Public Menorah Lighting: The Light of Tzedakah, Righteous Giving

In Honour of Reverend Al Tysick

On December 5th, a Public Menorah Lighting was held at Centennial Square. It was a wonderful evening filled with spirit and celebration – in essence a glorious Hanukkah street party! This year’s theme was the Light of Tzedakah, of Righteous Giving. 

It was our privilege to honour Reverend Al Tysick, a person who powerfully exemplifies Tzedakah via his words and deeds. Rabbi Harry spoke of how Rev. Al has brought light, hope and comfort to members of Victoria’s street and vulnerable community for many decades.  

A giant Hanukkah menorah (hanukkiah) was lit for the eighth night of the Jewish Festival of Lights.  The musical headliner was none other than the fabulous klezmer group, The Yiddish Columbia State Orchestra.  They belted out klezmer songs, Hanukkah tunes, and much more to get the audience fired up. The many attendees were singing, dancing, and simply sharing their joy and gratitude about being able to celebrate Hanukkah in person for the first time in two years.

The Avodah Social Action team collected non-perishable food and cash donations to support the food bank at St. John the Divine. Thanks go out to the Downtown Victoria Business Association for their support, and to the many others who made this an enchanted evening to remember!  

Please see photos attached, and a link to an article in the Times Colonist below.

from the Religious Services Committee

Public Hanukkah Lighting!

Light of Tzedakah, Righteous Giving, Honouring Reverend Al Tysick

Sunday, December 5, 2021, at 5 pm, Centennial Square—Join Congregation Emanu-El in an evening of joy, music and light, as we honour the tremendous work of Rev Al. He is a shining example of someone who spent decades performing acts of tzedakah, bringing hope, unconditional love and support every day to many of our sisters and brothers in the downtown core. Ḥanukkah is about dedication and Rev Al has taught us what it means to dedicate self to Tikkun Olam, cosmic repair, building a better, more loving community by caring for our city’s most vulnerable folk.

Together, we will light one of British Columbia’s largest Ḥanukkah Menorahs. We’ll dance to the music of the phenomenal Yiddish Columbia State Orchestra, amazing Klezmorim! Munch a sufganiyah (traditional Ḥanukkah donut) and experience light, joy and the holiday spirit!

Financial donations or the donation of non-perishable foods for the Food Bank at St. John the Divine would be most welcome at the event.

Current BCCDC public health guidelines do not place significant restrictions on religious gatherings. However, even as we look forward to celebrating Ḥanukkah together again this winter, we want to ensure the health and safety of our community. 


  • Do not attend if you are unwell.
  • Wear a mask. Although this is an outdoor event, some people will be singing and dancing. Masks help keep us all safer—and warmer! 
  • Be aware of physical distance guidelines, particularly when eating the delicious donuts.
  • While vaccination is not required, in the interest of public safety, we would appreciate if those age 12+ are fully vaccinated. 

Support Food Bank at Menorah Lighting

Our neighbours at the Food Bank at St John the Divine need your support. The COVID-19 pandemic restrictions and risks have prevented them from putting on their annual fundraising events, resulting in a net loss of $25,000. Since January 2021, the Food Bank has served 1,108 people, 214 of those being families, and 176 unhoused people. 24% of the average 50 people at each opening are coming for help for the first time. Since June 2020, the number of guests has been steadily increasing, with a total of 649 new members. 

The Food Bank at St John the Divine is entirely operated by volunteers, including members of Congregation Emanu-El. Every year at Ḥanukkah, the Food Bank gratefully receives food and cash donations from Congregation Emanu-El. Tax deductible receipts are available for donations $18 or more, which can be made in cash or by cheque at the Menorah Lighting Event, through St. John the Divine at Canada Helps or through Avodah at Congregation Emanu-El. Please mark your donation for Food Bank at St John the Divine.

The food or hygiene items that we are most in need of now are:

  • protein sources – canned meats (chicken, turkey), fish (salmon, tuna), peanut butter, eggs
  • canned fruit
  • cereal (muesli, granola, other)

Ḥanukkah Concert & Singalong with Kouskous and Carol

Monday, November 29, 2021, at 7 pm—Our Journeys in Jewish Music series* concludes with a musical Ḥanukkah celebration featuring Kouskous and Carol Sokoloff on Monday, November 29, 2021, at 7 pm. We will light the menorah for the second night of Ḥanukkah and invite everyone to join us lighting their own. Then the Ḥanukkah songs will start—from Kouskous’s Ma’oz Tzur and Mi Y’malel to melodies from around the globe and Carol’s Ḥanukkah–themed originals. You’ll want to sing or play along with many of them, and we’ll be sharing some words and guitar chords on the screen. Bring your menorah and candles, your voice, guitar, or other instrument and let’s celebrate a light-filled Ḥanukkah season. All are welcome to join our celebration of the Festival of Lights in song. 

Continue reading Ḥanukkah Concert & Singalong with Kouskous and Carol

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…

The Light of Ḥanukkah: Dedicating Ourselves in the Time of Pandemic

Tuesday, December 15, 2020 from 5:30 – 6:30 pm on Zoom—During this year of pandemic, we share our compassion and acts of loving kindness for each other. We share gratitude for the small things and miracles that happen each day. These personal and collective actions can help to overcome the struggle, anxiety and fear of the unknown that seem widespread in our new normal COVID-19 world.

Join Congregation Emanu-El for an hour of blessings, songs, games and bringing in the light of Ḥanukkah. Come ready to light your own Ḥanukkiah. Bring your best dreidel—see who can spin the longest! We’re going to have a Jewish themed pub-style quiz with prizes, and we’ll have songs, which may lead to mixed dancing!  Let’s fill our screens and the winter night with candle light and share the lights of Ḥanukkah together.

All are welcome.

Join online: CLICK HERE
· Regular Dial-in:
Call: 1 778 907 2071
· Meeting ID: 815 8619 1122
· Password: 402437

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)…

Avodah serves latkes at Our Place

Now we serveAvodah got Ḥanukkah off to a delicious  and freilach start with our 7th annual well-oiled Big Latke Lunch at Our Place. Our enthusiastic, dedicated volunteers, led by our exceptional latke-maker, Daryl Levine, fried and served an amazing 600 latkes while the ever-loving spirited Klezbians once again came to the aid of the party with their joyful klezmer music including the dedication of a special song to Rabbi Harry—the Rabbi’s Hornpipe and somehow getting Rabbi Harry and Penny to sing with them! Continue reading Avodah serves latkes at Our Place

Avodah sponsors 8 for 8

1161212_avodah_8for8-2On or before December 22, 2019 — Avodah invites you to bring 8 items – one for each night of Ḥanukkah to the Menorah Lighting in Centennial Square, Sunday, December 22, 2018 at 5:00 pm or to the synagogue office during office hours.

Let’s share our abundance with the Emergency Food Service at St. John the Divine.

Suggested non-perishable, new items for donation are:
• canned fruit                                    • canned salmon
• tins of meat, chicken                    • granola bars
• condiments                                    • honey
• jam                                                   • cereal, canned milk
• chunky soups                                 • crackers
• cookies                                            • margarine
• eggs                                                  • razorsCanned goods with pull tab tops are encouraged.Thank you from the Avodah Social Action Group!