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
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.
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
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"
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.
My first memory of this sanctuary and being a part of this family was sitting next to Willie Jacobs (may His memory be for a blessing). He always sat in the second or third pew from the front. As many of you will remember, Willy was a survivor of the Shoah, as was his wife, Helen Jacobs (may Her memory be for a blessing). Since I was just a small baby when I would have first met Willy, I can’t recall our very first interaction. However, on my first conscious and memorable interaction with him, Willy showed me the numbers tattooed on his arm. He told me what they meant so that a five year old could understand. I really loved Willy. All I could truly extract from our discussion about these numbers at age 5 was that someone tried to hurt him and something really, really bad happened to Willy. This angered me. Every Shabbat morning thereafter, before legging it outside to the yard where I’d meet my contemporaries for a weekly update, I would go to Willy as he sat in quiet prayer. I’d scooch up beside him and I’d say “Hi Willy – how is your arm today?” He would put his hand over his arm and reply “it’s just fine”.
How could it be “just fine”? Somebody had tried to hurt him. Bad things happened. Why wasn’t he angry? Why wasn’t he looking for the people that tried to, or in fact did, hurt him? How could he sit there, smile and pat my head after all of this. Read more >>
Guest Torah Drash:
Dr. Richard Kool
Parshat Shoftim (August 2014)
The critical lines for today are well known: Tzedek tzedk tirdof… There also is, in this parsha, the important passage about Bal taschit, do no harm, a pro-environmental message that comes in the sections about waging siege warfare and not destroying fruit trees. And there is also the intriguing passage about how you tell a true prophet from a false one, an analysis that the medieval rabbis found unconvincing. But let me stick with Tzedek tzedk tirdof. 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.