Picnic at the Farm!

Picnic at the FarmSunday, July 12 2020, 12 – 3 pmPlease join us on Sunday, July 12, 2020 from 12 to 3 pm for a summer picnic at Still Water Farm in Central Saanich.

A Latin-themed afternoon, filled with ceviche, tamales, and salsa dancing!  There are gluten- and dairy-free options. Food will be prepared and served following COVID-19 protocols.  Food and beverages provided by the Membership Committee.

Please bring your own blanket or lawn chairs.  You may bring your own food (not for sharing). In following provincial guidelines, the gathering will be limited to the first 50 members who RSVP to icf@direct.ca.

Upon confirming your attendance, the address and directions will be sent to you.

We are looking forward to spending a relaxed Sunday afternoon with you!

Emanu-El Caring and Sharing Fundraising Auction

CEE Caring Sharing Auction logo 1.3COVID-19 has brought many changes. We are all relying more on family, friends and neighbours to help, inspire or entertain us. Could you offer something to fellow congregants during this COVID-19 crisis? What if you could help the synagogue at the same time? Continue reading Emanu-El Caring and Sharing Fundraising Auction

Special Outdoor Shabbat Service at Government House

Elisheva reads prayers 1000On June 27, 2020, Congregation Emanu-El went where it had never before ventured. The red letter day marked our first live outdoor COVID-19 restart Shabbat service on the grounds of Government House. The orchard was a perfect setting, the weather was kind and it was so uplifting to see many of our friends praying together again. About 50 eager people were present. The two-hour service had all the ingredients of a typical Saturday event, with our davening pesukei through musaf. Torah and haftarah were chanted, and a simple yet heartfelt ceremony to welcome Rabbi Matt, Melina, Orion and Sephira to our community was conducted.  The high point seemed to be the joy, smiles and virtual hugs that occupied this sacred space.

Todah rabah goes out to Rabbi Harry and RaeAnn for their leadership here. A big shout out is sent to all the volunteers who assisted in organizing the special day, and, of course, to the kehillah members who attended and helped to make this event a success.
Religious Services Committee

Unity (1918): then and now!

Unity reading screen shot

The Emanu-El Play Club held a Zoom reading of Kevin Kerr’s play Unity (1918) on Thursday, July 25, 2020. The club followed up their reading with a debriefing on the next Monday. Unity (1918) takes place in the fall of 1918, when a world ravaged by four years of war was suddenly hit by a mysterious and deadly plague—the “Spanish Flu.” The setting for the play is a small town in Saskatchewan. Our members were profoundly affected both by the reading experience and by the content of the play which raised themes and depicted experiences highly relevant in our COVID-19 world. Continue reading Unity (1918): then and now!

Congregation Emanu-El Online

USCJ online communication

The following are the Zoom links for Congregation Emanu-El online events:

Shabbat Candle Lighting and Singing

(Fridays, 7 – 7:30 pm)

Come join us as we bring in Shabbat together as a community. We will start with a few Shabbat songs and end together with Candle Lighting.

  • Join online: CLICK HERE…
    Regular Dial-in: Call: 1 (778) 907 2071
  • Meeting ID: 856 5170 2188
  • Password: 612360

Continue reading Congregation Emanu-El Online

Concerned about racism, climate change, public health, affordable housing…?

GVAT revised
If you are concerned about racism, climate change, public health, worker’s rights, affordable housing, colonialism, mental health, a just recovery…—here’s help getting organized! Greater Victoria Acting Together (GVAT) is offering leadership training in a series of sessions on June 30, July 2, 7, 9, and 14 from 10 am – 12 pm.

What will you learn?

Continue reading Concerned about racism, climate change, public health, affordable housing…?

Welcome to Rabbi Matt Ponak


(A welcome statement to Rabbi Matt Ponak, our congregational Education Director and Assistant Rabbi, from Rabbi Harry, our congregation’s new Lead Rabbi.)

I want to articulate some things that I deeply appreciate about Rabbi Matt. He has a powerful way of making others feel welcome and comfortable. My guess is that this is because his ego does not get in the way of his openness to others; he demonstrates the Torah value of anavah, holy humility. Rabbi Matt’s presence brings a sense of joy that he shares with us all. Rabbi Matt is a spiritual seeker who is knowledgeable in different modes of connection and relationship with the transcendent. Rabbi Matt enriches us with his musicality. He is a kind, gentle human whom I sense has a lot to offer and teach our congregation.

Our remarkable, nurturing Hebrew School is moving into a new era. Our children are growing up in a very intense and tumultuous period in human history. We have an obligation to create a school environment that infuses our children with hope, Jewish values, and connection. We need to continue to generate and nurture a spiritual educational space suffused with joy and empowering for our children and youth. Rabbi Matt has the organizational and strategic skills and the inner resources to hold space and to allow new creativity, energy and vision to emerge.

Our current altered, COVID-19 reality is one marked by separation and anxiety. The pandemic is illuminating hidden or purposefully obscured social issues, such as racism or the dangers inherent in food production. We need multiple venues, experiences and encounters to support all of us in making meaning. I am excited to work with Rabbi Matt on this front. Now I will have an in-house creative ḥavruta, a study and work partner, who comes from a different rabbinic tradition, a tradition that allows for greater creative license and looser structures. Between us there will be fertility and balance. Rabbi Matt’s youth allows him to be adaptive and fluid while his lack of ego and humility demonstrate wisdom. I look forward to working with Rabbi Matt to expand and deepen Torah in our congregation.

There is a sense of the basheret with Rabbi Matt. Basheret: when mazal (fortune and karma) bring us into relationships and experiences that reinforce the idea that this was meant to happen, a sense of serendipity and providence. Rabbi Matt gets us. He understands we are an authentic, eclectic community that does its best to strive for holiness. We care deeply about integrating Jewish values into the life of our congregation through acts of ḥesed, loving kindness, and tzedakah, using our resources for righteousness, artistic exploration, democratic and egalitarian leadership, integral friendships, inclusivity and collaboration.

Our task is to welcome, guide and support Rabbi Matt—to welcome him into our lives so he can intimately know us as a rabbi, to guide him as he learns about our congregation and to support him with our talents, skills, knowledge, and friendship. As much as I am looking forward to working, learning and serving with Rabbi Matt, I have to say that I am a little freaked out by the idea of being a “Senior Rabbi.” I suppose my days of being the young upstart rabbi are behind me. As “Lead Rabbi” I look forward to having Rabbi Matt in a core, leadership role in our congregation. I sense that we will all become stronger in this relationship.

For the last decade and a half, we have been growing as a congregation. In the world of social justice and activism, we have a reputation of being mighty. We have soulful religious expression, and a culture of sharing and caring for one another. To me, hiring Rabbi Matt in the middle of a pandemic was an act of courage and faith in our future—an act that will enrich and strengthen our wonderful congregation. May we continue to move from strength to strength.

Rabbi Harry


Special Outdoor Shabbat Morning Service: Parashat Koraḥ

Government House GardenMap-650x514

Saturday, June 27, 2020 10:00 am in Government House Grounds—Come and reconnect in person with friends for a spirited, casual, participative prayer and Torah learning experience.

If you wish to attend, please register as soon as possible HERE. Continue reading Special Outdoor Shabbat Morning Service: Parashat Koraḥ

Backyard Thursday morning minyan

Minyan with dredits

Please consider joining the minyan on Thursdays at 7 am in Uri and Leah’s backyard. If you are looking for a very sweet, welcoming prayer experience that is intimate and relaxed, this is place for you.

Services will continue to be streamed as usual on Zoom, to Join Online: CLICK HERE…

In the interests of personal and community safety as we open up this opportunity for congregational worship we must observe the following practices:

Continue reading Backyard Thursday morning minyan

Emanu-El invites you to an evening of “virtual” trivia

Trivia at home simpleThursday, June 18, 2020 7:15 pm — Come join us on Zoom for a fun evening of trivia! Bring your favourite beverage and prepare for some friendly competition! This will be a “pot-pourri” of trivia questions, some Jewish-focused, some general knowledge. Continue reading Emanu-El invites you to an evening of “virtual” trivia