Simcha Gift Shop

Ḥanukkah is coming, and Simcha Gift Shop is ready.
Check out our Ḥanukkah supplies, and the rest of our stock at: 
We have a little wrapping paper and some Ḥanukkah Gift Bags,
and are also expecting a small amount of Ḥanukkah gelt.
All proceeds go to supporting our Hebrew School.

Ancient Astrology: Fatalist or Optimist

Sunday, December 6, 2020 at 7 pm—The Congregation Emanu-El Adult Education team invites you to a presentation Ancient Astrology: Fatalist or Optimist by Rabbi Matt Ponak on Sunday, December 6, 2020 at 7 pm.

Does Judaism teach that our lives are determined by the stars? Did it ever? The answer is not so simple. While Jewish teachings greatly value free will, the word mazal, as in “Mazal Tov,” literally means “constellation”. At one point, to wish someone “mazal tov,” meant to wish them good fortune under the influence of the astrological signs. So what does Judaism say about astrology? Join Rabbi Matt Ponak as he explores Talmudic stories and teachings of how Jews were and were not subject to the fate of the heavens.

Rabbi Matt Ponak is a musician, teacher, and lover of life. He serves as the Education Director and Assistant Rabbi at Congregation Emanu-El. Rabbi Matt has studied with many of this generation’s leading teachers of Jewish mysticism including Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, R. Arthur Green, R. Zvi Ish-Shalom, R. Tirzah Firestone, and R. Rami Shapiro. Also holding an MA in Contemplative Religions from the Buddhist-inspired Naropa University, Rabbi Matt weaves world wisdom with ancient Jewish insights. His upcoming book, “Torah for the New Age,” translates and comments on Jewish mystical texts that resonate with the consciousness and yearnings of our times.

The presentation will be on Zoom.

To join online, CLICK HERE

To join by phone: 1 778 907 2071; Meeting ID: 839 1579 8300; Passcode: 446221

Donations to our Adult Education fund are always welcome. You may donate ONLINE or through the office at

Why not give Mysterious Moses a try?

Come join us for Mysterious Moses, a super fun game (aka Gamadim and Anakim 5781), and spread light all through the eight nights of Ḥanukkah and stay connected through these dark COVID-19 days.
Leah Levi ran the game over Sukkot, calling it Gamadim and Anakim—some comments from players:
“It was fun to be part of a real-life community-based activity! We had fun thinking up small gifts to bring delight to our Gamadim. Of course it was fun to receive gifts too! We will certainly participate again during Ḥanukkah.” Katie S.
“This game was fun and rewarding. We felt the joy of secretly delivering small gifts, being spoiled in return and finding we made new connections. We can’t wait to play the game again.”Alexandre CW
Everyone who wishes to play for Ḥanukkah should register by Friday, December 4, 2020 at the latest, CLICK HERE for registration form…
How it works: Once registered, Leah will twin each family/person with another family/person, the idea being to anonymously gift your twin with small things. It could be one or more gifts, given at one or more times, in different ways. It can be something you’ve made like a pot of jam, cookies, a candle, a possession you’re gifting or a little thing you’ve bought. To deliver, you can use the postal service, another person, or find a way to deliver it yourself.

Martine Gow-Cooper z”l

Martine smiles at her last painting

My mother Martine Baugniet (latterly Gow-Cooper) was born in Brussels in 1939. Her mother was a Montrealer who was raised and educated in Belgium, and her father was a Belgian who converted to Judaism in 1934 before they married. My mother, her mother, and her eldest brother were rescued from Belgium in May of 1940 by my great-grandfather Albert Freedman, who had been an intelligence officer in the Canadian Expeditionary Force in WWI, and served the British intelligence effort before and during WWII, based in London. He had enough notice of the German invasion to make his way to Brussels, take the family to Paris for British visas based on his nationality, and get them all back to London, just in time.

Continue reading Martine Gow-Cooper z”l

A wonderful evening of learning

Last Sunday evening, Lee Henderson led a fascinating virtual literary salon discussion of the parallels and differences linking two amazing writers whose lives were separated by about 100 years. Lee expertly explained how the stories and parables crafted by Franz Kafka and Rabbi Nachman reflected both secular and religious perspectives on the often strange vagaries of life they encountered. The audience was treated to a wonderful evening of learning and no doubt will be seeking out books and articles on these two masters so they can delve further into what made them tick.

Want to go beyond talking about social justice?

Tuesday, November 17, 2020 from 7 – 8:30 pm on ZoomGreater Victoria Acting Together (GVAT) Core Teams Workshop on Tuesday, November 17, 2020 from 7 – 8:30 pm on Zoom provides its member organizations with an opportunity to learn how to build support for GVAT purposes and activities from its members and to help them make the world a better place.

Congregation Emanu-El is a founding GVAT member. This workshop is an opportunity for Congregation Emanu-El members to explore whether participating in GVAT projects offers them a suitable opportunity to pursue social justice.

If you wonder about GVAT and whether it is a right fit for you, please see the GVAT orientation document…
If you wonder about GVAT Core Teams see here…

For information about the workshop and how to register, head over to or to register directly head here. I

Kristallnacht: Commemoration in times of COVID-19

Congregation Emanu-El was host to a very different, and beautifully presented Kristallnacht program last Monday, November 9, 2020. Restricted by COVID-19 public health orders from gathering, the Victoria Shoah Project produced a commemorative video and showed it via Zoom. Instead of pronouncing The Pledge of Mutual Respect and Support collectively from the bimah, the leaders pledged individually while holding a placard highlighting their commitment. Kristin Semmens  and Susanne Snizek spoke of the persistence of the creative process among Jews during the Third Reich. Misha Menczer and Elisheva Gray led the recitation of the Kaddish of the Camps. Jeanne Lamon and Christina Mahler performed a number of soulful musical works. The program was recorded, and will be available online. Heartfelt thanks to all those who contributed to this beautiful program.  

Calling All Artists project 2020

Starts Thursday, November 19, 2020 on Zoom—A light in a dark and strange time: Calling All Artists returns! We will begin our monthly meetings with Rabbi Harry on Thursday, November 19, 2020, and continue on December 10, 2020, and in 2021 on January 14, February 11, and March 18. Calling All Artists is a project inviting artists of many kinds—visual, textile, multi-media, music, poetry—to study a biblical or rabbinical text with Rabbi Harry, and to interpret this learning through their art. A kind of midrash, the Rabbi explains it. In the spring, the artists, if it is possible to meet again, will celebrate their work with a delicious and gorgeous Gala in the Social Hall.

Continue reading Calling All Artists project 2020

Kafka, Nachman, Kabbalah and Neuroses

Sunday, November 15, 2020 at 7 pm—Congregation Emanu-El Adult Education Team invites you to the first of our 2020/21 “one-off sessions” on Sunday, November 15, 2020 at 7 pm featuring a discussion of Kafka, Nachman, Kabbalah and Neuroses by Lee Henderson, an Associate Professor of Writing at the University of Victoria. Lee will discuss Franz Kafka, his writing, his life, and the influence of Jewish mysticism and kabbalah on his themes and style, and in particular, Kafka’s familiarity with the great Hasidic storyteller from a century earlier, Rabbi Nachman.

Continue reading Kafka, Nachman, Kabbalah and Neuroses