivering a variety of Shiurim on a daily and weekly basis, and being deeply involved in community affairs.
In 1995, the Shul was very fortunate to engage the services, on a voluntary basis, of the esteemed Rabbi Dovid Rothschild, who initiated a Daf Yomi Shiur or daily Talmud class, to become the largest group of its type in Montreal.
Following the holidays in the Fall of 2015, Rabbi Steinmetz, together with his family, moved to the East Side of Manhattan, where he assumed the role of Senior Rabbi at Kehilath Jeshurun, taking over for Rabbi Haskel Lookstein. A special tribute evening was held prior to Rabbi Steinmetz's departure, where the impact he had on both individual and community was on display.
Upon reflection, another chapter of the history of our congregation has just been completed. The newest chapter is still being written. If we all join hands and work together, our future will be as glorious as our past.
TBDJ would like to thank Rabbi Dr. Shimshon Hamerman for compiling the above original text of our history; and Dr. Mark Wainberg, Linda Saks and Joyce Reinblatt for their contributions.