Finding Joy in an Upside Down World

Deadline Shpiel submissions, Friday, February 12, 2021, Megillah reading, Thursday, February 25, 2021, 7 pm—Let’s take a deep dive into the Purim pool for some frolic and fun. Although this year we will be celebrating Purim a little differently, we can still take time during the lead-up to this joyous holiday to find the humour in the meshugas, the absurdity and uncertainty of our daily lives.

In the weeks before Purim, we invite you to create a video Purim-Shpiel—a short skit or parody (aim for 2 min) about the ups and downs you experience in family or with friends. Design a piece of self-mockery, kvell about a new skill you have learned or are learning during lockdown, or just share in your own creative way something that helps to highlight the levity and joy of Purim. Please send your Purim-Shpiels by Friday, February 12, 2021. Contact Susan at for instructions on how to upload your submission.

Please join Congregation Emanu-El on Thursday, February 25, 2021, at 7 pm for a night of animated and joyous Megillah reading and the opportunity to swap the medical masks for some real masquerading and colourful costumes.  We’ll share some of your Purim-Shpiels throughout the evening. Let your wild and crazy side emerge. Feel free to dine on delicious appies, hamantaschen, or other food and drink, with your family (or social bubble).

This year, let’s reclaim and celebrate joy in a world turned upside down.
All are welcome.

  • Join online: CLICK HERE
  • Regular Dial-in: Call: 1 778 907 2071
  • Meeting ID: 814 8217 3114
  • Password: 161772

Shabbat Shirah: A commemoration

Saturday, January 30, 2021 10 – 11:30 am on Zoom—Last year we held a special service on Shabbat Shirah commemorating the adoption of egalitarian services at Congregation Emanu-El. We remembered our beloved Laurel Nahshon z”l, who was accustomed to celebrating “Women on the Bimah” each year by chanting the Beshalaḥ haftarah. While COVID-19 times are a barrier to any ordinary follow-up to last year’s commemoration; on Saturday, January 30, 2021, we plan to remember Laurel, to reflect on our present circumstances, and to find joy as we hearken to the sound of Miriam’s timbrels.

  • Join online: CLICK HERE
  • Regular Dial-in: Call: 1 778 907 2071
  • Meeting ID: 824 1330 9293
  • Password: 929054

Emanu-El creates Anti-Racism & Equity Working Group

Congregation Emanu-El is proud to announce the creation of an Anti-Racism & Equity Working Group. Interested in joining?
Jewish communities across Canada are being called on to take action and accountability for addressing racism and inequity within and outside Jewish communities ( On July 28th, 2020, Congregation Emanu-El held a virtual panel titled, “Racism: Understanding the Realities and What We Can Do.” Building on the ideas and discussion brought forward during the panel, we are inviting folks to join the Anti-Racism & Equity Working Group. The group is being proposed as a space in which to learn and organize around what sustainable and meaningful antiracist and equity-based learning and initiatives can look like in our community.
It is hoped that folks who are interested in participating in the group and committed to this work are open to new and different ways of knowing and willing to challenge existing beliefs and assumptions. It is an exciting initiative that we aim to get started with an initial meeting in Feb/March 2021. Please contact Willow ( or Ilana ( if you are interested in joining, and/or if you have any questions or suggestions!

Thank You, Leah!

Last Sunday, some of our long-standing Hebrew School teachers, helpers and Rabbi Harry gathered on Zoom to watch as a parcel was delivered, and to say thank you to our dear Leah Levi for her 30 years of dedicated and loving leadership of the Congregation Emanu-El Hebrew School.

Leah knew something was happening—we had to make sure she’d be at home—but she had no idea what. Her face, as she unwrapped the parcel, read the words of the dedication and saw Noga’s beautiful calligraphy, was alive with delight.  It was evident she was deeply moved.

Even though we could not hug her as we longed to do, we had the pleasure of seeing the love and appreciation in her eyes. Thank you, Leah, for all you have given us.

The trees are dancing—why shouldn’t we?

On Sunday January 24, 2021, Emanu-El members and friends explored our relationship to nature through a variety of media: food and drink, music, and a presentation. Rabbi Harry conducted a lively Tu Bishvat seder and explained the symbolism behind the traditional foods we eat. It was a rich sensory experience, replete with savouring the look, smell and taste of fresh fruits, nuts and wine. Elisheva Gray facilitated a sharing of the Kudoboard photos and write-ups of people’s experiences in the great outdoors. Rabbi Matt brought a joyous musical flair to our festival. “The trees are dancing, why shouldn’t we?” he joked. Numerous Hebrew School students attended for a portion of the program, lending a multigenerational feel to the workshop.

Lastly, we welcomed our guest speaker, Jane Welton, a volunteer with the “Climate Justice” Action Research Team (ART) of Greater Victoria Acting Together (GVAT). She delivered a powerful talk about the importance of trees in the climate emergency, and the need for urgent action to protect these valuable resources. Sadly, our old-growth forests in BC continue to be logged at an alarming pace…CLICK HERE for the text of Jane’s presentation.

How to prepare your Tu Bishvat seder table

Sunday, January 24, 2021, 10:00—11:30 am on Zoom—We’d be delighted if would join us for a communal Tu Bishvat seder. Here are the foods and items that you will need—feel free to substitute ones you have on hand for the suggested items. Living on an island, we realize that in winter there are some items that are not so easy to find. 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. Please note that it is customary to prefer fruits grown in the Land of Israel  and mentioned in the Bible (bolded in the list). 

  • Wine and/or grape juice. We will be using both red and white. White grape juice is not always simple to find, so feel free to substitute with a light fruit juice.
  • Fruit that has a hard outer shell, and is soft and edible insidesuch as walnuts, almonds, coconut, pomegranate.
  • Fruit that is soft on the outside, and has a hard inner core (pit)such as olives, dates, apricots, peaches
  • Fruit that is entirely ediblesuch as figs, grapes or raisins, apples, berries

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

For more information about our Tu Bishvat program…

Looking forward to learning, exploring, and feasting together.
Rabbi Harry

Creative Midrash with Rabbi Harry

Sunday, February 7, 2021 at 7 pm on Zoom—Midrash is the Talmudic/rabbinic tradition of fleshing out Torah text, described best by Tillie Stanger-Ross as “rabbinic fan fiction.” We will use creative media and modalities to generate new insights and meaning for classic Torah narratives, using “Bibliodrama”a form of psychodrama developed by Peter Pitzele to uncover archetypes and emotions that stem from Torah narratives. We will also engage in collage-making and journaling, to explore and generate personal and relevant new understandings of Torah narratives.

Continue reading Creative Midrash with Rabbi Harry

Introducing Cyril and Helen Keston

After almost 40 years in Regina, Cyril and Helen Kesten flung aside their heavy winter coats, and made the move to Sidney, BC. Born and raised in Winnipeg’s North End, both Helen and Cyril went to the University of ManitobaHelen graduating as a social worker and Cyril as a teacher. 

Cyril spent almost 50 years as a teacher, and teacher-educator focusing on instructional design, program evaluation, financial literacy, media, and distance education. As a Professor of Education at the University of Regina for nearly four decades, he carried pioneering education techniques to Africa, Australia, China, and Britain.

Helen established two successful businesses in Regina—The Palace Guards, a home sitting service, and Helene Kesten Galleries, an art gallery specializing in Inuit soapstone sculptures. Helen helped create the Regina Diving Club; became a nationally accredited gymnastics judge; founded and ran the Regina and District Jewish Seniors; became the go-to person in Regina for Holocaust Education; and spent many years as the Community Development Officer for the Saskatchewan Jewish Council (South). For these efforts Helen was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, the Saskatchewan Centennial Medal, the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers and the Saskatchewan Volunteer Medal.

Helen and Cyril who have three children and seven grandchildren are beyond thrilled that their daughter Stacey, her husband Harris, and their two boys Noah (8) and Hope (2) have moved to Sidney. Now that they’re more or less retired, Cyril and Helen are pursuing their interests in Victoria. They say they have been delighted with the warm reception they’ve experienced in the Jewish community.

Hebrew Time!!—For Families with Pre-Schoolers and Younger

Beginning Sunday, January 17, 2021—Come and join Rabbi Matt Ponak for singing and stories, all while learning Hebrew. This is a fun, entertaining, and relaxed way for your little ones to get their first taste of the Hebrew Language. Hebrew Time begins this Sunday, January 17, 2021 and will be weekly—except for holidays and holiday weekends. This class is free/by-donation. Please contact to register.

  • Join online: CLICK HERE
  • Regular Dial-in: Call: 1 778 907 2071
  • Meeting ID: 883 7699 6759

Did the Golem tango?

On Sunday, January 10, 2021 Dr. Dan Russek from the University of Victoria, led a lively talk about Latin American writers from a Jewish perspective, focusing on Jorge Luis Borges, a prolific writer and philosopher from Argentina.
His presentation introduced us to the Jewish immigrants who arrived in Argentina expecting to see an America that was more like their visions of the USA but quickly adapted to life in the “other” America, some of them even becoming gauchos on the pampas. Dr. Russek showed us that the field of Latin American literature is so much broader than one would expect. And no, the golem didn’t actually dance the tango, but Dan managed to tie the Czech story to the residents of Moisés Ville. There is so much to learn that perhaps we will be fortunate enough to have a follow up session with Dr. Russek in the future.