September 2, 2 pm — The Old Cemeteries Society will conduct a tour of Congregation Emanu-El cemetery on Sunday, September 2 beginning at 2 pm. This Jewish Cemetery is the oldest continuously operating cemetery in BC and has connections to many pioneers from Victoria and other places. Amber Woods, author of the OCS’s recent publication Guide to Victoria’s Jewish Cemetery, will explain the cemetery’s location and describe its people, symbolism and monuments. Meet at the main gates, Fernwood Rd. at the corner of Cedar Hill Rd. Men, please wear a hat.
Close to 50 people came to the official book launch for the Guide to Victoria’s Historic Jewish Cemetery written by Amber Woods and published by the Old Cemeteries Society. Rick Kool was the MC on behalf of Congregation Emanu-El and the Cemetery Committee. Short presentations were given by John Azar of the Old Cemeteries Society (OCS) and Amber Woods. Gary Cohen read a short biography as an illustration of one of the three anomalies of the Jewish Cemetery. Books were sold and signed in the social hall and a few Jewish desserts were served.
On Monday, June 18, 7:30 pm you are invited to attend the launch of Guide to Victoria’s Historic Jewish Cemetery written by Amber Woods at Congregation Emanu-El, 1461 Blanshard Street. Copies of the book will be available for sale.
Sunday February 18 2:00 pm Congregation Emanu-El — Over the past decade and more, there have been both formal and informal discussions about the possibility of creating a section of our cemetery for the burial of non-Jewish partners of members.
We had an open meeting in November when the Rabbi provided attendees with a range of rabbinic interpretations about the related issues surrounding such a change to our cemetery. Now that we have had a chance to review that material, Rabbi Harry will provide his formal rabbinic response to the the question of the creation of a section in the Emanu-El cemetery for interfaith burials in the upcoming meeting.
Dr. Richard Kool, Director, Congregation Emanu-El Cemetery
Although the sunlight outside was enticing, about forty congregants turned out for our Yom Iyun on Jewish Cemeteries and Burial of Non-Jews. Rabbi Harry presented the relevant halakhah using an historical approach. Those present listened attentively and responded with thoughtful questions and comments.
The Rabbi said that he would issue a formal response to this question by January 2018 when there would be a congregational meeting to consider the matter. Those present understood that any decision to change the current burial rules would require various policy/by-law decisions by the congregation.
Sunday morning, March 5th, 2017 was cold and cloudy
with scattered showers. Just before a caravan of cars bringing the older Hebrew
School students, teachers, and some parents arrived at the gates of the Jewish
Cemetery on Cedar Hill Road, small patches of blue sky appeared. The group had
come for a special tree replanting ceremony in honor of Yitzhak Rabin.
In 1996, the Hebrew School’s celebration of Tu BiShvat took on a
different tone. It had only been a few months since Rabin was shot and killed
by a right wing Jewish extremist. Congregation Emanuel Hebrew School decided to
plant a bush in the Jewish Cemetery as a memorial to the fallen Prime Minister
of Israel. Leah Levi, School Coordinator, carefully selected a tree which could
grow in Israel. After a short ceremony at the Synagogue, the Hebrew School
gathered at the Jewish Cemetery, the bush was planted in the garden beside the
Holocaust Memorial and a plaque quoting President Bill Clinton’s farewell
declaration at Yitzhak Rabin’s funeral, “Shalom
Ḥaver” (“Goodbye, Friend”) was unveiled.
Over the years, changes were made to the Holocaust Memorial. A
ramp was installed where the garden once grew. Later, the plant for Yitzhak
Rabin, which never thrived, was eaten by the resident deer. All that
remained was the commemoration plaque.
Around Tu BiShvat 2017, Amber Woods was in the Jewish Cemetery
doing research. While conversing with the caretaker Geoffrey Perkins she
learned he was troubled by the disappearance of the memorial tree and wondered
if it could be replaced. Amber contacted Leah. Greatly moved to learn that
there were people who cared about the bush, Leah decided to hold a rededication
ceremony and to plant another, hopefully more deer resistant, shrub—a Fragrant
Mountain (Hymalian) Silverbox was chosen.
As the sun peaked out from the clouds, about 30 people including
Leah Levi, a number of parents, students at the Hebrew School, Amber Woods and
Geoffrey Perkins gathered beside the Holocaust Memorial. The ceremony (as was
done 22 years ago) included singing songs of peace and hearing a biography of
Yitzhak Rabin, followed by Geoffrey placing the Hymalian Silverbox into the
prepared spot. The opportunity to place a shovelful of earth was given to those
assembled. Geoffrey completed the planting and the ceremony was concluded with
the singing of Hatikvah.
Leah Levi and Amber Woods
A public presentation entitled The Jewish Cemetery in Victoria 1859–2016 is scheduled for Monday, January 23, 2017 at 7:30 pm
at the Congregation Emanu-El, 1461 Blanshard Street in Victoria.
members and friends of the Congregation Emanu-El, the Old Cemeteries Society
and students and faculty from the University of Victoria for an evening
discussion on current research being done in and about Canada’s oldest Jewish
cemetery. Each of the students will present their findings after a summer
working at the cemetery. Congregation members are encouraged to come out to
support the students and learn about the activities at the Jewish Cemetery.
The Simcha Gift Shop will be open at
6:30 pm for shopping before the program at 7:00 pm.