Couple produces nostalgic look at Canadian shuls

An Edmonton couple who assembled and distributed three PDF documents over the Internet on old synagogues of Canada say they were amazed at the positive reactions that the electronic publications sparked across the country.

“We were overwhelmed,” said Bernie Estrin, who along with his wife, Gail, produced the three pieces, one on Western Canada, the second on Central Canada (Ontario and Quebec), and the third on the Atlantic region.

“We heard from all types of people, and many told us the bulletin reminded them of where they were born – they said it took them back to their youth.”  

The Estrins sent out the three special editions of their Canada Jewish Pipeline, which is normally a small weekly e-mail bulletin, shortly after Canada Day as a means of celebrating Canada’s 143rd birthday.

Each one features historic photographs and capsule histories of various old synagogues in major cities and a few towns.

“Gail did most of the work,” Bernie admitted. “Every city has a Jewish historical society, and they’re usually happy to share their work with legitimate Jewish organizations. So with their permission, we were able to reprint a lot of Canadian Jewish history.”

The Ontario and Quebec edition features articles and old photographs on numerous  Montreal congregations including Shearith Israel, the Stanley Street Synagogue, and Shaar Hashomayim.

Also featured are the Toronto congregations Knesseth Israel (the Junction shul), Holy Blossom Temple, Congregation Anshei Minsk, the First Narayever Congregation, the Kiever Shul and the Beach Hebrew Institute. Articles about the Jewish communities in Sherbrooke, Que., Quebec City, Kirkland Lake,Ont., London, Ont., and Ottawa are also included.

The Estrins started their weekly Internet newsletter eight years ago as an e-mailed bulletin for the Jewish community of Edmonton. They later added Calgary and changed the name to the Alberta Jewish Pipeline. When Vancouver and Winnipeg were added, it became the Western Canada Jewish Pipeline.

It’s now called the Canada Jewish Pipeline, with editions for Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Winnipeg and Ottawa, but it doesn’t yet include the major Jewish population centres of Toronto or Montreal.

“Basically it’s a very quick take on the upcoming events and the community news – somebody had a baby, somebody’s getting married – that sort of thing,” Bernie Estrin said.

Former Albertans living in Toronto, among others, may be interested in subscribing to the free weekly bulletin to keep up to date on happenings in their former hometowns, Estrin said.

For a weekly subscription or a copy of one of the Old Synagogues of Canada editions, e-mail the Estrins at [email protected], or visit their website at