Due to the advance of the COVID19 virus, services will be help over Zoom until further advised.
Congregation Beth Jacob, Unaffiliated
Established in the early 1900s and with its synagogue built in 1945, this friendly congregation welcomes all visitors and newcomers to Sault Ste. Marie. Although the Congregation is unaffiliated, Conservative prayer books are used and all services are egalitarian. Services are held for the High Holy Days and monthly from September through May. Additionally there are activities and social events for other holidays during the year. Beth Jacob Hebrew School meets once a week.
Please contact us for dates and times, firstname.lastname@example.org
Click here for a 360 tour.
We would like to thank everyone who generously donated to our corporate fundraiser to replace the shingles of the Synagogue. We have covered off 100% of the roof shingling and other roof related work.
Bev & Tony Gagliardi: in memory of Beryl and Hannah Mintz & Dave and Molly Feltham
Robert & Joyce Cohen: in memory of the Cohen Family Members, and in honour of Ginny Cymbalist’s long commitment to the Hebrew School
Jeff & Juanita Arbus
Judy Freedman-Hooper & Fred Hooper: in memory of Mosche Freedman
Ellen Nightingale: in memory of Morris Nightingale, who instilled in his children a love of synagogue, and in honour of the upcoming birth of her grandchild
Ruth Moore: in memory of dear friends Dave and Molly Feltham
Debbie & Don Budge: in memory of Beryl and Hannah Mintz & Dave and Molly Feltham
Melanie & Jack Rogers: in memory of Beryl and Hannah Mintz & Dave and Molly Feltham
Elizabeth Pajuluoma: in memory of Beryl and Hannah Mintz & Dave and Molly Feltham
David & Anne Feltham: in memory of Beryl and Hannah Mintz & Dave and Molly Feltham
Harold Feltham: in memory of Beryl and Hannah Mintz & Dave and Molly Feltham
Rebecca, Aaron, Caleb and Ayal Starr: in loving memory of Carol M. Line
Jim & Betty Line: in loving memory of Carol M. Line
Anthony & Abby Gagliardi: in loving memory of Grandpa and Grandma Feltham
Ariella Arbus: in memory of Bubbi Babe Arbus
Anna-Rae Fishman & Gerry Fisher: in memory of Barry Fishman
Wendy & Paul Kates: in memory/honour of the Kates Family
Yaacov Iland: in honour of Max Iland
Susan Cohen: in memory of Joseph and Rhoda Cohen
Lew & Doe Brown
Steve Fishman: in memory of Alec and Zelda Fishman
Sandy Bregman: in memory of Isaac and Rose Bregman
Larry & Sylvia Kleiman: in memory of Sidney Kleiman and Sharon Smith
Glenn & Rosalyn Adams: in memory of Sidney Kleiman and Sharon Smith
Sam Kleiman: in memory of Sidney Kleiman and Sharon Smith
Gil & Ginny Cymbalist: in memory of the founders of Congregation Beth Jacob and our dear friends Bryna Copple-Park, Joan & Alan Jaffit, Ellen Whitting, Norm Shulman and Sharon Smith
Mike Feltham: in memory or Beryl and Hannah Mintz, and in memory of Dave and Molly Feltham
Rose Ann Shulman
Robert Oliphant: in honour of the tremendous friendships my parents had with many members of Congregation Beth Jacob
Rebecca Cohen: in memory of Grandparents Hilda Florence and Sidney Isbitsky
Sarah Shklov: in memory of many friends, some present and more remembered dearly and always missed
Margaret Baar: in memory of Dr. Fred and Betty Baar
Lawrence Fishman: in memory of Rabbi Beryl & Rivka Fishman, Jack & Nancy Fishman, Alec & Zelda Fishman, Albert & Dorothy Fishman, Barry Fishman
Robert Feltham: in memory of Beryl and Hannah Mintz, and Dave and Molly Feltham
From the turn of the 20th century the Jewish community added considerably to the rich and vibrant ethnic diversity of Sault Ste. Marie.
The Federal Bureau of Statistics (now StatsCan) reported that in 1901 there were 8 Jews in Sault Ste. Marie. By 1911,there were 80. The Jewish population hovered in the 90 to 120 range but by 1962 there were 142 and the community was perhaps at its peak in terms of population and activity.
The Sault Ste. Marie Jewish Community has always been an International community with the two Sault Ste. Marie's separated by the St. Mary's River. When the first Jews arrived in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, the Soo on the Michigan side of the river was the larger and more prosperous city. The Jews of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan had a close relationship with their friends on the Canadian side. A Synagogue was never built on the Michigan side of the River, so those wishing to attend Services or social events where always welcome on the Canadian side. American members of Congregation Beth Jacob were instrumental in helping to build and maintain the community.
“In the early years Services were held above stores on Queen Street.......Prior to the 1940's there were actually two
different locations where services were held. Past stories talked about the fierce but friendly competition among the
businessmen in the Community; maybe that was the reason there were two congregations? Other theories involved
differences in Religious affiliation, or simply different friends grouped together. Whatever the true story of the original two meeting places for Services, by the 1940's it became apparent that for the community to survive, these two groups needed to bond together to form one Synagogue. The Sault’s only synagogue opened in1946 and continues to operate to this day. The Synagogue to become what we know today as Congregation Beth Jacob would become the heart and soul of the Sault Ste. Marie Jewish Community.”
There were a few members that served in the First World War and there were many more that served with the Canadian Military during the Second World War.
The 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s saw many businesses opened by members of the Jewish community. They were (to name a few):
Allen’s Ladies Wear-Torgov
Friedman’s Department Store-
Fishman’s Men’s Wear-Fishman
Richardson’s Ladies Wear-Richardson
Kleiman’s Sport Store-Kleiman
Bert’s Auto Supply-Segal
The men and women of the Jewish community were highly committed to the city and volunteered long hours to help develop the many service clubs and institutions we now take for granted. Many men belonged to Legion, Kiwanis, Rotary, Masons, Shriners, Oddfellows. The women joined Rebekah’s, Legion and Hadassah-WIZO. They sat on community boards and help fund raise to better the whole of Sault Ste. Marie.
The Jewish community today is smaller in numbers. Many of the founders have passed on, and many of the next generations have moved to larger centers. But the community, though small, remains vibrant and active.
Seventy-five Years in Northern Ontario … and Still Here
By TOVA ARBUS
In October 2020, Beth Jacob Synagogue in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. will celebrate its 75th anniversary. Needless to say, our small community is quite excited about this milestone and has been planning a weekend-long celebration to mark the occasion.
It would not surprise me to hear that many of you had no idea there is (or perhaps still is) a Jewish community in Sault Ste. Marie. Many hours away from any big city, we have to do without many of the resources and connections Jews have in larger places. With approximately 30 active families, we proudly wear the title “small but mighty.”
There has been a Jewish presence here since the mid-1880s, usually merchants of one kind or another who came from Russia, Poland and Germany by way of Montreal and Toronto. The Rosenstein and Rosenberg families were among the early arrivals. At one time, the Jewish population peaked at about 100 families in the 1950s and 60s.
The only ordained rabbi we had was Rabbi Beryl Fishman from 1931 to 1956. His son Alec led services for many years.
But children were encouraged to leave this small, isolated community in search of bigger and better opportunities, and many never returned.
Those of us who still here have watched families leave and membership decline; the average age of our current membership is over 50, and there are very few children. There is no longer an active Hebrew school, and even getting a minyan cannot always be counted on.
And yet, we are still here.
We are still here, living and worshipping as Jews. Here, in communities (Beth Jacob Synagogue serves both Sault Ste. Maries, in Ontario and across the border in Michigan) where many of our neighbours and acquaintances are surprised by the presence of Jews, where people who have lived here their entire lives have no idea there is a synagogue.
It is not always easy. Kosher foodstuffs at the grocery store are practically non-existent and kosher meat must be imported. There are no Jewish community centers or schools, no programming of any kind, no real recognition by the broader community of Jewish holidays or festivals.
And yet, we are still here.
So, what does it mean, really, to be Jewish in small-town Northern Ontario? It means that we hold those who are here remarkably close. Congregation Beth Jacob has been our family and our center since 1945.
We get together as often as we can for Shabbat services and to honour and celebrate holidays and festivals. We share food and prayer and togetherness. We support each other in finding a meaningful Jewish practice, despite the things we are not able to access. And we all work together to take care of the synagogue.
The celebratory weekend we were planning, along with many wonderful events, has been put on hold in light of COVID-19 precautions. Originally planned for October 2020, the 75th anniversary festivities will likely be pushed forward to the spring of 2021. Whenever it happens, we hope that former members will come back and join us for the milestone, recognizing the long history of survival here in Sault Ste. Marie, and once again filling the synagogue with Jewish life.
Some of the events planned include a theatrical adaptation of native son Morley Torgov’s A Good Place to Come From (if you haven’t read it, do) and an historic exhibit in partnership with our local museum. We have been collecting stories, photographs, and memories from people who grew up here, combing through archival collections and diving into the depths of the internet. It is not a small collection, and it is growing.
The Jewish community of Sault Ste. Marie might be small, isolated, and occasionally overlooked. We might have to work hard to be Jewish here. But judging from the expanding collection of photographs, artifacts, and stories, from the beautiful building that still stands, and from the strength of the community that it houses, Congregation Beth Jacob is most definitely still here.
Although a firm date is to be announced, watch for online celebrations on our website.
For a 360-degree view of the synagogue, visit https://synagogues360.bh.org.il/gallery/congregation-beth-jacob/
High Holydays at Beth Jacob
Beth Jacob is venturing into new territory!
Because of COVID restrictions, it is not practical to have in-person services at the synagogue. This is the case with most synagogues we have surveyed. So, Beth Jacob will be offering on-line services via Zoom. Details will come in separate emails to members. This will be a challenge, and it is an exciting new development in our 75 year history.
Many hours have gone into the research and planning and we are still at it. Services will be shorter than usual. The reason for this is that it can be tiresome to sit in front of a computer screen for that length of time. Most synagogues we surveyed are providing shorter services. We are doing our best to ensure that core components are included. Our main goal is to provide meaning in the services, to help raise the spiritual bar for High Holydays.
Services will be held on Friday September 18, in the evening, to welcome Rosh Hashanah and Shabbat. Rosh Hashanah services will be on Saturday September 19, starting at 9:30 a.m., for two hours. Yom Kippur services will be on Kol Nidre evening, Yom Kippur morning, and the concluding services including Ne'ilah. The Yom Kippur details are still being finalized.
Services will be led by Joel and Toby Yan who will Zoom in from their home in Ottawa.
One big challenge is to offer a Zoom link to those members who have no access currently. We are working on resolving this as best we can.
Another challenge will be to ensure that participants have a prayer book for High Holydays. We have found a link for an on-line version, and we will be offering hard copies on loan to members.
Members should watch their email for further details or contact Jeff Arbus or Ginny Cymbalist with any questions or suggestions.
This will be different, for sure, but we intend to make it meaningful and enjoyable. Your participation will ensure that everyone benefits and that we fulfill our obligations for High Holydays.
A note regarding parking. During business days, please park on Grace St. or in the Albert St. parking lot (northwest corner). We have arranged with the parking authority about not ticketing our congregants’ cars if they are in the Albert St. lot, near the north west corner. Please do not park in our neighbour’s business lot during business hours.
*We try to plan in advance, but times, dates, and activities are subject to change. There will be email notification about specific activities (other than Shabbat) before each date. Please check newsletters or call Ginny, Jeff or Adele to confirm.
Memories of Congregation Beth Jacob
Bob Cohen: I have many fond and distinct memories of my experiences in the Beth Jacob Synagogue. Here are a few that quickly came to mind. Thirty years and older.
• Mr. Urbach’s strict Hebrew School in the mid 1960’s. (Mr. Urbach rewarded his students with bottles of Coke, for good performance!)
• Alex Fishman’s leadership, confidence, knowledge and teaching in the 60’s, 70’s, and early 80’s. (He always called me Bobby in a big booming voice. Alex was my Bar Mitzvah teacher in 1970)
• The Bregman’s; Ben, Paul and Barry seemed to be a permanent fixture at the lecterns on the South side, at the front of the Shul.
• As a youth, often I would sit on the other side with Steven Fishman and others. Alex relied on us to sing Yigdal, Adon Olam, Ein Keloheinu, etc.
• Max Ilands powerful handshakes! (As a kid Max was a seriously big strong man with a hand shake like no other.)
• Frank Blase, Gord Bassest, Nathan Himmel, Murray and Saul Davis, Arnie Kates, and others welcoming and friendly handshakes.
• At my Bar Mitzvah, the tradition was to sit on the chair to the left of the Aron Kodesh with President Frank Richardson on the chair on the other side. (Looking out at that large crowd for the full service did nothing to calm my nerves!)
• The room at the Empire Hotel where many men went for the break on Yom Kippur. It must have been a fun experience, as I vividly remember it.
• Purim plays (I always seemed to be Haman).
• Harry Lewis’s cantorial assistance for Alex Fishman, offering distinctly different types of tunes;
• Anna Rae Fishman’s beautiful rendition of Ya’aleh as a teenager, on Yom Kippur (the tradition of that melody continues to this day, sung by Ginny Cymbalist)
• Frank Blase explaining how to make grilled cheese `a la Blase (It’s all about the onion and mustard, Frank explained)
• Murray Davis calling for attendance at Yahrzeits. (No was not an answer!)
• Frank Richardson in the President’s address in 1982 talking about the Cymbalist family being of great assistance to him. I did not know them at the time. Quickly they became new leaders, continuing to this day.
• The memorial service in the Shul for Alex Fishman, led by Frank Richardson. A sad and solemn event, at which so many individuals shared great memories.
• The great and long debate to allow women on the Bimah. This was a significant change. Everyone had their say. It was a respectful debate that we knew would not be easy.
• Norm Shulman, Jeff Arbus, and Steve Greene’s annual potato latke making team at Hanukah, downstairs in the Shul (you could smell the aroma down the street!)
• Steve Paiken’s television documentary at the Shul in the late 80’s, highlighting the revival of the SSM Jewish Community, with youth everywhere.
• My wife, Joyce, calling the Synagogue on her first day in Sault Ste. Marie to start employment here, as she was from Montreal. Gil Cymbalist answered the phone, calling me with a tip off about this blonde and beautiful woman (there’s a story behind that!) and the rest is history!
Rob Oliphant: I am motivated to do this by the tremendous friendships my parents had with Murray and Claire Davis, Ben and Rose Bregman, Cecily Willinsky, and Loveday Rowe and the whole Cohen family, and a host of others who were sustained by your congregation. From them I learned about the importance of family, community, and faith.
Ginny Cymbalist: Congregation Beth Jacob has been an integral part of our lives for nearly 50 years, so the memories are many. To name a few…
• The welcoming people…Frank & Inez Richardson, Arnold & Melita Kates, Alec & Zelda Fishman, Murray & Claire Davis, Frank Blase, Bernie & Rebecca Garshowitz, Nate Himmel, Helen Himmel, Cecily Willinsky, Harry Wynne, Norm & Adele Shulman…and so many more who became and continue to be our family away from family.
• Our wedding at CBJ. It was only the 2nd of 3 held in the synagogue. Frank Richardson’s sister was the first and Jeff & Juanita Arbus the 3rd.
• The birth of both of our boys with the challenges of carrying out the Brit Milot which couldn’t have been accomplished without these people.
• The strong support when the Shulmans, Lines and Cymbalists resurrected the Hebrew school. Melita Kates never missed bringing a treat bag for each child at Simchat Torah.
• Frank Richardson who said “it’s our duty to educate our children” and was always there for advice and support.
• Hebrew school
o 40 years and counting
o Sharing with fellow teachers Carol, Jeff, Bryna & Juanita when our numbers were large
o Visiting with Nathan and Helen Himmel
o Picnics at Bellevue Park plays, Purim carnivals, Tu B’Shevat seders and so much more
o Shepping Nachas as we watched our wonderful students grow to be amazing adults.
• The community joy at sharing each of our boy’s Bar Mitzvah.
• High Holiday Day services which, other than the occasional yahrzeit, were the only services held in the early 1970’s.
o The joy of being together again
o The remnants of separate seating still remaining
o The women’s beautiful hats
• How the community pulled together to help when Gil’s father, Leonard, passed away two weeks after coming to the Sault and then welcomed his mother, Lore, into the community.
• Sharing an adult Bat Mitzvah with my “sisters”—Adele Shulman, Carol Line, Sharon Smith, Bryna Copple-Park, Elaine Switzman, Lore Cymbalist, Doe Brown and Juanita Wood-Arbus.
o Rummage sales
o Mr. Dressup
o Dinner raffles
• The Beth Jacob stag
o Late nights working, serving and selling Hadassah-WIZO raffle tickets
o An introduction for our boys into the responsibilities of Jewish adulthood as the willing donated their time and strength
o Sharing kitchen duties with Claire Davis, Melita Kates, Wendy Kates & Juanita Arbus
• So many meaningful services
o High Holy Days led by Alec Fishman with Harry Lewis as cantor
o Joel Whittstein
o Abe Goldberg & Harvey Bitterman
o Paula Baruch
o Anna Rae Fishman & Gerry Fisher
o Joel & Toby Yan
o Shabbat services mostly led by Jeff Arbus
• And CBJ celebrations—always “family” affairs
o Latke parties
o Community seders
o Purim parties
o New Year’s parties at Claire & Murray’s
o Israel’s birthday
o Sukkah building at Max’s, Jaffit’s, Tova & Erik’s
• Working with amazing people to write a constitution, build the shul addition and “keep the lights on”
• Sharing 50 years of joys and sorrows with our CBJ family. Missing those good friends who have moved away and especially those who have passed on.
Sandy Bregman: A fact that you may find interesting ..
not sure if there’s still a classroom with the original desks and
bookcases. But, I have the brass plaque from the classroom, that was
unveiled when my dad (Isaac) and his mother (Sarah) provided the funds
for the classroom.
I’m named after this grandmother, Sarah.
My dad and I took one last visit to the shul, together, before my
parents moved to Ottawa in 1981. We walked around and shared our
respective and loved memories of Beth Jacob...
This walk-around is a cherished memory for me, forever. My dad passed
away in 1983 in Ottawa...and my mom in 2016 in Ottawa.