We plundered storage boxes, retrieved long-forgotten folders, investigated dark and dank corners, dipped into desk drawers, and searched years-old online resources to bring you fifty items that, in one way or another, just seem to say “TanenbaumCHAT”. Take a look. Perhaps something here will conjure a memory, pique your curiosity or evoke a pang of nostalgia. 

This collection is neither definitive nor iconic, and it is certainly not exhaustive. So if you have some other item you’d like to tell us about, or additional information about any of the artifacts here, please let us know. Email us at: [email protected]

1. Beginnings

The Community Hebrew Academy was established in the early 1960s originally as part of The Associated Hebrew Schools at 3630 Bathurst Street on the corner of Neptune Drive. During the 1970s, lay leaders began lobbying for independence and an opportunity to grow. According to Lifetime Board Member, Professor Sydney Eisen z”l, “This was absolutely necessary if the school was to offer opportunities to students of all the day schools.”  In 1979, we moved into the building at 200 Wilmington Avenue – a former TDSB school.

2. Play Posters

The performing arts have always been an integral part of the TanenbaumCHAT experience, and the walls of the Hennick Family Atrium are a testament to our long theatrical history. From A Chorus Line to Annie, and Les Miserables to Little Shop of Horrors, our students have tackled the Broadway classics with flair. 

3. Malka’s hotdog cart

There’s no lunch that represents TanenbaumCHAT better than a hotdog and fries from Malka’s cart. After leaving Russia 33 years ago, Malka first set up her cart outside our school in 2002, changing the game for generations of students tired of their leftover-filled lunch boxes. 

4. Taking Attendance

Before the Edsby online learning management platform came to TanenbaumCHAT in 2015, our teachers took attendance the old-fashioned way with pencil and paper. Our Deans used to get their steps in, collecting the attendance sheets from every classroom, every period, every day.

5. Library book sign out

Our 1975 Grade 13 cohort was honoured with a printed and bound compendium of their “Economic Legacy,” a collection of student assignments compiled by their teacher, Marvin Blier.

6. iMac

It was the 90s afterall, and brightly-coloured Apple computers were the “it” thing in any self-respecting school computer lab. 

7. Typerwriter

Delving deep into our school’s technological history we found this artifact, one that our current students may consider pre-historic: the typewriter. Before the days of Word, Photoshop, or ChatGPT, our students stuck to the classic clickety-clack of a good ole typewriter. 

8. Economics Compendium

Our 1975 Grade 13 cohort was honoured with a printed and bound compendium of their “Economic Legacy,” a collection of student assignments compiled by their teacher, Marvin Blier.

9. Keyboard and formatting

In a school full of digital natives, it’s second nature now of course, but there was a time when “keyboarding” had to be learned.

Grade 9 study skills

Our school has always taken seriously the need to support incoming students as they transition to high school and our demanding dual curriculum. Before the days of online platforms, learning portals and tutorials, our guidance department gave out hard-copy study skills booklets to Grade 9 students. 

11. Scarf

School swag comes and school swag goes. We honestly aren’t sure of the vintage, but the likes of this preppy-looking scarf have not been seen in some time. 

12. “CHAT is where it’s at”

It was a slogan begging to be coined and, despite its retro vibe, it proved to have remarkable longevity. Stick around school long enough even now and you’ll hear one of our many alumni-staff members still proudly proclaim it. (We may or may not be looking at you, Principal Renee Cohen ’96.)

13. Hebrew Academy pins

The 1970s… lapel pins were in vogue, and we were known as simply the Hebrew Academy of Toronto.

14. Lost CHAR shirt

TanenbaumCHAT swag, lost to the ages! Who would’ve guessed that an attempt by students of the Kimel campus to show their ruach on a school trip to Chicago would end with a banned T-shirt design? Unfortunately, the Chicago Cubs didn’t appreciate the look, and we had to bid the contraband farewell. Luckily, one rebel snuck a shirt away and graciously shared this hidden treasure with us.

15. Spinwheel

Room A107 is home to our Student Activities department, and this spinwheel is without doubt one of its most identifiable items. A staple at school carnivals and events, it is often used in contests and for doling out prizes and treats.

16. Golden Bagel award

In 2007, our inaugural Golden Bagel Ceremony introduced the now-coveted student activities award recognized among students with the prestige of an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony combined. 

17. COVID T-Shirt

Too soon perhaps? The pandemic certainly took its toll on school life but we found our way through with humour, creating a pun-forward shirt in honour of our annual Golden Bagel Awards.

18. Cheeseballs

Anyone who has set foot in our student activities office in the past decade has seen the cheeseballs, but who knows the origin story? Purchased in 2010 as a raffle prize, the not-so-lucky winner was lactose intolerant and rejected her haul. Josh Sable ’90 decided to keep the jar. Thirteen years on, its contents now probably rancid yet bordering on iconic, it still has pride of place in Room A107. 

19. Science wing hard hat

In 2011, we held the official groundbreaking for our brand new Science Wing. In the name of both safety and school pride, we created TanenbaumCHAT hard hats that had to be worn for all visits to the construction site.

20. Murals

The many student-painted murals around the school are a unique feature of our building. Over the course of several years, senior students had the chance to leave their mark on the school literally, each spending the better part of a year during art class and spares creating these panels that reflect our curriculum and focus on school subjects.

Class of 1976 graduation

Turning out a brand new cohort of alumni makes Graduation the most special night of the year. This is what it looked like in 1976, in the days of sideburns, wide lapels and shag cuts. Do you see yourself in this photo? Let us know at [email protected].

22. Secret Safe

No one’s really sure where it came from or why it’s there, but there’s a safe safely ensconced in a closet in the Head of School’s office.

23. Ran Gurvitz’s notes

Before beloved Jewish Studies teacher and Head of Talmud, Rabbi Yigal Gurvitz, left the school and returned to Israel, he gave his copious teaching notes to now-VP Rabbi Eli Mandel who found them very helpful and put them to extensive use.

24. Shabbos Compendium

For our 50th anniversary, the student leaders of The Shofar — a student-run, weekly Dvar Torah publication — came together with their staff advisors to compile this Shabbos Companion book, a comprehensive guide from Erev Shabbat to Havdallah.

25. Becker Tournament program

Begun in 1995 by close friends to honour the memory of Israel Becker ‘88 z”l, our international invitational basketball tournament has gone through many iterations, was put on hold during COVID, and roared back to life again this year. (See feature story)

26. CHAT Links

Foreshadowing LinkedIn, this directory, which was published around 2000, was our school’s noble attempt to connect alumni with their peers.

27. The “dungeon”

Known colloquially as a hidden “dungeon,” this vault-like room is actually on the second floor at 200 Wilmington, and is where old school records are laid to rest.

28. Alumni Association form

Judging by this form from the early 2000s, we’ve always been excited about staying in touch with alumni. Avail yourself of the current method of updating the school right now by going to: tanenbaumchat.org/share-your-news

29. Timmins Torah

This 120-year-old Torah was originally dedicated to Congregation Bnei Israel in Timmins ON which closed its doors in the 1970s. It was given to TanenbaumCHAT by the remaining members of the community so that it could be cared for and used by the school minyan. In April 2023, former Principal of Jewish Studies, Rabbi Moshe Yeres, was on hand to help commemorate the arrival of a new cover. 

30. Shabbaton Madrichim

In 2015, the Madrichim from both campuses descended on Camp George for the annual Ruach Shabbaton. The weekend was the perfect opportunity for more than 60 student leaders to share and bond over Shabbaton traditions. Two of those Madrichim even ended up as current TanenbaumCHAT staff. Can you spot them?

31. Torah Transporter

Neither Dr. Who nor StarTrek nor Back to the Future ever conceived of such a thing. But if you’re a Jewish school going off site for a shabbaton, a Torah Transporter is essential. 

32. Rent alumni musical

TanenbaumCHAT “is far greater than the sum of its parts.” It was true in this school video advertisement from 1990, voiced by guidance counsellor Richie Stoll ’80, and it continues to be true today, over 30 years later.

33. 1990 ad script

TanenbaumCHAT “is far greater than the sum of its parts.” It was true in this school video advertisement from 1990, voiced by guidance counsellor Richie Stoll ’80, and it continues to be true today, over 30 years later.

34. Shabbox

What’s a Shabbaton without its Shabbox? The Shabbox tags along on every Shabbaton, carrying all the provisions our Madrichim could need, including Havdallah supplies, Kumzitz tea candles and icebreaker games.

35. Original band vests

These vests were worn by our first cohort of music students, originally at the north campus before this incredible program made its way south.

36. 40th anniversary leaflet

As we said in this brochure in 2001, our 40th anniversary marked another generation of quality education, fostering young Jewish lives, and warm memories. This milestone came on the heels of a major expansion of our Wilmington campus, in partnership with the UJA, inaugurating the campus as the Anne and Max Tanenbaum Education Centre

37. 50th anniversary book

It was a momentous occasion, eminently worth celebrating: a half-century of community Jewish high school education in Toronto.

38. School song

“As we go walking through the door…” Do you recognize these opening lyrics? In 2007, Grade 12 student Shira Sasson ’07 penned our famous school song. It’s one that our students still listen to every Friday afternoon as school wraps up for the week, singing the words we all know to be true, “CHAT calls us back, it’s our home!”

39. 1985 Chatter

While a bit self-referential, including one of the earliest issues of the Chatter in this, the current issue of the Chatter, seemed like the right thing to do. Does anyone have a good read (pun intended) on how many of those early editions were sent out? We currently print 8,500 of each magazine.

40. Student-designed stained glass

In honour of the Beit Midrash dedication in 2013, we held a contest among our student artists to create a piece of stained glass art to be installed in the roo. The creation by winner, Alissa Abrahami ’13, remains on display a decade later.

41. Launching our website

In the relatively early days of the internet, TanenbaumCHAT went digital creating our first school website and taking on the new technological age in style (well, it was stylish back then). While our website has had a few facelifts over the years and our online presence has grown exponentially, we look back with fondness on our humble internet beginnings.

42. Taking to “social”

In the late 2000s, TanenbaumCHAT entered the realm of social media, setting up our first official Facebook page. It was just the beginning of what has become a formidable and lively social media presence. And on that note, remember to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok at @tanenbaumchat!

43. Redacted yearbook

What’s high school without some pranks? Case in point: after some not-so-Kosher jokes got past the staff yearbook advisor, the Class of 1989’s student editors were given the choice of paying to reprint the entire supply, or taking permanent marker to all the copies. 

44. Rejected student council posters

As is expected during a fierce political campaign, our annual student council elections sometimes end with campaign ads not suitable for the walls of TanenbaumCHAT. Fortunately for us, there’s an unofficial archive of rejected student council posters that, while not befitting a budding politician, can still give us a good laugh.

45. Athletic Awards booklet

We always want to celebrate our student athletes, and these Athletic Award programs show how far back our tradition extends.

46. Trophy case

So many teams, so many games, but so little space on the pages of this magazine. Therefore, we’re going to let this photo of the trophy case in the hallway outside the Meyer-Finkelstein Gymnasium denote all the amazing sporting exploits of our student-athletes over the years. 

47. Mascots

Despite fierce competition at our yearly Rumble in the Jungle sports event between the two campuses, our Tiger and Cougar mascots from our south and north campus, respectively, united for this photo.

48. Scary Shmata

You’ve heard of the Terrible Towel. Now get ready for the Scary Shmata! Inspired by the Pittsburgh Steelers’ infamous rally towel, our North campus Cougars put their own spin on the design. 

49. Letterman jacket

Skip the thrift store and stick to TanenbaumCHAT Vintage! This letterman jacket from our 1985/1986 girls softball team is a timeless classic in the school swag collection. 

50. Alex Gropper

In June 2022, Alex Gropper retired from TanenbaumCHAT. As many of his former students-turned-colleagues will attest, Alex used to borrow a joke from his son (a proud alum): “I become what I teach, ancient history.” Thus, we thought it only fitting to end our list of 50 TanenbaumCHAT artifacts with one of our most treasured teachers – who just so happened to teach at our school for fifty years!

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