Join us for A Light in Dark Times

Tuesday, August 24, 2021, at 6 pm“What happens when Midrash is not generated by the sages of the distant past but rather contemporary artists?” This question, posed by Rabbi Harry, is the basis for the project, Calling All Artists (CAA), which has been held every year since 2005. This year, in the middle of a pandemic, the project was even more meaningful, though its format more unusual. Eighteen artists of different media gathered on Zoom to explore Torah that relates to Hope, Faith and Prayer. For the artists, it was a way to work with Rabbi Harry on braiding a spiritual lifeline during a time of isolation and fear. Please join us on Tuesday, August 24, 2021, on Zoom to celebrate the insights and interpretations of the year’s learning, titled A Light in Dark Times.

Each artist will show their work and explain the process that birthed it. Sculpture, paintings, handmade books, prayer flags, dance, poetry bowls—a treasure of wisdom and creativity. As Rabbi Harry says in his introduction to the project’s chapbook, “In many ways the sages of now are artists; open, courageous, creative seekers of truth and beauty, and conduits to understanding universal essence.”

The show will be hung in the Social Hall from August 20, 2021, to the end of November 2021. The chapbook A Light in Dark Times, which includes the artwork and artists’ statements, will be available through the Gift Shop and the individual artists.

Though not the most intimate of venues, our little Zoom frames are nevertheless wide-spread and accommodating. We would love to celebrate our work with all of you on Zoom, and by invitation only, with a small audience in the synagogue.

Synagogue Sketches of the Western World

Synagogue Sketch Ben Levinson 700 1.2

Join Ben Levinson on Thursday, September 5, 2019, 7 – 9 pm at the opening reception for his exhibition of “Synagogue Sketches of the Western World” at Congregation Emanu-El Wings of Peace Gallery. The event is free and Ben will be available to tell what he learned from walking tours at each of these buildings. Bring your friends and have a chat while you are introduced to the history of these synagogues. The exhibition will be open for viewing from September 4 – 20, 2019, Tuesday to Friday from 10 am – 3 pm.

Ben Levinson and his wife Carla have been Congregation Emanu-El members since 1966 when they moved to Victoria at the start of his architectural career on Vancouver Island. Over the years while travelling throughout western countries, they always managed to visit synagogues. Ben, who has been drawing, painting and sculpting most of his life, always had his sketch pad and pen ready to capture his visual impression of these synagogues. A few months ago Carla was flipping through these sketch books and suggested that Ben organize many of these drawings. This September exhibition “Synagogue Sketches of the Western World” is a culmination of those many art works.

Read more…

MEMORY and ESSENCE Art Exhibit: Mini Is Mighty

The Memory and Essence art exhibit in Congregation Emanu-El social hall showcases the values, ideas and stories of Jewish life seen through the lens of history.
The exhibit features two small pieces that might not be appreciated at first glance. There is a tiny children’s tea set to the right of Suzie’s doll (upper panel) belonging to Ed Fitch’s mother, Beulah Batinsky Fitch that dates from 1920.
On the other side of the upper shelf is a mid-century Israeli wooden beautifully painted scholar (lower panel) who pours over a text and can be seen with books, a candle, and carpet.  The detail is remarkable as this scholar is approx. 2″ tall!  Please come and enjoy this lovely exhibit.

More from MEMORY and ESSENCE Art Exhibit

Memory & EssenceThe Memory and Essence art exhibit opened at the Calling All Artists Gala 2019. This exhibit showcases the values, ideas and stories of Jewish life seen through the lens of history. We will tell a few of the stories intermittently. Thank you to everyone who helped make this exhibit happen.
The Exhibit includes a very beautiful BRIS GOWN and CAP from Rabbi Harry’s family. Lined in satin, with lace embroidery, the gown is in perfect condition after many generations of family use.  The engraved silver BABY CUPS are cups from Janna Ginsberg Bleviss as a baby. Off to the right is a Yiddish cookbook, Tempting Kosher Dishes, belonging to Janis Diner Brinley, from 1930, put out by the B. Manischewitz company. Please come and enjoy this lovely exhibit.

MEMORY and ESSENCE Art Exhibit

Teresienstadt Autograph Book PagesThe Memory and Essence art exhibit opened at the Calling All Artists Gala 2019. This exhibit showcases the values, ideas and stories of Jewish life seen through the lens of history. We will tell a few of the stories intermittently. Thank you to everyone who helped make this exhibit happen.
We are very pleased to display an AUTOGRAPH BOOK in impeccable condition from Teresienstadt concentration camp in 1945. Shown above are a few of the pages, including a concert program performed by the camp’s orchestra and featuring Alice Herz-Sommer about whom a film was made a few years ago (The Lady in Number 6).  She died at the age of 110 in 2014, she played the piano every day.

Calling All Artists Opening Gala 2019

Barbara Pelman shows!

This year’s theme for Calling All Artists is “Memory and Essence”. At the gala the artists spoke briefly about their work which was mounted around the hall and included paintings, sculptures, poetry, and drawings. A chapbook detailing the artists’ works is available in the Simcha Gift Shop for $10.  The accompanying picture is a display of poems that Barbara Pelman presented in individual chapbooks. To view photos taken at the Gala by Penny Tennenhouse click here…

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

The Many Hands of the Chuppah: our story from 2013


Opens June 3 at Congregation Emanu-El synagogue — This exhibit tells the story of what inspired the hands of a multigenerational group of 14 women—artists, quilters, and designers—to create a new wedding canopy (chuppah) in celebration of the 150th anniversary (2013) of the consecration of Congregation Emanu-El synagogue.

Enid Elliot, one of the contributors to the creation of the Chuppah, said at the festive launch of the Chuppah in 2013:
“Each woman shared some of her love and energy for this community and each square comes from the heart.  It was truly a communal effort…an inspiring project.

Here’s what inspired Annette Wigod (age 91) to create her square, The Shabbat Candles.

“When a call went out for hand-sewn squares for a new Chuppah in 2013, one image leapt into my mind: Shabbat candles glowing brightly.  The Chuppah, held over the heads of the wedding couple symbolizes a Jewish home. The sight of the Shabbat candles is a weekly reminder for the couple, and later their children, that says: We are a Jewish family. Even if there is little other observance in the home, the lit Shabbat candles carry the message.

In the early 1950s when my husband and I decided to light candles on Shabbat, I didn’t know the traditional blessing. So a friend offered to type it for me in transliteration. She asked me “What kind of accent do you want? East European or Israeli?” I asked her what kind she had, her answer was “Israeli.” My answer: “I’ll take it”. Now sixty years later the image of Shabbat candles still burns brightly in my heart, and I believe, in the hearts of my children.”