Exploring the religious activities of Brantford's Jewish community.

Early worship in Brantford

When Jewish people first began to settle in Brantford, celebrations such as Bar Mitzvahs presented problems as the city did not yet have a Rabbi; this meant celebrants needed to travel to another city or a Rabbi would need to be brought in from elsewhere for the occassion. The first Rabbi to serve Brantford's Jewish community was Rabbi Backer.

By the early 1900s, Judaism had been practiced in Brantford for years, with worship usually taking place in the homes of Jewish families. But by 1907, with the Jewish population drastically expanding, services grew too large to be held in private homes, so the community began to hold services at an Upper Hall on George Street. In 1911, services were moved to the old Conservative Hall on Dalhousie Street.

The congregation was initially known as the Beth El Congregation, but in 1911 the congregation was incorporated and the name was changed to the Brantford Hebrew Association.

Brantford's Jewish cemetary

As the Jewish community grew, the need for a cemetary in Brantford became pressing. As John Merriman wrote in The Brant News in September 1982, "In those early days deaths must have been doubly difficult because burials involved the intricate arrangements of having to take place in Hamilton or Toronto."

In June 1912, the congregation purchased a burial ground: a property behind Mount Hope Cemetary. By 1913 it had been suitably fenced in. The congregation's Cemetary Committee oversaw upkeep of the property, and a second committee served as chevra kedusha (men who provided the required religious services preceding burial).

Brantford's first synagogue

In 1914, the congregation tried to purchase property on William Street in order to build a synagogue. Unfortunately, this purchase was blocked by some members of City Council for antisemitic reasons. However, the next year in 1915, the congregation succeeded in buying 33 Palace Street (a home at the corner of the Palace & Albion intersection).

Check out our article on the Palace Street Synagogue!

The second synagogue

In 1938, the congregation established a committee with the aim of building a new synagogue. The intention was to build a synagogue which could also serve as a community centre.

The necessary funds for this endeavour had been raised by 1947. The new synagogue was built at 50 Waterloo Street in 1948.

In 1950 the Brantford Hebrew Association was renamed Congregation Beth David to honour a member of the congregation, David R. Axler, who died in WWII.

Images, top to bottom: Breaking ground on Beth David Synagogue, Apr. 3, 1947; Laying the cornerstone for Beth David Synagogue, Aug. 19, 1947; Completed Beth David Synagogue

Images, L to R: 1948 Passover Seder photo; Donation of Sefer Torah, 1956; Congregation Purim party, ca. 1960.


The Memories of Brantford Project thanks the sponsors for their generous support.