Bēma Productions presents “O My God”

OMYGODGRAPHIC-NLJanuary 16 – 26, 2020Bēma Productions, now in its sixth season, is excited to present the Canadian premiere of the comedy, “O My God”, by the Israeli playwright, Anat Gov at Congregation Emanu-El, Black Box Theatre. “O My God” is directed by Zelda Dean, and performed by Christine Upright (the therapist), Rosemary Jeffery (God) and Jesse Wilson (the autistic son of the therapist and is himself on the autism spectrum). Performances are scheduled for the following dates:
  • Thursday January 16, 7:30 pm
  • Saturday January 18, 7:30 pm
  • Sunday January 19, 3:00 pm
  • Tuesday January 21, 7:30 pm
  • Wednesday January 22, 7:30 pm
  • Thursday January 23, 7:30 pm
  • Saturday January 25, 7:30 pm
  • Sunday January 26, 3:00 pm
Tickets: $23 available online at ticketrocket.co or at the door.
Media Enquiries: Zelda Dean zeldadean@shaw.ca Telephone: 250-881-2094.
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bemaproductionsvic/

A ‘Welcome Bon Voyage’ Kiddush

Welcome Bon Voyage 2Saturday, January 18, 2020—Helene Kadziora and President Ruthi invite the congregation to join them for a special ‘Welcome Bon Voyage’ kiddush luncheon following services on January 18, 2020 welcoming our temporary Rabbi Matt Ponek, his wife Melina and children Orion and Sephira and bidding bon voyage to Rabbi Harry and RaeAnn as they embark on a three month sabbatical.

A Welcoming ecoKabbalat Shabbat: RSVP important

Kabbalat ShabbatJoin us for an eco-Kabbalat Shabbat welcoming Rabbi Matt & family! Bring a vegetarian or dairy dish to our potluck dinner along with your own dishes & utensils for dining (that’s the “eco” part!). We’ll supply the ḥallah and wine for kiddush. Services will begin promptly at 7 pm, following dinner – it’s OK to come just for services if you can’t make it to the dinner.

As we need to work out how to accommodate dinner arrangements with the set-up for the Bēma show, it is critical that we know how many will attend for Shabbat dinner. If you plan to come, please RSVP to info@congregationemanuel.ca by January 15, 2020.

Kabbalat Shabbat is a spirited and joyful service with singing and storytelling lead by Rabbi Harry and the Shul’s very own KabbaShabba band! Services will conclude at 7:45 pm with a tasty oneg dessert. Fun and meaningful for both kids and adults!

Introducing Rabbi Matt and Melina Ponak

b771bab9-306c-4516-b03e-b5c5a854abe8To the members of Congregation Emanu-El,
We are so excited to meet everyone when we land in January. We are feeling very grateful for this opportunity and are looking forward to getting to know you all. Victoria has been in our hearts for many years.

Matt: I grew up in Calgary and spent many summers on the Island growing up. My mother is from Port Alberni and I continue to have many relatives in the area. Music is a big part of my life. I play banjo and guitar, lead singing, and back Melina up while she tells stories. I have an MA in Contemplative Religions from Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado and am passionate about spirituality and transformation. Besides having been raised in a Conservative Synagogue, I have been a part of Reform, Orthodox, and Renewal communities. My personal goal at Emanu-El is to have meaningful conversations with each of you during my three months there.

Melina: I am originally from Chicago, have lived in California, and Colorado, but have always felt connected to my Canadian roots. My mother is from Toronto and I enjoy visiting relatives in Kelowna. I spent nine beautiful years in Montreal where I went to McGIll, studied herbology, and learned French. I love storytelling and story-gathering, teaching, dancing, book indexing and learning about life with my children. Orion is 5-years-old and will be eager for play-dates! He loves running around, building Lego ships and co-creating new games. Sephira will turn one-year-old on January 16. She is a very friendly baby. She loves to clap her hands and say “Yay!” (her first word) while clapping.

Matt and Melina!

A message from Rabbi Harry

Rabbi HarryDear Ones,
The current wave of violence and hatred towards our people is scary and anxiety producing. From Pittsburgh to Poway, from Jersey City to Monsey, we are witnessing rampant antisemitism with lots of small acts of desecration and hate filled symbolism popping up seemingly everywhere including our beloved Camp Miriam on Gabriola Island. Hatred towards Jews and Judaism transcends politics; it is too easy to fall into an ideological trap and blame one worldview over another for the current abhorrent resurgence of antisemitism. Highly erroneous and sometimes pernicious formulations about us emerge from both ends of the political spectrum. Hatred of Jews does not distinguish between different flavours or expressions of Judaism. Among ourselves, singling out one expression of Judaism over another as a more likely target is an exercise in blaming the victim and is highly counterproductive.

When the Divine Source calls our ancestors, Abraham and Sarah, to “Go forth, Lekh Lekha, to a new land that I will show thee” God gives them an assurance and incredible blessing that is passed down through the generations to us; “I will bless those who bless you and curse the one that curses you, and all the families of earth shall bless themselves by you.” (Genesis 12:3) We are the recipients of a powerful mystery linked intrinsically to our covenant. How are we still here on the planet as a people intact when virtually all other ancient peoples have faded into history? How is it that we have the power to constantly bounce back and to not only survive but to thrive? Nations that hate us and persecute us eventually bring on their own destruction and degradation. It is clear that we are to be a blessing. We are to live our lives infused with the values of Torah, lives infused with goodness, compassion and peace. We are tasked to be a mamlekhet kohanim, a kingdom of priests (read “healers”). We are to be a light unto the nations—an agent that reflects Divine consciousness, enlightenment, Divine Source. When we do this, we are blessed and provide a socket for others to plug into Divine flow and receive abundance through blessing.

When we speak of covenant and chosenness, we must be very careful to not fall into the trap of exceptionalism. Feeling chosen can be understood in a way that is misguided and can lead to ethnocentrism and xenophobia. Believing that we are inherently superior to others is a flagrant and dangerous misreading of Torah which teaches us that all humanity is created in God’s image and likeness. The idea that some of us are more human and more like God than others simply smacks of racism.

I know from Torah that our covenant with Divine Source holds blessings for all humanity. I sense that deep in our Jewish kishkes we know that Jews are the human “canary in a coal mine.” When there is lack of hope, when struggles seem too great to solve collectively, Jew-hatred emerges. When world leaders peddle a steady diet of fear, separation and scarcity, Jew-hatred is reinforced. Antisemitism is an early indicator that something very grave is wrong in our world.

How do we stay sane, safe and generative in spite of this increasingly scary phenomenon? First we call on our courage and faith. We call on our strength as a people to overcome this wave of hatred. We call on our history of surviving and thriving. We call on our sacred and moral tradition to guide us. We keep current events in perspective and do not experience every act or gesture as an actual threat. We ensure that Jewish hatred does not divide us, we work towards achdut, unity. We call on our allies and friends for solidarity and power. We speak truth to power and we remember that we are only as strong as our most vulnerable brothers and sisters. We dedicate ourselves to living meaningful Jewish lives that are infused with pride and joy. We take the well-worn and well-known words of Rabbi Nachman and hold them like a mantra or talisman: the whole world is a very narrow bridge and the essential thing to know deep in the fiber of our being is to not be afraid. In courage, we feel fear but we act with bravery. Ḥazak v’ematz—be strong and courageous and make our lives a blessing. This is a time to show up for one another and to nourish pride and strength.

Rabbi Harry

Sharing the light: Ḥanukkah 2019

Sameah Hanukkah!On December 22, 2019, a crowd gathered in Centennial Square to celebrate the first night of Ḥanukkah. The musical headliner was the high-octane and popular Victoria High Rhythm and Blues Band. After lighting a large free-standing menorah (“shout out” to Ed Walker), the music and dancing began. Holiday joy, ruaḥ (spirit) and “horas” filled the square. Participants were invited to let their inner light shine amid the darkness of the season and, at times, our troubled world. Generosity and kindness led to many donations to the Avodah “8 for 8 campaign” to support the food bank at St. John the Divine. The backdrop of the “Lights of Wonder” exhibit encouraged more attendees than usual (too many to count!) to show up at the menorah lighting. Lastly, a heartfelt thanks goes to the Downtown Victoria Business Association who partnered with us in this successful and memorable evening.
For more photos (taken by Penny Tennenhouse, Frances Aknai & Frances Rosenberg)…

Upcoming unveiling ceremonies

headstone-unveilingJanuary 10 @ 11 am & January 12 & 1 pm 2020 at Congregation Emanu-El cemetery — Dear Ones,
Within the past year we experienced the deaths of two congregants who were like family to many of us and for whom we were their closest loved ones.

  • The unveiling for KimNoa Bromberg z”l will take place on Friday, January 10, 2020 at 11 am.
  • The unveiling for Suzi Deston z”l will be on Sunday, January 12, 2020 at 1 pm. Reception to follow unveiling. To RSVP and for details…

Please come to honour their memories and share life lessons we received from them.
B’Virkat Shalom
Rabbi Harry