We don't ordinarily associate the city's east end with the migration of Jews to Toronto.
But the souls of the earliest arrivals among them, Eastern European Orthodox Jews escaping the progroms of Czarist Russia, are actually buried in the Jones Avenue Cemetery just south of the Danforth.
Not much is known about the tiny plot bought as farm land by the first Orthodox Jews to come here, and now left landlocked by the two-storey brick houses on Jones in north Leslieville.
The board of the cemetery undertook a few years back to plow through records, but there's been little movement since to document in an exhaustive way the cemetery's earliest history and those bburied there. Although, a project to photograph all the tombstones for Jewish genealogical archives has been completed.
What relatively little is known about Jones comes from descendents of the cemetery's dead, some of whom sit on the cemetery's board.
Jones is the second oldest Jewish cemetery in the city and is the resting place of the city's first Orthodox Jewish rabbi, Rabbi Joseph Weinrib.
Bought as farmland back in 1883, Chevra Kadisha Chesed Shel Emes, as it's formally known, was consecrated in 1896, although the earliest burial plot dates back to 1885. Among the headstones are a dozen or so for unknown babies and children.
Although it's unclear when, a piece of the Jones cemetery lands was sold off to the Goel Tzedec conservative congregation, one of three Jewish congregations in the entire city at the time - and explains why the inscription over the north entrance of the wall that forms part of Jones Avenue Cemetery bears the name Goel Tzedec.
Goel Tzedec cemetery was consecrated in 1919.
An effort to pursue historical designation for the Jones Avenue landmark was started in 2005. Unfortunately, the cemetery's board determined that the costs of upgrades and repairs that would be required were too high.
The cemetery is still in partial operation. (The last burial toook place in 2008 and before that in 2005. Some 70 descendents of those buried in Jones still have burial plots reserved there.)
The sign on the doors says visitation is by appointment only. But a key has been left in a nearby hiding place known only to family members of those buried here. I know where it is but am not telling. I'm keeping that part of Jones' history to myself.
All photos by Enzo Di Matteo.