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Our History

Schara Tzedeck traces its history to beginning of the 20th century. The synagogue began in 1907 as B’nai Yehuda, and served Vancouver’s Orthodox community of mostly European immigrant shopkeepers and artisans from Eastern Europe. From 1907-1911 services were held in a sequence of rental spaces in Vancouver’s east end, beginning with a private home at 14 W. Cordova Street. The congregation’s first rabbi, H. Valenski stayed only one year and was replaced in 1908 by Rabbi David Belasoff, a Russian immigrant living in Winnipeg who became the first full-time Orthodox rabbi in Vancouver.

In 1911, under the leadership of the congregation’s first president, Zebulon Franks, B’nai Yehuda built their first synagogue, a 200-seat wooden building located at 510 Heatley Avenue in the Strathcona neighbourhood, the then heart of Jewish Vancouver. The synagogue was the first Jewish community-owned building in the city, and its dedication on November 19, 1911 drew local and provincial dignitaries to a Jewish event for the first time.

B’nai Yehuda was officially incorporated in the name Schara Tzedeck (Gates of Righteousness) on June 14, 1917, and in 1918 the congregation welcomed a new spiritual leader, Rabbi Nathan Mayer Pastinsky, who would lead Schara Tzedeck for the next 30 years. In July of 1920, building permits were issued to Schara Tzedeck to build a new synagogue at Heatley Avenue and Pender Street. The new building, known as the “Heatley Street” synagogue, was completed in September 1921, in time for Rosh Hashanah. It had capacity for 600 worshippers, and featured a beautiful custom-made oak aron kodesh (holy ark) and bima (altar) commissioned from a local mill, J. Hanbury & Co.

Schara Tzedeck’s current site at the corner of Oak Street and 19th Avenue was purchased on September 13, 1945. Building of the synagogue commenced in February 1947 and was completed by September of that year, and officially opened on January 25th, 1948. It was considered at the time to be the most modern and largest synagogue west of Montreal and designed to be a house of prayer (Beit Tefilah), house of learning (Beit Midrash), and house of assembly (Beit Knesset). The original aron kodesh and bima from Heatley Street were moved to the new building. These artifacts, along with the beautiful art deco lighting fixtures and a series of custom designed stained glass windows by noted Israeli artist Ami Shamir serve as focal points of the synagogue's interior.   

In 1957, Schara Tzedeck became Congregation Schara Tzedeck, and on October 2nd of that year the congregation acquired the property immediately to the north of the synagogue for the purpose of accommodating offices, classrooms, a large auditorium, and other facilities. Construction began in the early part of 1963 and was completed for the High Holidays of the same year. Since 1947, the original synagogue building has undergone a series of renovations, including the installation in 1989 of a series of stained glass windows in the main sanctuary, upgrades to the social halls and kitchens, and improvements to the synagogue façade.

Congregation Schara Tzedeck will celebrate its 115th anniversary in 2022.

Sun, 14 July 2024 8 Tammuz 5784