Chabad on Bayview breaks ground on new shul

Rabbi Levi Gansburg and his wife Rivky, centre, hold the cornerstone for the new Bayview Centre for Jewish Life KATAN STUDIOS PHOTO
Rabbi Levi Gansburg and his wife Rivky, centre, hold the cornerstone for the new Bayview Centre for Jewish Life KATAN STUDIOS PHOTO

With temperatures soaring, more than 150 people came out April 17 to break ground and lay the cornerstone for Chabad’s $9.5-million Bayview Centre for Jewish Life.

“Today is the beginning of something amazing,” Rabbi Levi Gansburg, spiritual leader of Toronto’s Chabad on Bayview, told the crowd.

“Historically, in Jewish tradition, the ritual has been called hanachat even hapinah, which means laying of the cornerstone… Although the ceremonial groundbreaking is a western-world institution, the laying of the cornerstone dates back to the times of the Temple and prior to that as well. Today is another link carrying forward the unbreakable chain of our ancestors’ traditions in the 21st century.


“We chose today because Jewish identity is always heightened around Pesach and it is the week adjacent to the late Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneersohn’s, of blessed memory, birthday, which is a special time, particularly for Chabad. This building is an extension of him and our work under his auspices. We are motivated by the Rebbe, his legacy and his ideals, and thought this would be a great way to bring the community together in time for Pesach and in time for his birthday week,” said Rabbi Gansburg.

The new building, to be located on Bayview Avenue north of Post Road, will house a mikvah, nursery, Hebrew schools and be available for life-cycle events. The sanctuary will have approximately 220 seats and a back wall will open into a social hall that will double the space to accommodate some 500 people on larger events and holidays.

“We are very proud that we will have the very first mikvah on Bayview – a state- of-the-art mikvah – which is something that has always been at the heart of the Jewish home,” Rabbi Gansburg said.

Chabad has raised $5.5 million so far for the project, which is slated to open for Rosh Hashanah 2017.

“We are about $3.5 million shy of where we need to be. Through the generosity of so many amazing people, this went from being a dream to slowly evolving into this reality, which we are excited about,” said Rabbi Gansburg.

Among the rabbis, rebbetzins, family and friends at the event were politicians such as MPs Rob Oliphant and Michael Levitt, and Toronto City Councillor James Pasternak.

More than eight years ago, Rabbi Gansburg and his wife Rivky erected a sign half a block away, announcing the opening of Chabad on Bayview for the 2007 High Holidays.

“We moved to Toronto from New York City with our daughter, who was just 10 days old. We started with 20 people on the High Holidays, and through word of mouth – one family told another family – we grew. It took us a year and a half to get a minyan, but we persevered and pushed forward,” said Rabbi Gansburg.

“Today, there are over 300 families coming through and making use of our schools, our shul and our varied programs every year.”

Over the years, Chabad on Bayview has moved to several locations along Bayview with a dream of one day having a permanent home.


“The initial seed was planted by a young rabbi and rebbetzin who saw the potential of this community. Since then, there have been a ton of worker bees behind the scenes in their respective areas of expertise [bringing] Rabbi Levi and Rivky’s dream to fruition. The work is not done yet. We are just beginning,” said Reid Stekel, a member of the building committee.

“This building is only a means to an end,” said Rabbi Gansburg. “The goal is a stronger and more vibrant Jewish community where every person feels welcome and has a place to call home – a home which fosters robust dialogue, celebrations and a growing and strengthening Jewish identity.”

He added: “The future of the Jewish People is bright. We are proof of that people care about the future. People care that they have a place to belong.”