Ancient Astrology: Fatalist or Optimist

Sunday, December 6, 2020 at 7 pm—The Congregation Emanu-El Adult Education team invites you to a presentation Ancient Astrology: Fatalist or Optimist by Rabbi Matt Ponak on Sunday, December 6, 2020 at 7 pm.

Does Judaism teach that our lives are determined by the stars? Did it ever? The answer is not so simple. While Jewish teachings greatly value free will, the word mazal, as in “Mazal Tov,” literally means “constellation”. At one point, to wish someone “mazal tov,” meant to wish them good fortune under the influence of the astrological signs. So what does Judaism say about astrology? Join Rabbi Matt Ponak as he explores Talmudic stories and teachings of how Jews were and were not subject to the fate of the heavens.

Rabbi Matt Ponak is a musician, teacher, and lover of life. He serves as the Education Director and Assistant Rabbi at Congregation Emanu-El. Rabbi Matt has studied with many of this generation’s leading teachers of Jewish mysticism including Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, R. Arthur Green, R. Zvi Ish-Shalom, R. Tirzah Firestone, and R. Rami Shapiro. Also holding an MA in Contemplative Religions from the Buddhist-inspired Naropa University, Rabbi Matt weaves world wisdom with ancient Jewish insights. His upcoming book, “Torah for the New Age,” translates and comments on Jewish mystical texts that resonate with the consciousness and yearnings of our times.

The presentation will be on Zoom.

To join online, CLICK HERE

To join by phone: 1 778 907 2071; Meeting ID: 839 1579 8300; Passcode: 446221

Donations to our Adult Education fund are always welcome. You may donate ONLINE or through the office at

A wonderful evening of learning

Last Sunday evening, Lee Henderson led a fascinating virtual literary salon discussion of the parallels and differences linking two amazing writers whose lives were separated by about 100 years. Lee expertly explained how the stories and parables crafted by Franz Kafka and Rabbi Nachman reflected both secular and religious perspectives on the often strange vagaries of life they encountered. The audience was treated to a wonderful evening of learning and no doubt will be seeking out books and articles on these two masters so they can delve further into what made them tick.

Calling All Artists project 2020

Starts Thursday, November 19, 2020 on Zoom—A light in a dark and strange time: Calling All Artists returns! We will begin our monthly meetings with Rabbi Harry on Thursday, November 19, 2020, and continue on December 10, 2020, and in 2021 on January 14, February 11, and March 18. Calling All Artists is a project inviting artists of many kinds—visual, textile, multi-media, music, poetry—to study a biblical or rabbinical text with Rabbi Harry, and to interpret this learning through their art. A kind of midrash, the Rabbi explains it. In the spring, the artists, if it is possible to meet again, will celebrate their work with a delicious and gorgeous Gala in the Social Hall.

Continue reading Calling All Artists project 2020

Kafka, Nachman, Kabbalah and Neuroses

Sunday, November 15, 2020 at 7 pm—Congregation Emanu-El Adult Education Team invites you to the first of our 2020/21 “one-off sessions” on Sunday, November 15, 2020 at 7 pm featuring a discussion of Kafka, Nachman, Kabbalah and Neuroses by Lee Henderson, an Associate Professor of Writing at the University of Victoria. Lee will discuss Franz Kafka, his writing, his life, and the influence of Jewish mysticism and kabbalah on his themes and style, and in particular, Kafka’s familiarity with the great Hasidic storyteller from a century earlier, Rabbi Nachman.

Continue reading Kafka, Nachman, Kabbalah and Neuroses

Brown Bag Beit Midrash and Mystic Moka online

PHOTO-2020-03-17-22-42-003Last week Mystic Moka and Brown Bag Beit Midrash moved online/over-the-phone with the sessions extended by one hour. From now on, Brown Bag Beit Midrash will run on Tuesdays from 12:30-2:30 pm & Mystic Moka on Fridays from 12:30-2:30 pm. The classes are run through the program ZOOM, which can be accessed on-line or by phoning in. If you have not used this program before, please call in or log-in 10 minutes before it starts, in case you have issues. If it is your first time using it online, the link below will guide you through downloading the “app” and then take you into the meeting.

Here’s how to participate:

1. Join online: 
Click this link:
Meeting ID:208 422 038
No password required
2. Regular Dial-in:
Call: 1 (778) 907-2071
Meeting ID: 208 422 038
No password required

Here’s an article you might find helpful: ‘How To Use Zoom Video Conferencing During Coronavirus Social Distancing’…

POSTPONED – Memory, Identity & the Romanian Shoah

Memory postponed 1000This program is postponed—Join us for a  multi-media program celebrating the post holocaust renewal of Jewish Romanian culture using music, photos and conversations on Sunday, March 15, 2020 at 4:00 pm in Congregation Emanu-El,  1461 Blanshard Street.  The presenter will be Julia Herzog and the accompanying musicians will be: Amy Paster, Rick Kool, Lucy Nerenberg, Sammy Herzog, Julia Herzog. Continue reading POSTPONED – Memory, Identity & the Romanian Shoah

Ssh! Don’t tell the secret meaning of Purim!

Purim Secrets 2Sunday, March 1, 2020, 7-9 pm at Congregation Emanu-El—Why do we wear masks on Purim? Why do we party and drink alcohol? Why did the early rabbis say that Purim will be the only holiday that exists in the messianic era, when all other holidays are gone? And, most of all, why has all this juicy information been kept secret for so long? Join Rabbi Matt Ponak for a mystical look at the inner dimensions of this ancient holiday. This class is a spiritual preparation for Purim, a holiday that takes us beyond good and evil and into the unity of all existence.  This event is for teens and adults only.

Bridging Heaven and Earth: Introduction to Kabbalah with Rabbi Matt

kabbalahThursday February 27, 7:30 pm— Join Rabbi Matt for an introduction to Kabbalah in Rabbi Matt and Melina’s home (aka the Brechner’s). Come 20 minutes early to have snacks and schmooze.

The Zohar, a secretive and coded medieval book, is the magnum opus of Kabbalistic thought! In this class we will be begin to uncover its layers. We will look at: What is Kabbalah? What are Sephirot [Divine Emanations]? Why do people say we cannot study Kabbalah until the age of 40?

The word Kabbalah, often incorrectly used as a synonym for all of Jewish mysticism, means “receiving” or “tradition.” Kabbalah appeared seemingly out of nowhere in the middle ages and ushered in a brand new era of spirituality in the Jewish world. Written in Spanish-influenced Aramaic in the 13th century, the Zohar [The Book of Enlightenment] introduced a radical new theology, deeply informed by the spiritual experiences of its authors. Though Kabbalah became more contentious in the late middle-ages and modern era, at one time it was widely studied by Torah scholars of every ilk. Come and join Rabbi Matt for an accessible introduction to this esoteric text and the experiences embedded within.

For more information: Contact Congregation Emanu-El
(T: 250-382-0615 or E: )

Sage Tea

Sage TeaSage Tea is a gathering of Emanu-El elders who come together twice a month for tea, torah and discussion at 2 pm at Adele Vernon’s home. Come join old and new friends for an afternoon of schmoozing, learning, connecting and some nosh. Bring nothing other than an open mind and a desire to socialize. Please RSVP to Adele at 778-440-4096. If you need help with transportation, please let Adele know and we will do our best to find you a ride.