Burgers and Beers for a Refugee Family in Need

Saturday 15 October – The CEE Refugee Family project is a joint effort of members of Congregation Emanu-El and the Lutheran Church of the Cross to sponsor a Syrian refugee family in their move to Victoria.  Our Lutheran partners invite you for a fun evening of food, drink, bowling, and exciting silent auction items at The Canadian Brewhouse (#117, 3500 Uptown Blvd) on Saturday, October 15, 2022 from 8:00pm to late.

Your $25 ticket to this event gives you a choice of meal (including a vegetarian option) and your first beer of the evening. There will be bowling lanes available as well as a roof-top batting cage if the weather is cooperative into October. Throughout the night there will be the opportunity to bid on the wide variety of lovely silent auction items.

Our sponsorship team is working through the Intercultural Association of Greater Victoria (ICA) to sponsor this family of six Syrian refugees to start their life anew in Victoria, and while we have met the minimum requirements set by the federal government to move forward with the sponsorship, we still need to raise more funds to support the family during their first year transitioning to life in Canada.

It would be our great pleasure to spend the evening with you, however if you are unable to attend the event but still wish to contribute, we are looking for more items for the silent auction (tax receipts are available for donated items), or you can contribute directly to the family’s support fund through the DONATE button on this webpage: congregationemanuel.ca/donations/refugee-family/

All funds raised will go towards refugee sponsorship, in collaboration with the ICA. If you would like to attend the event, or have an item to donate to the silent auction, please contact Kaitlin at dr.mcdonalddvm@gmail.com

Summary of event details

Invitation to a Middle Eastern Soirée

You are cordially invited to attend a Middle Eastern Soirée to be held at Congregation Emanu-El Synagogue (1461 Blanshard St.) on Sunday, September 11, 2022 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Throughout the evening there will be an opportunity to socialize while enjoying beverages, including beer and wine, and some finger food in the social hall.

Also, live music will be provided by Steluta, a professional band that will be playing a mix of Middle Eastern and other types of ethnic tunes in the sanctuary from 6:30 to 8:00. We invite those who wish to do so to join in some dancing.

The goal of this musical evening is to raise funds for a multi-faith project which has been launched to provide refugee sponsorship for a Syrian family of six. Members of Congregation Emanu-El Synagogue and Lutheran Church of the Cross are working to sponsor this family to start their new life in Victoria. The sponsorship team is applying on their behalf through the Inter-Cultural Association (ICA) of Greater Victoria and needs another $15,000 to reach our initial goal of $40,000 by the deadline of October 31 so the family can be officially accepted for sponsorship.

As Rabbi Harry reflected, “I find it poignant that when we strip away politics and worldviews that are based on fear, we realize that Syrians, Muslims, and Arabs are not our enemies but in fact our siblings. I imagine from the point of view of the family, just knowing that there is a caring bunch of people on the far west corner of Canada who are working towards bringing them to a place to call home and to a new start pregnant with all sorts of possibilities, must be a relief and a support.”

For everybody’s safety, you are asked to wear a mask during this event.

Please consider donating to this wonderful effort. We truly appreciate any help you can give, since it is key to making this sponsorship a reality.

We look forward to seeing you at the soirée, which promises to be a lot of fun and will go a long way towards bringing this very deserving family to safety in Victoria.

If possible, sending an RSVP to CEE.Refugee@gmail.com would help us plan the evening more effectively.

Whether you are able to attend or not, you may make a donation using the link below to a CEE webpage, which includes more information on the project and a “DONATE” button through the synagogue.


All funds raised will go towards refugee sponsorship, in collaboration with the ICA.

Robert Oppenheimer, on behalf of the Sponsorship Team

Summary of event details

CEE Refugee Family Project Update

Thanks to all those whose generous contributions have helped us reach halfway to our goal. We have a donor who has offered to match all donations made by July 31st.

Tax-deductible donations can be made to the CEE Refugee Family Project through the donation button at congregationemanuel.ca/donations/refugee-family/, by phoning the synagogue office at 250-382-0615 or by mail to: Congregation Emanu-El, 1461 Blanshard St., Victoria BC V8W 2J3.

Please ensure “Refugee Family T82” is in the memo line of any cheque you write.
If there are funds left over at the end of this process, they will be used to help other refugees in keeping with ICA’s rules.
Please email us at CEE.Refugee@gmail.com with any questions or offers to help.

For more information on the CEE Refugee Family Project, please read our previous article.

Summary of event details

CEE Refugee Family Project Update

CEE is Bringing a Second Syrian Refugee Family to Safety in Victoria.
This family of six, with four children ages seven and under, are UNHCR-registered Syrian refugees currently living in Southeast Asia, where they have been for several years. Conditions for the refugees there are not great as you can imagine. Their UNHCR registration allows them to apply to live in Canada and with CEE’s support the sponsorship committee are applying on their behalf.

As a result of the efforts of our refugee sponsorship committee the family is also included in Victoria’s Inter-Cultural Association (ICA) quota for immigrant status for refugees. This means they can be part of the 2022 Canadian government quota of sponsored refugee families. They will be the second family that Congregation Emanu-El has supported in this way.

We need to raise another $30,000 by October 31, to meet the minimum costs for government sponsorship, which are based on family size. This amount must be deposited prior to final approval of the sponsorship application. We have had a generous offer of $5000 in matching funds for incoming donations. We are looking for other donors willing to add to a pool of matching funds.

We have a team who are working with the family to complete their immigration paperwork. Our committee includes a number of shul members (including a couple of members of the previous CEE sponsorship committee) and others from the wider Jewish community. We have already raised over $21,000 and want to thank all of you who have already generously donated to help us reach our goal of bringing them to Victoria. This includes money that was used to pay for the birth of their youngest child who was born late last year. He had some significant medical problems at birth and these have fortunately mostly resolved.

Before they left Syria the family were in significant danger due to the civil war there. Their car was blown up and their apartment building was shelled. Fortunately both parents have professional backgrounds, so we are confident they will manage to establish themselves successfully in Canada when they finally arrive. The mom is a teacher so has been focussing on helping the older children get some education as best she can. The dad is currently doing odd jobs to try to keep the family afloat financially.

The alternative of returning to Syria would be extremely dangerous for them, especially since the father had been personally targeted before he left. This sense of having your family being at grave risk is very familiar to many of us whose families left Europe in similar circumstances going back several generations.

Many refugee families have already successfully been through this process with the help of local faith communities and other groups. We cannot wait to meet this courageous young family, as they exit the airport at Victoria International in about three years time. We welcome all those interested in this project to join us in our efforts.

As committee chair this feels like an opportunity for me to pass on the help and support my then thirteen-year-old father, my grandparents and my aunt Ruth received, in order to leave Nazi Germany and arrive safely in London to start their new lives. Without that crucial assistance, my brothers, cousins and I would most likely never have been born.

In addition to donations, we are also looking for volunteers who would be willing to join the team working on fundraising activities. We will be organizing some concerts and an auction in the coming months with other fundraising plans to come. We will eventually also be providing the practical help the family will need with resettlement, on their arrival in Victoria. We will be most grateful for any help you can give to enable this family to arrive safety in Canada.

Tax-deductible donations can be made to the CEE Refugee Family Project through the donation button at here, by phoning the synagogue office at 250-382-0615 or by mail to: Congregation Emanu-El, 1461 Blanshard St., Victoria BC V8W 2J3.

Please ensure “Refugee Family T82” is in the memo line of any cheque you write.
If there are funds left over at the end of this process, they will be used to help other refugees in keeping with ICA’s rules.
Please email us at CEE.Refugee@gmail.com with any questions or offers to help.

Summary of event details

Syrian family fundraiser dinner a success

Three Miracles for Our Syrian Family


The first miracle: the June 29 Syrian fundraiser dinner/ḥaflah was a culinary treat and financial success. We raised nearly enough funds to pay off government loans for both families. Thanks to all who attended and made generous donations.

second miracle:
 Last week, Ubaydah, Samar and Faruq were
interviewed and accepted as new members of the Tyee Housing Co-op. This will
provide housing security for the Rashid family, and reduce their monthly rent
expense considerably. Timing is excellent, as they will move in five weeks
before our sponsorship period ends. 
third miracle:
With the burdensome government loan nearly
resolved, and housing security achieved, we have been fervently hoping Ubaydah
could meet the next great challenge – an initial full-time job. And he has done
just that.  On
July 4, Ubaydah had a job interview, and on July 5, he started work. What a
marvellous ten days for this family!

Fundraiser dinner and haflah for Rashid family

June 29, 6–8pm at Congregation Emanu-El • 



Good News!

Update: All tickets are now sold, but it is still possible to donate without participating in the dinner: these donations would be receipted at full value.

We are excited to announce
that Sari Alesh, an accomplished violinist from Syria, will delight us with an interlude of Syrian music.

Thanks to the many people who have already purchased
tickets to support
the Rashid family in repaying
their loans to the federal government.

At long last, you can join us
in welcoming the Syrian family sponsored by Congregation Emanu-El.  Your support thus far has been remarkable. We
hope you can help again, as we seek to help the Rashid family raise funds to
repay their large travel loan.

The RashidsUbaydah, Samar
and Faruq – were not among the first 25,000 Syrian refugees accepted into
Canada. As a result, their travel expenses were not covered by the Canadian
government.  They received a loan of several
thousands of dollars, and must now repay it. 

As you can imagine, the
outstanding loan is very stressful for the family, who are diligently studying
English and a taking a training course to find employment.

Ubaydah’s brother Amer and
his family are in a similar situation. They are connected to another
sponsorship group (the Marhabaan group), who have joined with us to co-sponsor
this fundraising event. 

Together, we are supporting a
TRADITIONAL SYRIAN DINNER and ḤAFLAH (party). Samar and Ubaydah will prepare
the vegetarian and fish meal together with his brother and family. The proceeds
will assist the families to repay their travel loans.

Please join us for this
casual, delicious evening:

  • DATE: June 29, 6–8pm at Congregation Emanu-El
  • TIME: 6 to 8 pm
  • PLACE: Congregation
    Emanu-El Synagogue, 1461 Blanshard Street
  • COST: $100 per person*

The venue can only
accommodate 100 people, so we urge you to sign up soon if you would like to
enjoy this evening. If you cannot attend but are willing to support someone
else to attend the dinner, or make a donation to support the family, it would
be greatly appreciated.

Please confirm your
attendance no later than June 8
by sending a cheque to Congregation
Emanu-El 1461 Blanshard Street, Victoria, BC V8W 2J3. For payment by credit
card, call the synagogue office at 250-382-0615 Tuesday through Thursday, 9:30
a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

After June 8, we will open this event to the larger
Victoria community.

Questions?  Please contact Michael Goldstein at

*Ticket price is not eligible
for a charitable tax receipt.

Syrian Refugee Sponsorship Update

March 2017 

Our big news is that we managed to arrange a skills
assessment through Camosun College for Ubaydah. In mid-February, he spent a
couple of hours with the Electronics and Computer Engineering Department Chair
and an Arabic-speaking instructor. Ubaydah was given the task of
troubleshooting and repairing a defective power supply which to his great
satisfaction he accomplished readily.

Clearly language will continue to be his biggest challenge
in finding work and in the future to upgrading his skills. As a stop-gap
measure, our sponsorship group found a volunteer position for him in a small
electronics repair shop – which he loved. Ubaydah was grateful to have
something meaningful to occupy his time. He enjoyed the contribution he was
able to make to the business during the few weeks that he spent afternoons

At present, he is enrolled in an all-day program put on
jointly by the ICA and the BC Alliance for Manufacturing. The object of the
program is to prepare refugees to seek work opportunities in Canada. The
potential for employment at the conclusion of this two-month program is
promising. Ubaydah is very happy at being able to participate, and attends ESL
two evenings a week. Samar joked that he comes home at 9:00 pm after a 12 hour
day, has dinner and falls asleep immediately.

Samar enjoys working around their small apartment – and we
have discovered she is a great cook. She would like to find part-time
employment as well. Once Faruq enters kindergarten, in the fall of 2017, she
may have more options. Child-care will be a problem until then.

In the last week, there has been considerable excitement in
the family’s household. Ubaydah’s brother and his family, who are being
sponsored by another group, arrived in Victoria on March 22. They are a close-knit family, and Faruq has missed his cousins. Everyone is so happy at being in
the same city again.

The family has been trying to find a small freezer on
UsedVictoria, without success. Periodically they are able to buy pita bread in
bulk through the mosque, but their top-of-fridge freezer isn’t big enough to
hold large amounts. From time-to-time also they find price reductions on halal
meat, and a small freezer would help them save money if they can buy in larger
quantities. If you can help, please let us know.

Thank you again for your ongoing support.

Jean Dragushan, Chair

Syrian Refugee Sponsorship Project

Refugee Sponsorship Project: Update

The first few weeks since the family
arrived have been hectic – but “good hectic”. Phones and phone plans have been
secured, as has internet service. A donor stepped up to buy the family a TV,
and we were able to find a good second-hand laptop, set up for us by a computer

Qualified volunteers have come forward to
begin working with Ubaydah and Samar on English.  Both are keen to learn as much as possible
before they start formal ESL classes through the ICA.

Faruq is enrolled part time at a local
preschool, and as we hoped, is picking up English.  It’s a great setting for him to socialize and
play with other children.

We are gradually expanding the initial
focus which was on setting up a household, acquiring the necessities and
visiting the doctor. Our sponsorship group is also ensuring that family is
learning about Victoria, and the many recreational opportunities available to

 The presence of a family member in Victoria
has proven invaluable. You may recall that Ubaydah’s sister has lived here for
several years, and she has made herself available to translate and assist
whenever possible.

While Ubaydah and Samar regularly thank us
for what we have done and are doing, we are grateful to them for the warmth
they have shown us, and for their willingness to do whatever is needed to
further their adjustment to Canadian life.

We expect that as they become integrated
and comfortable in Victoria, we may be able to introduce them to the many
supportive members of our community. However, for the time being, the ICA is
insisting on security and privacy for the family. You will hear as soon as this

Jean Dragushan

On behalf of Emanu-el’s Syrian Refugee
Sponsorship Project

Refugee crisis in Greece

Thursday, November 17, 7pm


The photo is of Phoebe Ramsay on Leros Island in Greece, February 2016, with unnamed refugee girl. (Photograph: Lies Kinskey)

Congregation Emanu-El’s Adult Education Committee invites you to hear a talk about
the refugee crisis in Greece on Thursday, November 17th, 7:00 pm at
Congregation Emanu-El.

Victoria resident Phoebe Ramsay will be sharing her recent experiences
as a volunteer on the front lines of the refugee crisis in Greece. 

volunteered on the ground over seven months from December 2015 to June 2016.
Her journey brought her to Athens, the Greek islands where refugees came
ashore, and finally the makeshift camp of Idomeni where 15,000 people were
stranded after the European borders were sealed in March 2016. She will be
sharing stories of hope, of desperation, and of humanity.

Admission by donation.

Syrian Refugee Sponsorship Group Update

Our Syrian refugee family – mother
Samar, father Ubaydah and four-year-old son Faruq – touched down at the
Victoria airport on Thursday, September 22 at 10:30 p.m.  At long last. 

Ubaydah’s sister and her excited young
sons, carrying roses, were the first to greet the family.  Immediately
after, Samar and Ubaydah, with warm smiles, walked towards our welcoming  group, shaking hands and kissing each of us
in turn.  We were asked by the
Intercultural Association (our sponsor agency) not to take pictures, but the
quintessential moment was definitely that of Ubaydah and Rabbi Harry in a long
heartfelt embrace.

As Rabbi Harry said, “It
was amazing to feel the warmth of the family and the palpable sense of hope and ḥen (grace).“  Without a
common language, in a matter of a few minutes, we all felt a real sense of

Following this momentous
arrival, the family was driven to their bright, beautiful apartment. which our
group furnished and outfitted with great care and respect.  In the next
few days,  members of our group have been
helping with immediate needs: bank account,
phone service and internet,  food
shopping and the like.  

Our support of the
family has only just begun as we continue in the days ahead to ensure the
family’s well-being over the next year.  

So much of this effort
has been made possible through the extraordinary generosity and caring of
Congregation Emanu-El and the community.  To each and every one who has
contributed in a myriad of ways…our sincere gratitude.