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Congregation Har El
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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.
West Vancouver, British Columbia
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Jewish Museum and Archives of British Columbia
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Last revised March 17, 2015