You can't miss the boards covering what used to be ornamental stained glass windows on the face of the old Anshei Minsk synagogue at 10 St. Andrew in Kensington Market.
Much of the synagogue has fallen into disrepair since a 2002 fire blamed on arson ripped through this early-1920s Orthodox shul named after the Belarus capital from which most of the original congregation emigrated.
The basement and washrooms are in dire need of repair. The walls are begging for paint. The furniture is an assortment of odds and ends. The faithful are not coming the way they used to. And now there's talk of this, the city's last remaining downtown fully Orthodox shul with daily services, closing for good.
Still trying to recover from the $200,000-worth of damage caused by the fire, Minsk finds itself short by tens of thousands.
Rabbi Shmuel Spero, the spiritual head of the Minsk, turns to greet a man resting on the building's front steps.
"These are the busiest steps in the city," he says. "There's food available here every day, and people do come."
Unfortunately, most of those whom Minsk used to serve moved north of the core or out of Toronto altogether. Gone are the days when this place of worship was filled to its 350-person capacity. The synagogue has opened its doors to Reform and Conservative Jews to bolster its flock.
But now on a typical sabbath the shul draws 60 to 70 people, and the number for daily prayers is much smaller.
Rabbi Spero keeps telling me that the only thing that can shut down the place is if it stops providing kindness. "Do kindness and you will receive it in turn," he reminds me, adding, "You can't always wait for the money for needs to be fulfilled." It's not the Orthodox way.
But you also can't run a deficit forever. Money has to be found, and fast, if the shul is to remain operational. "We have to do it within a year," says Spero.
He finds hope in the university students who come to the shul to study, and he speaks of "bold moves" to attract a new generation of adherents. The rabbi is banking on a little kindness.
A barbecue and silent auction will be held at the Minsk Synagogue (10 St.Andrew) on Sunday, June 25, from noon to 5pm. 416-595-5723.