Kensington Market's historic Anshei Minsk shul.  Image from www.openair.org

Pesach at The Minsk


Founded in 1913, but not completed until 1930, it has survived changing demographics and arson, but remains to this day the last outpost of downtown Toronto's once thriving Jewish Community. It is the Anshei Minsk shul (colloquially refered to simply as 'The Minsk' or 'The Minsker'), and with its history (and present, as the downtown's only remaining daily minyan service), I could not imagine a better place last night to celebrate Passover, the holiday celebrating the Jews' redemption from slavery and hardship in Egypt before leaving for the Holy Land.

Like many Jewish holidays, Passover is celebrated with a feast - in this case called a seder - that tend to go late; I didn't leave the shul yesterday until 3:30 am. The seder is filled with eating and drinking, of course, but also prayers, and songs, and stories about life from everybody involved. The four dozen people at the Minsk last night represented a virtual cross-section of the Jewish Community, from high-powered lawyers, to students, to those probably only a few steps away from the streets, to a gentleman known only as 'The Professor', who seems to have answers for everything.

The meal was good - a beef and onion stew was the main course - but it was more the feelings of warmth and companionship, the bringing together diverse cultural elements to celebrate as one, that really makes the seder - and The Minsker - special. With the present influx of young Jews back into the Kensington Market area, soon the Minsk may cease to be thought of as the last blockhouse of the old Jewish Toronto, but instead the first bastion of the new.


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