Rosh Hashanah 5738/1977 in Victoria

Egalitarian services 1977

Dr. Rick Kool, Congregation Emanu-El Cemetery Director forwarded the above article published on the day before Rosh Hashanah (1977) by the Victoria Times with the remark “Our Congregation has been making significant changes and opening up new approaches to Conservative Judaism for a long time”. It seems likely that the Victoria Times article refers to the first participation by women in High Holy Day services in Victoria.

In 1973, the Rabbinical Assembly of Conservative Judaism approved the following motion: Men and women should be counted equally for a minyan. The Scribe 2012 records the following comment by Rabbi Daniel Siegel:
“It was during my tenure (1974-1976) that we began the process by which the congregation became egalitarian. Out of respect to those who were not in favour, we established an alternating week schedule where we gave aliyot [the honour of being called to the Torah] to women half the time. With only two exceptions that I can remember, everyone who came to shul came every week, regardless of which week in the rotation it was. It was an amazing experience to stand next to women as they received their first-ever aliyot and got to look into the Torah scroll from so close, an experience that often moved them to tears.”

For larger image…

Bēma successfully opens “The Gates”

GatesBēma was delighted at the response to the reading of the play, The Gates are Closing at Congregation Emanu-El on Saturday, September 21. The reading was followed by Havdalah, and Sliḥot services. The audience of approximately fifty included members of the congregation familiar with Yom Kippur services and others who were intrigued by the subject.

The Gates are Closing was discovered by Bēma team member Annie Weeks, who was so taken by the poem “Home” in the new Lev Shalem Siddur (page 181) that she contacted Merle Feld, the author, to happily find out that as well as being a poet, Merle was also a playwright. Gates is a play that was written specifically to be read by members of a synagogue congregation prior to the High Holy Days. It has been performed since its 1986 première in New York in hundreds of congregations world-wide.

The Gates are Closing takes place during the evening of Yom Kippur, the morning, and the late afternoon of the next day. Through its ten characters, the piece speaks thoughtfully and eloquently to the various struggles that each one of us brings to the forefront of our minds on these days of awe. The voices of the characters are interspersed with highlights of the Yom Kippur service, including the sounding of a shofar at its end.

Members of the Jewish community who presented the reading were: Katya Delancey, Rick Kool, Rabbi Harry Brechner, Howard Herzog, Benjy de la Vega, Eva Stanger-Ross, Danielle Weisz, Barbara Pelman, Miriam Waldman and Aaron Severs. Each reader was outstanding. Direction was provided by Zelda Dean and stage management by Susan Holtz.

As well as the audience taking away insights from the experience, each reader did the same.

“A fine reading of a play that touches on so many human life experiences. The readers were very talented and their stories came alive with each one, humbling me to the scale of our vulnerabilities and struggles. No sugar coating, just real life at the gate.” —Nancy Issenman, audience member.

“This was my first time acting as a character, not writing about one. But I could feel Joan’s pain as my own, and all the others as well. Each story blended into the other. The monologues were powerful, and the voices together felt like a whole community searching for forgiveness, for wholeness.” —Barbara Pelman, reader.

“It was a privilege to be given this opportunity. The play challenged me to do my “heshbon nefesh” (internal soul accounting) in preparation for the Days of Awe. It also reminded me that we come together as a community of imperfect beings, each with our individual and collective issues. Somehow, during this High Holiday period, we manage to find some transformation and answers.” —Aaron Severs, reader.

Yom Kippur Break Fast

Break the Fast

After the ecstatic intensity of Nei’lah, the final closing prayers of atonement as the gates are closing, and a spirited Havdalah, there will be a delicious break fast catered by Yaaqov and Rosalind – so expect tasty nutritious and comforting food. As usual, all are welcome.
“A large and comprehensive menu of food will be offered. As a result, donations to cover these costs would be most appreciated. Thank you in advance for your generosity.”
Shanah Tovah Umetukah to you and yours. May you have a sweet and healthy year ahead!

From the Rabbi’s Desk: “What wants me?”

high-holy-daysDear Ones,

The Yamim Noraim, the Days of Awe are approaching. Jewish tradition tells us that we need to focus our attention on our personal lives, that the month of Elul is a time for reflection and self-awareness—a time, late in summer with autumn approaching, when we can sense the abundance of harvest and feel Divine Presence close to us.

During the High Holy Days, we spend extra time at the synagogue in prayer. The liturgy and rituals direct us to stop and reflect. The deeper meaning of tefillah (prayer) in Hebrew is about self-reflection and awareness. Within our day-to-day lives, so much prevents us from being in touch with and feeling connected to our essential selves, our relationships with creation and Creator that when we take stock of our lives, we often think about what we want.

However, Torah guides us to a different view: to ask what wants me? What is truly important to me and who do I ultimately want to be? Coming from a medium of love, spiritual questions can serve as an engine to self-discovery and growth. They are open, inviting and engaging, allowing us to search deep within, to sense and to feel. The goal of these questions is to awaken us to what really matters and explore how we can change our life-narratives—to remind us that we are the authors , the ones with the power to change our stories and bring greater shalom to our lives.

We are all living through a time of upheaval and uncertainty. On the one hand, this is scary. On the other hand, this is the precipice of a paradigm shift that holds the energy and potential for mashiaḥ consciousness: a new awareness of Divine Source and of how we are all partners with God in bringing to our world a time and place of greater love, greater harmony, greater justice and, ultimately, shalom. In order to change our personal narratives, we need to first understand how each of us can live and be the shift.

What in my life needs to shift in order to bring greater healing for self, for loved ones and friends, for my community and for my world? The High Holy Day prayer book, (maḥzor) repeatedly reminds us that we are not stuck in our karma, that we can change our mazal, our fortune, through teshuvah, tefillah and tzedakah.

Here are some questions that came to me while I was meditating on the High Holy Days. I hope some of these questions will be pertinent to you. While realizing that we cannot answer them all, I hope they will provide new insight about parts of the prayer service and that they will serve as prompts for starting our ḥeshbon nefesh (soul accounting) as we get ourselves ready internally for Days of Awe and the coming new year.

  • Who are the people who mean the most to me,
  • Have I ever told them how I feel about them and their importance to my life and being?
  • Are there integral but fraught relationships in my life,
  • If so, what can I do to bring repair, healing, and reconciliation?
  • When do I feel most alive, most joyful,
  • Which life moments feel truly meaningful, is my life in the here-and-now meaningful?
  • What are my two or three biggest achievements in terms of personal importance and meaning since last High Holy Days, what are my two or three biggest mistakes since last High Holy days?
  • What have I hoped to do but not yet realized,
  • Do I persist with these hopes or let them go?
  • What three pieces of advice did I give to myself 10 years ago,
  • Is that advice still relevant?

In the Rosh Hashanah liturgy we have a section in Musaf titled Malkhuyot (God’s Kingship), fully experiencing God as Source of all life.

  • What does that mean to me,
  • Do I let Divine Source into my life,
  • Into my being and presence?

Zokhrenu l’ḥayim, remember us for life.

  • Choose life!
  • How am I choosing life,
  • Is my daily routine life-affirming?

Meḥayeh hametim, throughout our liturgy we acknowledge that God brings life to the dead.

  • Am I living a zombie-like life,
  • If I am, how do I enliven my time here on earth?
  • What if this time my prayers do connect with the Transcendent?
  • What if I let it all out and tell God everything in my heart, knowing that the Divine One already knows it all and more?
  • What if I allowed myself to really feel unburdened and liberated during Kol Nidre—no longer bound to promises unkept?
  • What if when I bow down at the Aleinu I really give myself over, what would happen to me deep inside?
  • What if I really attached all the sorrows of my life to the wailing of the shofar and felt them disperse within me,
  • What if I allowed the shofar to awaken something deep within me?

Our mystical tradition understands that in essence we are our neshamot (souls).

  • If I am my soul,
  • How do I contact this part of self,
  • How/Where do I find my soul?
  • What am I truly thankful for,
  • Where do I find beauty,
  • How/where do I experience awe
  • How/where do I experience unconditional love?

If I really do teshuvah—if I really return to my authentic self and find myself in a groove vibrating in harmony with the universe, will this change me, can the process of teshuvah bring me to my essential self?

  • What really scares me,
  • Whom do I fully trust,
  • What do I seek in my prayers?
  • Do I sense the Divine in others,
  • Do I give love to others?
  • Do I try to control my world,
  • Do I feel connected to the natural world,
  • What power do I have over my daily circumstances?
  • How do I want to be remembered,
  • What am I grateful for,
  • Do I trust my inner guides, my intuition,
  • Do I need to forgive myself?
  • When I close my eyes and concentrate on the Shema, what do I mean when I invoke Eḥad—One?
  • Where are You—Ayekah? Can I truly say Hineni, here I am God, all of me, fully present before you?

May this New Year bring us abundant blessings and the power and potential to realize positive change in our lives, in our families, in our community and in our world.

Rabbi Harry

High Holy Day Seating

HHD symbolIn past years we have found that reserved seats were often left empty, therefore we have decided that we will not solicit requests for reserved seats this year. Reserved seats that are left empty are unavailable to new members and to those attending services for the first time.

If you have special needs for seating, please contact our Administrator Susan Holtz during office hours at 250-382-0615.

The Latest on Israel Today rescheduled

FL Trip Talk 1000Congregation Emanu-El Adult Education Team invites you to join them on Sunday, October 6, at 4 pm for a presentation by Dr. Francis Landy on “The Latest on Israel Today”. Admission is by donation; refreshments will be served.

In May 2019, Emanu-El member and Torah reader Francis Landy, took part in a study tour in Israel organized by the New Israel Fund, which gives grants to about 70 Israeli human rights and civil society organizations. Continue reading The Latest on Israel Today rescheduled

Rosh Hashanah 2019 Parking

ParkingThe City of Victoria has introduced every day parking fees. With this change, the special arrangements that Congregation Emanu-El had for Shabbat and Yom Tov parking ceased. In respect of the synagogue’s historical downtown location and of the understanding that there is a Jewish tradition of not using money on religious days, the City of Victoria has provided the following parking arrangements for Rosh Hashanah:

Erev Rosh Hashanah:
Parking is free after 6 pm.
Rosh Hashanah Day 1:
For those physically able there will be free parking at the Royal Athletic Park/940 Caledonia Street City Lot.
For those with a Disabled Parking Permit, there will be free parking on Blanshard from Johnson to Pandora and in the drop-off zone in front of the Ministry of Health.
Rosh Hashanah Day 2:
For those physically able there will be free parking at the Royal Athletic Park 940 Caledonia Street City Lot.
For those with a Disabled Parking Permit, there will be free parking on Blanshard in the drop off zone in front of the Ministry of Health.