Auction to help save Canada’s oldest synagogue

Items from celebrities such as Leonard Cohen, Margaret Atwood up for bid

Rabbi Harry Brechner and Jean Dragufhan

Rabbi Harry Brechner and Jean Dragufhan

Works by famous local and nationally renowned artists will be on the auction block, along with many other items, as Canada’s oldest synagogue raises money for much-needed repairs.

Congregation Emanu-El, 1461 Blanshard St., is a designated National Heritage Site and, as it approaches 150 years old, is the oldest synagogue in Canada in continuous use.

There is a history of community involvement with the synagogue that stretches back to its beginnings. When it was built in 1863, people came together from throughout Victoria to help raise funds for the small community of Jewish residents who were committed to establishing the synagogue.

“There were more than 200 people who made contributions towards the synagogue,” board vice president Jean Dragushan said. “That’s quite impressive given that there were only about 35 members of the synagogue at that time. So it just shows you the level of community support.”

The congregation hopes to once again rally support from the wider community for its Nov. 22 auction to raise money to go towards repairs, namely for the roof. The building is showing its age and a large crack has formed in the centre of an arch toward the back of the synagogue.

The roof, which is the original, is shifting and the whole structure needs to be stabilized

“If we can’t do that, the building itself is in great danger,” Dragushan said. “It’s alarming if you look inside because the crack is getting so large, chunks of plaster are now falling off. We’re still OK, but I don’t know for how long.”

The synagogue reached out to celebrities both local and from afar, along with local businesses, for items to auction. They answered generously and the synagogue now has more than 100 items for its auction.

Among them are a number of works of art from some big names in the art world. One is a signed print donated by Leonard Cohen, which comes with a certificate of authenticity. The work is the first in a series of 50 prints by the legendary Jewish-Canadian songwriter, poet and artist.

“We wrote him and asked him and he responded,” Dragushan said.

Prints were also donated by local artists Robert Bateman and Phyllis Serota. Other celebrities who contributed items are Margaret Atwood, Marc Garneau and Morley Safer.

Also available are holiday packages to the Wickaninnish Inn and Pacific Sands Beach Resort in Tofino, tickets to events in Victoria, gift certificates for dinners in various restaurants, spa days, cooking classes and items from a variety of business.

“We got some wonderful responses,” Dragushan said. “There’s a whole range of items that will be up for auction so people can have something small, they can bid on something large.”

The goal is to raise $25,000 through the evening. In total the synagogue is trying to raise $900,000 to complete all needed repairs, including restoring stained glass windows, replacing the front porch and improving the seismic stability of the building.

Synagogue organizers are also planning events for 2013 to celebrate the 150th anniversary.

Tickets for the live auction are $50 and include hors d’oeuvres, care of The London Chef, and drinks. Legendary Victoria auctioneer Eric Charman will be leading the live auction.

Tickets are available online at congregationemanu-el.ca or by mail at Congregation Emanu-El, 1461 Blanshard St., Victoria, V8W 2J3.

Just Posted

An example of the forest land in the Port Renfrew and Fairy Creek area of Vancouver Island is shown on May 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne
Old-growth logging opponents launch hunger strike as arrests continue at Fairy Creek

Zain Haq says the hunger strikers will gather today at Burrard Street in downtown Vancouver

The City of Victoria is hoping to ring in the summer by celebrating local art and offering some distanced, live music to surprise people in parks, plazas and other public spaces. (Photo courtesy of the City of Victoria)
Live, pop-up concerts and local art being showcased in Victoria this summer

People will see surprise serenades at 16 locations throughout the summer

An example of the forest land in the Port Renfrew and Fairy Creek area of Vancouver Island is shown on May 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne
Old-growth logging opponents launch hunger strike as arrests continue at Fairy Creek

Zain Haq says the hunger strikers will gather today at Burrard Street in downtown Vancouver

Jada Benwell and Connor Larkey are the valedictorians of the 2021 graduating class at Parkland Secondary School. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Pandemic taught lessons in perseverance for North Saanich high schoolers

Parkland Secondary School to release 2021 grad ceremony video on June 25

The 14th annual Oak Bay Young Exceptional Star (YES) awards June 3. (Christine van Reeuwyk/News Staff)
Oak Bay celebrates its Young Exceptional Stars with outdoor award ceremony

Nine young people recognized in 14th annual awards

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Most Read