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History

​We are a traditional conservative synagogue whose leadership draws strength from all age groups to combine the wisdom and experience of our founding members with the energy and professionalism of younger generations. This core of dedicated volunteers works with the clergy and staff to safeguard the aims and purposes of our constitution. Armed with the valued traditions and achievements of the past, that have earned us the name "The Synagogue with a Heart", we look forward to meeting the challenges of the 21st century. 
 

A Brief History
It began with the determination of 150 people, who banded together with a common dream and $500 in the bank. The journey from a small house in the neighbourhood, to upstairs quarters in the shopping plaza, to a tent at the future site of the building, ended in April, 1959 when construction began on the first stage of Beth Emeth Synagogue. Ready for occupancy that September, it consisted of a hall, classrooms and offices.

Approximately 300 Hebrew school students, who had been meeting in portables outside the public school across the street, came through our doors. Rabbi Joseph Kelman, our new spiritual leader, conducted the first High Holy Days services. 

Two years later, close to 1,000 children and teenagers were involved in our programs. The Brotherhood and Sisterhood played dynamic roles in the synagogue's development, gaining Beth Emeth a city-wide reputation as a vibrant centre of religious, cultural, social and educational activities.

In 1963, the Bais Yehuda Synagogue merged with Beth Emeth. The strength of the combined congregation allowed us to build the sanctuary, chapel and additional classrooms the following year. In November, 1975 the Hebrew Men of England amalgamated with Beth Emeth Bais Yehuda Synagogue. In 1978, Rabbi Barry Schneider, after years of experience as an American Army chaplain, became our assistant Rabbi.

The passage of time has swelled our ranks with renewed vigour. Today, 1200 families gather together at our Table of Faith.  In 1997, Beth Emeth Bais Yehuda Synagogue saw the retirement and designation of emeritus status of Rabbi Joseph Kelman, and the ascendance to the position of Senior Rabbi by Rabbi Barry Schneider. He served in this position for two years.  In 1999, Rabbi Peretz Weizman, a retired Winnipeg Rabbi accepted the post of Interim Rabbi until August 2000 when Rabbi Howard Morrison joined us as Senior Rabbi of Beth Emeth Bais Yehuda Synagogue. 
 

Religious Services 
Daily minyanim in the Lerman Chapel offer congregants an opportunity to lead services, learn and participate.

Alternative High Holy Day and Shabbat services are specifically designed for families. 

A monthly Shabbat Beginners Minyan encourages those who seek a deeper understanding of prayer. Shabbat and Holiday services are family oriented. Cantorial liturgy and rabbinic reflections provide spiritual inspiration to all ages. 

Saturday afternoon study classes are followed by Mincha, Seudah and a moving Havdallah Service.

Programs

• Music
• Library and Art
• Men's Club and Sisterhood
• Religious Education
• Continuing Education
• Youth / Young Families / Seniors
• Community Outreach / Social Action 

 

Our founding clergy of blessed memory

Rabbi Joseph Kelman

 Joseph Kelman, was the founding Rabbi of Beth Emeth Bais Yehuda Synagogue in Bathurst Manor, Toronto's third largest Conservative congregation. Coming from a rabbinic family reaching back eight generations, Rabbi Kelman devoted his life and career equally to scholarship and to the mentally handicapped. His two sons, Jay and Maury are now ninth generation rabbis.

Born in Vienna, his family came to Toronto when he was three. He was ordained in New York and returned to Toronto in 1959 to become the spiritual leader of Beth Emeth, a new congregation of 100 families in burgeoning North York. In the beginning, services were held in a member's home. Today the Beth Emeth Bais Yehuda Synagogue on Elder Street has a congregation of nearly 1,500 families.

Early on, Rabbi Kelman recognized his role in the rabbinate as an opportunity to serve all segments of the community. As chaplain of a psychiatric centre in 1960 he became convinced that the disabled were entitled to programmes tailored to their disability. In 1961, he established the Kadima School for these ''special'' children and teenagers. Here they were taught Torah, Jewish laws, customs and traditions. Then, in 1971, he established the Kadima Centre, a recreational, social and cultural program for special needs adults. Two years later he became the founding President of the Reena Foundation which has since earned a world wide reputation for teaching the mentally handicapped to live an independent lifestyle under supervision and/or in their own apartments. He also founded, with the help of Rabbi Irwin Witty, the Dr. Abraham Shore Academy for children with learning disabilities. Shearim has helped these children mainstream back to CHAT and other hebrew high schools. He was also instrumental in founding a group home for young adults with psychiatric problems.

In 1984 Rabbi Kelman was honoured by Ryerson Polytechnic University with an Honourary Fellowship and in 1991 he received an Honourary Doctorate of Philosophy from Tel Aviv University. The University established The Kelman Research Centre which has hosted several international conferences and published many books dealing with Jewish Education, Language and Identity. In addition to his many posts of community leadership, he has served as chairman of the Toronto Board of Rabbis.

Rabbi Kelman was married to the late Ruth Friedman for over 45 years. They had 3 children. Tova, a lawyer, is married to Allan Gutenberg and they have 4 children, Pnina, Daniel, Joshua and Zahava. Rabbi Jay Kelman is both a Rabbi at the neighbouring Beth Jacob Synagogue, and also a chartered accountant. Jay and his wife Elana have 3 children, Ariel, Elisha and Atara. Rabbi Maury Kelman is a lawyer and also holds the post of International Chairman of KEDMA, an organization which does outreach work in Toronto, Montreal, London & Paris; he is the official Rabbi for their synagogue in Jerusalem. In 2000, Rabbi Joseph Kelman married Sara Schafler.

In tribute to his 38 years of service to the congregation, Beth Emeth Bais Yehuda Synagogue honoured him with a year of special events, the inscription of a Torah scroll, a dinner and tribute evening, and the establishment of the Joseph Kelman Endowment Fund for Jewish Continuity.

Although officially retired in 1997, Rabbi Kelman continued to busy himself with community and synagogue life. He was honoured in November 2008 with the Yakir Hakahal (Precious to the Community) award. He remained active in the community and the shul up until his passing in June 2009.

Cantor Louis Danto

After serving for over a quarter century as our beloved Hazzan, Cantor Louis Danto retired in 1998. Cantor Danto was honoured by the synagogue with the title ''Cantor Emeritas'', and remained an important part of the synagogue up until his passing late July, 2010.

Cantor Louis Danto's career started in the early 1930's when as a child in Suwalki, Poland, he sang as alto soloist in the choirs of such ''Greats'' as Jacob Berman and David Moshe Steinberg. Even during those tender years, he thrilled congregations with his pure and fervent tones. Then came Hitler and the war. The Danto family was uprooted but Louis was fortunate enough to escape to Minsk. There he studied at the local conservatory from 1939-1941. When Germany invaded Russia, Danto was moved once more (this time with a group of other talented children deep into Russia where he studied cello and voice).

The war was over and Danto hurriedly made for home. But home was no more. A somber silence greeted him. Only the ashes remained; cloud and sky, and the ominous silence. Centuries of Jewish life and culture and learning had been erased during those frightening years. Only traces of it remained: in the scholar's mind, in the poet's soul, in the sweet singer's throat.

Danto combined the best of his artistic background with his Jewish soul and made Hazzanuth his chosen career. Danto studied Hazzanuth with Leo Lowe and Herman Zalis. He also expanded his knowledge of Jewish sources at the Yeshiva of ''Mirr'' where he studied from 1950 to 1954.

Praised by such immortals as Gigli and Schipa while a student in Rome, Louis Danto has concertized throughout the world - all appearances receiving both critical and audience acclamation. In December 1965, Louis Danto chanted a special prayer at Tito Schipa's funeral in New York at the request of the family with noted Metropolitan Opera stars in attendance.

Cantor Danto, in September 1984, sang before Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip in Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens to an inter-faith audience of 16,000 and millions of television viewers. Her Majesty was most impressed with Cantor Danto's richly regal singing.

If you would like more information about the music of Cantor Danto zt’l,  please contact Rouhama Danto,rouhamadanto@gmail.com

Wed, 28 September 2022 3 Tishrei 5783