About Emanu-El’s Avodah Social Action Team

Avodah allows me to live my values. As a group, we contribute to the well-being of the often forgotten and vulnerable members of our Victoria community.  We do this through both direct interaction and financial support.  Talk is easy.  As a synagogue member of Avodah, I believe in action!”—Jackie

“It [moved] me… Rabbi Harry’s vision/invitation/challenge in 2003: to get involved in creating a social action group, Avodah, within our synagogue, a group that would translate our Jewish values of lovingkindness for our neighbours into action. I responded in a heartbeat—and am still, 18 years later, to my own astonishment, deeply involved. I am grateful for and proud of Avodah.”—Penny

Continue reading About Emanu-El’s Avodah Social Action Team

Public Hanukkah Lighting!

Light of Tzedakah, Righteous Giving, Honouring Reverend Al Tysick

Sunday, December 5, 2021, at 5 pm, Centennial Square—Join Congregation Emanu-El in an evening of joy, music and light, as we honour the tremendous work of Rev Al. He is a shining example of someone who spent decades performing acts of tzedakah, bringing hope, unconditional love and support every day to many of our sisters and brothers in the downtown core. Ḥanukkah is about dedication and Rev Al has taught us what it means to dedicate self to Tikkun Olam, cosmic repair, building a better, more loving community by caring for our city’s most vulnerable folk.

Together, we will light one of British Columbia’s largest Ḥanukkah Menorahs. We’ll dance to the music of the phenomenal Yiddish Columbia State Orchestra, amazing Klezmorim! Munch a sufganiyah (traditional Ḥanukkah donut) and experience light, joy and the holiday spirit!

Financial donations or the donation of non-perishable foods for the Food Bank at St. John the Divine would be most welcome at the event.

Current BCCDC public health guidelines do not place significant restrictions on religious gatherings. However, even as we look forward to celebrating Ḥanukkah together again this winter, we want to ensure the health and safety of our community. 


  • Do not attend if you are unwell.
  • Wear a mask. Although this is an outdoor event, some people will be singing and dancing. Masks help keep us all safer—and warmer! 
  • Be aware of physical distance guidelines, particularly when eating the delicious donuts.
  • While vaccination is not required, in the interest of public safety, we would appreciate if those age 12+ are fully vaccinated. 

Why I Knit Toques and Mitts for People in Need

Penny Tennenhouse (our wonderful congregant photographer) writes: “Frances, I was so impressed with all the wonderful toques and mitts you have made for people in need (which Avodah has helped distribute) that I wonder if you would be OK with my putting a little item (with a photo of these beautiful toques) in our newsletter. I think it would make people feel good to see this kind offering (and maybe encourage them). I just think it would lift people’s spirits to see your good work.

Frances Aknai (our wonderful congregant knitter) responds: I enjoy knitting and crocheting; I love working with yarns in different colors. By making these items, I am also helping myself. They help to fill up any time I have on my hands.

Project Tikkun Olam Hillel

Hillel Blanket Drive image

Pick-up November 21 – 22, 2018 — Warm the winter for the homeless. UVic Students have launched a blanket drive with pick-up scheduled for November 21 – 22, 2018.  Please support this cause by donating a blanket for the homeless (new or gently used). The students will pick-up your donation from your home.  For information contact Ora Stefanic, UVic Director at 250-361-7661 or ora@hillelbc.com

Dance for the Children Fundraiser

Dance for ChildrenSaturday, September 29 7:30 – 10:30 pm at Saanich Silver Threads — Get out your dancing shoes and head for the Saanich Silver Threads, 286 Hampton Road, Victoria, BC V8Z 1H1 (near Tillicum Road) and Dance for the Children, a fundraiser for the Albergue Villa Pinal, a collection of buildings located inland from Melaque MX-JAL operated by Asistencia a la Familia, which serve as residences, a school, and a medical clinic for indigenous Mexicans families from the states of Guerrero and Oaxaca who migrate during the winter months to work picking crops in the fields around Melaque.

A number of Victoria residents including Emanu-El members Sid and Jen Tafler support this humanitarian project. To learn more about the project…

Doors will open for Dance for the Children at 7:15 pm, Salsa class at 7:30 pm, dance until 10:30 pm with DJ “Pachanguero”, class with John De Pfyffer, Latin and ballroom music, maybe some live too.  There will be other surprises like a little Zumba with Roz!

Admission is $12.  Please bring finger foods to share.  Food and drinks will also be available for sale.  Donations towards items for a Silent Auction are welcome.  For more information contact Connie at 1-250-709-1935 or email her at 53conn@gmail.com


Greater Victoria Acting Together (GVAT)

GVAT imageWednesday July 18, at 7 pm — Join Rabbi Harry and others on Wednesday July 18, at 7 pm at the home of Ruthi Wicks for a GVAT Call-out and pilot listening session. Anyone interested in learning more about GVAT and/or joining the process of bringing about positive change in our community and beyond as described in the following paragraphs by Rabbi Harry is welcome.
“We live in a time of increasing polarization, anxiety and fear: a time when truth is subjective, and around the world the spectre of demagoguery rears its head. Leaders are unencumbered by facts: the most exposed and vulnerable of society are increasingly at risk.

We believe that the medicine for polarization and fear mongering is relationship building. In working for the common good we serve as partners with Divine Source to bring about tikkun olam. This is a powerful mode of resistance to demagogues.

Our congregation is a founding member of Greater Victoria Acting Together (GVAT), an alliance of faith communities, trade unions, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and community organizations joined together to build strength for affecting positive change in our city, our province and our world. GVAT is based on the traditions of the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), a community organizing movement founded in 1940 in Chicago based on the ideology of the American community organizer and writer Saul Alinsky, founder of modern community organizing.

GVAT is about working together towards a reality that expresses shalom, equality, sustainability and compassion. GVAT believes that strong communities are made up of strong organizations wherein sister organizations lend expertise and support to one another. Involvement in GVAT is good for our congregation. It allows us to use our unique gifts to help other organizations and offers us organizational partners to call upon for power and guidance. GVAT principles hold that strength begins by listening and knowing your community.

A challenge for us as Jews: there are organizations and trade unions that hold ideas and stances that are abrasive and alienating for us as a Jewish organization. The world of social justice is currently not always a comfortable place for us as Jews. The hope is that by working together on shared values we can forge relationships, change hearts and make a positive difference.

We want to involve you in a listening campaign. We have had opportunities to hear from many congregants about what attaches ḥaverim (members) to Emanu-El. We have heard stories of what congregants love about our congregation and what has been tricky for members in our congregation. We have listened to congregants describe their own struggles as collectively we try to understand what are the crucial problems facing our greater community and the world. Before we tally up the data from our own listening, we want to hear from you!

Please come join us.”

Rabbi Harry

Avodah summer appeals


Josie Davidson, who has generously offered apples from her tree to Avodah for food banks. (Photo: Penny Tennenhouse)

As we prepare for the New Year let us share the sweetness with our neighbours at the food bank at St. John the Divine.  Avodah welcomes your donations of fruit – both fresh from your tree or canned fruit.  Fruit of any kind is especially welcome as fruit is not provided as a basic item at the food bank.  As well as being a good nutritious food, fruit is considered to be a very special treat.  So, if you have a tree with extra fruit, please e-mail Jackie Saunders-Ritchie or Sue Ward, and we’ll be happy to collect or pick the fruit from your tree.  Or just bring tins of fruit to the Avodah box in the synagogue foyer. Wishing us all a sweet year.