From the Jewish Cemetery….

There is a great deal that can be learned about the early social history of Victoria and Vancouver Island’s Jewish community through our new cemetery website: https://jewishcemeteryofvictoriabc.ca/.

One of the important roles of the Cemetery Committee is to maintain the records related to the deaths in our community and through that, to keep the history of the community in an accessible and useful format.  With the launch of our Cemetery website in 2021, we created a wonderful vehicle for keeping our community’s memory available for historians, family members, and interested members of the broader community. The website also has a completely functioning database that is publicly accessible, and which can be used by individuals to do community-based research.

For example, there is information in the database that comes from a document now held in the provincial archives; a record book of the first burials in our cemetery between 1861 and 1866.  This simple list of 18 burials offers a heartbreaking story of the lives and struggles of the first Jews in our region.  Twelve of the 18 burials in those first years of the Jewish cemetery were children under 12 years of age, who mainly died between the months of November and March The remaining one-third were adults but not all died from ‘natural’ causes: one of those, Morris Price, who was the first burial in the cemetery, was murdered on the mainland.  All four of the burials in 1863 were children, including two from the same family who died within months of each other.

Between 1860 and 1879, children made up nearly 80% of all burials in the cemetery. It is hard to understand the grief, for example, of Solomon and Rosa Levi of Nanaimo, who lost three children in one terrible week in August 1875, and then a fourth in 1876. We believe that the three children were taken by canoe from Nanaimo to our cemetery for burial, although we do not know the location of the graves.

However we can see a remarkable change in the death rates of Jewish children in early Victoria. During the last years of the 19th and the first decade of the 20th centuries, the demographics of burials changed dramatically. The percentage of child burials dropped from nearly 80% to around 20% during the last two decades of the 19th century, and in the first decade of the 20th century the percentage dropped to just under 10%. Better living conditions, and advances in public health and medicine all likely contributed to this rather abrupt change in child mortality.

There is much to learn about the history of our community by the examination of cemetery records. The Cemetery website has lots of information about the people buried in the cemetery, and will soon have some of these historical documents as well!

Amber Woods is collecting and preserving our community’s social history so that we can pass it down to future generations. 

Please forward any information about those buried in the cemetery that could be posted on their individual web page to Amber Woods:  CongregationEmanuelHistorian@gmail.com

Rick Kool, Emanu-El Cemetery Director

Zachor Remembrance Wall Dedication

Sunday, October 17, 2021, at 3:30 pmThe Cemetery Committee and the Friends of the Jewish Cemetery invite the community to the dedication on Sunday, October 17, 2021, at 3:30 pm of the new Zachor Remembrance Wall in Congregation Emanu-El’s cemetery on Cedar Hill Road. The wall provides a place where the names of loved ones not buried in our historic cemetery may be inscribed in their memory. Pre-registration is not required but appropriate COVID-19 safety measures will be observed on site. For information on how you can honour a loved one on the wall, or you may contact the Office at 250-382-0615 or info@congregationemanuel.ca.

Cemetery Website Up and Running

Thanks to Leah Freedman and Amber Woods, we have a new, totally wonderful, and fully searchable website for our historic Jewish Cemetery. This website contains burial information, and more, on every person that we are aware was buried in the cemetery, or was noted on a gravestone. To view the Jewish Cemetery of Victoria website.

The process of collecting and correcting information about the people buried in our cemetery has taken many years, and we are very interested in fixing any errors that might be found in the information on the website. To send comments and/or additions and/or corrections.

The website also hosts the stories of those people remembered on the Zachor Remembrance Wall. To view these stories.

The Cemetery Committee offers our deepest thanks to Leah and Amber bringing this amazing project to fruition.

Zachor Remembrance Wall

Congregation Emanu-El invites you to remember and honour a loved one who is not buried in our cemetery. Located within a natural Garry Oak meadow and filled with eclectic headstones and graves dating from 1861 to the present, the cemetery is the home of the Victoria Shoah/Holocaust Memorial.

For more information, please contact: Congregation Emanu-El Office 250-382-0615 or info@congregationemanuel.ca

Learn more about the Zachor Remembrance Wall and/or obtain an inscription purchase form.

Notice of increase in funeral and burial fees for Congregation Emanu-El Cemetery

The Board of Congregation Emanu-El has approved an increase in fees associated with burial in our historic cemetery, effective January 31, 2021, trying to keep costs within reason and comparable to other similar cemeteries. The fees have not increased since 2015, and our costs continue to rise. Funeral and burial costs are all inclusive as noted below, including the services of Sands Funeral Chapels of Victoria, our Chevra Kadisha, plot cost and burial in our cemetery.

As of January 31, 2021 the fee for members of the Congregation will be $12,000.  The fee for non-members will be $15,500. In special circumstances, the burial price for a person who was a formerly long-standing member may be decided on a case by case basis with the agreement of the Rabbi and Cemetery Director.

Members and non-Members can prepay these costs at the current rate (members – $10,500;  non-members – $13,500) before January 31 by contacting Sands Funeral Chapel. Members can also prepay the plot cost ($2000 now, $4000 after January 31, 2021) directly from Emanu-El at any time by contacting the Congregation office. 

FUNERAL SERVICES INCLUDE:

  • Burial plot; preparation and closing of grave
  • Maintenance of graveyard in perpetuity
  • Plain pine casket
  • Transportation of deceased from place of death to funeral home (within 40 km distance) and from funeral home to cemetery
  • Limousine service for family to funeral (if desired)
  • Assistance with funeral arrangements in co-ordination with Rabbi or spiritual advisor
  • Services of Chevra Kadisha, which include: Taharah – cleansing and preparation of the body for burial; Tachrichim – burial garments and providing yahrzeit candles and grieving literature (as needed)
  • Assist with registration of death and death certificate
  • Assist with obituary notice (if needed)
  • Assist with Shiva (seven days of mourning)

The Rabbi or alternate will perform a graveside funeral service and, within one year of burial, an unveiling service.

Adjoining plot may be reserved for spouse or child upon payment of plot fee ($4000)

FUNERAL SERVICES DO NOT INCLUDE:

  • Personal choice of burial plot location
  • Any loss of valuables
  • Cost of headstone or curbing or any associated concrete work
  • Maintenance of individual grave plantings, such as flowers or rose bushes, maintenance of headstone
  • Transportation of deceased more than 40 km (a surcharge may apply)

Jewish Cemetery Tour

Sunday, September 6, 2020 at 2:00 pm RSVP required … Fraternal organizations were an important part of community life in early Victoria. With the help of Mark Anderson and Diana Pedersen, Amber Woods (author of the OCS’s publication Guide to Victoria’s Historic Jewish Cemetery), will tell stories of the Jewish Freemasons and Woodmen of the World buried here. Meet at main gates Fernwood Road at corner of Cedar Hill Road. Men, please wear a hat.

Cost is $2 for members of the Old Cemeteries Society and $5 for non-members.

COVID-19 Protocols for Old Cemetery Society’s tours for safety:
1.     Social distancing will be required.
2.     Masks are optional.
3.     Maximum capacity of this tour will be 20 people.

Registration is required. Space will be filled on a first come first serve basis. A second tour at 3:30 pm will be offered if needed. Please send an email with your name, contact information and number in your party attending to oldcem@pacificcoast.net. Please put Jewish Cemetery Tour in the subject line.

Copies of the Guide to Victoria’s Historic Jewish Cemetery will be available for purchase outside of the cemetery. Please bring cash or a check made out to Old Cemeteries Society.  Books are also available at Simcha Gift Shop at Congregation Emanu-El, Munro’s and Bolen Books.

Upcoming unveiling ceremonies

headstone-unveilingJanuary 10 @ 11 am & January 12 & 1 pm 2020 at Congregation Emanu-El cemetery — Dear Ones,
Within the past year we experienced the deaths of two congregants who were like family to many of us and for whom we were their closest loved ones.

  • The unveiling for KimNoa Bromberg z”l will take place on Friday, January 10, 2020 at 11 am.
  • The unveiling for Suzi Deston z”l will be on Sunday, January 12, 2020 at 1 pm. Reception to follow unveiling. To RSVP and for details…

Please come to honour their memories and share life lessons we received from them.
B’Virkat Shalom
Rabbi Harry

Joy Wilkins Baruḥ Dayan HaEmet

Joy Wilkins October 2018It is with a very heavy heart that I write to tell the community that Joy WIlkins died Monday July 29, 2019.

Most of the members of Congregation will not have known Joy, but anyone who has had a loved one buried in our cemetery or have come to visit the cemetery will have likely met Joy. She was the partner of our caretaker, Geoffrey Perkins, and like Geoff, carried a deep and abiding love for the cemetery, its history, its beauty, and the community it serves. Continue reading Joy Wilkins Baruḥ Dayan HaEmet

Invitation to a Cemetery Tour

Gravestone

Sunday, March 3 at 10 am, Jewish Cemetery, Cedar Hill Road near Hillside Avenue — Congregation Emanu-El invites you to attend a guided tour of our Cemetery at Cedar Hill Road led by our Cemetery Director, Dr. Rick Kool and local Jewish historian and tour guide, Amber Woods on Sunday, March 3 at 10 am.
This guided visit is in conjunction with Congregation Emanuel’s last Sunday’s Facilitated Encounter and the ongoing discussions around the possibility of providing space for the burial of congregants’ non-Jewish partners with their Jewish counterparts. It is hoped that, once having seen the area of the cemetery proposed for these burials, congregants will be better able to assess the proposition and form their opinions.

Maps of the cemetery will be provided, as will copies of Rabbi Harry’s tshuvah.