Introducing Rani Earnhart

Rani Earnhart - PhotoA warm welcome to Rani Earnhart, who is joining us as our new Kitchen Coordinator, taking care of preparing many of our Kiddush meals and snacks.  Rani previously owned the Bagga Pasta deli in the Fairfield plaza.  She currently runs her own catering business, called Left Coast Catering, which provides meals to various social and environmental activist groups around Victoria as well as Jewish community events.  She also volunteers with the Mustard Seed’s commercial processing kitchen, which uses waste food from grocery stores and turns them into prepared hot meals for the Mustard Seed’s Queens Avenue location. Rani is the chair of Victoria’s chapter of Fair Vote Canada, a lobbying group dedicated to electoral reform that results in more effective democratic government. When not busy in the kitchen, Rani enjoys hiking and gardening. Rani is very pleased to have the opportunity to serve Victoria’s Jewish community. Please drop by the kitchen and say shalom to Rani.

Kafe & Kibitz resumes

kafe kibitzSunday, January 19, 2020, 10:15 am to noon,  710 Pandora Avenue lobby—Kafe & Kibitz is back! Come schmooze with other parents in a warm & welcoming environment. For January 19, the theme is “Judaism and the Environment.” Dr. Rick Kool, who teaches at Royal Roads University in the School of Environment and Sustainability will join us. Parents are welcome to bring young children along. If you have any questions, please contact Jennifer Karmona at (jkarmo@gmail.com). We look forward to engaging conversation, laughter, reflection, support, and, of course, caffeine. Everyone is welcome, including  non-members—feel free to spread the word. Find us online at the Jewish Families Greater Victoria Facebook group.

Kafka and Secular Jewish Mysticism

Kafka postponed!POSTPONED from Sunday, January 5, 2020 due to illness. Will announce new date when available. —The Emanu-El Adult Education Team invites you to the third presentation in the Alternative Realities in Judaism series when Lee Henderson will take a look at the life and work of the great 20th century Jewish writer Franz Kafka and his relationship to Tanakh, the tales of Rabbi Nachman, the Midrash, Kaballah, as well as contemporary secular political ideologies.

A weekend of memory and remembrance with Rabbi Victor Reinstein (January 25 & 26, 2020)

Rabbi Reinstein

Shabbat Service and Special Kiddush
Please come and celebrate with us on Saturday, January 25, 2020 at Congregation Emanu-El as we welcome Rabbi Victor Reinstein back to the congregation he led for many years. Rabbi Reinstein is visiting from Boston. He will give the drash during our Shabbat service. Following services, there will be a special Kiddush in his honour. We hope you will join us for this happy event and have a chance to either reconnect or connect for the first time with Rabbi Reinstein.

We welcome donations to cover the cost of this Kiddush. Please contact the synagogue office at 250-382-0615 if you wish to contribute to this special occasion.

Tell Them Not to Hate
On Sunday January 26, at 2 pm at the JCC, Victor Reinstein will give a speech: “Tell Them Not to Hate” — Words of Witness and Sacred Imperatives. In recognition of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, he will reflect on the first commemorations of the Shoah Victoria, when our congregation included many survivors. “Their words,” Rabbi Reinstein recalls, “seared into our collective consciousness . . .  we sought to honor our survivors. In the process, we were strengthened and given hope.”

Following his lecture, members of the University of Victoria’s Defying Hatred Project will share the results of their research on communal memory, history, and resilience.

With thanks from the Religious Services Committee, The Shoah Project, and the Defying Hatred Project.

A ‘Welcome Bon Voyage’ Kiddush

Welcome Bon Voyage 2Saturday, January 18, 2020—Helene Kadziora and President Ruthi invite the congregation to join them for a special ‘Welcome Bon Voyage’ kiddush luncheon following services on January 18, 2020 welcoming our temporary Rabbi Matt Ponek, his wife Melina and children Orion and Sephira and bidding bon voyage to Rabbi Harry and RaeAnn as they embark on a three month sabbatical.

A message from Rabbi Harry

Rabbi HarryDear Ones,
The current wave of violence and hatred towards our people is scary and anxiety producing. From Pittsburgh to Poway, from Jersey City to Monsey, we are witnessing rampant antisemitism with lots of small acts of desecration and hate filled symbolism popping up seemingly everywhere including our beloved Camp Miriam on Gabriola Island. Hatred towards Jews and Judaism transcends politics; it is too easy to fall into an ideological trap and blame one worldview over another for the current abhorrent resurgence of antisemitism. Highly erroneous and sometimes pernicious formulations about us emerge from both ends of the political spectrum. Hatred of Jews does not distinguish between different flavours or expressions of Judaism. Among ourselves, singling out one expression of Judaism over another as a more likely target is an exercise in blaming the victim and is highly counterproductive.

When the Divine Source calls our ancestors, Abraham and Sarah, to “Go forth, Lekh Lekha, to a new land that I will show thee” God gives them an assurance and incredible blessing that is passed down through the generations to us; “I will bless those who bless you and curse the one that curses you, and all the families of earth shall bless themselves by you.” (Genesis 12:3) We are the recipients of a powerful mystery linked intrinsically to our covenant. How are we still here on the planet as a people intact when virtually all other ancient peoples have faded into history? How is it that we have the power to constantly bounce back and to not only survive but to thrive? Nations that hate us and persecute us eventually bring on their own destruction and degradation. It is clear that we are to be a blessing. We are to live our lives infused with the values of Torah, lives infused with goodness, compassion and peace. We are tasked to be a mamlekhet kohanim, a kingdom of priests (read “healers”). We are to be a light unto the nations—an agent that reflects Divine consciousness, enlightenment, Divine Source. When we do this, we are blessed and provide a socket for others to plug into Divine flow and receive abundance through blessing.

When we speak of covenant and chosenness, we must be very careful to not fall into the trap of exceptionalism. Feeling chosen can be understood in a way that is misguided and can lead to ethnocentrism and xenophobia. Believing that we are inherently superior to others is a flagrant and dangerous misreading of Torah which teaches us that all humanity is created in God’s image and likeness. The idea that some of us are more human and more like God than others simply smacks of racism.

I know from Torah that our covenant with Divine Source holds blessings for all humanity. I sense that deep in our Jewish kishkes we know that Jews are the human “canary in a coal mine.” When there is lack of hope, when struggles seem too great to solve collectively, Jew-hatred emerges. When world leaders peddle a steady diet of fear, separation and scarcity, Jew-hatred is reinforced. Antisemitism is an early indicator that something very grave is wrong in our world.

How do we stay sane, safe and generative in spite of this increasingly scary phenomenon? First we call on our courage and faith. We call on our strength as a people to overcome this wave of hatred. We call on our history of surviving and thriving. We call on our sacred and moral tradition to guide us. We keep current events in perspective and do not experience every act or gesture as an actual threat. We ensure that Jewish hatred does not divide us, we work towards achdut, unity. We call on our allies and friends for solidarity and power. We speak truth to power and we remember that we are only as strong as our most vulnerable brothers and sisters. We dedicate ourselves to living meaningful Jewish lives that are infused with pride and joy. We take the well-worn and well-known words of Rabbi Nachman and hold them like a mantra or talisman: the whole world is a very narrow bridge and the essential thing to know deep in the fiber of our being is to not be afraid. In courage, we feel fear but we act with bravery. Ḥazak v’ematz—be strong and courageous and make our lives a blessing. This is a time to show up for one another and to nourish pride and strength.

Rabbi Harry

Sharing the light: Ḥanukkah 2019

Sameah Hanukkah!On December 22, 2019, a crowd gathered in Centennial Square to celebrate the first night of Ḥanukkah. The musical headliner was the high-octane and popular Victoria High Rhythm and Blues Band. After lighting a large free-standing menorah (“shout out” to Ed Walker), the music and dancing began. Holiday joy, ruaḥ (spirit) and “horas” filled the square. Participants were invited to let their inner light shine amid the darkness of the season and, at times, our troubled world. Generosity and kindness led to many donations to the Avodah “8 for 8 campaign” to support the food bank at St. John the Divine. The backdrop of the “Lights of Wonder” exhibit encouraged more attendees than usual (too many to count!) to show up at the menorah lighting. Lastly, a heartfelt thanks goes to the Downtown Victoria Business Association who partnered with us in this successful and memorable evening.
For more photos (taken by Penny Tennenhouse, Frances Aknai & Frances Rosenberg)…