Temple Emanu-El

1911 - present
4100 Sherbrooke O.

Temple Emanu-El is a Reform synagogue founded in 1882 by American Jews who settled in Montreal. At the time, it was the first Reform congregation in Canada and the third Jewish congregation in Montreal. The synagogue was established when the Reverend Samuel Marks joined Montreal’s English-German-Polish Congregation as its spiritual leader. Seeking to change synagogue rules so as to abolish “archaic” customs, Marks caused a veritable scandal among the congregation’s Orthodox Jews. Along with a few followers, he decided to start his own Reform congregation, Temple Emanu-El, named after a synagogue in New York City.

Initially located on St. Catherine Street, the synagogue moved to a new building erected on Stanley Street in 1892. As its membership increased, the Temple relocated once again in 1911 to Sherbrooke Street in Westmount. This brought it closer to its mostly “uptown” congregants, who included many industry and community leaders. Destroyed by fire in 1957, the synagogue was rebuilt and remains at the same location to this day. The congregation’s most influential rabbi in the 20th century was Harry Stern, who served the Temple from 1927 to 1979. An outspoken opponent of anti-Semitism, Stern was also a pioneer in the area of inter-religious activities. In 1980, Temple Emanu-El merged with Temple Beth Sholom, and this combined congregation now comprises more than one thousand families.

Temple Emanu-El represents a bastion of Reform Judaism in Canada, where the movement experienced very slow growth, in contrast to its rapid development in the United States. The congregation was thus closely linked to the American Reform leadership from the start, and for a long time, its leaders were recruited or trained in the United States. The Reformists were not readily welcomed in Montreal, where most of the Jewish community was Conservative and Orthodox. In fact, both Jews and the Anglophone Protestant elite long denounced them as wayward. This isolation caused financial difficulties and problems in recruiting religious leaders in the congregation’s early years. However, over time the congregation became increasingly accepted by the Jewish community. As Montreal’s only Reform synagogue, it is currently also one of the city’s biggest Jewish congregations.

Compiled by Valérie Beauchemin, translated by Helge Dascher.



"Temple Emanu-El" - Canadian Jewish Heritage Network
"Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom Fonds" - Canadian Jewish Heritage Network
Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom - Website


Brown, Michael. “The Beginnings of Reform Judaism in Canada.” Jewish Social Studies 34 (1972): 322-42.

Wolff, Martin.The Jews of Canada. New York: American Jewish Committee, 1925.

*Images courtesy of the Jewish Public Library Archives.