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

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

Vancouver measles outbreak prompts vaccine vigilance on Island

Island health authorities push measles vaccinations - and not just for kids

Watershed concerns prompt opposition to alternate Malahat routes

Motion submitted to Regional Water Supply Commission opposing highway in watershed

Crews are on scene after a water main break on Goldstream and Strathmore in Langford

Some residences have been evacuated and traffic is being diverted

Remembering Nirvana in Victoria on Cobain’s 52 birthday

Nirvana played one show in Victoria on March 8, 1991 at the Forge

Head-on collision in Saanich draws attention to rural road safety

Saanich says additional road safety measures are already planned or underway

‘Riya was a dreamer’: Mother of slain 11-year-old Ontario girl heartbroken

Her father, Roopesh Rajkumar, 41, was arrested some 130 kilometres away

Greater Victoria Wanted List for the week of Feb. 19

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Market volatility, mortgages loom over upcoming earnings of Canada’s big banks

Central bank interest hikes have padded the banks’ net interest margins

Hearings into SNC-Lavalin affair start today, but not with Wilson-Raybould

She has repeatedly cited solicitor-client privilege to refuse all comment

VIDEO: 8 things you need to know about the 2019 B.C. budget

Surplus of $247 million with spending on children, affordability and infrastructure

Tilray to acquire hemp food company Manitoba Harvest for up to $419 million

Tilray will pay $150 million in cash and $127.5 million in stock.

Tears, flowers at impromptu memorial for Syrian children killed in Halifax fire

The family had only lived in the Quartz Drive home for a few months

NDP candidates push for stronger climate action as Singh supports LNG Canada

Singh has tried to project unity in the party while facing internal criticism for poor fundraising and low support in the polls

‘Bullet missed me by an inch’: Man recounts friend’s killing at Kamloops hotel

Penticton man witnessed Summerland resident Rex Gill’s murder in Kamloops

Most Read