Lawrence Manor Neighbourhood Profile
In the heart of Jewish Toronto
By Elysse Zarek, revised by Sarah Bleiwas
Lawrence Manor was once farmland until the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, a federal government agency, bought the deed in the 1940s and earmarked the land for residential development. The homes in Lawrence Manor are primarily two-storey houses, split-level dwellings and bungalows. Lots are a respectable 9.14 metres (30 feet) wide at minimum and backyards are often deep. Today, the area is being gentrified and the small mid-century homes are slowly being replaced by larger dwellings.
Bathurst Street in the Lawrence Manor is also lined with low and high-rise apartment buildings as well as a recently built luxury condominium apartment building.
Nowhere in Toronto can you find a more traditional Jewish area than along Bathurst St. between Highway 401 and Briar Hill Ave. Lining this corridor are many little Orthodox synagogues and schools, each one catering to a different branch of Orthodox or Chassidic Judaism. A stroll around the neighbourhood makes it apparent that this area is predominantly Orthodox. Gentlemen with black hats and payos, and ladies wearing long skirts and hats are seen throughout, often with young children trailing beside.
Lawrence Manor by the numbers
58,160: neighbourhood population
16,825: number of Jews
28.9: % of Jewish residents
3,235: number of Jewish seniors
345: Yiddish-speaking households
410: Hebrew-speaking households
$900,000: median price for a single detached home
$1,250: average rent for a two-bedroom apartment
population figures - 2001 Canada Census
East of Bathurst St. towards Avenue Rd., the neighbourhood undergoes a noticeable transition. Lots and homes are larger and more ornately decorated, and recent renovations to the neighbourhood are visible by the spate of custom-built homes. While the Jewish population west of Bathurst St. is still high – it ranks as the number one ethnic group in census data – the density is lower than at Bathurst St. and Lawrence Ave.
Jews in Lawrence Manor make up almost 30 per cent of the population. Many of the families that live in the area have younger children, with significantly more being in the infant to 14-year-old age bracket than the 15-24 demographic. However, there is a considerable elderly population attributed to Baycrest seniors’ home and affordable rentals nearby.
Parts of the neighbourhood are undergoing a renewal and young couples and families have moved in, creating a family-oriented feel. Annie Raphael and her husband Avi were attracted to the neighbourhood because of its revitalization and its proximity to public transportation. They also enjoy being in the heart of one of Toronto’s most vibrant Jewish communities, and like knowing that all the Jewish facilities and amenities that they would need, like kosher food and a synagogue, are close by.
“This is a good area if you want to have a full Jewish life,” says Annie.
Although the majority of the institutions in this neighbourhood are of varying branches of Orthodox Judaism, many Jewish residents walk or commute to synagogues of other denominations.
If you’re looking for an Orthodox synagogue, Bathurst St. and Lawrence Ave. is the right intersection to be at. Because of cold Canadian winters, most Orthodox families reside within a few short blocks of the synagogues they attend.
A prominent synagogue in the area is Shaarei Shomayim, which describes itself as the largest modern Orthodox synagogue in Canada. The synagogue has about 1,100 member families and offers a variety of adult education programs during the school year. It also has several children’s and teens’ programs and a youth minyan on Shabbat.
There are more than 10 other Orthodox shuls in Lawrence Manor, including Agudath Israel of Toronto, which also has a mikvah; Chevra Shas, which has a daily Daf Hayomi Shiur in Yiddish, and congregations which follow the customs and practices of both Bobover and Breslover Chassidim. There are also several mikvahs in the neighbourhood, for men and women, that are unaffiliated with synagogues.
Chabad On The Avenue is also based in the Lawrence Manor area, serving the Jewish community with Shabbat services and educational programs.
Other denominations of synagogues dot the area. Beth Habonim is a liberal Conservative-style shul and Hebrew school, as is Beth Torah Congregation which has various opportunities and programs for congregants. Stashover Slipia Congregation is unaffiliated and Baycrest Terrace Reform Congregation is made up of senior citizens.
Temple Sinai, a Reform synagogue, is located to the south of Highway 401, just barely in Lawrence Manor – you can see the highway from the shul parking lot. The synagogue, which has more than 1,850 members, has a children’s supplementary school, adult education classes and seniors’ programs. There are also larger Reform and Conservative synagogues minutes away in the Armour Heights and Forest Hill neighbourhoods.
Jewish schools also abound in this neighbourhood. For elementary schools, Associated Hebrew School has a campus on Neptune Dr., in Baycrest’s shadow. (Its principal campus is in Thornhill-Vaughan.) The school, which has more than 2,000 students on three campuses, takes a traditional approach to religion and prides itself on its ivrit b’ivrit program, meaning that Judaic studies are taught in Hebrew with the goal of making students fluent in both Hebrew and Judaism.
An abundance of schools catering to the Orthodox community can be found within this neighbourhood. Many of the elementary schools in the area are all within walking distance of each other and have small student bodies. Bais Yaakov Elementary School, Bais Brucha School, Eitz Chaim Day School for girls and Yeshiva Yesodei Hatorah are all in the area.
Bialik Hebrew Day School, located a stone’s throw away from Forest Hill, at the corner of Bathurst Street and Viewmount Ave., is a day school linked to the Labour Zionist movement. It focuses on Israel and Jewish life and offers lessons in English, French, Hebrew and Yiddish to its more than 850 students.
The Montessori Jewish School provides parents with another educational choice. Laura and Misha, who live in Bathurst Manor, send their two young children there. Besides liking the Montessori teaching philosophy, Laura liked that the school accepts people of all levels of religious observance.
There are numerous Orthodox high schools in the area for both girls and boys, many with a special focus. Beth Jacob High School for Girls is an Orthodox school that also runs a seminary to prepare aspiring teachers for Jewish schools; Bnos Bais Yaakov and Tiferes Bais Yaakov also offer studies with an intensive Judaic focus. For those Orthodox girls wishing to get their Bachelor's Degree within the confines of the Bais Yaakov movement there is Talpiot College for Women. For boys there is Yeshivas Lubavitch Toronto which emphasizes the Lubavitch philosophy.
For students with special needs, Zareinu High School is for girls with physical and developmental disabilities who require specially adapted programs. Zareinu tries to include students in classes at Bais Yaakov wherever possible. (Zareinu also has programs for younger children in Thornhill-Vaughan.) Yeshiva Ateres Yisrael is an Orthodox high school for boys with special needs, and Yeshivas Nefesh Dovid is an international yeshiva for the deaf and hard of hearing.
There are supplementary schools at synagogues and community centres in the neighbourhood. Toronto's Secular Jewish Community School has programs for toddlers to age 17, and Ledbury Park Hebrew School has a liberal philosophy that emphasizes understanding and appreciating Jewish culture and traditions.
For post secondary Orthodox studies, Yeshiva Gedolah is an option for boys, and Kolel Avreichim has studies at the post-graduate level. The Mekorot Institute of Torah Study for Women offers text-based learning, and Yeshiva Lemudai Hashem Congregation has Torah classes for men. similarily, Ohr Somayach/JEP has adult education classes for all levels.
The neighbourhood is also noted for the many other Jewish community institutions available. Primarily, Lawrence Manor has many resources for seniors. Baycrest is a Jewish nursing home, seniors hospital and seniors residence that is among the best on the continent. For older adults looking for a variety of recreation, education and fitness programs, the Joseph E. & Minnie Wagman Centre is a non-sectarian community centre, and Bikur Cholim is a social service agency which provides practical and emotional support to the elderly.
Shops and Services
When the Lawrence Manor plaza opened in 1960, it was the largest shopping centre in Toronto. Although it no longer holds that title, the plaza is still a hot shopping spot for Jewish families and fashion-conscious bargain hunters. A Metro supermarket has a wide variety of kosher foods and is open 24 hours a day. There are also a number of outlet stores in the plaza that attract shoppers from different neighbourhoods.
Along Bathurst St., there are a host of different clothing stores, bookstores and eateries catering specifically to the Jewish community.
On the fringes of the Lawrence Manor neighbourhood, Yorkdale Shopping Centre is one of Canada’s first and largest suburban malls. Almost every major retail chain has set up a store in the mall. However, the throngs of people at lunchtime, on evenings and in the month of December can make even the most patient shopper scream.
The small shops and galleries on Avenue Rd. attract many local and regional customers. The gourmet grocery store Pusateri’s carries specialty cooking items like miniature vegetables and has a kosher chicken freezer. Police officers have been known to patrol the parking lot and direct traffic during busy times of the year.
For wholesome outdoor entertainment, there are a number of parks and walking paths in the west part of Lawrence Manor that run parallel to and above the Allen Rd. Several of the parks have tennis courts and playgrounds for children, and people can be seen walking their dogs at all hours. For indoor activities and sports, the Prosserman Jewish Community Centre in Bathurst Manor services this neighbourhood and well beyong. The neighbourhood is also home to the Barbara Frum Regional Library.
For movies, there is a Silver City theatre located in Yorkdale Shopping Centre that is open late, as well as two cinemas at Yonge St. and Eglinton Ave.
For other forms of entertainment, many residents also head south to the Forest Hill Village in the Forest Hill neighbourhood for entertainment or visit another area of the city.
The car is the primary method of transportation in this neighbourhood. Highway 401, which forms the northern boundary of Lawrence Manor, has an eastbound entrance directly on Bathurst St. To the west, the Allen Rd. (often referred to as the Allen Expressway) is a north-south thoroughfare that runs from Finch Ave., in the Bathurst Manor neighbourhood, and ends at Eglinton Ave. on the outskirts of Forest Hill. The Allen Rd. connects to Highway 401 and is one of the fastest routes to the downtown core, depending on the time of day. For those who prefer to avoid the highway, a twenty-five minute drive down Bathurst St. will get motorists to Toronto's financial and entertainment districts. However, residents complain about the increased volume of traffic and it might be a wise idea to add extra time to your commute during rush hours.
Proximity to public transportation also makes this an easy neighbourhood to access. Buse routes on Lawrence Ave. and Wilson Ave. connect passengers to stations on the Yonge-University-Spadina subway line, from which it takes only 10 minutes to get downtown. The Bathurst Street bus, (which runs 24 hours a day), travels south to Bathurst station on the Bloor-Danforth subway line.
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