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I would like to welcome on behalf of the synagogue all the freemasons and Shriners visiting today from throughout BC. And a special welcome to Isaac Brower-Berhoven who is the present Grand Master Mason in British Columbia.
We have just completed the holiday of Passover, where we remember our lives as slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt. For 210 years our ancestors served as indentured masons, building tribute and storecities in Pithom and Raamses. These cities were constructed by slave labour, brick by brick. During Passover we celebrate our freedom, and today we acknowledge the opportunity to sit beside freemasons, some of which are members of our congregation.
Building community is done one stone at a time, and the important work of the freemasons and our congregation, doing charitable work is vital to build a world on a solid foundation of faith, respect, and kindness. In this our synagogue's 100th anniversary, we acknowledge all those builders of our community who have built and continue to participate in building a better community, a better Canada, and a better world.
A special thanks to Grand Chaplain Mark Dwor for his efforts over many months to help make this very special Shabbos happen.
Grand Master’s Synagogue Visit
PLACE:Schara Tzedeck Congregation
3476 Oak Street (Oak and 19th Avenue)
DATE:Saturday, April 14th, 2007
TIME:The "parade" will enter the Synagogue by 9:40 am.
PARKING:Limited parking behind the Synagogue. Parking on Oak, on both sides, North and South of the Synagogue. Parking on some of the side streets. There is no parking directly in front of the Synagogue.
ATTIRE:Men — Business suit or blazer and slacks and tie. No formal attire. Aprons, collars and cuffs only; no gloves and no jewels.
Women — Hats are not required.
ENTRANCE:There are two entrances on Oak Street. The main entrance is up the stairs, by the corner of 19th and another entrance at street level at the North end of the Synagogue. This is the entrance to the Auditorium. We will meet at the Auditorium entrance, or inside that entrance.
Inside the auditorium entrance there will be a place to put on aprons and marshal the parade. There is a cloakroom at the Auditorium entrance. If the weather is good, we will march up the outside steps, if the weather is inclement, we will use the interior stairs. There is also an elevator for those who are unable to negotiate the stairs.
Most of those attending with the Grand Master have never before attended a Synagogue service. Synagogues in Vancouver will use different prayer books, have more of the Service in English, have the women and men sit together, etc.
The Service
The service on Saturday morning starts at 9:00 am and goes until Noon. However, the main focal point of the service is the reading of the Torah — that is the Five Books of Moses which are written onto a scroll. The attendance at 9:00 in the morning is quite sparse, the Synagogue will gradually fill up after 10:00 am. Some people who come in after 9:00 am will join the Congregation where it is in the Prayer Service, others will start from the beginning. That explains why some people will be standing up when all others are sitting down.
It may be that some of you may not be there on time for the 9:40 am "parade" — please go directly into the Synagogue and find seating. As I said, most of the Congregation will arrive after 10 o’clock. If you feel that you can’t wear your apron if you arrive late, then don’t wear your apron, just come in. There will be skullcaps for the men in the foyer in the Synagogue entrance.
What to Wear
The reason I said women need not wear hats is that my analysis over the last few years is that less than 30% of the women who attend the Synagogue on Saturday wear hats.
As for the men, white aprons will be available for those who have not brought their aprons or have not yet received them. The reason I have asked that no jewels be worn is that the noise made when standing and sitting would be distracting for the congregants.
Upon entering the Synagogue building, all the men should put on a skullcap, which is known either as a Keepah or a Yarmalke in popular parlance. Every male, including children over the age of two, will be wearing these skullcaps for the full time that they are in the Synagogue (including the luncheon after the service). There will be a basket of skullcaps to wear and keep afterward if you so desire. There will also be some Prayer Shawls available in the foyer for Jewish males who have not brought their own; however I must make it clear that men who are not Jews can not wear Prayer Shawls.
Entering the Synagogue
We will parade in and there will be volunteers to help seat the women. The men will be seated as expeditiously as possible. I should point out some protocol matters — there are male and female washrooms in the Auditorium entrance and in the level below the sanctuary, which can be accessed by the internal stairs off the foyer. There are also washrooms for the women at the entrance to either balcony. Generally speaking, people do not leave or enter the Sanctuary when the Torah Ark is open or when the Rabbi is giving his sermon — which is in English.
As for the physical layout of the Sanctuary, the focal point is the eastern wall, and in that eastern wall is the Ark where most of the Synagogue’s Torahs are housed. In front of this wall is a raised porch and there is also a separate raised area which is the physical location of where the majority of the service is conducted. This Synagogue building was opened in 1948, it replaced a Synagogue on Heatley Street. The eastern wooden wall was in that original Synagogue. This year, 2007, is the 100th anniversary of this Congregation.
How To Follow The Service
As for the service, there are two books that you would need to deal with, and luckily they are different sizes so these descriptions are somewhat easier. The first is the Prayer Book, which is the black book, and the second is the book giving the Torah readings, which is in the large blue book. Both the books will appear to be backwards, in the sense that they are read from what would be in an English book back to front. The Hebrew will be on the page at the right hand and the English will be on the page at the left hand. This does take some getting used to, but once you have mastered it you can follow along in English pretty well. From time to time, one of the people leading the service will give out the page number, either in the black Prayer Book or the blue book.
In both these two books you will find extensive footnotes and commentaries. As much of this service is individual, feel free to read ahead or read other parts of the books as you wish.
The service is divided up, somewhat unequally, into three parts. The first part and the third part will be from the black Prayer Book. The service starting at 9:00am would be commencing on page 368 of the black Prayer Book and will continue to page 488 by the end of the service. By 9:40am, the congregation should be at about page 428. At page 432, we will get to the part of the service where the Torah is taken out of the Ark and paraded to the Altar.
For this parade of the Torah, Jewish men may approach the Torah and kiss it by way of using their Prayer Book or Prayer Shawl.
The contents of the blue book have all of the portions of the Torah and the relevant portions of the Prophets appended in the proper order. It is an obligation to read aloud to the congregation all of the Five Books of Moses once through a calendar year, and the total readings are divided into approximately equal weekly portions. The portion that we will be reading is “Shemini”. The word means “eight” and is the first important word in this weekly section which comprises of Leviticus, Chapters 9 to 11 inclusive — blue book, pages 589 — 606. These Chapters are full of detailed laws and one remarkable story about the death of Aaron’s two elder sons, and the acts of his two remaining sons — Chapter 10.
If you are really studious, you might wish to compare your Bible translation with the version of the English translation in the blue book. In any event, the weekly portion of the Torah is followed by a weekly portion from the Prophets that is meant to resonate with the Torah portion, and the portion from the Prophets for this week is 2 Samuel 6:1 — 7:17, page 1168 of the blue book.
This section describes how David moved the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem.
The process for reading from the Torah is as follows; men are called, one at a time, to say the blessings for reading from the Torah, but typically they do not read it; the Torah is read by a trained reader, as their agent. The portion of the Prophets is read by an individual, called on for that purpose. It’s hard to describe this without seeing it.
Any Jewish Brethren who wish to take part in the service or help out in any way, please contact me directly.
The Torah reading will take some time. Some of the Congregation will read the text in Hebrew, some in English. Some will read the footnotes and commentary, some will meditate or just become part of the religious environment.
Aside from being caught up in the event, you may want to take this opportunity to read other parts of the Five Books of Moses. The translation and the commentaries may be quite different to what you are accustomed. For those with a special interest in the Ark, the Tabernacle, etc., you should look at the blue book, pages 445 to 483 — there are some explanatory drawings interspersed within the commentary text.
When the Torah and Prophet reading are finished, you would go back to the black Prayer Book and continue on until the end of the service.
After the Torah is put away and before the Cantor starts the last part of the prayers, the Rabbi will give the sermon.
What To Do
The first thing, of course, is to realize that anyone at the Synagogue who knows what is going on would be happy to explain things or to show you where things are. The second thing is that you will notice a fairly high degree of movement and general hubbub during the service. This service takes about three hours from start to finish for those who are there throughout, and it allows time for an individual to pray at his or her own speed, to pray with the congregation, or to contemplate, or in fact to socialize and discuss. Occasionally, the background noise gets so loud that one of the individuals involved in leading the prayer service will admonish the congregation to keep quiet, but, generally speaking, there is quite a high degree of tolerance for this seeming anarchic behaviour.
Also, there are many families with young children; and even though there is a separate service for the children, there will be children coming in and out of the main Sanctuary.
As for what goes on in the service, there will be a fair amount of standing up and sitting down, and the best thing I can tell you is when everyone else stands up, you should be standing up. There are number of times when you must stand up: Whenever the Ark is opened, you must stand up, and that is out of respect for the Torahs that are inside the Ark; whenever a Torah is taken out and being moved around the Sanctuary, you will be standing up; there is one long prayer after the sermon that requires you to stand up, and it is spoken silently by the individual congregants either in English or in Hebrew and then it is repeated by the Cantor with some responsive prayers in Hebrew — after that point you can sit down. Towards the very end of the service, you will be standing for about five minutes: You will know when you get to that point in the service because a number of men will go and stand outside of the area where the Torah had been read, and some women may also be standing separately. They will be saying prayers in memory of certain relatives or individuals who have either died in the past 11 months or if April 14th is the anniversary of a death — you would always stand for these prayers in honour of the memory of the dead. These memorial prayers are grouped together at the end of the service, and many of the other prayers that are said in between these Memorial Prayers also require you to stand. If you are physically unable to stand, don’t stand.
Why We Are At This Synagogue
This is a good a place as any to give some history. M. W. Bro. Isaac Brower-Berkhoven has visited Churches and a Sikh Temple this year. He is Jewish and wanted to visit a Synagogue. I am the Grand Chaplain and I am a member of Schara Tzedeck. I wish to thank Rabbi Rosenblatt, Cantor Orzech, the choir, and the Board of Directors for accommodating this visit.
Before there was a Province of British Columbia, there were Masonic lodges here. The first lodge was established in Victoria in 1860; two of its charter members were Jews. The first man initiated into Freemasonry in what is now British Columbia was a Russian Jew, John Malowansky, in that Lodge in Victoria in 1861.
The first lodge on the Mainland was instituted in New Westminster in 1862, and two of its charter members were Jewish also.
It is common for Freemasons to lay the cornerstone for important public or religious buildings. The first cornerstone laid by Freemasons in British Columbia was for the Congregation Emmanuel in Victoria on June 2nd, 1863. When this building was refurbished and re-dedicated on June 6th, 1982, the Grand Master at that time re-laid the cornerstone.
When the various lodges were joined together to make the Grand Lodge of British Columbia in 1874, one of the top four elected officials was Henry Nathan. He was also the first Member of Parliament from Victoria and the first Jewish Member of Parliament in Canada.
The first Jewish Grand Master in British Columbia was Marcus Wolfe of Nanaimo in 1891.
In 1996, M.W. Bro. Clark Gilmour led a similar visit to Beth Israel Synagogue, at Oak and 27th.
At the End of the Service
There will be some announcements by the President of the Synagogue, then there will be a final song led by the children. Then the members of the Congregation will leave the Synagogue. Then we will march out under the direction of the Director of Ceremonies. We will return to the Auditorium, put away our regalia and reassemble in the Auditorium for the light luncheon, which is known as a “kiddush”. This name comes from the prayer said before we eat. The prayer is said over wine and typically there is wine and alcohol, which is available to join in a toast “L’chaim” (to life) after the kiddush prayer is completed. You don’t need to drink alcohol, there are also soft drinks and tea and coffee. It is permissible to go to the buffet table and get food, but you should not eat until the prayer has been said. There will be ample food, a light luncheon may not be quite accurate.
Other Pieces of Protocol
1. You will notice a security guard. Unfortunately this Synagogue has had security on site since after the first World Trade Center attack. Please do not leave anything in the Sanctuary as it will be locked after the service.
2. There will be no collection plate for donations. Saturday is the Sabbath, and one doesn’t work or carry money. If any of you wish to donate, please contact me.
3. Because of the Sabbath, there are no microphones in the Sanctuary or the Auditorium. The elevator works automatically on the Sabbath. The food will have been prepared and kept warm such that it complies with the Sabbath Rules.
4. Please do not bring any food into the Synagogue or Auditorium — the building maintains the strictest Kosher policy.
5. Please turn off your cell phones and do not bring in any photographic or recording device, they cannot be used on Sabbath.
6. It would be contrary to Jewish tradition to identify, in a Synagogue, an individual with the appellation "worshipful", so the Grand Master is to be called either Brother or Grand Master, not "The Most Worshipful Brother" etc..
Finally, I wish to thank all those who will have helped to make this work. Also, I apologize for any confusion I may have caused with this letter. I have reduced complicated matters and may have mis-stated things. I am the sole author of this letter and I take full responsibility for its contents.
Yours fraternally,
Mark S. Dwor
Grand Chaplain


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