Auction to help save Canada’s oldest synagogue

Items from celebrities such as Leonard Cohen, Margaret Atwood up for bid

Rabbi Harry Brechner and Jean Dragufhan

Rabbi Harry Brechner and Jean Dragufhan

Works by famous local and nationally renowned artists will be on the auction block, along with many other items, as Canada’s oldest synagogue raises money for much-needed repairs.

Congregation Emanu-El, 1461 Blanshard St., is a designated National Heritage Site and, as it approaches 150 years old, is the oldest synagogue in Canada in continuous use.

There is a history of community involvement with the synagogue that stretches back to its beginnings. When it was built in 1863, people came together from throughout Victoria to help raise funds for the small community of Jewish residents who were committed to establishing the synagogue.

“There were more than 200 people who made contributions towards the synagogue,” board vice president Jean Dragushan said. “That’s quite impressive given that there were only about 35 members of the synagogue at that time. So it just shows you the level of community support.”

The congregation hopes to once again rally support from the wider community for its Nov. 22 auction to raise money to go towards repairs, namely for the roof. The building is showing its age and a large crack has formed in the centre of an arch toward the back of the synagogue.

The roof, which is the original, is shifting and the whole structure needs to be stabilized

“If we can’t do that, the building itself is in great danger,” Dragushan said. “It’s alarming if you look inside because the crack is getting so large, chunks of plaster are now falling off. We’re still OK, but I don’t know for how long.”

The synagogue reached out to celebrities both local and from afar, along with local businesses, for items to auction. They answered generously and the synagogue now has more than 100 items for its auction.

Among them are a number of works of art from some big names in the art world. One is a signed print donated by Leonard Cohen, which comes with a certificate of authenticity. The work is the first in a series of 50 prints by the legendary Jewish-Canadian songwriter, poet and artist.

“We wrote him and asked him and he responded,” Dragushan said.

Prints were also donated by local artists Robert Bateman and Phyllis Serota. Other celebrities who contributed items are Margaret Atwood, Marc Garneau and Morley Safer.

Also available are holiday packages to the Wickaninnish Inn and Pacific Sands Beach Resort in Tofino, tickets to events in Victoria, gift certificates for dinners in various restaurants, spa days, cooking classes and items from a variety of business.

“We got some wonderful responses,” Dragushan said. “There’s a whole range of items that will be up for auction so people can have something small, they can bid on something large.”

The goal is to raise $25,000 through the evening. In total the synagogue is trying to raise $900,000 to complete all needed repairs, including restoring stained glass windows, replacing the front porch and improving the seismic stability of the building.

Synagogue organizers are also planning events for 2013 to celebrate the 150th anniversary.

Tickets for the live auction are $50 and include hors d’oeuvres, care of The London Chef, and drinks. Legendary Victoria auctioneer Eric Charman will be leading the live auction.

Tickets are available online at congregationemanu-el.ca or by mail at Congregation Emanu-El, 1461 Blanshard St., Victoria, V8W 2J3.

Just Posted

Saanich police used a drone to investigate a fatal crash in the 5200-block of West Saanich Road on Feb. 4, 2021. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Police determine speed, impairment not factors in fatal West Saanich Road crash

Driver who died veered across center line into oncoming traffic for unknown reason, police say

A nurse gets a swab ready to perform a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Island’s daily COVID-19 case count drops below 10 for just the second time in 2021

Province reports 8 new COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island Wednesday

This rendering shows the proposed warehouse for lands under the authority of the Victoria Airport Authority near a Sidney residential neighbourhood. (York Realty/Submitted)
Sidney asked to show patience about identity of would-be warehouse operator

President of York Realty says nobody is trying to hide anything

Saanich police reported an increase in violent crimes and a drop in traffic incidents in the first three months of 2021 compared to the final quarter of 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Saanich police report increase in violent crimes during first quarter of 2021

More domestic violence, less property crime and distracted driving compared to end of 2020

Donna Brower (left) and her daughter Carol Anne Penner, members of the Silver Swans – a quilting group of 12 ladies who meet at the Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary – with a mountain of masks they sewed. (Photo submitted by Julia Dawson)
Saanich quilting group nabs first prize in Volunteer BC photo contest

Silver Swans sewing club raised more than $12,000 for Swan Lake nature sanctuary

Marc Kielburger, screen left, and Craig Kielburger, screen right, appear as witnesses via video conference during a House of Commons finance committee in the Wellington Building in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 28, 2020. The committee is looking into Government Spending, WE Charity and the Canada Student Service Grant. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
BREAKING: Trudeau didn’t violate conflict rules over WE Charity, watchdog says

Federal ethics commissioner Mario Dion found that former finance minister Bill Morneau did violate the rules

Signage for ICBC, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, is shown in Victoria, B.C., on February 6, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
$150 refunds issued to eligible customers following ICBC’s switch to ‘enhanced care’

Savings amassed from the insurance policy change will lead to one-time rebates for close to 4 million customers

Pixabay
Island Health: two doctors, new clinic space to avert Port McNeill health crisis

Island Health has leased space to use as an immediate clinic location to avert health crisis

Police investigate a fatal 2011 shooting in a strip mall across from Central City Shopping Centre, which was deemed a gang hit. The Mayor’s Gang Task Force zeroed in on ways to reduce gang involvement and activity. (File photo)
COVID-19 could be a cause in public nature of B.C. gang violence: expert

Martin Bouchard says the pandemic has changed people’s routines and they aren’t getting out of their homes often, which could play a role in the brazen nature of shootings

A poignant Pandemic Postcard Project submission has led Lesley Wright and Graham Hughes of Literacy Alberni on a new path toward anti-racism education. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
‘I am not a virus’: How one postcard sparked a Vancouver Island pushback against racism

Literacy Alberni receives $50K in funding to create web-driven system for reporting racism

Tinder, an online dating application that allows users to anonymously swipe to like or dislike other’s profiles. (Black Press Media files)
B.C. man granted paternity test to see if Tinder match-up led to a ‘beautiful baby’

The plaintiff is seeking contact with the married woman’s infant who he believes is his child

Nurse Tami Arnold prepares to administer a COVID-19 vaccine. (Kareem Elgazzar/AP)
B.C. adults 30+ now eligible to get vaccinated against COVID-19

Health officials made the announcement Wednesday afternoon

Ancient Forest Alliance campaigner Andrea Inness walks beside an enormous western red cedar stump in a BCTS-issued cutblock in the Nahmint Valley. (PHOTO COURTESY TJ WATT)
Watchdog: logging practices put Vancouver Island old growth, biodiversity at risk

Forest Practices Board has issues with BC Timber Sales practices in Nahmint Valley near Port Alberni

Most Read