Elizabeth Ave & Downing Street
St. John's, NL
Dr. Michael Paul
Phone Number: (709) 726-0480 ()
Origins of the group: The first Jewish settlers in Newfoundland are believed to have arrived in the second half of the 18th century from the west coast of England- mainly Devon. They were mainly storekeepers and pedlars of dry goods, and they settled in the St John’s, Carbonear and Harbour Grace areas. The next wave of immigration from Eastern Europe occurred in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As Jewish immigration was nearly impossible during the Second World War a number of survivors of the Holocaust arrived in the late 1940's and early 1950's.
Highlights of the group's history: The Hebrew Congregation of Newfoundland was officially incorporated in 1909. The first free standing synagogue was built downtown on Henry Street in 1931. The current synagogue on Elizabeth Avenue at Downing Street was constructed in 1959 and was officially opened by the late Joey Smallwood and Lieutenant Governor Campbell MacPherson in 1960. The building underwent major renovations in 2001.
Originally the synagogue was Orthodox but it eventually became Conservative. In 1992 the then current membership decided to become completely egalitarian. Since that time both women and men have been counted in the quorum (minyan) and all Jews over the age of 13 are invited to be called to the Torah and to lead services.
Achievement and goals of the group: Even though the group is small in number, Beth El is warm and close knit. It holds services every Friday and Saturday to celebrate the Sabbath and on all Jewish holidays. Jews of every denomination and interested visitors are invited to attend services. The Synagogue also has a small school for Sunday Hebrew classes for the children of the Jewish community. Its Outreach programme is particularly strong, and receives many class visits from Elementary, Junior High and High School students, as well as church youth groups. These educational encounters help to deepen knowledge of their Judeo-Christian heritage. On several occasions the group has participated in the Doors Open project organized by the City of St John’s. It is actively involved in the Pastoral Care unit at Eastern Health and other hospital boards across the province.
Membership: There are currently about 40-50 members of the Synagogue including out-of-towners. The synagogue is egalitarian Conservative, keeps a Kosher kitchen in the Synagogue and enjoys organizing celebratory holiday meals for the Jewish Community and the frequent visitors and guests.
Leaders and Contacts: The phone number to the Synagogue is 726-0480 and voice mail is checked frequently. Alternatively you may contact Dr. Michael Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org or Claire Frankel-Salama at email@example.com
Facilities: The Synagogue is located on Elizabeth Avenue. It has a seating capacity of about 130 in the sanctuary and about 130 in the community hall. It also has a good little library containing Hebrew and English texts and films of Jewish interest. The current building is also used from time to time for the funerals of members, as there is no Jewish funeral home in this province. The Synagogue owns and maintains the only Jewish cemetery in this province, for the use of its members and their families, and offers assistance in carrying out the services required.
Schedule of Events: During the winter months Friday Shabbat services start at 6:30pm and on Saturday mornings at 9:30. In the spring and summer, Friday evening services start at 8:00 pm. For all other or holiday service times, please email the contacts noted above.