Forest Hill Jewish Centre completes long anticipated Temmy Latner building
“When nothing has broken through the earth, there are a lot of naysayers and you even start questioning yourself,” says Rabbi Elie Karfunkel, leader and teacher at the Forest Hill Jewish Centre, of the highly anticipated new Jewish hub, “but we knew this was going to be something special and powerful.”
The Forest Hill Jewish Centre finally has a place of its own to call home. Nestled in the beautiful Forest Hill neighbourhood at 360 Spadina Rd., the Temmy Latner building stands out with beautiful stained glass windows, detailed carpentry and a majestic zinc roof. 10 years in the making, this labour of love is nearly complete and already gaining the admiration of the Jewish community in Toronto and abroad.
The new synagogue and community space is an awe-inspiring replica of the original Great Synagogue in Jaslo, Poland, which was burned down by the Nazis 73 years ago on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement).
Alongside Rabbi Elie Karfunkel and wife Rifky, the driving forces behind the project include the late Albert Latner, his wife Temmy Latner, and their family. Kaplan, president of Runnymede Development Corporation and chairman of the international Jewish outreach organization, was another instrumental visionary for the project, as well as Ohr Somayach and Rabbi Nota Schiller.
Esteemed Toronto-based builder Sam Mizrahi of Mizrahi Design Build was also on board for the project. Mizrahi has been involved in numerous grandiose builds in the Greater Toronto Area, boasting a style sought out by many.
Before construction commenced, the team envisioned a building with a grand and majestic exterior, yet an interior that exuded a warm and welcoming atmosphere — “kind of like you’re in your living room,” says Rabbi Elie. It was a no-brainer to enlist the skills of Mizrahi Design Build. “Sam Mizrahi had been doing a lot of impressive work in the city, a lot of custom homes and we knew with his skillset he could achieve what we were after.”
As with any truly outstanding structures, this one came with bumps along the way, but the team persevered through a decade of success and setbacks, mirroring the true fortitude of the international Jewish community.
“Our job is to build the most beautiful edifice of them all, but that’s not a building, it’s the human spirit,” says Rabbi Elie. “This is a vehicle to inspire people.”
Rabbi Elie firmly believes in a simple philosophy: that the world needs more community building. No matter the religion, a holy leader that is connected to the children in the community and is present for the community is a positive force for his or her congregation. The Temmy Latner Forest Hill Jewish Centre aims to nurture the soul, with a well-stocked library, modern multimedia classrooms and event spaces.
The centre will host classes for everyone, from young children to the senior community. Areas of emphasis will include Torah classes, after-school studies and couple and premarital courses.
Because the building is a replica of a historical monument, the space also serves as a museum. Rabbi Elie believes it’s important to educate Jewish and non-Jewish youth in the rich history of the religion, and to pass along the story of Jaslo, and of the Holocaust that saw the massacre of nearly 50 per cent of the world’s Jewish population.
The centre and its permanence represent the eternal presence of the Jewish community.