A Piece of Our History–in Music!

After over 100 years we can now listen to “The Charge at Dawn” composed by Victoria’s own Judge Samuel Davies Schultz, the first Jewish judge in Canada.

Click here to find out more about Judge Schultz; musician, composer, journalist, pitcher and former Vice President of Congregation Emanu-El (1897 to 1902).

Amber Woods came into possession of an original copy of the published score from a descendant.  Before donating it to the Jewish Museum and Archives, she made a copy. After a couple years of false starts, she found Jan Stirling, who performs the piece on piano.

To hear the piece:

Composed by S.D. Schultz of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Copyright 1900. Performed by Jan Stirling.

Many thanks to Amber Woods for her remarkable research. Her rigorous scholarship is a gift to our community that gives us precious information as well as a sense of continuity with our past.

To see more of Amber’s work, and to explore more Jewish history in Victoria, click:


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

Emanu-El Launches 2019 Summer Tours

Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursday 12 – 1 pm, 1461 Blanshard Street, Victoria BC — Every summer, many tourists visit our beautiful synagogue, the oldest Canadian synagogue in continuous use, to explore its unique history, architecture and restoration with our  knowledgeable guide, Amber Woods.  It is a thrill to see how visitors are so fascinated by their visit to our shul. Please encourage your summer visitors to experience Victoria’s Jewish roots by taking one of our shul tours. If they wish to find out more about the Jewish experience in early Victoria, we recommend the gentle walking tour Not Just a Little Bit of Olde England.

Congregation Emanu-El Synagogue Tours: 2019 Summer Schedule

  • Months: June 4 – August 29, 2019
  • Days: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday
  • Hours: Noon to 1 pm
  • Cost: Adults & Youth (aged 12-18): $10: Children (Aged 6-11) $5 (Cash only)
    • Free for children under 6

Drop in for a quick peek from 10 am to noon and from 1-2 pm by donation.

Not Just a Little Bit of Olde England Walking Tours

  • Months: June 1 – September 8
  • Days: Wednesdays
  • Hours: 10:30 am to 12:00 pm
  • Cost: Adults: $20 Seniors: $15 Students: $13 Children (6-11): $10 Families: $50
  • Location: This tour starts outside the Visitor Info Centre, 812 Wharf Street at Government Street.

Note: Tours take place rain or shine.

Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays 12 – 1 pm, June 4 – August 29, 2019  

Polin: First Visit to My Ancestral Land

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An illustrated talk and reading by Isa Milman, onSunday, January 11, 2015 at 2 pm, at the Sanctuary of Congregation Emanu-El.

Isa Milman stepped foot in Poland for the first time in April 2014—a country with a thousand year Jewish history that ended in blood, smoke and ash at the midpoint of the twentieth century. Or so she thought.

She went to Poland in search of lost poems and family history, and came back with discovery.

Through photographs and excerpts from her memoir-in-progress, she will present her impressions of how Poland remembers its Jewish past, and welcomes the emergence of a new Jewish presence.

Isa Milman is a writer and visual artist who has called Victoria home since 1996. Each of her three books has won the Canadian Jewish Book Award for Poetry.