Owen Sound, Ontario Canada
Canada’s Last Small Town Synagogue
Canada was an attractive destination when Jews fleeing persecution and conflict in Eastern Europe at the turn of the 20th century were looking for opportunities to rebuild their lives in peace. Jewish merchants, tradespeople, and farmers became an integral part of small town Canada, and synagogues where soon a fixture in communities of every size.
By the beginning of the Second World War, Canada’s “Closed Door” policy against Jewish immigration saw the population of many small Jewish communities begin to decline. Larger centres like Toronto and Montreal had a magnetic effect on second generation Jews, offering economic opportunities, higher education, upward mobility, and proximity to a larger Jewish community. Synagogues in many towns and rural communities began to close.
Today Owen Sound’s Beth Ezekiel Synagogue, a designated building under Ontario’s Heritage Act, remains the last example of the early small town synagogue. Despite dwindling numbers and concerns for sustainability over the years, Owen Sound’s Jewish community has managed to survive and thrive. E-commuting, early retirement, and a longing for a simpler life has seen Jewish families return to the area. Beth Ezekiel’s active membership has provided a welcoming Jewish community, and this largely rural area has become an attractive destination for Jews looking to settle outside of the city. The synagogue is even a drawing card for the community at large as it seeks to attract young professionals to the area.
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“The Beth Ezekiel synagogue has been the main stay and spiritual home for the Jewish community in the Owen Sound area for close to a hundred years. Because the community has always been small in numbers it has adapted to its surroundings over time. This has resulted in strong connections with the larger community and a genuine spirit of openness and inclusiveness, both within the congregation and without.
The Beth Ezekiel Congregation continues in the practices and traditions of those that came before us. The congregation thrives on the challenges of maintaining regular services year round, educating its children on the meaning of the Torah and Jewish traditions, and coming together as a community. The synagogue serves as the center of our community and its presence is a source of pride to all who come to take part in events or services. We welcome all who are interested in joining with us and contributing to the Jewish presence in some way. It can be for just one day or a life time.
We hope you find our web-site informative and that it provides some insight to our community ; who we are and how we celebrate our faith.”
— Mark Landy