The Edmonton Talmud Torah has a magnificent past—a history of nurturing students to attain scholastic excellence within a solid grounding in Jewish culture and values for nearly 100 years—and we are proud to count many community leaders and prominent Canadians among our alumni.
The Edmonton Talmud Torah School was the first Jewish day school in western Canada. It was started in 1912 in the basement of the original Beth Israel Synagogue on 96th Street, and in the early years the school was operated in a Cheder style of environment. Remarkably, the Edmonton Talmud Torah is now Canada’s oldest continually operating Jewish day school – operating without interruption for over 100 years.
In the early days, students might be picked up in a carriage—or later on, a motorcar—operated by a well meaning community member and taken to school that way. The school was funded by weekly donations solicited by members of the school community, under the auspices of the newly formed Talmud Torah Society.
With a rise in the Jewish Population of Edmonton after WWII, the school was beginning to outgrow its humble home. In 1952, a new building was opened in the northern Glenora neighbourhood of Edmonton, with the funds for the construction raised entirely from the community. Although at the time the northern Glenora area was considered to be far from the central core of the city, it quickly became very central as Edmonton and the Jewish Community expanded west.
A significant milestone in the history of the school took place when Talmud Torah entered a formal partnership with the Edmonton Public School Board (EPSB) in 1977. At the time, The Talmud Torah Society determined that there would be distinct advantages to be had in funding, high academic standards, human resources and administrative functions by entering into this partnership. Since then, the Talmud Torah has been part of the Edmonton Public School Board (EPSB)—and our school is credited with pioneering EPSB’s vaunted “site-based management” philosophy, which is known and copied the world over. In fact, this innovative relationship between the Talmud Torah and the EPSB is often cited as the school that paved the way for many other alternative schools coming under the EPSB fold.
In 1995, the Talmud Torah took another big step with the addition of a Junior High School Program. But by this time, however, it was becoming clear that the school was again outgrowing its home—not to mention the projected cost of numerous physical upgrades to the Glenora facility, which were deemed required.
Again, the Jewish community of Edmonton sprang into action. A massive community-wide fundraising drive was initiated, land was purchased at 172nd Street in the West End (where many of Edmonton’s younger Jewish families had been moving over the years), and the new building—our current building—was built and opened for the start of the 1997-98 school year. The official ribbon cutting was performed by none other than Shimon Peres, former Prime Minister of Israel, in May of 1999. No sooner had the school been open when its first addition was made—the construction of a dedicated room for a community preschool (which was previously operated out of the Jewish Community Centre).
Today, the students of the Talmud Torah thrive in what is arguably one of the most modern and beautiful facilities in the entire Edmonton Public School System.