Tu B’Shevat Seder and Environmental Commitment

Sunday 16 January, 1:00 pm – Join us on Zoom for a spirited Seder and an important discussion led by Rick Kool on “Personal steps to Environmental Sanity”.

This year, Rick Kool, a creative thinker and professor of Environmental Education at Royal Roads University, will lead us in a discussion of ideas and the doable life changes that we can all make to reduce our personal carbon footprint and gain greater environmental sustainability.  We will share a meaningful Seder where we will honour trees, fruit and Divine Source’s footprint in creation.

Tu B’Shevat is the Jewish New Year for trees. This Jewish Arbor Day likely began as an agricultural festival marking the emergence of spring.  The holiday is celebrated on the 15th (Tu) of the month of Shevat. 17th century Kabbalists in the land of Israel created a “Seder” that incorporates eating different fruits connecting to Mystical understanding of the four worlds (four modes of reality): doing, feeling, thinking and being in Spirit. The Seder also connects to the Kabbalistic idea of the Tree of Life, a cosmic map of the sefirot (lenses to understand Divine Source’s presence). Contemporary Jewish life has also incorporated elements of tree planting, ecosystem rehabilitation and learning about a Jewish environmental ethic. 

How to Participate

Here are the foods and items that you’ll need. Feel free to substitute what you have on hand for the suggested items. As the foods are symbols and signs to help us get closer to concepts and emotions, please feel free to use items that speak to you and are easy to procure.   Where possible, note that is customary to prefer fruits grown in the land of Israel and that are mentioned in the Bible (bolded in the list)

  • Wine/grape juice.  We will be using both red and white.  Feel free to substitute a light fruit juice if you can’t find white grape juice.
  • Fruit that has a hard outer shell and is soft and edible inside—walnut, almond, coconut, pomegranate.
  • Fruit that is soft on the outside that has a hard inner core (pit)—olives, dates, apricots, peaches
  • Fruit that is entirely edible—figs, grapes, raisins, berries, apples

What to Expect

We will learn more about these symbolic foods and how they relate to our lives and our relationship with Creation.

Our original plan was to join together with our Hebrew School and do a beach clean up and Seder.  Please join us for the Seder online and find ways to make Tu B’Shevat meaningful as we all take needed steps that reflect our commitment to environmental sanity.

Looking forward to learning, exploring, and feasting together!

Summary of event details

Congregation Emanu-El Shabbat Dinners Postponed

The Membership Committee was excited to offer a Shabbat Dinner Program to our members a couple of months ago. An unprecedented number of guests and hosts responded to our invitation to participate. 

Now, we’ve decided to pause out of an abundance of caution. We’ll wait until public health officials provide more encouraging news about gatherings. Hopefully, we won’t have to wait too long!

From Rabbi Harry: Services Moving Online

Dear Ones,

With a heavy heart that is also holding hope and light, I need to tell you that we will move to online services for the next few weeks.  For the safety of all of us, not only those who attend services but also those who depend upon our Outreach and pastoral care, we need to do our part to keep our whole community safe. Our hope is that, once the intensity of this Omicron wave passes, we will be able to return with strength to in-person prayer. 

Our Zoom-only services provide a way for us to connect to one another in a prayerful context.  Let’s not let the pandemic eclipse the need for us to lift one another up in times of sorrow and turmoil nor to celebrate joyful life passages and achievement.  As we enter another episode of intentional semi-isolation, the online platforms offer us an opportunity to reach out and check-in with one another.  Prayer is understood as “avodat halev,” the service of the heart.  Please have a heart and help do your part in supporting both our Shabbat morning service and our weekly minyan on Thursdays, which are both now online on Zoom.  I know that seeing folks–even in a tiny box on a computer screen–lightens my heart.

B’virkat shalom,

Rabbi Harry

Below are recurring links to our Shabbat and Thursday morning Service, as well as the link to this Sunday’s Tu B’Shevat Seder.

Shabbat Service 10:00 AM

Thursday Morning Service 7:00 AM

Tu B’Shevat Seder and Discussion Sunday 16 January 1:00 PM

Tikkun Olam: Warm Feet and Happy Hearts


“Of all the gifts we receive, the importance of socks cannot be overemphasized”

Rev. Al Tysick

Every year since 2005, Emanu-El member Michael Bloomfield has helped put socks on the feet of Victoria’s homeless population. To date, over 125,000 pairs of socks valued at $562,500 have been distributed. In 2019, Michael won the prestigious National Philanthropy Day award for Outstanding Fundraising Volunteer.

You can be a part of this year’s campaign by volunteering some time or donating to the Victoria Cool Aid Society: https://coolaid.org/socks

Michael first reached out to McGregor Socks, who responded generously. Today, PVH Legwear Canada makes McGregor socks and, together with the Victoria Cool Aid Society and other local social services agencies, Michael’s efforts distribute about 10,000 pairs of socks a year to the homeless in Victoria, Duncan, Nanaimo and Salt Spring Island. La-Z-Boy Furniture generously ships the socks from Mississauga to Victoria.

All of this is possible because Michael’s compassion became action. Cold and wet feet are prone to infection, nail and skin diseases, fungus, and frostbite. 

“A gift of socks is a gift of health for our neighbours who are homeless

Don McTavish, Cool Aid’s Director of Housing and Shelters

Twenty-five pairs of socks costs $25 but any amount helps. 

For information or to volunteer, contact Michael Bloomfield though the Emanu-El office: info@congregationemanuel.ca

“These socks are a powerful manifestation of the teaching, Love your neighbour as you love yourself.”

Rabbi Harry

BEMA’s Readers Theatre Festival Postponed

Our many youth and adult thespians were days from starting rehearsals when, sadly, we had to postpone due to the Covid surge. 

We will reschedule as soon as it is safe to do so. Purchased tickets can be refunded or used on the new date (TBA).

Cast from 2019 Bema Productions’, And a Child Shall Lead, with Director Zelda Dean

Rick Kool, Rabbi Harry and Bishop Anna Comment in the Times-Colonist

Rick Kool, Emanu-El Board Cemetery Director and Environment and Sustainability Professor at Royal Roads University, together with Rabbi Harry and Anglican Bishop Anna Greenwood-Lee, have co-published in the Times-Colonist following a joint community vigil outside our MLA’s office: Candles 4 Climate Change.  This text substantively reflects Rick’s remarkable words at the vigil. 

Read the article: “A Call for Coherence in this Climate Emergency”

Contribute to The Good Food Box

Victoria’s affordable produce box

Victoria’s vulnerable are facing a food shortage; numerous ways exist so we can all be part of the solution. Congregation Emanuel-El’s social action committee, Avodah, is sponsoring two George Jay School families with large food boxes containing 10 to 13 varieties of veggies and fruit for a year.

Here’s an opportunity for you to order a food box for yourself or sponsor one for a family in need.

For further information visit the website at: thegoodfoodbox.ca or call 250-381-1552 ext. 100 to set up your weekly or bi-weekly prepaid order.

Rivka Campbell: Featured Building Bridges Speaker

Building Bridges Speaker Series

January 9, 2022: Rivka Campbell will be the featured speaker in Kolot Mayim Reform Temple’s Building Bridges: Celebrating Diversity in Jewish Life event on Sunday, January 9 at 11AM PST on Zoom. Her talk is titled Harmony in a Divided Identity: A minority within a minority. Rivka, a Jew of Jamaican descent born and raised in Toronto, will talk about her work building community among Jews of Colour (JOC) in Canada while opening dialogue among the mainstream Jewish community about the experience of Jews of Colour and Jewish diversity.

Jews of Colour (JOC) is a pan-ethnic term used to identify Jews whose family origins lie in African, Asian, or Latin American countries. JOCs may identify as being of Black, Latino, Asian, biracial, or multi-racial heritage, while Mizrahi and Sephardi Jews from North African and Arab lands vary as to whether they self-identify as JOC. A common question, inappropriately posed to JOCs is “What’s your story?” Rivka’s story will include a conversation about navigating within the Jewish community as a JOC and how as a community we can work towards a common goal of ensuring that all our mishpacha (family) feel welcome and valued. 

Rivka Campbell is the co-founder of the group Jews of Colour – Canada. She is a recognized speaker on Jewish Diversity and has been interviewed by CJN and other publications numerous times. Rivka is filming a documentary on Jewish Diversity. She is the host of the CJN podcast “Rivkush” which focuses on diversity, Israel, and Jewish topics. She is also the Executive Director at Beit Rayim Synagogue and a board member of ADRABA – Toronto’s first 21st century Jewish high school. Rivka is the sole Canadian recipient of the inaugural JewV’Nation Fellowship from the Union for Reform Judaism. 

Summary of event details

MAZEL TOV! B’nei Mitzvah Exhibit

Congregation member Dena Gelfand curated this exhibit with submissions from current or former members on the B’nei Mitzvah theme. She and her volunteers filled the case with colourful and joyful memories of this rite of passage. Here are a few more photos from the display because we know it is still not time to gather together for freilich events. There is room on the outside side wall of the case for more photos, contact Dena through the Office if you want to put up something from a past B’nei Mitzvah celebration.

Canadian Jewish Community Forum Survey

The Canadian Jewish Community Forum is a newly-formed organization with the goal to promote participation in, engagement with, and a sense of ownership of Jewish advocacy and programs in Canada by all members of the Canadian Jewish community.

We first want to survey the Jewish community of Canada. We hope to take the pulse of Canadian Jews.  This survey will be an opportunity for as many Jews as we can canvass from across the country to share their priorities with us. 

The survey will be confidential. We will not be collecting any identifying information. At the end of the survey there will be an option for people to opt-in to our mailing list. We intend to make the survey results available to any Jewish organization that requests it. 

Results of the survey will be followed by forums held across the country on topics that our community identifies as being important to us. The forums will be a safe place for Jews to respectfully discuss and debate with each other, from our differing perspectives, issues of concern both regional, national and international that impact Canada, the Canadian Jewish community and Israel. Our goal is to truly be a Forum for Canadian Jews.

For more information about the CJCF, who we are and more background on our initiative we invite you to look at our website: https://canadian-jewish-community-forum.ca and to contact us at: thecjcf@gmail.com. The survey is available in both official languages.