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Ralph David Barer was born July 8, 1922 to parents Michael and Fanny Barer. He had one brother, Harry Barer, and one sister, Thelma Stein (nee Barer). Ralph grew up in Vancouver, attending Magee Secondary School before going on to UBC, where he received a BASc in Engineering in 1945. This was followed by varied industrial and academic experiences, including a period as an assistant professor at UBC. He completed a Masters degree in Metallurgical Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1948. Ralph married Aileen (nee Gordon) in Sarnia, Ontario in 1950, after which he spent over a year working for Cominco in Trail, B.C. He then accepted a position in Victoria to head up a new material science and engineering group for Defence Research Canada in the fall of 1952. This group focused on material failures in naval, aircraft and military equipment. He led this group for 36 years, until his retirement in 1988. Ralph enjoyed raising a large family, and was particularly proud of the achievements of each of his children in their own pursuits. Ralph and Aileen had five children: Morris, Denise, Daniel, Philip and Steven. He was able to enjoy the early years of all ten [at the time of this publication in 2004] grandchildren: Justin, Naom, Michael, Ariana, Lisa, David, Benjamin, Elliot, Amichai and Simon. Ralph was an avid hiker, and spent some of his happiest times tramping through the woods of southern Vancouver Island. Walking the woods with him was always an education, as he had extensive knowledge of all things that move and grow in the Pacific Northwest. He was a passionate supporter of many of the environmental groups struggling to protect the dwindling wilderness places in British Columbia and the rest of Canada.
When Mr. Barer arrived in Victoria in 1952, the Emanuel Congregation had a lay rabbi who led infrequent services and a Jewish community which was run by a few individuals. Due mainly to his and his wife’s desire to create a Jewish environment for their growing family of five, Ralph became actively involved in the Jewish community with special emphasis on the revival of the synagogue. This led to over 50 years of dedicated work on many different committees, serving on the board, serving as a president and editing for 12 years the synagogue’s bulletin “Koleinu” (Our Voice). The results of his work were spectacular. Professional Rabbis were hired and took care of the spiritual life of the growing congregation, funds were raised to improve and enlarge the physical structure of the synagogue, Jewish teachers grew the Hebrew school, and as a result membership grew larger.