Greater Victoria Acting Together (GVAT)

GVAT imageWednesday July 18, at 7 pm — Join Rabbi Harry and others on Wednesday July 18, at 7 pm at the home of Ruthi Wicks for a GVAT Call-out and pilot listening session. Anyone interested in learning more about GVAT and/or joining the process of bringing about positive change in our community and beyond as described in the following paragraphs by Rabbi Harry is welcome.
“We live in a time of increasing polarization, anxiety and fear: a time when truth is subjective, and around the world the spectre of demagoguery rears its head. Leaders are unencumbered by facts: the most exposed and vulnerable of society are increasingly at risk.

We believe that the medicine for polarization and fear mongering is relationship building. In working for the common good we serve as partners with Divine Source to bring about tikkun olam. This is a powerful mode of resistance to demagogues.

Our congregation is a founding member of Greater Victoria Acting Together (GVAT), an alliance of faith communities, trade unions, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and community organizations joined together to build strength for affecting positive change in our city, our province and our world. GVAT is based on the traditions of the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), a community organizing movement founded in 1940 in Chicago based on the ideology of the American community organizer and writer Saul Alinsky, founder of modern community organizing.

GVAT is about working together towards a reality that expresses shalom, equality, sustainability and compassion. GVAT believes that strong communities are made up of strong organizations wherein sister organizations lend expertise and support to one another. Involvement in GVAT is good for our congregation. It allows us to use our unique gifts to help other organizations and offers us organizational partners to call upon for power and guidance. GVAT principles hold that strength begins by listening and knowing your community.

A challenge for us as Jews: there are organizations and trade unions that hold ideas and stances that are abrasive and alienating for us as a Jewish organization. The world of social justice is currently not always a comfortable place for us as Jews. The hope is that by working together on shared values we can forge relationships, change hearts and make a positive difference.

We want to involve you in a listening campaign. We have had opportunities to hear from many congregants about what attaches ḥaverim (members) to Emanu-El. We have heard stories of what congregants love about our congregation and what has been tricky for members in our congregation. We have listened to congregants describe their own struggles as collectively we try to understand what are the crucial problems facing our greater community and the world. Before we tally up the data from our own listening, we want to hear from you!

Please come join us.”

Rabbi Harry


What a fine concert!

Carol thanks the audience!On Sunday June 7, an appreciative crowd attended the Jewish Community Choir Evening of Jewish Music concert. The audience enjoyed the music and expressed genuine enthusiasm as they mingled with the choir after the performance and enjoyed refreshments.  Here are a few photos from this lovely evening. Thank you, Penney and Frances Aknai for making these available.

Musical Kabbalat Shabbat Loses a Maestro

Kabba Shabba loses maestro

Last Friday night’s eco-vegetarian (read: bring your own utensils and a veggie dish to share) kabbalat shabbat was a big crowd pleaser for the fifty synagogue members, friends and visitors in attendance. The kabbalat shabbat service was accompanied by our wonderful musical group, the Kabba Shabba Band, consisting of violins, guitar, harp, drums, singers and others. Kids were invited to perform dance routines with Rabbi Harry, and adults later formed a dancing chain. It was also a last performance for synagogue and veteran band member Dániel Péter Biró.

Sadly Dr. Biró, a UVic Professor of Music and renowned new music composer, organizer of the SALT New Music Festival, and a recent winner of a major Guggenheim fellowship, is departing for new horizons at the University of Bergen, Norway, where he has been hired to lead the experimental new music program. We wish Dániel, his wife Zsofia Surjan, and their son Dávid (a recent Emanu-El bar mitzvah), well on their journey north and eastward. They will be greatly missed. We hope to hear news of their flourishing new life in Norway!

Tish’ah Be’Av 2018

Tishah BeAvSaturday, July 21 at 10 pm, Sunday, July 22 at 9:30 am (Note new times)Tish’ah Be’Av—the ninth day of the month of Av—marks dark moments in Jewish history: the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem, the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492, and many other tragedies experienced by the Jewish people. According to the midrash, God marked this date as a an eternal day of mourning after the spies that Moses had sent to observe the land of Canaan returned from their mission with a negative report as to whether the land could be conquered.

There is a teaching in the Talmud (Tractate Yoma) that the Second Temple was destroyed due to baseless hatred. We are entering Tish’ah Be’Av this year at a time of global anxiety and uncertainty: trade wars, conflict in the Middle East, war, refugees and immigrants being turned away at borders. Join with your congregation in commemorating Tish’ah Be’Av in a spirit of ḥesed ḥinam—free flowing love.

Tish’ah Be’Av this year commences on Saturday July 21. We will begin services at 10:00 pm on Saturday with evening prayers followed by the chanting of Megillat Eikhah (Lamentations) and the traditional liturgical poems of yearning for a Jerusalem rebuilt, all done by candlelight.

We will have morning services on Sunday, July 22 starting at 9:30 am.

May this season of escalating tensions and violence soon end. “May we see a day when war and bloodshed cease and humankind will not again know war.”

All Are Welcome!

Guide to Jewish Cemetery Draws a Crowd

Book SigningClose to 50 people came to the official book launch for the Guide to Victoria’s Historic Jewish Cemetery written by Amber Woods and published by the Old Cemeteries Society. Rick Kool was the MC on behalf of Congregation Emanu-El and the Cemetery Committee. Short presentations were given by John Azar of the Old Cemeteries Society (OCS) and Amber Woods. Gary Cohen read a short biography as an illustration of one of the three anomalies of the Jewish Cemetery. Books were sold and signed in the social hall and a few Jewish desserts were served.

The Synagogue Key Saga (aka “Tales from the Key Box”)


I am an office volunteer. Most Thursdays you can find me in the office doing whatever our office manager, Zelda, has for me. About 6 months ago Zelda asked me to organize the keys in the key box. The key box is located on the back wall of the office. Inside were 27 hooks. On each hook hung from two to ten keys. The keys were labeled, after a fashion. The labels were of every description, from plastic to masking tape, many shapes and colours – some unreadable, some mislabeled. There was a chart that told what each key was, on each numbered hook. Except that they did not match. I had my work cut out for me.

Over the next six months I worked on those keys. I visited the three levels of our shul trying keys in locks. I discovered the locked compost and hydro meters outside the rear of the shul. A key labeled storage room cupboard didn’t actually unlock anything, it was the handle to open the cupboard door. I discovered why there were 100 keys that did not work in any lock in the building: whenever anyone changed a lock or door knob, they had six copies of the new key made. Then they hung all those new keys on top of the old ones. The more the merrier. There was a key for something ancient (no one had ever seen a key in that shape). A paper towel dispenser had an upper and a lower door with key holes but the key holes were different. And one key was missing. A key labeled paper towel dispenser was from an earlier dispenser. The new dispenser was not locked. At this point nothing surprised me.

In honour of this project Zelda bought new key ring labels, all the same shape, in pastel colours. Now this key box is a thing of joy. Easy to identify and find a key, maximum two keys on a hook, numbers match keys on the chart. After months hunched over piles of keys, or roaming our historic building, I have a new appreciation for the inner workings of keys and locks. I can finally say the key box is in order. And heaven help anyone if they return a key to the wrong hook!

Now Zelda wants me to make a second full set of keys to be stored away. That should only take me three hours. Price’s Alarms, here I come.

From your Thursday office volunteer,

Sharon Fitch, alufat hamefeteḥot