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Jewish communities in and around the Greater Toronto Area

1. Thornhill Woods
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8. Armour Heights
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Bathurst Manor Neighbourhood Profile
"You feel more Jewish when you're in the neighbourhood"
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UJA Federation welcomes newcomers to the GTA. Click here for more information.

2011-06-06 14:19:37
By Elysse Zarek, revised by Sarah Bleiwas

Bathurst Street has been the heart of the Jewish community in Toronto for decades.  In the early part of the twentieth century, many Jews lived around Bathurst Street south of Bloor St. (and particularly in and around Kensington Market).  After World War II, as the community became economically stronger, it moved north along Bathurst Street with wealthier members of the community moving to Forest Hill.  Today much of the Jewish community, synagogues and Jewish cultural centres reside along this Bathurst corridor.

As time passed, the community continued to migrate north to an area developers dubbed Bathurst Manor. Built in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the semi-detached and ranch-style homes of the Bathurst Manor neighbourhood are beginning to show their age. Newcomers to the area have torn down the older homes and built new slate-and-stucco houses or updated the existing housing. Because of this, many streets are a combination of large, newly built homes with a few older homes scattered between.

Demographics

According to the 2001 Statistics Canada census, Bathurst Manor has the fifth-highest population density of Jews in the country. Forty-two per cent of Bathurst Manor is Jewish, and the area has the largest proportion of Jewish seniors in the city (only the Jewish community of Garden City in Winnipeg has a larger number of seniors). Yiddish, Hebrew and Russian all rank on Statistics Canada’s list of top-10 non-official languages spoken in the neighbourhood, and Jewish ranks among the top ethnic groups. However, the Jewish community in the Bathurst Manor area is in decline – in the previous two decades, it has decreased by 36%.

 

Bathurst Manor by the numbers

32,625: neighbourhood population

12,855: number of Jews

39.4: % of Jewish residents

3,345: number of Jewish seniors

255: Yiddish-speaking households

71: Jewish organizations in Bathurst Manor

$541,500: median price for a single detached home

$1,575: average rent for a two-bedroom apartment

 population figures - 2001 Canada Census 

Yet at the same time, anecdotal evidence suggests that a neighbourhood revival is under way.

“There are a lot of young families with small children. I had no idea when I moved here,” says sociologist Randal Schnoor, who has lived in the area for several years. “It’s a good family neighbourhood. It’s safe. There are kids out on their bikes – not supervised – until mid to late evening.” 

Laura and her husband Misha are one of these young families. They chose to live in Bathurst Manor because of its location and its growing reputation as a family-oriented neighbourhood. Laura and Misha both wanted their two young children to grow up in a Jewish environment.  

“It’s a Jewish neighbourhood, not too far north or too far south. Farther south is too expensive and farther north is too isolated,” says Laura.

Jewish Life 

Although there is no shortage of synagogues in the Bathurst Manor area, the neighbourhood is more known for its general community institutions. The Sherman Campus, named for Toronto philanthropists Barry and Honey Sherman, is located on Bathurst north of Sheppard, and is the nerve centre of the Toronto Jewish community.  The Sherman Campus has embarked on the Tomorrow Campaign, a revitalization project to rebuild the area and the 27.5 acres is being revisioned.  Currently, it houses the Prosserman JCC, the Koffler Centre of the Arts, and the Lipa Green Centre for Jewish Community Services. 

Map of Bathurst Manor

 

 Click here for a larger image

The Lipa Green Centre features UJA Federation's Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre and its Ontario Jewish Archives.  The offices of UJA Federation of Greater Toronto are located in the Lipa Green Building, along with other community services including JIAS (Jewish Immigrant Aid Services) Toronto's office and the central branch of Jewish Family and Child. 

In the next phase of the development, the campus will be enhanced and expanded and joined by the National Jewish Museum of Canada, the Leah Posluns Theatre and much more.

Whether young or old, all Jews in Bathurst Manor can find a program for their interests.

For adult education, Kolel: The Adult Centre for Liberal Jewish Learning is a place where adults of all walks of Jewish life can take courses and participate in educational discussions. “The whole idea behind Kolel is to make people feel comfortable that they can ask questions and learn at their own speed,” says one staff member. People travel from as far as Hamilton and Oakville to take weekly courses at Kolel, which range from textual studies to history classes to kabbalah for beginners. Discussion sessions include topics such as “Women in Jewish Literature,” “Conversations about Conversions” and “Sacred Sex.”   

Senior citizens in the area can become members of the Association of Jewish Seniors on Wilson Ave.  The association unites members with monthly meetings, cultural programs and outreach to isolated and unaffiliated seniors.  The Borochov Cultural Centre houses a seniors group also, (in addition to a synagogue, a banquet hall and a women's organization), and Baycrest, internationally renowned for its care, research and education related to aging and geriatrics, offers a full spectrum of programs and services for the elderly, and is located along the Bathurst corridor.

The neighbourhood is home to Circle of Care, which offers a broad range of health and home support service options to improve well-being, independence, and quality of life to persons of every age and circumstance.  Jewish youth groups are also located in the area, including Bnei Akiva of Toronto, an Orthodox group which jolds Shabbatons, and the offices of Habonim Dror, a group committed to the ideals and values of kibbutz and aliyah.

When it comes to Jewish life, residents of Bathurst Manor span the religious spectrum. There are pockets of Orthodox Jews in this area, most notably around Clanton Park because the orthodox Clanton Park Synagogue is located within walking distance.

There are other smaller Orthodox congregations in the Bathurst Manor.  Uptown Chabad is located towards the west end of Bathurst Manor. Other choices include the Mizrachi Bayit, a centrist and Zionist option for those who want a traditional but informal, vibrant atmosphere, the Emunah Shelima Synagogue which offers a separate women's program and Beth Jacob V'Anshe Drildz.  Living near Wilson Ave. and Bathurst St. is also convenient for families wishing to access the various Chassidic centres south of Highway 401 in the Lawrence Manor neighbourhood.

Petah Tikvah Anshei Castilla congregation, located off Bathurst St., is a Sephardic synagogue. Its members, who hail mainly from Spanish-speaking northern Morocco, pride themselves on keeping the same synagogue services and rituals that they remember from days gone by.

“Of all the Sephardic congregations that I’ve seen,” says Rabbi Yoseph Oziel of Montreal, “I’ve hardly ever seen a congregation that has adhered so closely to its traditions. They remember that the services were conducted exactly like this in Tangiers in the 1950s.”  Another option is Magen David Sephardic Congregation, a French speaking congregation that holds daily, shabbat and holiday services.

Residents looking for a Conservative congregation have many to choose from.  The two largest neighbourhood Conservative synagogues are Beth Emeth Bais Yehuda and Beth David B’nai Israel Beth Am. Both congregations offer a plethora of children’s programs, as well as a family Shabbat service that appeals to parents and adult education classes.

Other Conservative synagogues include Kol Yisroel Congregation, located in the Borochov Cultural Centre, which holds weekly Shabbat services and Bar/Bat mitzvahs and the Lodzer Centre Congregation, established in 1953 and led by survivors of the Lodz Ghetto, which offers traditional daily, Shabbat and holidays services.

Congregation Darchei Noam, a Reconstructionist synagogue, is also located in the area.

“With the exception of those who would want a Reform temple, this is a wonderful neighbourhood for fostering Jewish identity,” says Randal Schnoor. However, Reform synagogue Temple Sinai is at Wilson Ave. and Avenue Rd., a 10-minute walk into Lawrence Manor.

On the educational front, the Jewish high school TanenbaumCHAT - Wallenberg Campus, has its south campus on Wilmington Ave. The school is one of the anchors of the Jewish community in Bathurst Manor. TanenbaumCHAT students take a rigorous course load of general and Judaic studies, and are required to complete a minimum of 72 hours of volunteer work before graduation – nearly double the provincial government’s requirement. The school boasts extremely high university acceptance rates.  Many of the school’s graduates maintain a connection to the Jewish community, and 10 per cent of their teaching staff are former TanenbaumCHAT students. Its northern campus, TanenbaumCHAT - Kimel Family Education Centre is located in Thornhill Woods. 

For elementary and middle school-aged children in Bathurst Manor, there are many options for a Jewish education.  The Toronto Heschel School, which goes from Junior Kindergarten to grade eight, is a pluralistic, arts-based school with a strong environmental focus. All the subjects are integrated, so when the grade sixes learn about Passover, for example, says principal Gail Baker, they also host an ecology seder.

Just west of Bathurst St. is Montessori Jewish Day School.  The first of its kind in Canada, this school integrates the Montessori method with Jewish studies, to offer an individualized and egalitarian education for children aged 2 1/2 to 14.

There are several Orthodox elementary schools in the area:  for boys - Yeshiva Bnei Zion of Bobov, the Toronto Cheder School  and for girls, Bais Chaya Mushka Elementary School just west of the area.  For high school boys, Or Chaim Bnei Akiva Yeshiva is a modern Orthodox school with a philosophy rooted in the traditions of authentic religious Zionism. 

There are also various supplementary Jewish schools, most of which run weekly afternoon or  Sunday classes out of local synagogues.  Ledbury Park Hebrew School offers a supplementary Jewish education which aims to help students develop an understanding and appreciation of Jewish culture, religion and tradition.

Kadima School provides an interactive supplementary Jewish learning experience for youth and young adults with special needs.  For those looking for early childhood care, Gan Yeladim Day Care Centre, Menorah Day Care, and Menorah Nursery and Kindergarten offer kosher food.

Shops and Services

Kosher food abounds in the Bathurst Manor area. For groceries, many residents head to Metro at Bathurst and Sheppard Ave or No Frills at Bathurst Ave. and Wilson Ave. for their basics such as produce, meat and dairy. Both stores have wide selections of kosher products. Specialty delis, bakeries and pizza shops also line Bathurst St.

Yorkdale, one of Canada’s first and largest suburban malls, is just beyond Bathurst Manor. Almost every major retail chain has set up a store in the mall. However, at peak times this popular shopping spot becomes extremely crowded.

Recreation/entertainment

Bathurst Manor is mostly residential, so many residents head to Yonge and Eglinton or downtown for entertainment. Fast access to the major highways and proximity to several bus and subway routes make it easy to get around the city. 

For those who want to stay close to home, there is a movie theatre at Yorkdale Shopping Centre that’s open late.

Earl Bales Park, east off Bathurst St. in Armour Heights, is a former golf course that was converted into a park, and people picnic and to walk their dogs there when the weather is nice. During winter, Earl Bales has skiing and snowboarding lessons. 

Many neighbourhood parks also have playgrounds for children. The park across from TanenbaumCHAT has a baseball diamond, basketball and tennis courts, and a water area for children. On spring and summer, the sound of dribbling basketballs, slamming hockey pucks and happy shouts can be heard late into the night. Stadium lighting keeps the park well-lit and safe.

Transportation

Getting around the Bathurst Manor area is quick and easy. Highway 401, which forms the southern boundary of this neighbourhood, cuts through the city and connects to all the major highways in and around Toronto. The Allen Rd. on the west side of Bathurst Manor runs from Sheppard Ave. to Eglinton Ave.

Traveling by public transit is also easy in this neighbourhood. Downsview station, the end of the University-Spadina subway line, is at the south end of Bathurst Manor. By subway, a trip from Bathurst Manor to Union station (at the southern end of downtown Toronto) takes approximately 30 minutes.  Several bus routes also run through the neighbourhood, and the Bathurst bus operates 24 hours a day. 

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