This piece was first published on The Arty Semite blog at the Forward.
It’s all because he looked up one day during services and noticed a crack in the ceiling of Congregation Emanu-El that Major General (ret.) Ed Fitch, an engineer with the Canadian Forces, ended up spearheading the 150th anniversary celebrations for the Victoria, British Columbia synagogue. Emanu-El is Canada’s oldest synagogue building still standing and still in use as a synagogue, and Fitch intends to ensure that it stands for another century and a half.
“For me, it’s all about the building,” Fitch told The Arty Semite about the rare Romanesque Revival building, considered one of the three most significant buildings in British Columbia. It was designed by Wright & Sanders, architects who went on to build many large and prestigious San Francisco buildings, most of which were destroyed in the city’s 1906 earthquake.
In addition to fundraising for the repairs and restoration required because of the shifting of the building’s roof supports over time, Fitch and other members of Emanu-El have been hard at work preparing for an all-day, high-profile celebration marking the congregation’s sesquicentennial on June 2.
Congregants and other locals will dress up in period costume to parade through town to the synagogue’s location at the corner of Pandora and Blanshard, where there will be a reenactment of the laying of the building’s cornerstone.
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© 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.