GVAT on prevention of youth homelessness

GVAT revisedGVAT (Greater Victoria Acting Together) is an alliance of unions, congregations, environmental, education, local business, and frontline service organizations, working together for the common good in Greater Victoria and British Columbia. Congregation Emanu-El is a GVAT founding member. We have congregants who participate in Action Research Teams that are currently working on three issues: 1. Housing for all, 2. Mental Health and Addictions care, and 3. Climate Action.
Greatly concerned about youth homelessness during these COVID-19 times, GVAT wrote to the provincial government ministers in charge of this issue on July 24, 2020. Here is a link to this letter…

We Did It!

Caring & Sharing We did it 1000Our on-line auction was both fun and successful. Corrine and Zelda are still working hard to tally the final numbers – initial calculations are that we raised just under $10,000.
The success of our Caring and Sharing Auction is a tribute to our members’ support for Congregation Emanu-el.  A big vote of thanks to those who generously contributed items and to those who bid!
Jean Dragushan
Fundraising Chair

Shabbat Service in the Sanctuary

PHOTOsanctuarysocial distancing 1000If you are longing for a return to our beautiful sanctuary for a soulful Shabbat service this is your opportunity. Our COVID-19 response team has determined that we can return to services. Susan Holtz has been working tirelessly on the details required for us to return safely. Please keep in mind that in order to reduce risk and maintain safety, things will need to be different. We will do our utmost to craft an experience that holds the essence of our prayer service. We are super excited to host our congregation back in our spiritual home.

YOU MUST PRE-REGISTER. Continue reading Shabbat Service in the Sanctuary

Emanu-El Picnic Wrap-Up

IMG_8298 1000A group of nearly 50 congregants gathered on Ingrid Friesen’s beautiful Saanich farm on Sunday, July 12, 2020 for a picnic and a  wonderful face-to-face encounter. We enjoyed delicious central American food provided by Congregation Emanu-El’s own Benjamin de la Vega and family through his catering company, Pinto Xpress. While ensuring that social distancing was maintained we particpated in some very fun Latin dance lessons from Benjamin and his daughter Ariel! We all enjoyed getting to see each other in person. Our membership committee hopes to hold other similar events in the future! (For photos by Frances Rosenberg…)

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

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


Zelda Dean: Focus on Victoria article

Zelda DeanArtist Elfrida Schragen has painted portraits of Victoria women as a fundraiser for Our Place.  Zelda’s portrait and description is the last one.  To read the article “Artist Elfrida Schragen’s art show—originally planned for May—is online now, with all proceeds helping those in deep need during the Covid-19 crisis” by Molly Kaye, please click on the link: https://www.focusonvictoria.ca/cover-19-pandemic-response/22/

And the entire community zoomed along with Tillie

Tillie is Bat Mitzvah 1000“We want to thank the entire Emanu-El community for helping make Tillie’s zoom Bat Mitzvah such a wonderful celebration. At one point, 93 households were on the zoom feed! It was really meaningful to us to “see” you all there, listening and praying and singing along with us. We didn’t know what to expect when we planned a zoom Bat Mitzvah, we just knew there wasn’t another good alternative. The experience so exceeded our expectations; we really felt the love come through the feed, and are so grateful to be part of such a warm and supportive community.” The Stanger-Ross family! Continue reading And the entire community zoomed along with Tillie