Oldest operating synagogue in Canada celebrating 150th

WINNIPEG, Canada (JTA) — Canada’s oldest continuously operating synagogue will hold a reenactment of its dedication ceremony as part of its 150th anniversary celebration.

Congregation Emanu-El in Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, is hosting the event on Sunday, The Times of Israel reported.

Among those expected to be on hand are Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin and Irwin Cotler, a former federal justice minister and president of the Canadian Jewish Congress.

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

In 1863, even before Canada had become a country, Jewish community members in Victoria and non-Jewish patrons financed the construction of the synagogue.

At the time Victoria, located on Vancouver Island along Canada’s west coast, was home to a Jewish community hailing mostly from the United States who  had come north during the Fraser River gold rush of 1858. The bulk of the community in later decades would move inland to Vancouver.

At the cornerstone-laying ceremony in 1863, community leader A. Hoffman explained 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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