Movin' to the 'burbs

Posted by kmintzberg
As the Jewish community in the Lower Mainland grew throughout the 1970’s, 80’s, and 90’s, it increasingly spread geographically away from the Oak Street area that had been the center of the Jewish community in past generations. The community sprawled in all directions; from the North Shore, to the Tri-Cities, and to White Rock and Richmond. This move, and the continued reality of rising housing costs in Vancouver’s city centre, presented several new challenges involved in sustaining a number of smaller, separate communities and having to build many of the community resources from scratch or commute into the city.

 

Introduction
Congregation Har El
The Kehila Society of Richmond
Congregation Beth Tikvah
Chabad of Richmond
Burquest Jewish Community
Introduction

Introduction



As the Jewish community in the Lower Mainland grew throughout the 1970’s, 80’s, and 90’s, it spread geographically away from the Oak Street area that had been the center of the Jewish community in past generations. The community sprawled in all directions; from the North Shore, to the Tri-Cities, and to White Rock and Richmond. This move, and the continued reality of rising housing costs in Vancouver’s city centre, presented several new challenges involved in sustaining a number of smaller, separate communities.

In response to this spreading out of the Jewish community, and the feeling of some suburban communities being excluded by central organizations, The Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver (JFGV) was established in 1987 “to develop a wider community across the area”.  The JFGV was the result of the merger of its two predecessor organizations, the United Jewish Appeal and the Jewish Community Fund and Council.

 

This section of the exhibit will focus on Burnaby, Coquitlam, New Westminster and the Fraser Valley; Richmond; the North Shore; and White Rock/South Surrey areas of Greater Vancouver as a sample of the scope of the nature of Jewish community in BC.

 

 

Congregation Har El

Congregation Har El



As the only synagogue on the North shore, Congregation Har El strives to meet the varying needs of all the members of their congregation. Har El’s membership is rich in diversity, with members represented from over 25 countries around the world, varying ages and family structures, interfaith relationships and Jews by choice.

Although Har El is an egalitarian Conservative synagogue, it is also the North Shore Jewish Community Centre and so it plays a dual role in the Jewish community as a spiritual home and gathering place for the community. Rabbi Shmuel Birnham at Har El has the exciting challenge of finding a balance between the congregants who are more traditional and those looking for new spiritual adventures.

 Like many other congregations, Har El needs to draw in more young families, which are essential to sustaining the synagogue over the long term. Managing Director, Joy Hayden, has heard the desires for programming relevant to younger families which has included community oriented services that take advantage of the natural environment of the North Shore. The Education and Youth Director, Raanan Mallek, also sees the need for a paradigm shift towards more informal education and emphasis on nature, community and youth leadership. Joy sees the synagogue “in a period of transition.” With the planned renovations to enclose what is currently a courtyard into a community hall, Har El is taking seriously the North Shore’s need for a Jewish community space. Trying to move towards a more community, socially oriented feel and focus for the wide variety of Har El members.

 

The Kehila Society of Richmond

The Kehila Society of Richmond



With the community’s movement into the suburbs, some people have found Jewish services and connections they enjoyed in the downtown core lacking in the new areas. This is where The Kehila Society sees its mission. Kehila means “community” and fittingly the society’s main function is as a social connector for members of the Richmond Jewish community.

 

Executive Director, Kay Abelson, is focused on expanding Kehila’s services beyond their current seniors programs and “crossing the invisible line” that seems to exist between the Jewish communities in Vancouver and Richmond. She sees bringing some of the programs and services that are generally located in Vancouver out to Richmond as the way to work towards Kehila’s goals of enhancing the community connections in Richmond, and hopes in the future for Kehila to be able to provide a welcoming community space for such programs. In the mean time, a local focus is still strong. Kehila has partnered with the Richmond Jewish Day School to offer a Jewish Film Series as well as Parent and Youth education programs that are open to the entire community.

 

Congregation Beth Tikvah

Congregation Beth Tikvah



Congregation Beth Tikvah, founded in the early 1970’s, today faces many of the same obstacles as other organizations in suburban Jewish communities. The population and community growth throughout the 80‘s and 90’s seems to have slowed dramatically in recent years and the younger generations aren’t returning to their family’s synagogues as much. Like any synagogue, in order to grow and sustain the congregation, Beth Tikvah is faced with the need to adapt to the changing demographics of the surrounding area in Richmond. 

Chabad of Richmond

Chabad of Richmond



For Rabbi and Mrs. Baitelman and their family, who uprooted their lives in New York to join the Chabad centre in Vancouver in 1993, the transition from Vancouver to Richmond doesn’t really seem like much of a move at all.

For many Vancouverites, the move out of the city across a bridge in any direction seems impossibly far. But for Chabad and their family, big moves are common and adjusting to a new home is seen as an opportunity for growth and inclusion of new community members. That is what Chabad of Richmond, founded in 1997 is all about – being a “Jewish address for everyone” who is in need of one. Although Chabad of Richmond started out meeting in people’s homes and rented halls – a likeness to the early days of Jewish Strathcona – they focused their efforts on making whatever environment they were in feel like a welcoming family and growing the Jewish community in Richmond.

 

 

 

Burquest Jewish Community Association

Burquest Jewish Community Association



Since 1973, the Burquest Jewish Community Association has been a common ground for Jewish community members from Burnaby, Coquitlam and New Westminster, as well as the Fraser Valley to come together for holidays and events. Although the Burquest Jewish Community Association has provided a point of connection for Jews from several areas of the Lower MainIand since the 70’s and up until 2002, they did not  have a permanent building to call home.

The establishment of a permanent centre for Burquest in 2002 has allowed this community to continue to build Jewish community in the suburbs and connect multiple geographic areas. From the original eight families that made up the Burquest community in the early 1970’s, the community has grown immensely. By combining the Jewish communities from the Tri-Cities and the Fraser Valley area, Burquest has integrated Jewish populations and created a unique Jewish community. An added bonus: bringing together Jews from all the surrounding areas provides Burquest with greater membership in order to provide more services and diversity to its members that would not be likely to thrive in any one neighborhood alone.