Congregation Emanu-El

Canada's Oldest Synagogue Marks 150th Birthday in British Columbia

Canada’s oldest continuously operating synagogue is celebrating its 150th anniversary.

Congregation Emanu-El, located in Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, will host a reenactment of its dedication ceremony on Sunday, The Times of Israel reported.

In 1863, even before Canada had become a country, Jewish community members in Victoria and non-Jewish patrons got together to finance the construction of the synagogue. At the time of Emanu-El’s construction, Victoria, located on Vancouver Island along Canada’s west coast, was home to a Jewish community hailing mostly from the United States. They had come north during the Fraser River gold rush of 1858 and called Victoria home before the bulk of the community moved inland to Vancouver in later decades.

The anniversary ceremony will feature several prominent political figures including Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin, and Irwin Cotler, a former federal justice minister and president of the Canadian Jewish Congress, according to the newspaper.

The synagogue itself, which is seeking funds to make essential structural repairs, will host an exhibit on the history of Emanu-El and the Jewish community in Victoria.

At the cornerstone-laying ceremony in 1863, community leader A. Hoffman delivered remarks explaining the catalyst for the synagogue’s construction.

“It was with a feeling amounting almost to envy, have we beheld the erection in this city of churches of almost every denomination in existence,” Hoffman said according to the Victoria Times-Colonist. “May this temple become a bright gem among the glorious constellation of churches in this our adopted country.”

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Canada's Oldest Synagogue Marks 150th Birthday in British Columbia

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