COVID Health Tips

COVID-19 continues to circulate in Victoria. Everyone has a role to play to reduce the spread. The actions you take will protect you, loved ones and those most vulnerable in our community. As we live with COVID-19, we can layer our protection with some simple steps:

  • Stay up to date with your COVID-19 vaccination, including booster doses for the best protection against getting very sick from COVID-19.
  • Staying up to date with your vaccinations gives you stronger hybrid immunity, even if you have had a recent COVID-19 infection.
  • Socialize outdoors when possible – outdoors is lower risk than indoors.
  • Wear a high quality, well-fitting mask, especially indoors, and based on the setting and situation. Masks are strongly recommended in indoor public settings, and especially if you are around people who are at higher risk or have a health condition.
  • Stay home if you are sick or have symptoms, even if they are mild.
  • If you have symptoms, get tested and treated if you are eligible.
  • Wash or sanitize your hands often.
  • Choose well ventilated spaces when possible.
  • Reduce or limit the number of people you have close contact with, especially indoors.
  • Keep a physical distance when possible, especially indoors.

Changes to COVID-19 policy for Religious Services

Summary of Changes (please also read the complete message from the Board)

  • Pre-registration no longer required.
  • Masking strongly encouraged (particularly when singing) but not mandatory.
  • Proof of vaccination no longer required. Adults, if unvaccinated, please test for COVID before attending Emanu-El events.
  • On Shabbat, please continue to enter through the Social Hall doors (security protocols remain)
  • Please continue to respect personal space and hand hygiene guidelines.

From Emanu-El’s Board of Directors:

As we return to more in-person events, please help us to keep everyone healthy. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Congregation Emanu-El has taken a careful approach. The Rabbinical Assembly for Conservative Judaism reminds us that Jewish law requires that we take appropriate measures to preserve life and health, for ourselves and for everyone else. Although religious services were exempt from the provincial restrictions governing in-person gatherings for the last several months, Emanu-El upheld the importance of pikuach nefesh by enforcing the vaccine mandate, requiring masking, and ensuring appropriate distancing for all our in-person events.

As we enter a new phase of the pandemic and with the current absence of any regulatory requirements for these measures, we have decided to discontinue enforcing them. Nonetheless, the health and safety of our entire community remains paramount. Recognizing the fluidity of public health COVID-19 guidelines, this policy will be reviewed periodically by the board.

Effective April 16 2022:

  • We will not require proof of vaccination. We hope that everyone attending in-person events has been vaccinated as per current medical recommendations.
    • Adults: if you are not fully vaccinated, please be kind enough to take a COVID-19 test prior to attending any in-person synagogue events. Rapid tests are available for free for anyone over 18. If you are symptomatic for COVID-19 or any other illness, please help keep our community safe and stay home. 
  • We will reduce masking to optional but recommended, in particular for the sanctuary where due to singing with prayers, masking (except when leading the service) is strongly encouraged.
  • We will eliminate our current capacity limit and the related required physical distancing.

We recognize that people will have different levels of comfort with close socializing; please be respectful of other peoples’ choices and comfort zones.

We look forward to seeing you all and to enjoying in-person events, including kiddushim after services. May we go from strength to strength.

Welcome Back to In-Person Services in the Sanctuary!

With joy, starting on Shabbat 5 March 2022, we are back in the Sanctuary for in-person services.

We will continue to Zoom our Shabbat services. 

In order to attend in-person, you must be double vaccinated and pre-register before 3:30 PM on Friday. To register: There is no need to register to attend on Zoom.

Many of you have already submitted proof of vaccination.  Thank you, as this simplifies entrance for our volunteers at the door. You can upload your proof of vaccination here:

You can also bring proof of vaccination to the door. You may be asked to show your ID as well.

Masks remain a requirement while in the building. When you arrive, please sanitize your hands and continue to respect physical distancing of 6 feet.

Welcome back! It will be wonderful to share the Sanctuary with you again.

Summary of event details

Congregation Emanu-El Shabbat Dinners Postponed

The Membership Committee was excited to offer a Shabbat Dinner Program to our members a couple of months ago. An unprecedented number of guests and hosts responded to our invitation to participate. 

Now, we’ve decided to pause out of an abundance of caution. We’ll wait until public health officials provide more encouraging news about gatherings. Hopefully, we won’t have to wait too long!

From Rabbi Harry: Services Moving Online

Dear Ones,

With a heavy heart that is also holding hope and light, I need to tell you that we will move to online services for the next few weeks.  For the safety of all of us, not only those who attend services but also those who depend upon our Outreach and pastoral care, we need to do our part to keep our whole community safe. Our hope is that, once the intensity of this Omicron wave passes, we will be able to return with strength to in-person prayer. 

Our Zoom-only services provide a way for us to connect to one another in a prayerful context.  Let’s not let the pandemic eclipse the need for us to lift one another up in times of sorrow and turmoil nor to celebrate joyful life passages and achievement.  As we enter another episode of intentional semi-isolation, the online platforms offer us an opportunity to reach out and check-in with one another.  Prayer is understood as “avodat halev,” the service of the heart.  Please have a heart and help do your part in supporting both our Shabbat morning service and our weekly minyan on Thursdays, which are both now online on Zoom.  I know that seeing folks–even in a tiny box on a computer screen–lightens my heart.

B’virkat shalom,

Rabbi Harry

Below are recurring links to our Shabbat and Thursday morning Service, as well as the link to this Sunday’s Tu B’Shevat Seder.

Shabbat Service 10:00 AM

Thursday Morning Service 7:00 AM

Tu B’Shevat Seder and Discussion Sunday 16 January 1:00 PM

BEMA’s Readers Theatre Festival Postponed

Our many youth and adult thespians were days from starting rehearsals when, sadly, we had to postpone due to the Covid surge. 

We will reschedule as soon as it is safe to do so. Purchased tickets can be refunded or used on the new date (TBA).

Cast from 2019 Bema Productions’, And a Child Shall Lead, with Director Zelda Dean

Emanu-El Requires Proof of Vaccination

Beginning Saturday, November 20, 2021, Congregation Emanu-El will require that persons (12 years and older) provide proof of full vaccination prior to attending Religious Services. You can send the office a copy of your Proof of Vaccination. We will verify it and retain on file only a record that you have presented proof of vaccination.

Submit your proof of vaccination HERE…

  • Preregistration is a requirement for all Religious Services. When you have preregistered, our volunteer greeters will know if your proof of vaccination has already been verified. Our volunteer at the door may still ask to see photo ID. You can also present your proof of vaccination at the door, but for ease of operation, we ask that you try to submit your proof of vaccination to the office in advance. 
  • Masking and physical distancing within the synagogue remain Emanu-El policy.  

This change is a response to the wishes of many members. Emanu-El’s COVID-19 Committee met and made recommendations to the Board, who ruled that this change represented the safest practice. Thanks to everyone for your continued commitment to our community.

Return to In-Person Worship Services

Saturday, June 19, 2021 at 10 amIt’s not a dream nor is it a fantasy!
Dr. Bonnie Henry’s announcement on May 25, 2021, signalled the possibility of a return to “in-person” worship services in British Columbia. Our plan is to start small, and to build slowly and safely. During the past year, we have missed seeing you “in-person” and davening together in our beloved sanctuary.

We are pleased to announce that we will hold our initial post-lockdown sanctuary Shabbat service on Saturday, June 19, 2021, at 10 am. As this is the first step in BC’s staged re-opening process, we can only accommodate 35 people. Preregistration is required, along with adherence to all health and safety protocols.

If you would like to attend, please REGISTER by emailing before Friday, June 18, 2021, at 3:30 pm.
The service will be broadcast on Zoom.

Rabbi Harry and Aaron Severs

Ḥanukkiah lighting during the pandemic

Zilber-Shlensky family prepares to light

Here is the introduction to the blessings over the candles provided by Gabbai Aaron Severs at our congregational Zoom Ḥanukkah celebration on Tuesday, December 15, 2020.

“To begin, I’d like to say just how thrilled I am to see so many of you here on Zoom this evening. Normally, we would be holding the event outdoors in Centennial Square with a huge life-size Ḥanukkiah. The Victoria High Rhythm & Blues band would be playing their hearts out and we’d be having a raucous dance party. In 2020, we find ourselves in a unique and challenging year. Fortunately, we are still able to gather and share our light and warmth via the magic of the internet.

The pandemic has given us all the opportunity to slow down, take a breath and think about whom and what’s really important in our lives. And, the chance to share acts of loving kindness (gemilut ḥasadim) and compassion with one another. It is a time to appreciate the real-life front-line heroes in our midst. They may be health care workers, grocery store staff, teachers, or volunteers at our local non-profit organization. One miracle for certain, this Ḥanukkah, has been the arrival of the first shipment of Pfizer-BioNtech vaccines on Canadian soil.

On a personal level, 2020 has humbled and taught me the message of having “an attitude of gratitude”. For the many blessings, large and small, in my life. And, to recognize with a good eye (“tov ayin” as Rabbi Harry says) the good that happens each day. I do feel privileged to be part of a larger, caring and progressive Jewish community on Canada’s real west coast. So, as we get ready to light the Ḥanukkah candles this evening, I invite you all to rededicate yourselves to joy, to hope and to gratitude.

With this in mind, it gives me great pleasure to call upon our next 3 presenters. They are volunteers and part of our leadership team at Congregation Emanu-El. [OK, everyone out there in Zoom land, this is your cue…please have your Hanukkah menorahs ready, and if you are able, show them on your computer screen. We will say the blessings first, and then light.]

The first blessing will be recited by Sam Godfrey, President of our Board of Directors. [although you are all muted, feel free to join along and sing at home]. Sam has his family by his side. Whenever you are ready, Sam…

The second blessing (berakhah) will be said by Ilana Stanger-Ross. Ilana serves as our Vice President and Hebrew School Liaison.  She is joined by her family this evening. Ilana, whenever you are ready.

Akharón akharón khavív… For our third blessing, I’m honoured to call upon Caren Zilber-Shlensky. Caren is a member of our Hebrew School Committee, and along with Ilana, has also been quite active on the Emanu-El COVID-19 response committee. 

Thank you to all our presenters. Now, feel free to “rev your engines”, light up your menorahs and let’s share the warmth, light and ruach (spirit) of the holiday with one another. This is very exciting, there are so many menorahs on the screens!
I am now pleased to turn the floor over to Rabbi Matt who will continue with the next step in tonight’s program.”

For more pictures…

Choose your own High Holy Day experience

COVID-19 has forced us to become creative and expansive in order to sustain the soulful connected experience we yearn for at the High Holy Days. (Please note that all plans are fluid and may need to change based on COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island.)
Please choose your first and second preferences for the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services and let the shul office know by email at  or by phone at 250-382-0615 by September 15, 2020. 

For Rosh Hashanah Day 1
We offer three different experience blocks at different times and venues. Each block will accommodate up to fifty participants. Congregants will need to choose which block to attend and cannot migrate from one block into another. Some of the blocks are traditional and some are alternative; one block is tailored to families and children.
You will have to book your choice with the shul office  (We will do our best to accommodate congregants’ first choice. )
Block A Traditional with a Twist: 10 am to 12 noon at the synagogue (and on Zoom)
A condensed traditional service in our beautiful sanctuary. We will begin with Shaḥarit and do our utmost to cover the prayers and tunes that are most integral to us. We will read Torah, listen to a sermon followed and participate in a spirited yet abbreviated musaf service.
Block B Experiential Alternative Service: 2 – 3:30 pm at St. Ann’s Academy, 835 Humboldt Street
Led by Rabbi Harry, we will focus on contemplation, movement, niggunim/chanting and Bibliodrama and include an alternative musaf service.
Block C Family Encounter: (Block C. 1. 11 am – noon and Block C. 2. 12:30- 1:30 pm) at St. Ann’s Academy 835 Humboldt Street
Led by Rabbi Matt, this is a very special Rosh Hashanah experience tailored to families and children including music, movement, contemplation and story telling. You must choose Block C 1 or Block C 2.

For Rosh Hashana Day 2
Morning Service: 10 am to 12 noon at the synagogue (and on Zoom). We are offering a condensed traditional service similar in nature and content to Block A Day 1.
Shofar Service and Tashlikh: To keep our numbers safe and compliant we will offer three opportunities to participate in a meaningful Shofar service followed by an interactive Tashlikh service:
· Banfield Park (Esquimalt ): 2pm
· Dallas and Cook (the usual Emanu-El venue):  2pm and 3:30pm

For Yom Kippur
Kol Nidre:
September 27: 6 pm in our beautiful sanctuary an evening of haunting liturgical music letting go of unfulfilled promises marking the beginning of the Day of Atonement.  Doors will open at 5:45 and close at 6:15. 
Yom Kippur Morning service: September 28: 10 am – 1 pm with a special yizkor  at noon. Doors will open at 9:45 am and close at 10:15 am.  
Yom Kippur Nei’lah :  September 28 : 6:30 pm the final powerful closing prayers of Yom Kippur and the cathartic sounding of the final shofar. Doors will open at 6:15 and close at 6:45.