Partners in Light – in text and pictures


Rabbi Harry writes:

Partners in Light – Emanu-El’s public Hanukkah Menorah Lighting – was a fantastic fun filled evening.

We lit our giant oversized hanukkiah (to give it its proper Hebrew name), designed and built by Ed Walker.

We had amazing music by the Victoria High School Rhythm & Blues Band: starting  with some classic R&B, followed by some Hanukkah songs and  a rousing rendition of Hava Nagila.
Aaron Severs was our master of ceremonies, and a short teaching by Rabbi HarryMayor Fortin shared a few words and lit the first candle along with other members of city council. MLA Lana Popham lit a candle and was followed by the leadership of Cool Aid, Out of the Rain, Burnside Gorge, The Coalition to End Homelessness, Faith in Action and of course our own Penny Tennenhouse representing Avodah.

The intention of the evening was to offer thanks to our partners in social action and to use the word ḥanukkah –which means dedication – to dedicate ourselves to the fight against poverty and social injustice.

We all enjoyed some Hanukkah treats and the dancing was super fun. Can’t wait till next year.

Poem for Rabbi Harry’s 50th Birthday

At the Saturday, November 23, 2013, service, Dvora Levin read the poem she wrote to Rabbi Harry.  Rabbi Harry’s family and friends provided the Kiddush luncheon in honour of his 50th birthday on November 26th.

(Ada Cotton provided Rabbi Harry’s birthday cake that came from Bubby Rose.)

In his 50th year, he welcomed our community to celebrate

the 150th Anniversary of Congregation Emanu-el,

leading us through moments of remembering,

moments of gratitude, moments of joy

and sadness too.

Our teacher, leading us

on the well-trodden road of ritual,

leading us into the mists of mystery,

expanding the energies of angels

and Rabbis who have gone before.

His passport stamped with so many places,

Israel, Russia, India, New York, New Orleans,

always returning with his suitcases filled

with more questions than answers,

more doors opening.

He gathers us, newborns, children, parents,

and those of us drifting nearer the gates,

calling out to artists, teaching

to the whir of grinding beans,

the hiss of espresso machines.

Davening on Shabbat, High Holidays, Thursdays

at 7am, John’s Place, our second minyan, 

he helps us be restored,

as our torah scrolls are restored,

as perfectly as we can.

This year, he joined so many mitzvoth volunteers

parading to the sounds of choirs, musicians

and oompa bands, auctioning treasures,

gifting apologies to our First Nations,

socks and birthday cakes to the poor,

Building new stairs to sanctuary, sanding smooth

the rough floors of our troubled minds.

And always, in all ways, Rabbi Harry inviting us

to be with him, together, to sing along, creating

and re-creating our community’s sacred song.

Dvora Levin

Vegetarian Cholent

by David Bodrug
Many a winter’s Shabbat was graced with this cholent recipe, a vegetarian modification of a meat-based recipe from Elizabeth Wolf-Cohen’s What’s Cooking Jewish (Parragon Publishing UK).  You’ll find that in time, you’ll find your own intuitive balance of spicing – and feel free to experiment with this as an “Al Dafina” Sephardi version using North African spicing.  Crockpots can be of different sizes, so if you think there’s too many ingredients, omit a couple of potatoes or a half-cup of the navy beans.  You can also make this recipe in the oven in a heavy pot (the ceramic flameproof casserole ones are best), cooking it at 225°F.
Prepare in advance:
  • 2 cups white navy beans (I use dry beans soaked overnight)
  • 4 onions, diced and/or sliced
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, chopped small
  • 1 can red kidney beans
  • 1 package of veggie sausages
  • ½ cup short grain brown rice
  • 6-10 potatoes
  • 1-2 large yam(s)
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1-2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1-2 tsp cumin
  • 1-2 tsp salt
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 6-8 tbsp water
  • 1 28oz can of diced canned tomatoes (unseasoned, low sodium if possible) 
  • pepper to taste
If you like it hot, you can add ½ tsp of cayenne, or 1 tbsp of Sambel Olek sauce.
I usually put 2 tbsp of olive oil in the bottom of the slow cooker and spread it around the bottom and sides with paper towel.
In a large frying pan, saute the onions on medium heat until golden brown, and then add the garlic for the last 30-60 seconds.  Remove onions and garlic to the slow cooker, and saute the veggie sausages so they soak up the onion and garlic flavour and carmelize a little.  When they’re finished, layer on top of the onions.
I usually put the navy beans as the next layer and dust them with thyme and cumin.   Nestle the bay leaves amongst the beans.  Potatoes are next, with paprika (in recent months I’ve taken to covering the potatoes with a dusting of paprika before putting them in). Then yams with cumin. Then the rice and kidney beans with chili powder.  Then the canned tomatoes.  I usually add the salt and pepper here.
It all melds in the end, but I think the above combo layers melds particular spices with particular items in a way that does make a subtle difference.  You can also repeat layers if you have a bigger crock pot.
Once the layers are set up, I clean the pan used for the onions and garlic.  I put it on medium-high heat and put the brown sugar in.  Pour about 2 tbsp of water over the sugar and let it bubble and carmelize – stirring gently.  Have the remaining 4-6 tbsp water in a glass ready to pour in before the sugar carmelizes.  Once carmelized, I slowly pour the rest of the water in and swirl it around as I transit the pan from the stovetop to above the slow cooker.  Pour the contents of the pan over the contents of the slow cooker as you would salad dressing.  Then pour water to cover all the contents of the cholent pot.
Make sure you have enough room to get enough water that it won’t dry out, but you should also aim to have a good half-inch between the water covering the cholent and the top of the crockpot – or else if may bubble up and overflow when the rise and beans expand.  You’ll find the right balance of ingredients to the size of your crockpot in time.  Also check your crockpot before starting to cook.  Some crockpots will turn themselves off after 12 hours, which won’t help in the winter months when you’re setting up a cholent at 3 in the afternoon to be eaten for the next days lunch!
I hope this recipe brings you as much nachas and simcha as it did for me in making it for the Emanu-El kehillah over the years.  If you find improvements on the recipe through your own experimentation, please send them to me!  I’m still in the directory.
Enjoy and Shabbat Shalom!

[Find this and other recipes in the forthcoming Sefer Emanu-El book in honour of the congregation’s Sesquicentennial]

New Congregation Emanu-El website to go live!


The new Congregation Emanu-el website (currently on preview at will replace the current one (still located at — ably designed and maintained by Stephen Kagan – which has served a long and useful life but is now feeling its age.

The new site is designed to include some unique features that will be helpful to those wishing to learn more about the synagogue. It includes a running text feed of events posted to the synagogue’s Tumblr blog (administered by Jonathan Stoppi) and our ad-hoc Facebook group (administered by Judy Honickman-Fuller). It also includes links to the most recent and previous weekly newsletters (also designed by Jonathan), as well as a working calendar of events. Rabbi Harry is planning to begin offering a bi-weekly video talk that will be posted to the site as well.

The site is a work-in-progress: it mirrors the structure (but not the design) of the current website, with the idea that in the coming months structural changes to the site’s design will make it even easier to navigate and to get the information visitors need.

The site was designed through the volunteer efforts of Lincoln Shlensky using Weebly, a platform that should allow even non-techies to make content and design changes as desired. In addition to the new site, Rabbi Harry has proposed that the shul form a Technology Committee to help unify and coordinate the various online and social media (website, blog, newsletter, Facebook page, etc.) dedicated to Emanu-El activities.

We are very excited to be able to offer visitors to the new website an aesthetically pleasing experience, whether they are just browsing or seeking specific information about synagogue events, history, and services. We hope you will visit the site often and provide feedback on its features, design and structure!

Yam, Cheese & Walnut Salad

by Frances Aknai


  • 2 Yams
  • 1 cup Walnut halves
  • 3 Green onions, sliced
  • 1 cup Crumbled Feta (goat’s) cheese*
  • 1/8 cup Vegetable oil
  • 1/8 cup Pure Maple Syrup


Roast yams in oven or microwave, being careful not to overcook.  Cool and cut into cubes.

In a large mixing bowl combine yams, walnut halves, feta cheese and onions.

In a small bowl mix together the oil and maple syrup.  Add to ingredients in large bowl. 

Cover and refrigerate for several hours. 

*NOTE:  Apetina Feta Cheese (crumbled) has “K” marked on the package in case you are concerned about buy kosher products.

Harry Five-O


Saturday, November 23: join us in celebrating Rabbi Harry’s half century birthday!

Shocking, isn’t it? What better way to celebrate than with prayers and food – join us for services and a kiddush luncheon on Nov. 23.

Rabbi Harry requests no gifts, please, but donations to the shul are welcome. The kiddush fund could use a top up (the Brechner’s and friends are sponsoring this lunch) and the Rabbi’s Discretionary Fund is another worthy choice – as are so many other shul funds – please donate however you choose.

Hope to see you on Nov. 23!

An Evening with Eleanor Wachtel – Review


What a wonderful night!

Saturday, November 9, almost 250 people squeezed into the synagogue to hear Eleanor Wachtel of CBC Writers and Company. This penultimate event presented by the Jewish Arts Committee to celebrate Congregation Emanu-El’s Sesquicentennial was an unqualified success.

The evening began with a moving introduction and tribute by the Committee’s chair, Isa Milman, who reminded us that “the Jewish people have been held together by words: as ‘the People of the Book’, we know how precious words are, not only to remember, but to learn how to conduct our lives.”

Eleanor Wachtel, holder of 8 honorary degrees, is a master of words and their impact upon us. She has the uncanny ability to delve into the mysteries of the written word, through her conversations with the great writers of our time. She spoke about authors she had interviewed, many of them Jewish writers such as Harold Bloom, Oliver Sacks, Aharon Appelfeld, but Isabel Allende and Alice Munro were also affectionately discussed.

Wachtel mentioned that one of the characteristics that contribute to her success is that she reads widely and indiscriminately, and makes sure she reads everything the author she is interviewing has written. She treasures her vacations, because “that’s the only time I get to readdead writers”.

A question period and a reception followed, as well as a raffle ticket for 5 books donated by Munro Books. Many thanks to an enthusiastic audience both from the synagogue and the larger community, to Munro’s for books, to Penny Tennenhouse for great photos, and to the Festival Arts Committee and the fabulous volunteers.

Penny’s photos (in reverse order) can be seen at her album of the event.

– Barbara Pelman

Apple crisp

by Frances Aknai


⅓ cup brown sugar 

2 TBSP flour

½ tsp. cinnamon

6 cups (about 7 apples or 2¼ lbs.) peeled and thinly sliced apples

1 cup quick cooking oatmeal

½ cup flour

¼ cup brown sugar 

1 cup chopped walnuts

½ cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease an 8” square cake pan. Set aside.
Combine the ⅓ cup brown sugar, 2 tbsp. flour and cinnamon in a large bowl. Add sliced apples, tossing to coat. Spoon into prepared pan. Set aside.

In another bowl combine quick cooking oatmeal, ½ cup flour, ¼ cup brown sugar and walnuts. Stir in melted butter. (Mixture will be crumbly.) Spoon over apple mixture.

Bake 45 minutes or until apple mixture is bubbly and topping is golden brown. Serve warm.

“Us and Them: A Memoir of Tribes and Tribulations”

Us and Them: A Memoir of Tribes and Tribulations by Sid Tafler – originally launched at the Fisher Building as a paperback – is now available as an ebook at Amazon, Kobo, Apple, Smashwords and Barnes & Noble.

The book by Sid Tafler, is about growing up Jewish in Montreal in the 1950s and ‘60s, as the country gradually evolved from an era of open discrimination to a place of acceptance and tolerance. It includes a chapter about Sid’s arrival in Victoria and involvement with our shul. Us and Them is especially relevant today as the Quebec government plans to prevent Jews and other minorities from wearing religious symbols at public workplaces.