When most Torontonians think of developer Sam Mizrahi, they think of the skyscraper known as The One that will be constructed at the corner of Yonge and Bloor Streets in downtown Toronto. The 80-storey, mixed-use residential building, which will be the largest of its kind in the country when complete, is a strong testament to Sam Mizrahi’s ambition and determination.
But, if you want to know the story of a developer who is deeply and spiritually invested in building and supporting his community you have to look to another project, the construction of the Temmy Latner building, which will be the new home for the Forest Hill Jewish Centre in Toronto.
Supporting the community is not new for Mizrahi. Several years ago, in 2012 and 2013, he co-chaired the United Jewish Appeal (UJA)’s “Walk with Israel” event, one of the largest annual events in the Toronto Jewish community, and he also co-chaired UJA’s “Run with Israel” event in 2015. Mizrahi has also assisted in creating SixPoints, an organization that helps fund programs consistent with Jewish values and is also on the board of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center.
Located at 360 Spadina Road, the Albert and Temmy Latner Forest Hill Jewish Centre is home to Forest Hills’ rapidly-growing Jewish community. However, Rabbi Elie Karfunkel, who oversees the shul (synagogue), points out that the word ‘centre’ was specifically included so that everyone in the community can feel welcomed and invited.
“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 Karfunkel. “This is a vehicle to inspire people.”
And inspire people it does.
The $20 million synagogue, which took a decade to bring to fruition and opened this month, was a labour of love for Mizrahi, who is also a member of the centre’s board. But, more broadly, the building is a testament to the resilience and power of the human spirit.
“It’s a very detailed building,” says Mizrahi. “The architectural style is a replica of the synagogue in Jaslo, Poland that was destroyed in the war by the Nazis.”
For Rabbi Karfunkel, enlisting Mizrahi and his firm, Mizrahi Developments, to achieve the architectural style that was necessary to pay homage to the Jaslo synagogue only seemed natural.
“Sam Mizrahi had been doing a lot of impressive work in the city, a lot of custom homes and we knew with his skill-set he could achieve what we were after,” said the Rabbi.
In order for the new building to properly pay tribute to the Polish synagogue, which was burnt to the ground on Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) in 1939, Tel Aviv based architect Doron Klein and locally based architect Wayne Swadron were both called upon for their architectural and design expertise.
The team spent hours painstakingly conceptualizing the design that Klein has called the ‘most complicated’ synagogue design undertaken since World War II. That is because no inch of the 27,000 square foot space has been overlooked, from the complex zinc roof structures that stand as a beacon inviting local residents and the faithful to congregate in the magnificent marble entranceway to the 500 seat shul and the European inspired sanctuary which features two floors of balconies.
The centre also includes banquet facilities, a learning centre, a Holocaust library and museum, as well as a rooftop sukkah, a tent-like structure instrumental for some Jewish ceremonies.
While designed to serve as a new home to a modern community, the centre is predicated on age old philosophies of fostering unity and serving as a permanent reminder of the endurance of faith.
‘The world needs more community building,” notes the Rabbi. “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.”
Photo of Sam by Sam Mizrahi – All Rights Reserved
Other photos by dolcemag.com – All Rights Reserved
Guest Author Bio
Megan Parson is a freelance multimedia writer and journalist. Originally from Toronto, Megan has a strong interest in philanthropy-focused journalism. Megan has been especially fascinated with learning about world religions and frequents a number of faith based centers to learn about traditions and customs. She also enjoys speaking with those in attendance about their faith.