Creative Midrash

Creative MidrashSaturday, November 23, 2019 at 7:00 pm at Congregation Emanu-El, 1461 Blanshard Street — Join Rabbi Harry Brechner for an interactive evening using art and drama to expand the sacred Torah narratives in a search for deeper meaning and insights. In the first part of the workshop we will experiment with hands on Midrash, using torn paper collage to unpack and explore stories from our Biblical ancestors. In the second half of the workshop we will employ techniques of “Bibliodrama” to flesh out poignant Torah narratives.

Rabbi Harry trained with Peter Pitzele the founder of Bibliodrama, a form of psychodrama that conjures up deep archetypes, often seeing Torah narrative through the lens of “a cast of internal characters,” allowing participants to traverse their inner worlds in search of personal insight and greater spiritual awareness.

This is the second presentation of Alternative Realities in Judaism series.  Admission is by donation; light refreshments will be served.

A magical moment

IMG_0323-001Rabbi Harry did not disappoint those magic seekers who came to the synagogue last Sunday to hear about Magic and the Rabbinate. He explained how traditional and non traditional Jewish teachings had lead him to various life serving understandings; that it is all “g-d” – the good and the bad, compassion is a trusty guide, let your ego go, know what you are loyal to and be willing to go down the “rabbit hole”. He suggested that folk religion may offer life affirming ideas when classical beliefs and practices fail to offer solace. He explained that there are settings in which it is preferable to sing a niggun rather than recite a prayer or to hold a special object (amulet) rather than a siddur.

Kristallnacht: Remembrance and Action

Kristallnacht 2018 NLThursday November 7, 2019 at 7 pm, Congregation Emanu-El Synagogue, 1461 Blanshard Street — The Victoria Shoah Project will commemorate Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass), the beginning of the tragic history of attacks on European Jews, on Thursday, November 7, 2019 at 7:00 pm at Congregation Emanu-El synagogue, 1461 Blanshard St., Victoria.

In recent years we have seen the unfortunate growth of attacks on minority groups and those who are “the other”. This highlights the need for us to stand together to protect and safeguard all peoples, regardless of religion, race, sexual orientation or other factors, which may make them targets of a hateful few. This year’s program is titled “Remembrance and Action”. It is a respectful remembrance of those who suffered on Kristallnacht and in the Shoah (Holocaust) as well as a reminder of how and why we, as a collective society, commemorate such tragic events. Remembrance is essential; however we also must act in tangible ways to protect all peoples in our diverse community. We are inviting political and law enforcement leaders as well as representatives from the diverse faith communities to join together at the commemoration to lead us in reading a Pledge of Mutual Respect and Support.

Please join us to remember the past and commit to take action a better future where we will respect and protect our neighbours, not remain silent in the face of any injustice against any person or group and work towards building bridges leading to unity and shalom (peace) in our own community and beyond.

Magic and the Rabbinate

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Sunday October 27, 2019 at 4 pm — Rabbi Harry Brechner will open our Alternative Realities in Judaism series on Sunday October 27, 2019 at 4 pm at the synagogue with a presentation, Magic and the Rabbinate, in which he explores the use of amulets and healing rituals in the context of liberal and rational Judaism. He will delve into issues about the mechanics of prayer, Divine Providence, power of ritual and seeing sacred artifacts as a means of recognizing and invoking the magic interwoven with the ordinary aspects of our lives.

Alternative Realities in Judaism

Picture1The Congregation Emanu-El Adult Education Team has arranged a series of sessions inviting us to examine some aspects of Judaism that fall outside what we might consider conventional Jewish wisdom.

Sunday, Oct 27, 2019, 4 pm: Magic and the Rabbinate

  • Rabbi Harry explores using amulets and healing rituals in the context of liberal and rational Judaism.

Saturday, Nov 23, 2019, 7 pm: Creative Midrash

  • Join Rabbi Harry and friends in an interactive evening using art and drama to expand on sacred Torah narratives in a search for deeper meaning and insights.

Sunday, Jan 5, 2020, 4 pm: Kafka and Secular Jewish Mysticism

  • Lee Henderson will take a look at the life and work of the great 20th century Jewish writer Franz Kafka and his relationship to Tanakh, the tales of Rabbi Nachman, the Midrash, Kaballah, contemporary secular political ideologies.

Sunday, Feb 2, 2020, 4 pm: Jewish Shamanism

  • Francis Landy will discuss aspects of shamanism, a term for a cross-cultural religious orientation which seeks to access alternative states of consciousness, in Judaism from the prophets through medieval and post-medieval Kabbalah to the present day.

Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020, 4 pm: Hit’ḥadshut Hayahadut: Renewing Jewish Spirituality after the Holocaust

  • Rabbi Daniel Siegel will guide us as we look at ways to renew our Judaism with a particular emphasis on Ḥasidism and neo-Ḥasidism.

Sessions will be held in Congregation Emanu-El, 1461 Blanshard Street, Victoria.

Entry is by donation: light refreshments will be served. Contact Heshi ( if you have any questions.


Judaism – An Introduction


Join Rabbi Harry Brechner from Congregation Emanu-El for this informative 10-week course, which introduces Jewish beliefs, practice and history. The course reflects egalitarian Conservative Judaism: the topics include holidays, life cycle celebrations, theology and core beliefs, prayer, Jewish sacred texts, history, the Holocaust, and Israel. This course is open to anyone wishing to explore the many facets of Judaism. Continue reading Judaism – An Introduction

A River Could Be a Tree


Wednesday, February 13, 5:30 – 6:30 pm — Angela Himsel launches her memoir, “A River Could Be a Tree” on Wednesday, February 13, 5:30 – 6:30 pm, UVic Engineering and Computer Sciences Building, Room 108.  Admission is free and open to the public.

Join Angela as she discusses her recent memoir about growing up in an apocalyptic fringe religion in Indiana and her journey to Judaism. Himsel’s seemingly impossible road from childhood cult to a committed Jewish life is traced in and around the major events of the 1970s and 80s with warmth, humor, and a multitude of religious and philosophical insights. A River Could Be a Tree is a fascinating story of struggle, doubt, and finally, personal fulfillment. Himsel is a freelance writer based in New York City. She has an MFA in creative writing from The City College of New York.