Newtonbrook Neighbourhood Profile
Parks, Shops and Affordable Housing
By Elysse Zarek, revised by Sarah Bleiwas
Newtonbrook, at the far north end of Toronto before the telephone area code changes from 416 to 905, is a rectangular area bounded by Yonge Street, Steeles Avenue, Finch Avenue and Dufferin Road.
Development began in Newtonbrook in the 1950s, when the saw and grist mills near the Don River closed down. Drewry Street, which runs parallel to Steeles Avenue, was once named Pope’s Lane because many Roman Catholics built houses there (Dunkelman, Your Guide to Toronto’s Neighbourhoods).
Housing in Newtonbrook is diverse. In terms of homes, the most common styles are low-rise brick homes and bungalows. Recently, there has also been an increasing number of custom homes being built. Newtonbrook also has a range of apartments, from new luxury condominium buildings to high rise rental apartments.
Today, Newtonbrook is home to many new immigrant families from Israel and the former Soviet Union.
Newtonbrook has the third-highest concentration of Jews in the metropolitan area, following only Thornhill-Vaughan and Bathurst Manor. Thirty-seven per cent of residents are Jewish. The area also attracts a large number of recent immigrants. Eight-hundred and sixty households in the area speak Russian, and another 860 speak Hebrew as their primary home language.
Newtonbrook is also known for its large population of bubbies and zaidies. Statistics show that many of Newtonbrook’s Jewish residents are older than their non-Jewish neighbours. According to Statistics Canada's 2001 census, the median Jewish age is 52, while the median age for non-Jews is 35.
Newtonbrook by the numbers
38,935: neighbourhood population*
14,505: number of Jews**
4,540: number of Jewish seniors **
860: Russian-speaking households*
860: Hebrew-speaking households*
$648,000 median price of a single detached home
$1,063: average rent for a two-bedroom apartment
* 2001 Canada Census
** UIA Canada's National Task Force of Jewish Demographics, 2009
At the same time, the Jewish population of Newtonbrook is declining; the area experienced a 20 per cent drop in Jewish population between 1991 and 2001.
One of the central features of the Newtonbrook community is the Jewish Russian Community Centre, affiliated with Chabad, which offers Hebrew, Torah and preschool. Many Russian immigrants have settled in the area directly around the JRCC.
Maon Noam is another centre that services the Jewish Russian community. It holds Shabbat services and cultural programs for recent immigrants.
There are several Sephardic congregations in Newtonbrook. On the north border with Thornhill-Vaughan sits Bet Yoseph Sephardic Congregation, a small congregation of 30 families. Just east of Bathurst is Minyan Sepharad with a membership of 100 families. Tehillat Yerushalim is an Israeli Sephardic congregation located in the Bernard Betel Centre. All synagogues hold Shabbat and holiday services.
Newtonbrook also has numerous Orthodox synagogues. Congregation Bnai Torah strives to be a House of Prayer, Assembly and Study - with daily services, community events and adult study classes. It also has a mikvah. Additionally, Shomer Israel Congregation and Shivtei Yisroel Congregation all hold services.
Residents looking in the area for synagogues affiliated with the Conservative and Reform movements have fewer options. The Pride of Israel Synagogue is located on Bathurst Street just south of Steeles Avenue. Established more than 100 years ago, the Pride of Israel is an unaffiliated congregation. The Pride has a long history of social action in Toronto. In the 1930s, it established a society to help ill community members and a credit society. It also has a kosher food bank on the premises. There are no Reform or Conservative synagogues directly in Newtonbrook, however residents can travel to shuls in midtown Toronto or Thornhill.
There are also several Jewish day schools in the neighbourhood. Eitz Chaim Day Schools, an Orthodox school with more than 800 students at three campuses, has a branch on Patricia Avenue for boys from nursery to grade eight. The middle school campus of Associated Hebrew Schools is located on Finch Avenue, east of Bathurst Street and on the border with Armour Heights.
For senior citizens, the Bernard Betel Centre is located in Newtonbrook. This learning and wellness centre holds programs and events, and is committed to maximizing the quality of life for seniors while reflecting Jewish values.
Shops and Services
For groceries, there are many different options for local residents. Discount grocery store Price Chopper on Bathurst Street has a kosher meat section and a couple of rows of kosher frozen and pre-packaged food. Another Price Chopper is located several blocks north, at the intersection of Bathurst Street and Steeles Avenue.
Sobey’s, a grocery store a few intersections north of Steeles Avenue in Thornhill-Vaughan, has the largest selection of kosher food on the continent. The Real Canadian Superstore at the corner of Dufferin Road and Steeles Avenue also has a wide kosher food selection.
As well, there is a kosher butcher, a few kosher restaurants and a kosher pizza and falafel joint in the neighbourhood.
For convenient shopping, Newtonbrook-ers have a few options. Centrepoint, an indoor mall with two national department stores, is located at Yonge Street and Steeles Avenue.
Newtonbrook is situated between the east and west branches of the Don River Valley, providing an attractive natural backdrop and recreational opportunities. There are over 20 neighbourhood parks and parkettes in the Newtonbrook area, many of which are equipped with bike and walking paths, and even cross-country skiing trails for the winter.
For entertainment, most residents head to other areas. There is a movie and entertainment complex at Highways 7 and 400 that attracts a crowd that is young and young-at-heart. Other residents go to Forest Hill, Yonge and Eglinton and downtown.
Most Newtonbrook residents travel by car. Newtonbrook’s proximity to the Allen Road and Highway 401, and the outlying Highways 407 and 400, make it easy to get nearly anywhere in the city and beyond. A trip downtown takes about 25 minutes without traffic, but double that time in rush hour. However, there are pitfalls to relying solely on cars for transportation. Many residents have complained about increases in traffic along major thoroughfares.
However, Newtonbrook is one of a handful of Toronto neighbourhoods where travelling by public transportation is fast and easy. Finch subway station, the hub for regional transit services and local buses, is located in the southeast corner of this neighbourhood. Regular bus service is also available, with more than six bus routes running through the neighbourhood, several of which have all-night service.
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