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Congregation Har El

  • Entidad colectiva
  • 1962-

The origins of what would become Congregation Har El can be traced to the determined efforts of a number of Jewish residents of the North Shore, led by Horst Sachs z”l, during the middle of the last century. The official incorporation took place in 1962 and meetings were held in private homes. In 1974, with the influx of South African Jews into the community, space was rented in the Gloria Dei Lutheran Church on 2158 Fulton Avenue, West Vancouver and regular religious services were established in the conservative tradition, including community social events. The Congregation, at this time went by the name of Sha’ar Harim, Gateway to the mountains. In 1981 the landmark figure of 100 member families was reached and a permanent rabbi, Rabbi Imre Balla was hired who guided the Congregation until 1999. In 1984 the Congregation changed its name to Har El, Mountain of God, when it moved into its own premises, renting temporary army barracks owned by the North Shore school board, at 1735 Inglewood, West Vancouver. These were renovated and greatly improved and became home for the next 13 years. In 1993, land was purchased from the British Properties on 1305 Taylor Way, West Vancouver and plans were underway to build a permanent home. On September 7, 1997 the dedication of the new synagogue took place.

Rabbi Shmuel and Sara Birnham and their son David Shalom moved to West Vancouver and joined the Har El community in the summer of 2000. The Congregation joined the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism in 2002.

The building, which was designed by Mark Ostry of the architectural firm of Acton Johnson Ostry, won the Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia Award of Excellence and the Ron Thom Wood Design Award. The facilities include a beautiful sanctuary, community centre, fully-equipped kitchen, library, meeting rooms and social halls. Congregation Har El’s classroom wing is also home to the North Shore Hebrew School.

A major renovation took place in 2008 which greatly improved the acoustics and warm ambiance of the sanctuary and main social hall.

In the summer of 2010, Cantor Teron Cohen was engaged as the first full-time professional Cantor of the Congregation.

The North Shore Jewish Community/Congregation Har El is an egalitarian Conservative congregation combining spirituality with a deep sense of tradition. Har El is a member of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and follows its guidelines. The North Shore Jewish Community/Congregation Har El is committed to promoting Jewish identity, worship, education, culture, and values to the surrounding community and beyond.

Congregation Emanu-El

  • Entidad colectiva
  • 1863-

Congregation Emanu-El is a progressive Conservative synagogue in Victoria, on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Congregation Emanu-El is composed of an eclectic group of 200 families who come together to create a dynamic and spiritual expression of Jewish life. It is a place of love and growth where deep friendships are forged and nourished. Congregation Emanu-El believes in connecting people to one another and to their Jewish roots and traditions, as well as nourishing feelings of community, security and belonging. In 2013 Congregation Emanu-El celebrated its 150th anniversary as the oldest continuously active synagogue in Canada and western North America. Since 1863, the congregation has grown from about 50 families to nearly 200 families, despite the advent of three new congregations in the city over the last 10 or so years: Aish HaTorah (modern Orthodox), Kolot Mayim (Reform) and Chabad of Vancouver Island. It is popularly believed that there are now 2,500-3,500 Jews on Vancouver Island, although many of them are unaffiliated.

In the 1850's, during the time of gold prospectors, fur traders, and steamships, the Jewish community of Victoria began. The first Jews came in 1858, mostly from San Francisco. Gold prospectors had to stop in Victoria, the capital, to obtain mining licenses, and then go on to the mainland where gold was discovered. The first Jews came with these prospectors, and supplied the mining camps with food, clothing, household goods, and tools. In the 1850's, there were about 200 Jews in Victoria.

The first need of the community was a cemetery. The Victoria Hebrew Benevolent Society (the first Jewish organization in Western Canada) purchased a burial site on Cedar Hill Road which at that time was on the edge of town. On Feb. 5, 1860, the cemetery was founded. That same cemetery still serves the Jewish community today.

The congregation “Emanu-El of Victoria, Vancouver Island” came into being in 1862, and members purchased the present site of the synagogue for $730. The building was designed by principal architect John Wright, from the firm Wright & Sanders, the first professional architect in Victoria.

The cornerstone-laying ceremony took place June 2, 1863. This was a gala celebration and was attended by the mayor, town council, Chief Justice, the Freemasons, Hebrew Benevolent, French Benevolent and St. Andrews Societies, bands and choirs. The congregation was incorporated by an act of the Legislature of the Colony of Vancouver Island that received assent on July 7, 1864, as “The Emanuel of Victoria, Vancouver Island.”

In approximately 1893 the congregation purchased, for $350, a parcel of land to the south of the sanctuary and erected a wooden structure measuring 50 by 70 feet, called the Hebrew Ladies’ Hall, so named because it could not have been built without the Hebrew Ladies’ Association having raised a large part of the construction funds and because it was intended to facilitate the association in their further fundraising activities. This building functioned in many different roles: as a ballroom, space for bazaars, a school, a church and even a judo club. Later renamed Victoria Hall, by the 1970s, the then 80-year-old structure had deteriorated and was demolished in favour of a used car lot. The land was later used for the portable classrooms of Emanu-El’s Hebrew school, until the construction of the present Fisher Building (Congregation Emanu-El Education and Culture Centre).

In approximately 1900, another structure, a single-storey addition referred to as a “lean to,” was built onto the southeast corner of the sanctuary. The structure was extended to the street in the late 1940s, when the synagogue was “modernized.” This space, still very much in use today, has served multiple purposes over the last 100 years: from kitchen to classroom to meeting space to children’s play area.

Towards the end of the 19th century, the Jewish population in Victoria declined as Vancouver took on more global importance. By the mid-1940′s, there were only 10-15 families at Congregation Emanu-El. The synagogue was 80 years old by then, and was badly deteriorated. In an effort to save it from being condemned, the original brick exterior was covered with stucco, the windows were blocked in and a false ceiling was installed to allow for adequate heating. A rededication ceremony at the Emanu‐El Synagogue was held on March 17, 1948.

This preserved the synagogue until 1978, when a group of volunteers decided to restore the synagogue to its original condition. This was a time when there was a new public appreciation of heritage. In 1977, the provincial Heritage Conservation Branch was founded, responsible for the planning and management of provincial heritage resources. The Branch's Restoration Services Division would play a crucial role in the synagogue restoration. In 1978, "The Committee to Restore Canada's Oldest Synagogue" was organized and consisted of Martin Levin as Chairman with a membership of Harry Brown, Neil Gold, Michael Goldberg, Alan Klenman, Ben Levinson, Gene Miller, Felix Reuben and later Martin Bernstein. The Committee enlists the aid and expertise of the Heritage Conservation Branch of the Provincial Government which is to prove invaluable throughout the four year restoration project.

The project of revitalizing the Synagogue included: removing old paint and stucco; duplicating antique bricks of irregular shapes; recreating doors; shipping stained glass from Europe; remaking hundreds of elaborate spindles for the gallery railing and restoring a rose window that could not be removed from the wall. Although some of the fabric of the building, such as the doors, was lost forever, the blocked‐off windows were not lost, and much of the interior that was shut away by the false ceiling survived.

The restoration was made possible by the support of various organizations including the British Columbia Heritage Trust. Every effort was made to restore the Synagogue as authentically as possible, for example: new bricks, to replace those defaced in preparation for the stucco, were hand made by the Hidden Brick Company in Vancouver, Washington; hundreds of new spindles for the balcony were hand turned by David’s Classic Wood‐Works, of Victoria; and local stained‐glass artist, Andrew Leone, repaired and recreated the windows and dome. The new stained glass in the ceiling was supported on Plexiglas, with a rectangular glass structure on top to protect it, and allow for inspection. The wooden floor was dug out and a skim coat of concrete placed on the exposed ground before the new floor was installed. Commitment to authenticity led the Heritage Branch to petition the Fire Marshall to make concessions concerning the provision of facilities in compliance with the current code. Both the interior and exterior of the synagogue today would, it seems, be instantly recognisable to the Jewish citizens of Victoria who worshipped there one hundred and fifty years ago. In the end the cost of this restoration was $370,000.00, more than half of which came from the Victoria Jewish community. This restoration was completed in 1982 with a multicultural and multi-ethnic celebration similar to the original dedication in 1863.

On June 26, 1983, the Government of Canada mounted a plaque recognizing the "national historical and architectural significance of Congregation Emanu‐El Temple."

The Victoria Jewish Community kept growing and in 1994, the Board of the Congregation Emanu‐El established a Task Force to examine the possibility of expanding the Synagogue. A Building Committee was formed upon the vote of the Board, tasked with the responsibility of securing conceptual drawings and any technical studies or surveys required to assess the options of constructing an addition to the Synagogue. The addition to the Synagogue became the Matanah G’Dolah Project and was the Capital Building and Fundraising Campaign of Congregation Emanu‐El. In 2003, the project was realized when the addition, the Al and Sylvia Fisher Building, the Congregation Emanu-El Educational and Cultural Centre opened. By 2004, the congregation had grown to about 215 families.

On June 2, 2013 Victoria’s Congregation Emanu-El celebrated its 150th anniversary with a day of festivities, including a reenactment of the original parade that marked the laying of the synagogue’s cornerstone on June 2, 1863. The parade formed at the corner of Fisgard and Douglas (the Freemason temple) and set off at noon with the Royal Canadian Navy’s Naden Band leading. The parade paused at City Hall to pick up Mayor Dean Fortin and some city councilors before arriving at the intersection of Pandora and Blanshard streets. There, the commemoration of the laying of the cornerstone took place – Fortin, Israel’s Ambassador to Canada Miriam Ziv, the grand master of Freemasons in British Columbia and other dignitaries marked this historic occasion and welcomed the 150th year of Congregation Emanu-El, the oldest synagogue in Canada in continuous use.

As Congregation Emanu-El was preparing for a 150th anniversary commemoration and celebration, including festivities and events held throughout 2013, it was also time to restore and maintain the building so that it will last another 150 years. The congregation’s focus then, are twofold: joy for the present, and care for the future. Donald Luxton and Associates (Vancouver) was selected as the heritage conservation consultant. The scope of work included, in approximate order of priority, the need to repair and reinforce the roof structure; restore the windows and increase the R-value, the degree of resistance to the passage of heat through a material, in order to reduce heat loss; replace the outmoded electro-mechanical heating controls with a programmable electronic system; upgrade the fire/smoke detection system to promote early warning; replace the front entrance and modify it to provide universal access; enhance the security of the aron kodesh to provide fire, theft, flood and earthquake protection for the sifrei Torah (Torah scrolls); and renew the well-worn wooden floor. Compared to the 1982-era restoration, these projects are mostly out of sight and out of mind. In the end, the cost of this restoration will be approximately $950,000.
Once these projects have been completed, thus ensuring the integrity of the building envelope, it is believed that the Emanu-El sanctuary will be in a sufficient state of repair that a 20-year cycle of periodic preventive maintenance inspections and repairs should see the building through its next 150 years.

Chelm Cultural Club

  • Entidad colectiva
  • 1978-1986

The Chelm Cultural Club initiated a Jewish film festival in Vancouver and maintained it for nine years (1978-1986), with screenings at Langara Community College and Pacific Cinematheque.

The Chelm Cultural Club was created by a group of Jewish friends who wanted to fill what they experienced as a cultural void in Vancouver, both for themselves and for the community at large. Primarily they wanted to see Jewish and Israeli films, and to that end they formed the club in 1978. In addition to films, they also organized other cultural events (ex. "Megila Lider," a Yiddish musical event and a number of lectures), but above all the Chelm Cultural Club was a Jewish film society. In 1980 they incorporated as a non-profit society (see constitution of 1980). The society disbanded in 1986.

From the point of view of their internal organization, all members of the Chelm Cultural Club participated equally and democratically. There was no bureaucracy or hierarchy. Hence the name "Chelm." Amusing as this may sound, it was basic and important because it assured the vitality of the society. In this way, the Chelm Cultural Club was an ideal model of a democratic community organization.

They chose to be independent and not to be restricted by official agencies of the Jewish community, though they did network with some Jewish (ex. Canadian Jewish Congress, Hillel, Louis Brier Home and Hospital) and non-Jewish (ex. Vancouver Community College/Langara, Pacific Cinematheque) agencies.

The Chelm Cultural Club was a volunteer-run enterprise whose operating budget came from donations at the door at film screenings and other events, occasional membership donations, as well as small contributions from other organizations when they co-sponsored a film.

The founding and core members of the Chelm Cultural Club included: Avi Dolgin, Ruth Hess-Dolgin, Shaya Kirman, Shanie Levin, and Seymour Levitan. Other active participants over the years included: Ned Glick, Alex Kliner, Edna Oberman, Barry Rabinowitz, Abe Schwartzman.

Chelm Cultural Club - list of films screened:
• Fall 1978: Miraleh Efros, Salah, Got, Mentsch un Tayvl, House on Cherrlouche Street, Let My People Go, This is Sholem Aleychem, The Dybbuk, Garden of the Finzi-Continis.
• Fall 1979: Grine Felder, The Big Day, The Martyr, Jacob the Liar, Jew of Winnipeg, A People Chosen/Who is a Jew?, The Falashas.
• Fall 1980: Yidl Mitn Fidl, Daughters Daughters, Number Our Days, The Fifth Horseman is Fear, Free Voice of Labor, Music of Auschwitz.
• Fall 1981: Der Purimshpiler, The Dreamer, Bye Bye Braverman, Jerusalem File, Journey to Heritage, 20 Years Later, A Brivele Der Mamen.
• Fall 1982: Mamele, Image Before Our Eyes, Kazablan, The Dybbuk.
• Fall 1983: One Hundred and Two Mature, The Golden Age of Second Avenue, Memorandum, 20 Years Later, Routes of Exile: A Moroccan Jewish Odyssey, The Wooden Gun/Rove Huliot.
• Fall 1984: Tevye, Jacob the Liar, Kaddish, Who Shall Live and Who Shall Die?.
• Fall 1985: Routes of Exile, Catskill Honeymoon, Ra'ananah, Dark Lullabies.

Chelm Cultural Club - other activities:
• January 1979: Professor Eugene Orenstein, Moshe Leib Halpern: A Great American Yiddish Writer and His Times.
• March 1979: A Purim Celebration.
• Fall 1985: Concert with Michael Alpert.

Canadian Zionist Federation. Pacific Region

  • Entidad colectiva

Now operating as a program under the administration of the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver, CZF is an umbrella organization for all Zionist groups in the community. It also provides information for Israel tourism and trade.

Canadian Jewish Congress. Pacific Region

  • Entidad colectiva
  • ca. 1935-

The Pacific Region Branch of this national organization was established in the late 1930s to act on behalf of the Jewish community on issues such as interfaith, multicultural, and media relations, local, Israel and world Jewish affairs.

Canadian Histadrut

  • Entidad colectiva
  • 1924-

The Canadian Histadrut campaign started its activities in 1924 as an affiliate of the National Committee for Labor Israel (American Histadrut Campaign). In February 1942, the National Canadian Histadrut Convention took place in Montreal, at which time application was made for a charter from the Canadian government. In February 1943, the charter was granted. In recent years, the main objective of the Canadian Association for Labor Israel has been the raising of funds to assist Histadrut in Israel in its rehabilitation programs and the settling and integration of the newly arrived immigrants in Israel. The funds collected meet the needs of the many newcomers to Israel, from Africa, Asia and the former Soviet Union. As the majority of the immigrants to Israel since 1945 have arrived with little or no material assets, it devolves upon the people of Israel to see that they are properly received; that their medical needs are looked after; that suitable occupations and trades are found for all able-bodied males and females; that they receive the necessary training and schooling to become absorbed into the economy of the country; and that education and training be provided for growing adolescents and skilled adults. A vital component of Histadrut is the Canadian Friends of AMAL. Its sole aim is to encourage and develop vocational education in the numerous school devoted to that purpose in Israel. This is done by the raising of funds to provide scholarships for poor children. The AMAL schools, dotted throughout Israel, provide an opportunity for needy children to obtain a comprehensive vocational and high school education, whereby on graduation they are skilled in one of over one hundred different trades. The Histadrut (Israel's trade union) movement has assumed a large responsibility for housing, health, vocational training, old-age security, as well as cultural activities and the financing of industrial and agricultural developments.

Altman (family)

  • Familia
  • ca. 1943-ca. 2001

Hy and Bess Altman were active in a variety of Jewish organizations in Vancouver from the 1970s to the end of the 1990s. They also raised money for Israeli institutions and won recognitions for doing so.

National Council of Jewish Women, Vancouver Section

  • Entidad colectiva
  • 1924-

The National Council of Jewish Women, Vancouver Section, founded in 1924, is a voluntary organization which was chartered in affiliation with the International Council of Jewish Women and the National Council of Jewish Women of Canada. The Branch has operated continually since that time, offering services to Jewish and non-Jewish families locally and internationally in the areas of education, social service, and social action.

Projects initiated at the local level over the years include assistance to refugees from Europe before and during World War II and sponsorship of a Jewish orphanage in Bergstitiching, Holland. During the 1950s the Section concentrated on matters of health care for children and seniors including the study into the emotional care of children in hospitals, and reports and recommendations regarding the social needs of senior citizens. During the 1970s the Branch initiated a Kosher Meals on Wheels program, managed a mobile preschool and purchased a mobile hearing testing bus for preschool children (first van was presented in 1983; second van was presented in 1985). Studies into the care of seniors continued. Members also worked in liaison with other Jewish organizations such as the Jewish Family Services Agency and the Canadian Jewish Congress in matters such as care of seniors and the treatment refugees. Through the 1980s members of the Section participated in matters of national and international concern, such as the meeting for the United Nations Decade for Women in Nairobi, Kenya in 1985.

Other projects and services are: English classes for immigrants; volunteer training programs; establishment of Golden Age Club at the Jewish Community Centre in 1950; various World War II projects including library hut for soldiers in Terrace; sponsorship of L’Chaim Centre for Adult Daycare with Jewish Family Service Agency; scholarships and bursaries at SFU and UBC (in ethnic relations, gerontology and general studies); prizes to students at Emily Carr Art School and UBC Faculty of Music; financial support for annual symposium on Holocaust education at UBC for Lower Mainland high school students; support for various services to children, seniors and newcomers, including Red Cross Child Abuse Prevention program; Citizenship Court hostesses; volunteers for Canadian Cancer Society and Vancouver Children’s Festival; publication of Shalom Community Directory with UJA; and “Best of Council” cookbook.

The Branch operates with a locally elected Board of Directors which is responsible to the membership. The Board President reports to the President of the National Council of Jewish Women of Canada and attends meetings at the national level. Policies and policy directives from the National level influence the Section’s stands on matters such as abortion, human rights, and health care.

A number of separate meeting groups have existed through the Section’s history. The demographics and purposes of the groups may be characterized by their titles, such as the Evening Group, The Bride’s Group, The Business and Professional Women’s Group, Hannah G. Soloman Branch, and the National Council of Jewish Juniors, with activities keyed to membership talents and interests. Until 1958, each meeting group kept their own minutes and records of activities on an informal basis. Starting that year each group or sub-branch elected a Board of Directors and minutes and other records were directed toward the president of the Afternoon Branch, who served as overall Section President.

In 1960 an Inner Council was formed by the President of the Vancouver Section, Past Presidents, and members of the National Board of Directors, a recording secretary, a corresponding secretary, and a member from each operating group. In 1983-84 Branches and groups were again functioning autonomously, without the recognized authority of a Section president. This led to the development of a coordinating or CORE committee, under the co-chairmanship of Miriam Warren and Ruth Weinberg.

Vancouver Section Highlights:
1924 – Vancouver Section formed and Sunday morning Religious School founded
1926 – Opened “Council House” on Jackson Ave., precursor to the JCC opened in 1928
1927 – Established Well-Baby Clinic
1932 – Published first Council Cookbook
1933 – Set up Noodle Factory to create employment for newcomers on relief
1937 – Opened Council Camp at Crescent Beach, first permanent Jewish camp in Western Canada which became Camp Hatikvah
1942 – Provided and furnished library hut and recreation area for soldiers at Terrace, BC
1949 – Sponsored English night school classes, and sent aid overseas through “Ship-A-Box”
1949 – Donated $12,500 to JCC Building Fund for Golden Age Lounge
1950 – Opened Golden Age Club at JCC, due to organizing efforts of Bessie Diamond and Thelma Ginsberg
1953 – Ran Thrift Shop until 1979 to raise funds for projects and outfit the needy
1956 – Helped resettle Hungarian refugees
1965 – Initiated first Head Start preschool in Vancouver in Riley Park area
1970 – Established Jewish Historical Society of BC with Canadian Jewish Congress, Pacific Region
1971 – Initiated Schools for Citizen Participation
1971 – Established Welcome Wagon/Info Centre at JCC
1972 – Inaugurated preschool hearing screening program, leading to gift of two mobile vans to Vancouver Health Department
1973 – Coordinated Tay Sachs clinic
1982 – Co-sponsored and provided seed money for creation of L’Chaim Adult Day Care Centre
1985 – Published first edition of “Shalom! – Welcome to Vancouver” Directory
1987 – Hosted International Council of Jewish Women and NCJW of Canada Conventions
1988 – Published second edition of “Shalom!” directory, funded by Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver

Groberman, Marjorie

  • Persona
  • 1919-2011

Marjorie was born in Edmonton, Alberta in 1919 to her parents Harry and Betty (Babe) Frome. She moved with her parents and brother Alan, to Vancouver in 1937. In 1941 she married Cecil Groberman, son of Morris and Hilda Groberman. They had 2 children, Jeffrey, born in 1945 and Hildy, born in 1949. Jeffrey has 2 children: Aviva Mandelman, BA and Elan Groberman, an electric engineer. Hildy Barnett has 2 children: Joel, BA and Mira.

Marjorie became very active in Hadassah-WIZO and in 1952, originating and chairing the first bazaar and exposition open to the general public at the Seaforth Armoury. For the next 10 years she traveled across Canada teaching 12 other cities how to set up their own bazaar and exposition.

In 1964 Marjorie was invited to Israel to set up the first ever bazaar and exposition at the World WIZO conference in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

She rose to become president of Vancouver Hadassah-WIZO, then National vice president and eventually a member for 4 years of the World WIZO executive in Israel.

One of the highlights of her community work was organizing the national convention of Hadassah-WIZO in Vancouver in January 10-14, 1997.

In addition to Hadassah-WIZO, Marjorie opened the first Vancouver office of the Israel bonds and co-chaired its first bond drive. She was also chair person of the women’s division of Combined Jewish Appeal and served as a board member of Jewish Federation for many years (both her mother and daughter served as chairs of the Combined Jewish Appeal). Her latest community work has been with the seniors department of the Vancouver Jewish Community Centre, serving on their board of directors. Marjorie and her father, Harry Frome, were honoured at a Negev Dinner in 1966. On April 28, 2010 Marjorie received from the government of British Columbia a community achievement award.

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