Amsterdam’s Portuguese Synagogue: My Heritage

My HeritageSunday, November 25 at 2:00 pm — Congregation Emanu-El Adult Education team invites you to the second presentation in the Exploring the Sephardic Legacy series on Sunday, November 25 in the synagogue at 1461 Blanshard Street when Dr. Richard Kool will present. 

In 1675, the largest synagogue in the world opened in Amsterdam. This building, the crown of the Amsterdam Sephardim, stands as a monument to the success that this community, formed of religious refugees including families that spent three or more generations as crypto-Christians in the Iberian countries, was able to attain in the tolerant Dutch republic. The presenter will talk about the Sephardim of Amsterdam including his own family which, on both his maternal (Waas/Vaz) and his paternal (Henriques Pimentel) sides, made the journey in the late 16th/early 17th century from Spain and Portugal to the Netherlands.

Dr. Richard Kool is a member of Congregation Emanu-El’s Board of Directors since 2001, and has served as secretary, vice-president, member at large, and cemetery director. Rick immigrated from Boston to British Columbia in the early 1970s, came to Vancouver Island to work at what was known then as the BC Provincial Museum in 1978, and has lived in James Bay ever since. He is now a professor in the School of Environment and Sustainability at Royal Roads University.


Calling All Artists Returns!

Calling All Artists 2019-001Wednesday, November 14 at 7:00 pm — Now in its thirteenth year, Calling All Artists invites artists from all media – including visual, textile, graphic artists, poets, musicians, photographers, sculptors and ceramicists—to join Rabbi Harry for monthly study sessions on a topic connected to biblical, rabbinical, Talmudic, folk tradition, and a wide range of other sources. “Art is a form of Midrash”, Rabbi Harry states. The artists interpret and deepen their spiritual knowledge through their art. A Gala celebration is held, usually in June, to show the work done over the months in study.

We begin on Wednesday, November 14 at 7:00 pm in the sanctuary, and continue once a month. Payment is $85 for non-members, $60 for members. Send payment to the synagogue office or bring a cheque payable to Congregation Emanu-El to the first meeting on November 14. Can’t wait to see all of you here, ready to plunge into new and wonderful learning and art! For further information, contact Barbara Pelman at

Not-Your-Usual Book Club


Wednesday, November 7, at 7 pm — Book lovers come together to explore Jewish themes within a variety of settings—from Canada to Europe to Israel. Meeting monthly, we’ll delve into the complexities of Jewish life, and how they reflect on our times, our lives, and our future. The initial selection is Visitation, by the German author Jenny Erpenbeck. Visitation is a meditation on the fate of a tract of land outside Berlin and that of its diverse inhabitants, mostly during the 20th century. Continue reading Not-Your-Usual Book Club

Winter with its ink of showers, … pen of lightning


The first session of our Exploring the Sephardic Legacy series opened on Sunday, October 14 when Shamma Boyarin delighted a small but fully engaged group in a highly interactive session on Sephardic poetry. The excursion lead by Shamma began with the poetry of Shmuel Ibn Gabirol and the words contained in the headline. All present appreciated Shamma’s knowledge of and love for his subject. Kudos, Shamma!

In the next session of the series booked for Sunday, November 18 at 2 pm, Rick Kool will talk about the Amsterdam Sephardim from whom he descends.

Modern Hebrew begins October 15

Hebrew letter collage colorful CROPPEDBeginning October 15 at 6:30 pm at 1461 Blanshard Street — Instructor Betsi Boeno covers written and spoken modern Hebrew with an emphasis on basic Hebrew conversation skills. Betsi is fluent in modern Hebrew and experienced in teaching Hebrew to newcomers in Israel. Fall session: Oct. 15 to Dec. 17 (10 sessions) Fee: $120 members/$180 non-members. Please pre-register through the synagogue office at 250-382-0615.

Verses Strung Like Pearls


Sunday October 14 at 2 pm, Congregation Emanu-El, 1461 Blanshard StreetShamma Boyarin will open the Exploring the Sephardic Legacy series on Sunday, October 14 at 2 pm in Congregation Emanu-El synagogue, 1461 Blanshard Street with an introduction to the Hebrew poets of al-Andalus (Islmaic Spain) who, starting with Dunash Ben Labrat (d. c 990), created a vibrant and compelling literary tradition. Drawing both from Arabic literary influences as well as Jewish sources, primarily the Bible, poets such as Moses Ibn Ezra, Judah HaLevi and Shmuel HaNagid wrote about many diverse topics including love, friendship, the beauty of nature, war, aging, relations to others and more. This talk will focus on the main poets from this period, look at some examples of poems, and explore some of the theoretical poetics behind their literary output. All texts will be provided with the Hebrew and an English translation.

Shamma Boyarin has taught at the University of Victoria in Religious Studies and Medieval Studies since 2008, and in the English Department since 2009. His research and teaching interests include: medieval literature (particularly the literature of Spain and the Near East), comparative literature (particularly Hebrew and Arabic), literature and religion, translation studies, Jewish studies, connections between medieval and contemporary aspects of religion, and religion and pop culture. He was one of the organizers of the very successful “South of Heaven: Religion and Heavy Metal” symposium that took place at the 2013 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences held at University of Victoria.

This event is sponsored by the Emanu-El Adult Education Team. Contact Francis at, if you have any questions.

Entry is by donation: light refreshments will be served.



Adult Education 2018/19

Adult Education symbolThe Adult Education team invites you to examine the upcoming year’s program of classes, a lecture series and discussion groups. There are some old favourites and some new additions. The team is quite excited about the Exploring the Sephardi Legacy lecture series, and the new book and parashah discussion groups.
Beginning in the fall are the following:

  • Modern Hebrew
  • Morasha
  • Exploring the Sephardi Legacy
  • Mystic Moka
  • Ḥug Ivrit
  • Not-Your-Usual Book Club
  • Shiur al parashat hashavua

To review the program and obtain details …

NB We draw your attention to the new discussion group Shiur al parashat hashavua – a weekly study session (shiur) on the parashah (portion of the Torah) that will be read in the synagogue in the week ahead. This group will meet at Francis Landy’s home. If you plan to attend let Francis know by phone (250-370-1343) or by email (francis.landy@ualberta.)