Our synagogue was first established in 1928 as the Hillcrest Congregation at 563 Christie Street.
Membership was $5 per year and included two tickets for High Holiday services. A ladies auxiliary was formed in 1932. Two years later, the name of the synagogue was changed to Shaarei Shomayim Congregation, with a membership of 41.
Shaarei Shomayim occupied a permanent location at 840 St. Clair Avenue West In 1936 and membership had increased to 186 people.
In 1937 the shul’s Sunday school was established with 45 students. Dues were raised to $18 in 1941, and Cantor Alexander Steinberg, the first-full time Chazzan, was hired. Dues were raised once again in 1942 to $25, which included cemetery privileges.
In the late 1940s, the Brotherhood was formed. By 1947, the shul building was finished. Most important, however, was the decision to formalize the direction of Shaarei Shomayim as a modern Orthodox congregation.
By 1948 membership grew to 400. The year was also notable for women with three members of the Sisterhood invited to sit on the Board of Governors.
As the years went by, Shaarei Shomayim continued to flourish and the congregation realized the neighbourhood in which they were located was changing. Members were moving north. Under the direction of Mr. Ben Kaminker, in 1966 Shaarei Shomayim also moved north to 470 Glencairn Avenue.
The beauty of the St. Clair location has been preserved through the stained-glass windows that are now on display in the recently-renovated lower level of the shul. Read the full story featured in the National Post: Historic stained-glass windows preserved as Toronto congregation readies to bid shalom to old synagogue (12/09/14).
In September 2011, the Shaarei Shomayim experienced a flood (caused from a watermain break on Glencairn). A crisis was converted to an opportunity - and the south side of the lower level was renovated. Thanks to the generocity of the Weinbaum family, we now have the beautiful Weinbaum Beit Midrash. The Beit Midrash is used on weekdays for regular sevices and on Shabbat by our Hashkama minyan as well as our teens. We have created mulitiple meeting rooms which can be used for lectures and then opened and used for meals/celebrations.
In 2013, it was recognized that the building was almost fifty years old. The RETIRE REBUILD RENEW Campaign was launched: RETIRE our debt, REBUILD our building and RENEW our commitment. By supporting our campaign, we act to build our community, to strengthen the place where we gather as a community, to deepen our spirituality, to make a connection to each other and to G-d, and to strengthen our Torah. Many families generously contributed over $4 million to our campaign, enabling us to renovate our sanctuary and lobby - including making the various parts of the space accessible.
In 2016, it was felt that the banquet hall should also be updated and renovated to reflect the new space. The carpet, dance floor, walls and window coverings were all changed and updated. The room now is lit by 99% LED lighting, including the two beautiful original chandeliers.
Today, Shaarei Shomayim boasts approximately 700 families as part of its membership and remains a vibrant centre of Jewish life for all ages. The shul is among the largest modern Orthodox synagogues in Canada. Those who helped pave the way did so by ensuring we had world class facilities to offer wide ranging programs and services.