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The Importance of Our Shul

A statement by Congregation Emanu-El’s B’nei Mitzvah class of 2023-24

The Congregation Emanu-El synagogue has been an important gathering place for generations of Jewish families in Victoria, and a welcoming space for Jews and other community members for more than a century and a half. The building holds special significance for the B’nei Mitzvah class, whose students have created this composite statement to share with you.

There aren’t many synagogues in Victoria. This is one of the oldest buildings in our city, and it is beautiful.
When you come in the doors, you feel different from how you feel outside. There’s an ancient and respectful vibe here. That’s the sort of feeling we get in this building; we want to honour that age. 

But the building is also a welcoming space: you feel it as soon as you walk in the door. So many generations have been in this beautiful space and celebrated important events here. You can feel it in the air. Many of us had our naming ceremonies here as babies. We will have our b’mitzvahs here. Maybe we’ll get married here, or our kids will be named here. 

One of us pointed out that in this place we can be different, we can be any way we like, any way we feel, and we are accepted—not just as Jews but as ourselves. And it’s not only Jews who are accepted in this place: it’s everyone. Many of us have non-Jewish people in our family and they are accepted, too. It’s a fun space, where we can tease our friends and our teachers, even the rabbi. It’s a safe space, where we can share our ideas and ask difficult questions. 

It’s also a safe space to be Jewish, where Jews can meet other Jews and learn what it means to be Jewish—our history, our traditions, our culture. We can find out about Jewish communities around the world.  

If we let our building fall apart, then in a way, we are letting down our community and the rest of Victoria. We have a responsibility to care for and preserve the building and the memories it holds. It’s important to have a space for our children and grandchildren to live, study and love here. 

We just want this place to survive.

Right now, we have enough time to fix it; we need to do that before we lose the opportunity. 

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