Irving Grossman: Modernist Synagogue Architect
Canada is home to the fourth largest Jewish community in the world, with one of its two centres being Toronto. Toronto’s first Jews originally settled in what is currently known as Kensington Market, and as the years progressed and more opportunities became available, the Jews migrated to suburbia. Today, you can see Bathurst St. and its arterial roads lined with Jewish shops, restaurants, bakeries, and synagogues. Although few, most papers that exist usually discuss pre-World War II synagogues in Toronto's core. This paper compares two suburban synagogues, both built in the post-war era: Shaarei Tefillah, an Orthodox synagogue, and Temple Emanu-El, a Reform synagogue. The architect of these two buildings, Irving Grossman, was a modernist who graduated from the University of Toronto and was well-versed in the history the Jews, synagogues, and the concepts that emerge from both. The comparison explores the influences on the architect and how that impacted his design choices for these two congregations. Both Toronto synagogues are rooted in the modernist tradition that dictated the construction of the many North American synagogues during this time. Grossman used a similar architectural palette of brick, wooden roof, and clerestory windows for each synagogue while also creating unique structures that fulfilled the requirements of the Jewish tradition. This paper aims to show how Irving Grossman's two Toronto synagogue designs from the 1960's connected ancient Jewish ideas and traditions to modern architecture.