Mazel Tov, Zelda on your Retirement!

Emanu-El’s beloved Zelda Dean is retiring from her position as Office Manager. Please visit our Kudoboard and leave Zelda a note, photo, or video message to say Thank You. Zelda has been a part of all that we do for many years, and many people will want to say a few words of congratulations and thanks.
To visit our Kudoboard, CLICK HERE…

Hilary Marks: first recipient of Kim Manton Spirit Award

We extend a sincere mazel tov to congregant Hilary Marks, the first recipient of the Kim Manton Spirit Award
Kim Manton was a well-respected Victoria labour and political activist who died in June 2020. Kim’s sunny disposition, enthusiasm, passion and energy made those around her want to work harder, do more and reach further to make the world a better place. To honour her life, Kim’s colleagues created the Kim Manton Spirit Award, which recognizes an outstanding individual in Victoria who upholds the belief that everyone, particularly those in greatest need, deserves equal economic, political and social rights and opportunities.
Hilary Marks embodies the spirit and intent of the Kim Manton Spirit Award. Generous with her time, respectful and caring, Hilary is deeply committed to the well-being and dignity of those living in poverty. For decades, she has worked for the rights of people struggling on low incomes, those who are homeless, and those dealing with addiction or mental illness. The Kim Manton Spirit Award publicly acknowledges Hilary’s significant history of work—both paid and volunteer—that has improved the lives of others. Hilary is someone who has reached further and done more to improve conditions for those whose voices we rarely hear. 

Continue reading Hilary Marks: first recipient of Kim Manton Spirit Award

Happy Birthday, Adele!

Adele Vernon was born with a gift. She is one of those remarkable people who bring joy into the lives of the rest of us. “If I have a gift for the world,” she said, “I think it might be having fun and sharing that with others.” Adele is turning 90, and if you give her a phone call, you’ll soon be smiling, maybe laughing. It’s uplifting to be around her. Even the sound of her voice lifts you up. Rabbi Harry says, “Adele embodies what the tradition calls ‘having a good eye’; she is a ‘ba’alat tov ayin’. She sees the good in others and encourages and nurtures that good.”

We asked Adele to tell her story about life with Congregation Emanu-El. She is a woman of many talents! Afterwards, some of her friends share a few stories about Adele. Happy Birthday, Dear Adele. May you continue to thrive and to scatter your beauty across this world. 

Continue reading Happy Birthday, Adele!

Ḥanukkiah lighting during the pandemic

Zilber-Shlensky family prepares to light

Here is the introduction to the blessings over the candles provided by Gabbai Aaron Severs at our congregational Zoom Ḥanukkah celebration on Tuesday, December 15, 2020.

“To begin, I’d like to say just how thrilled I am to see so many of you here on Zoom this evening. Normally, we would be holding the event outdoors in Centennial Square with a huge life-size Ḥanukkiah. The Victoria High Rhythm & Blues band would be playing their hearts out and we’d be having a raucous dance party. In 2020, we find ourselves in a unique and challenging year. Fortunately, we are still able to gather and share our light and warmth via the magic of the internet.

The pandemic has given us all the opportunity to slow down, take a breath and think about whom and what’s really important in our lives. And, the chance to share acts of loving kindness (gemilut ḥasadim) and compassion with one another. It is a time to appreciate the real-life front-line heroes in our midst. They may be health care workers, grocery store staff, teachers, or volunteers at our local non-profit organization. One miracle for certain, this Ḥanukkah, has been the arrival of the first shipment of Pfizer-BioNtech vaccines on Canadian soil.

On a personal level, 2020 has humbled and taught me the message of having “an attitude of gratitude”. For the many blessings, large and small, in my life. And, to recognize with a good eye (“tov ayin” as Rabbi Harry says) the good that happens each day. I do feel privileged to be part of a larger, caring and progressive Jewish community on Canada’s real west coast. So, as we get ready to light the Ḥanukkah candles this evening, I invite you all to rededicate yourselves to joy, to hope and to gratitude.

With this in mind, it gives me great pleasure to call upon our next 3 presenters. They are volunteers and part of our leadership team at Congregation Emanu-El. [OK, everyone out there in Zoom land, this is your cue…please have your Hanukkah menorahs ready, and if you are able, show them on your computer screen. We will say the blessings first, and then light.]

The first blessing will be recited by Sam Godfrey, President of our Board of Directors. [although you are all muted, feel free to join along and sing at home]. Sam has his family by his side. Whenever you are ready, Sam…

The second blessing (berakhah) will be said by Ilana Stanger-Ross. Ilana serves as our Vice President and Hebrew School Liaison.  She is joined by her family this evening. Ilana, whenever you are ready.

Akharón akharón khavív… For our third blessing, I’m honoured to call upon Caren Zilber-Shlensky. Caren is a member of our Hebrew School Committee, and along with Ilana, has also been quite active on the Emanu-El COVID-19 response committee. 

Thank you to all our presenters. Now, feel free to “rev your engines”, light up your menorahs and let’s share the warmth, light and ruach (spirit) of the holiday with one another. This is very exciting, there are so many menorahs on the screens!
I am now pleased to turn the floor over to Rabbi Matt who will continue with the next step in tonight’s program.”

For more pictures…

Notice of increase in funeral and burial fees for Congregation Emanu-El Cemetery

The Board of Congregation Emanu-El has approved an increase in fees associated with burial in our historic cemetery, effective January 31, 2021, trying to keep costs within reason and comparable to other similar cemeteries. The fees have not increased since 2015, and our costs continue to rise. Funeral and burial costs are all inclusive as noted below, including the services of Sands Funeral Chapels of Victoria, our Chevra Kadisha, plot cost and burial in our cemetery.

As of January 31, 2021 the fee for members of the Congregation will be $12,000.  The fee for non-members will be $15,500. In special circumstances, the burial price for a person who was a formerly long-standing member may be decided on a case by case basis with the agreement of the Rabbi and Cemetery Director.

Members and non-Members can prepay these costs at the current rate (members – $10,500;  non-members – $13,500) before January 31 by contacting Sands Funeral Chapel. Members can also prepay the plot cost ($2000 now, $4000 after January 31, 2021) directly from Emanu-El at any time by contacting the Congregation office. 


  • Burial plot; preparation and closing of grave
  • Maintenance of graveyard in perpetuity
  • Plain pine casket
  • Transportation of deceased from place of death to funeral home (within 40 km distance) and from funeral home to cemetery
  • Limousine service for family to funeral (if desired)
  • Assistance with funeral arrangements in co-ordination with Rabbi or spiritual advisor
  • Services of Chevra Kadisha, which include: Taharah – cleansing and preparation of the body for burial; Tachrichim – burial garments and providing yahrzeit candles and grieving literature (as needed)
  • Assist with registration of death and death certificate
  • Assist with obituary notice (if needed)
  • Assist with Shiva (seven days of mourning)

The Rabbi or alternate will perform a graveside funeral service and, within one year of burial, an unveiling service.

Adjoining plot may be reserved for spouse or child upon payment of plot fee ($4000)


  • Personal choice of burial plot location
  • Any loss of valuables
  • Cost of headstone or curbing or any associated concrete work
  • Maintenance of individual grave plantings, such as flowers or rose bushes, maintenance of headstone
  • Transportation of deceased more than 40 km (a surcharge may apply)

The Light of Ḥanukkah: Dedicating Ourselves in the Time of Pandemic

Tuesday, December 15, 2020 from 5:30 – 6:30 pm on Zoom—During this year of pandemic, we share our compassion and acts of loving kindness for each other. We share gratitude for the small things and miracles that happen each day. These personal and collective actions can help to overcome the struggle, anxiety and fear of the unknown that seem widespread in our new normal COVID-19 world.

Join Congregation Emanu-El for an hour of blessings, songs, games and bringing in the light of Ḥanukkah. Come ready to light your own Ḥanukkiah. Bring your best dreidel—see who can spin the longest! We’re going to have a Jewish themed pub-style quiz with prizes, and we’ll have songs, which may lead to mixed dancing!  Let’s fill our screens and the winter night with candle light and share the lights of Ḥanukkah together.

All are welcome.

Join online: CLICK HERE
· Regular Dial-in:
Call: 1 778 907 2071
· Meeting ID: 815 8619 1122
· Password: 402437

Is Israel ruled by a constellation?

Last Sunday evening, Rabbi Matt presented a fascinating talk: Ancient Jewish Astrology: Fatalist or Optimist? He explored how various Jewish sages and commentators treated astrology and whether Judaism condones or condemns the practice. According to Rabbi Matt, the jury is still out. In the past, astrology was widespread among most ancient cultures, and Jews were no exception. He explained to the 40 or so Zoomers in attendance how our early sages incorporated astrological ideas into their thought, e.g., how the day you were born on may impact our future; how the signs of the zodiac correlate to the layout of the tent of the Ark in the desert; how the total number of candles lit in a ḥanukkiah, excluding the shamash, is a mystical number, i.e., 36; and which of the 12 tribes of Israel your birth sign lines up with….

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