Congregation Emanu-El is composed of an eclectic group of 200 families who come together to create a dynamic and spiritual expression of Jewish life. It is a place of love and growth where deep friendships are forged and nourished. We believe in connecting people to one another and to their Jewish roots and traditions, as well as nourishing feelings of community, security and belonging.
Some news items in this column are external initiatives. They are neither sponsored nor necessarily endorsed by Congregation Emanu-El.
Events & projects
Light of Shalom
Public Menorah Lighting
At Centennial Square
Thursday, December 18th at 5:30pm
It is dark and rainy in Victoria, our globe is in what feels like a tenuous and dark place as conflict and war abounds.
One solution is to join with friends at our Public Menorah Lighting. We will gather in Centennial Square to spread the “Light of Shalom” May our Menorah spread light of peace, wholeness, greater understanding and compassion.
This special evening stars musical headliner “Victoria High Rhythm and Blues Band.” We will light Vancouver Island’s biggest home-made hanukkiah (candelabra). There will be people from all walks of life and faiths, lots of singing, joy, and of course…soufganyiot- doughnuts!!
All are welcome. The show goes on rain or snow. Dress warmly.
Chag Hanukkah Sameah! Happy Holidays to you & yours!!
Religious Services Committee
Faith in Action's New Covenant on Social Justice
The steering committee of Faith in Action, a multi-faith social action/justice organization, has worked over the past months on a statement expressing our concerns and responsibilities as citizens of British Columbia in the form of new social covenant.
We hope that you will read our document, which is available on our website and Facebook page—share it with friends and colleagues, and we welcome you to join us on the steps of Legislature on October 8 at 11:30am. We would like to see a large gathering of diverse citizens present to affirm this social covenant.
If you cannot attend this event, please consider endorsing the covenant. You can do this by going to our website or our Facebook page. We invite you to read our New Social Covenant document.
– Rabbi Harry on behalf of Faith in Action
Synagogue Tours: Fall 2014
Experience a guided tour of Canada's oldest synagogue, Congregation Emanu-el. Fall tours are conducted on the last Sunday of the month. For more information, please visit our Synagogue Tours page.
2014 Restoration of the 1863 sanctuary Emanu-El of Victoria
The interim report of the committee overseeing the restoration of our 1863 synagogue was released on July 23, 2014. The report provides fascinating insights that will appeal to history and architecture buffs, and it demonstrates the extraordinary lengths to which the restoration project has gone in preserving the original look and feel of our historic building. Read the report >>
A Year of Wonderful Celebration
Congregation Emanu-El celebrated, in 2013, its 150th year sitting at the corner of Pandora and Blanshard in Victoria. It was a year for commemoration, celebration, and education. We worked hard on the restoration so that our beloved synagogue would last another 150 years and more. Please consider assisting our ongoing restoration efforts in 2014 by donating.
"The rest is commentary"
"We urge this bill be withdrawn," declares the Jewish Theological Seminary
The Jewish Theological Seminary is one of the main rabbinical schools for the Conservative movement and the Chancellor in many ways sets the tone for the entire movement. Here is a statement I think we can all be proud of. —Rabbi Harry
"Israel has always exhibited a strong commitment to both Jewish values and democracy. That is why we at The Jewish Theological Seminary are so alarmed by the news of the Knesset’s consideration of the Nation-State bill proposed by Prime Minister Netanyahu. Along with the President of Israel, Reuven Rivlin, and numerous thought leaders in Israel and the Diaspora, we hope that the State’s lawmakers will have the wisdom to affirm Israel’s character as a democratic Jewish State in a way that does not relegate Israeli Arabs and other minorities to second-class status. The Jewish character of Israel’s vibrant democracy is not in question except among enemies of the State. Israel’s dual foundation of democracy and Judaism has been intertwined and inseparable since the day the State’s independence was declared 68 years ago and remains a source of admiration—and even love—among Israel’s many friends and supporters around the world.
"There is a second problem with the bill proposed on Sunday: the danger that it will grant one particular denomination of Judaism—Orthodoxy, as defined by a relatively small group of rabbis and politicians—official and permanent State recognition. The Jewish character and quality of the State cannot be legislated by the Knesset or mandated by a state-sponsored rabbinate. It must rather be worked out—patiently and devotedly, passionately but peacefully—by the Jews of varying backgrounds and convictions who are ingathered in Zion.
"Therefore, we urge that this bill be withdrawn..." Read more >>
Shabbat of Solidarity: Nov. 21, 2014
A few hours earlier, at the Thursday morning minyan, during what is usually one of my favourite times in the service, a strong wave of sadness accompanied by a cold shiver came upon me. Here I was, wrapped in my talit and tefilin, getting ready for what should be the spiritual climax of shacharit, the morning service, and I was sensing a kind of dread. It was not until I stopped and introspected for a moment to process these feelings that I realized where they were coming from. The hateful attack on the synagogue in Jerusalem happened during the exact point in the service that we were getting ready to enter. The violence began during the amidah prayer, a moment of holiness and connection.
This Shabbat is a Shabbat of Solidarity across the Jewish world. Shabbat of Solidarity for me holds the intention of achdut, unity. As Jews, we care deeply for one another; even if we are continents apart, even if we dress differently and even if we have different ways of interpreting and understanding Torah, we are united as a people and we are united as a tradition. What happens to our Jewish brothers and sisters affects us as well. In a subtle yet integral way through our coming together to pray we are bringing comfort to the families who are grieving. By coming together we are affirming our connection to all Jews.
A. D. Gordon, spiritual father of Zionism, taught, "There will be no victory of light over darkness until we understand the simple truth, that instead of fighting the darkness we must intensify the light." Read more >>
Kol Nidre 5775 (October 3, 2014)
Board President Aharon Ittah's Address to Congregation Emanu-El Members and Friends
It’s been a very long time since I was standing up here, all by myself. In fact, it’s almost 20 years to the day. It was my bar-mitzvah. What a great day that was – for me at least. I was nervous though. I still am. I remember coming into Shul at 9 AM that day. That was the earliest I’d ever been to Shul. I was so excited. I went into to that little kitchen from the pre-Fisher Building era that such incredible food was created in and I robbed a quick snack. I remember taking a red napkin. I held it in my hand. I went back to my front row seat and as the service progressed, the room and seats behind and above me filled and I became more and more nervous. I held that napkin tight in my left hand as though it offered the comfort of a “blanky”. I was called up to the Torah! The butterflies erupted in my belly. I came up here, did my thing and once I had finished the blessing after the haftorah and was pelted with hard sweets, I noticed that my hand was still clenched. Now, as some of you may know – or may find out a little later, I suffer from CHS (also known as Clammy Hand Syndrome), especially when I’m a bit nervous. When I released my hand, that red napkin had nearly disintegrated and my clammy little hand had taken on a very deep red colour. Read more >>
Rabbi Harry's Welcome Message
Rabbi Harry Brechner, who has been Congregation Emanu-El's rabbi since 2001, welcomes anyone interested in the Congregation's many activities and community events, including prayer services.