Toronto Jewish Folk Choir

The Toronto Jewish Folk Choir, founded in 1925, is an amateur choral group with a musical repertoire drawn from the heritage of the Jewish people throughout the ages.  In 1925, a few Jewish immigrant factory workers got together and founded the “Freiheit Gezangs Farein” (Freedom Choral Society) – the predecessor of the Toronto Jewish Folk Choir – and gave its first spring concert in 1926 under the baton of Hyman Riegelhaupt.
Paul Robeson performs with Choir, 1949

Paul Robeson performs with Choir, 1949

A turning point in the Choir’s history came in 1939, when Emil Gartner took the Choir to its greatest heights and established its reputation for memorable annual concerts. For the next 20 years, under Gartner’s baton and with a 140-strong chorus, the Choir performed on the stage of Toronto’s Massey Hall, accompanied by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, with such renowned singers as Paul Robeson, Jan Peerce, Regina Resnick, Jenny Tourel and Lois Marshall.

The Choir’s aim is to preserve and maintain our secular Yiddish heritage and experience and continues to express in song the Yiddish working-class culture upon which it is founded. Its extensive repertoire draws on Yiddish folk and working-class songs, and compositions inspired by the humanistic classics of a thousand years of Yiddish literature. In addition, Israeli, Canadian, and international folk songs are performed in Yiddish, Hebrew, Ladino, French, Russian, and English.

The Toronto Jewish Folk Choir is currently on hiatus.