History of Shaarei Shomayim
Welcome to the Shaarei Shomayim family. There can be no better prospect in your spiritual future!
Our synagogue was first established in 1928. The name given at the time was the Hillcrest Congregation, and it was located at 563 Christie Street.
Membership then was $5 per year, which included two tickets for the High Holy Day Services. Our Ladies Auxiliary was formed in 1932. In 1934, the name of the synagogue was changed to Shaarei Shomayim, by a membership of 41. In 1936, Shaarei Shomayim occupied a permanent location, "the cellar only", at 840 St. Clair Avenue West. Membership had increased to 186 people.
In 1937, the Sunday School was established with 45 students. Dues were raised to $18 in 1941, and Cantor Alexander Steinberg (with choir) was the first-full time Chazzan to be hired. Dues were raised once again in 1942 to $25, which included cemetery privileges.
Late in the 1940s, the Brotherhood was formed. By 1947 the Shul building was finished. Most importantly, however, was the decision to formalize procedures at Shaarei Shomayim in the direction of Modern Orthodoxy.
In 1948, the Shul and Talmud Torah were undertaken and had 1,024 seats. Membership had now risen to 400. The year was also a good one for the women since three members of the Sisterhood were invited to sit on the Board of Governors.
As the years went by, Shaarei Shomayim flourished, but by 1962 the membership realized the neighbourhood they were located in was changing and its members were moving north. So Shaarei Shomayim moved north as well. After much discussion and struggle, our present location at 470 Glencairn Avenue was chosen.
Under the direction of Mr. Ben Kaminker, Shaarei Shomayim came to fruition and by September 1966, the building was occupied. At this time, reserved seating for the High Holy Days was eliminated and tickets were made available to members only. The sanctuary can accommodate up to 846 people, with another 200 in the balcony.
Today, the Shaarei Shomayim membership, with approximately 750 families, encompasses all ages and all walks of life. It is amongst the largest modern Orthodox synagogue in Canada. Perhaps the Congregation's greatest achievement has been its ability to consolidate Orthodox principles in an age when traditional practice is on the decline.