Toronto’s Orthodox Jews Leaving For New Jersey

John Lorinc writes:

In a spare living room furnished with a bookshelf of Hebrew texts and special silverware for religious occasions, Rabbi Jacob Hirschman, 71, tallied up the locations of his grown children.

The two youngest, he says, still live in the family home, near Lawrence and Bathurst, and there are others studying in Los Angeles and Jerusalem. But his five married children all live in Lakewood, N.J.

Lakewood is an internationally renowned hub for the most traditional wing of Orthodox Judaism, as well as the terminus of what he describes as an arduous nine-hour drive from Toronto.

Rabbi Hirschman came here from Lakewood in 1970 to co-found the Institute for Advanced Judaic Study, or Kollel Toronto, an Orthodox rabbinical college with ties to Lakewood’s giant Beth Medrash, considered the Harvard of Talmudic scholarship. Over the decades, Kollel attracted hundreds of devout Jews to the Lawrence-Bathurst area, which saw its Orthodox population boom.

But as Rabbi Hirschman prepared for the Jewish high holidays this week, he knew that an increasing number of the young people who grew up in this insular community no longer called Toronto home.

The vast majority moves to Lakewood, on New Jersey’s south shore – and they don’t return.

There’s a very specific reason behind the exodus: the long-term escalation of real-estate prices, which remain elevated in spite of the recent softening in the market.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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