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John Keenlysides Congregation Emanu-El collection
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Act to Incorporate the Israelite Congregation named "The Emanuel of Victoria, Vancouver Island"

Passed the Legislative Assembly 2d June, 1864, R. W. Torrens, Clerk of the Legislative Assembly. Passed the Legislative Council 16th June, 1864, E. J. Nesbitt, Clerk of the Legislative Council. Received my Assent this 7th day of July, 1864, A. E. Kennedy, Governor. Victoria, Vancouver Island: printed by authority of the government by Harries and Company, 1864.

Folio, 29.3 cm, pp. [3] on single folded sheet of cream paper. Near fine. Original folio printings, never bound, of the draft and final act legally establishing the first Jewish Congregation in western Canada, the oldest surviving synagogue in Canada, housed in what is now the oldest surviving synagogue building on the West Coast of North America. The synagogue was founded in 1859 and the present synagogue building was built in 1863. Unrecorded original printed acts, the Harries imprint very rare indeed.

John Keenlysides Congregation Emanu-El collection

  • CA JMABC A.2012.017, A.2013.018
  • Collection
  • 1862-1864

Fonds consists of material documenting early BC Jewish history. Fonds is arranged into two series: Congregation Emanu-El manuscripts; and Letters from Abraham Blackman to his brother Morris, Jewish merchants in colonial British Columbia.

Keenlyside, John

Letter from M. R. Cohen to the President of the Synagogue Emanu-El Victoria V.I.

Cohen, M.R., 2-page autograph letter signed and dated November 9, 1863-5624, from Victoria.

"Victoria Nov 9th 1863-5624. To the President of the Synagogue Emanu-El Victoria V.I.. Dear Sir: I think you will agree with me when I say that our synagogue arrangements at present are anything but satisfactory or likely to draw religious light upon us as a Congregation of Israel! We have no properly set time for divine service on Sabbaths or Holidays, which keeps the people from attending the Synagogue instead of finding a pleasure in visiting it. Our rising generation especially, must suffer by it, to whom the Synagogue service if properly conducted, from the principal fountain of their Religious Life. There they have to learn how to love their Religion. The prayers there said to correspond more with the present age will not only teach them to know the difference between the kernel and the shell, and thereby appreciate the time they there spend, but it will give them a wholesome taste for the religious instruction they may receive at their daily school. The present age demands of us some improvement in our religious affairs, and unless some steps are taken in the matter, I fear that all your labour and means in erecting so noble an Edifice, as also my humble endeavours to advance its progress, will prove "Labour in vain." I therefore would beg leave to suggest that a public meeting of all the Israelites of Victoria be called for the purpose of taking this and other matters for the welfare of our holy faith into consideration. Should you consider it necessary for me to attend the meeting, I can only say that I shall be most happy to answer to your call and address the meeting on the subject. Allow me to be Dear Sir Yours faithfully, M.R. Cohen, Minister Cong Emanu El."

Letter to the Rev. Dr. W. Adler, Chief Rabbi of Eng. & its Dependencies, London

Hoffman, Abraham, 4-page autograph letter, signed and dated Victoria May 5, 1863, to "Rev. Dr. W. Adler, chief Rabbi of Eng. & its Dependencies, London". Hoffman, as secretary of the Congregation writes to Adler to inform of the progress of the Congregation, construction of the synagogue, necessity of finding a rabbi, growth of membership, and financial condition of the Victoria group.

Letters from Abraham Blackman to his brother Morris, Jewish merchants in colonial British Columbia

Blackman, Abraham. Eighteen autograph letters, 1-6 pages each, dating from 30 April 1862-18 February 1864, all but one from Victoria. Group of letters to his brother Morris, discussing the expansion of the family mercantile business from Victoria to New Westminster and thence to the Cariboo. The final letter includes a power of attorney for Morris to act on Abraham's behalf. The letters discuss the financial state of the business, especially in New Westminster, shipping details for dispatching goods, business conditions in the Colony and family matters.

Blackman came to Victoria, B.C. in 1858 or 1859 from Stockton, California, to establish a hardware business on Yates Street. He was a prime mover in organizing the Jewish community in Victoria. In May 1859, he helped establish the first Jewish cemetery in Western Canada; in June, he became founding president of the First Hebrew Benevolent Society, the first Jewish organization in Western Canada; he was the first treasurer of the Jewish Congregation in Victoria. He founded the Masonic Lodge in Victoria and arranged for the first public ceremony of the Masons, the laying of the cornerstone of the first Synagogue. He returned to California in the 1870's, dying there in 1888.

Secretary's Report - To the Board of Trustees and Members of the "Congregation Emanu El"

Hoffman, Abraham, Autograph Report, signed, 5 pages on foolscap, dated 22 November 1862, Victoria, Vancouver Island, folded, docketed on outside as "Secretary's Report Nov. 22/62".

Excerpts from the text:
"To the Board of Trustees and Members of the Congregation Emanu El, as the first three months of our existence are gliding on the wings of time it becomes my pleasing duty to lay before your body a report of our proceedings and standing during that time... May Providence give you strength and aid to fulfill your endeavours so that this congregation though slumbering yet in its infancy may one day attain the magnitude of a mighty institution, a shrine for the destitute, a school for our youth, and a Blessing for those that seek the House of God in prayer... So far I can but say all has gone as well as could be expected. But what I would urge is to build a synagogue as speedily as possible... The next subject to which I would respectfully call your attention is the burial ground... The roll of the congregation at the commencement of this term numbered 19- which number has since increased to 40 -3 or 4 of whom however are doubtful... The pecuniary affairs of the congregation are very flourishing considering the great expense that was incurred in fitting out the place of worship for the holy days... The expenses of the congregation will hereafter be greatly reduced in as much as the Board has let the Hall to a German singing society for 2 nights a week..."

The Supreme Court of Civil Justice Summary Suit - Hoffman, Sr. to J.G. Jackson & Co, To loss sustained by us on nonfulfillment of contract for supplying Jewish Synagogue with lumber as per agreement $150.00

The Supreme Court of Civil Justice, July 7, 1864, Victoria. Summary Suit #1459, J.G. Jackson, Plaintiff vs. Hoffman, Sr. Claim for $150.00 plus costs.

"To loss sustained by us on nonfulfillment of contract for supplying Jewish Synagogue with lumber as per agreement."

A poignant record of a small roadblock to the progress of a formative Congregation.

Blue page is pasted to the back of the summary suit.

Tickets sold by I. Grundbaum & Jacobs

Tickets sold by I. Grundbaum & Jacobs, manuscript, ca. 1862, Victoria. Manuscript listing, apparently of tickets sold to members of Victoria's Jewish community in support of the new Congregation Emanu-El. A modest fundraiser, similar to efforts today representing the optimistic hopes of well meaning community initiatives.

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