Thornhill Woods Neighbourhood Profile
A Growing Jewish Community
By Alanna Petroff, revised by Sarah Bleiwas
Thornhill Woods is one of many new suburban developments springing up north of the established Thornhill-Vaughan suburbs. It is defined as the area bordered by Highway 7, Bathurst Street, Dufferin Road and Major Mackenzie Drive. Since its establishment, the area has been experiencing immense growth and lots of changes.
Thornhill Woods is primarily home to young married couples and families, forming its reputation as a family community. It is a neighbourhood filled with new homes, from clusters of townhouses to areas with detached double-garage homes. As of June 2010, there are no apartment buildings in Thornhill Woods; however, plans for their construction have been approved.
According to Monica Auerbach, Jewish Family & Child, Director of York Region Services, "Generally a couple will move from a rental apartment in Toronto to owning a small townhouse in Thornhill Woods, and then move to a bigger detached home also in the area. In this sense, Thornhill Woods is very transitional."
For the most part, families who have purchased homes in Thornhill Woods have done so because they can afford a brand new house for an acceptable price. However, prices are rising. The median price for a single detached home is $649,000.
In the past five years Thornhill Woods has grown tremendously. In the 2001 census the population was 6,190, a number which almost tripled by 2006, reaching 16,100. The number of private dwellings has followed suit, increasing from just fewer than 2,000 in 2001 to over 5,000 in 2006. City of Vaughan development planners indicate that construction below Rutherford Road is nearly completed; however, plans have been approved to develop the area above Rutherford Road for residential and commercial uses.
This growth is largely due to trends in the Jewish population, which seems to slowly move further north on Bathurst. Anecdotal evidence suggests that somewhere between 60 and 70 percent of the population in Thornhill Woods is Jewish.
Auerback noticed that "There is significant diversity, both of culture and language, as new immigrants continue to move to Thornhill Woods." The Jewish background in the area is also very mixed, representing different groups including Russian, Sephardic, Israeli and South African Jews.
According to Thornhill Woods resident Jack Z., there is “a large concentration of [young] Jewish families” in the area who have moved into their first or second homes. Most of these families have small children and so it is common for a child to have other Jewish friends living on his or her street.
“Thornhill Woods is one of the fastest growing Jewish communities in the world,” says Sherry Kulman, Executive Director, Schwartz/Reisman Centre.
Joseph and Wolf Lebovic Jewish Community Campus
UJA Federation has pinpointed Thornhill Woods as an area with tremendous potential for further Jewish growth. UJA Federation's Tomorrow Campaign has already begun construction of the Joseph and Wolf Lebovic Jewish Community Campus. The community campus is being built on 50 acres (over 200,000 square meters) of land in the north part of Thornhill Woods just above Rutherford Road. The first element of the complex, the TanenbaumCHAT-Kimel Family Education Centre opened its doors in September 2007. Construction is on schedule for the next phase featuring the Schwartz/Reisman Centre, a 67,000 square foot facility housing a sports and recreation pavilion, early childhood education centre and a creative arts centre as well as an outpatient clinic for Mt Sinai Hospital.
The Kavanah Organic Community Teaching Garden is located at the TanenbaumCHAT-Kimel Family Education Centre sponsored by Shoresh Jewish Environmental programs. Through fun and multi-sensory learning Shoresh Jewish Environmental programsprovide vibrant and meaningful Jewish educational experiences.
In the coming years, many of the already existing Jewish services and synagogues in the area plan to expand their facilities onto the Lebovic Campus. The goal of this huge undertaking, says Kulman, is to connect Jewish people to the Jewish community. There will be programs and services for people of all ages and backgrounds and it will encourage an interconnected and vibrant community.
Currently, many Jews who have moved into Thornhill Woods from neighbourhoods such as Thornhill-Vaughan, Richmond Hill, York Mills and Forest Hill still attend their original synagogues. However, a number of Jewish synagogues are sprouting up to satisfy a growing demand for shuls.
Several Orthodox congregations are established in Thornhill Woods. Thornhill Woods Shul is located at Bathurst Street and Rutherford Road. It is also an educational centre that hosts courses and lectures on topics such as ethics and marriage, in addition to prayer services. Chabad Romano Centre has a full range of services including preschool, camp, Hebrew school and adult and family programming.
Another synagogue of note is the Jewish Russian Community Centre (JRCC) of Thornhill Woods, where many Russian immigrants have become congregants. Rabbi Chaim Hildeshaim says that due to the growing Jewish population, the JRCC has seen a large increase in the number of congregants, and now hosts daily services and offers a Bar and Bat Mitzvah program.
Ahavat Shalom a warm Sephardic comunity shul caters to young Hebrew and English speaking families. Maon Noam Jewish Cultural & Educatioal Network has Shabbat and Sunday services.
There are two Reform congregations in Thornhill Woods. Temple Kol Ami holds services at Leo Baeck Day School. Neshamah Congregation of York Region offers services in various location across the Region. Beit Rayim Synagogue, is a Conservative egalitarian synagogue and supplementary school.
Contributing to Jewish life are the many Jewish organizations established in Thornhill Woods. Recently, a chapter of CHW (formerly Canadian Hadassah-WIZO) has been launched.
Jewish children in the Thornhill Woods area either attend the local public school or are carpooled to a number of nearby Jewish day schools. Large signs up and down Bathurst Street also advertise the various supplementary Hebrew schools being offered in the area.
Ner Israel Yeshiva College on Bathurst Street attracts Orthodox men from all over the world for secondary and post-secondary studies. TanenbaumCHAT - Kimel Family Education Centre is an important element of the Lebovic Campus, a new community high school currently providing a Jewish educational environment for over 600 students in Thornhill Woods and the surrounding areas.
Shops and Services
For Thornhill Woods residents looking for kosher groceries, prepared foods, meats and baked goods, the Sobey’s grocery store in the Springfarm Market Place (usually called the Sobey's Plaza) in Thornhill-Vaughan provides a wide selection of kosher foods. The popular Sobey’s employs a number of kosher inspectors from the Kashruth Council of Canada to ensure that groceries and prepared foods are handled properly. Jews can find a smaller selection of kosher fare in the No Frills grocery store in Thornhill-Vaughan.
New strip malls, gas stations and shopping areas are springing up all around Thornhill Woods to feed the demand for convenient shopping. Rutherford Village Plaza (Rutherford Road and Bathurst Street) features another Sobey's grocery store, a drug store and convenience stores. The Promenade Shopping Centre in Thornhill-Vaughan and Hillcrest Mall in Richmond Hill are also close by for shopping.
There are other kosher establishments on the North West corner of Rutherford Road and Bathurst Street. There is My Zaidy's Pizza and Bites Sandwich Bar. There is a frozen yogurt shop with many kosher flavours, an Israeli cafe, and a popular Bagel Shop. There is also a large Longos supermarket that carries a huge selection of kosher meats and other products. There is a bank, liquor and drugstore.
West of Thornhill Woods on Rutherford Road is Vaughan Mills. Vaughan Mills is the first single level, fully enclosed super regional shopping and entertainment mega-complex in Canada. The complex includes a combinationof manufacturer's outlets, themed restaurants and entertainment centres.
As Thornhill Woods is home to many new families with young children, the recreational parks in the area are often bustling. Fortunately, the demand for more recreational green space is being met. In 2006, Sugarbush Heritage Park was officially opened. The park measures 2.4 hectares and is located in the heart of Thornhill Woods. Facilities include a children's play area, amphitheatre, gazebo, a lookout point, and an informal picnic area. Additional funds are being allocated to build four new smaller parks.
For entertainment, most residents head to other areas. Rainbow Cinemas at the Promenade Shopping Centre in Thornhill-Vaughan present current movies at budget prices. There is also a movie and entertainment complex at Highway 7 and Highway 400 that attracts a large crowd. For other forms of entertainment, residents usually travel to other parts of the Greater Toronto Area.
Thornhill Woods is good if you enjoy living in a suburban setting and you don’t mind driving. "Your're close to decent shoping and highways, says Joel, whose primary method of transportation is car.
Thornhill Woods is only minutes from Highway 7, and the express toll route Highway 407. The area is central to many other major travel routes including Hwy 400 and Yonge Street. A trip downtown by car takes about 45-60 minutes.
Public transportation in the past has been sparse and inconvenient, but has improved recently. York Region Transit has established a new route which operates between the Thornhill Woods community and the central GO Finch Bus Terminal offering connections to the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) bus and subway systems. Service operates every 30 minutes during peak periods and every 40 minutes during off peak periods. Additionally, there are routes along the major arteries of Dufferin Road, Bathurst Street and Rutherford Road connecting to the new VIVA rapid transit system for faster access to the subway and TTC buses.
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