Congregation Emanu-El celebrating 150th anniversary

History re-created in frock coats and top hats at Canada’s oldest synagogue

  • May. 22, 2013 9:00 a.m.

A grand ceremony to dedicate B.C.’s first synagogue in 1863 will be re-enacted June 2 – 150 years after Congregation Emanu-El was established in downtown Victoria.

Mayor Dean Fortin, city councillors, local MPs, MLAs and Victoria Freemasons will lead the parade, starting at the Freemasons’ Temple at Fisgard and Douglas streets at 11:15 a.m. and accompanied by the music of the Naden Band.

“We invite all Victorians to join us in the spirit of community involvement and cooperation that led to the founding of our synagogue,” said Rabbi Harry Brechner, spiritual leader of the congregation.

Many non-Jews were among the list of donors to the construction of the synagogue in the Gold Rush era of the early 1860s.

Celebrants in the parade will be dressed in period costume, wearing top hats, frock coats, long skirts and bonnets.

After the re-enactment of the cornerstone laying at 12:30 p.m., the synagogue at Blanshard Street and Pandora Avenue will be open for a historical exhibit of artifacts illustrating Jewish life over the past century and a half, including the original corporate seal of the congregation from the 1860s.

At 6 p.m., a gala celebration will be held at the Empress Hotel, featuring a keynote address by former federal justice minister Irwin Cotler on Jewish Values and the Pursuit of Justice.

Gala tickets can be purchased online at www.congregationemanu-el.ca for $150, or through the synagogue office at 250-382-0615.

Proceeds of the gala will help restore the building to its original glory, repairing the roof, the floors, the windows, and preserving the synagogue, now the oldest in Canada.