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History

Our community became organized as a functioning body in the early 1960s. Among the founders of the Sephardic community were Edward Shawn (z”l), Nazem Aboody (z”l), Dr. Abraham Benjamin, Raphael Acrech (z”l), Moses Jacob (z”l), George Moses (z”l), and Dr. Joseph Bensimon. Early pioneers and participants of the Sephardic community were Chackel Kaufman (z”l), Shalom Ezran, Micha Peled, Dr. Joseph Bensimon, David Maurice David (z”l), David Asmoucha (z”l), Dr. Michael Isaacson, Victor Setton, David Ezekiel, Moshe Nahoum, Sasson Levi, George Ostry, Henry Alko, Charles Bigio, Josef Mouyal, Gary Dayan, Meyer Mattuck, Marc Stern, Avi Houta, Meir Cohen (z"l), Charlotte Cohen (z"l), Sidney Benjamin, Alan Tapper, Josef Shemesh, Maurice Benyaer (z"l), Isaac Rimock, Michel Tapiero, and Manni Malka.

At first, various pioneer families met informally and socially. The first organizational meeting of the Sephardic community of Greater Vancouver with the view to advancing Sephardic culture was held in the late 1960s at the home of Edward (z"l) and Eliza (z"l) Shawn. This was followed by the first organized Sephardic prayer service.

On January 19, 1973, we were incorporated as a Society in British Columbia under the name “Sephardic Congregation”. The original subscribers of the Society were Dr. Joseph Bensimon, Albert Melul, Stanley Shawn, David Maurice David (z"l), and Gary Dayan. The goals of the newly formed Society were to establish and maintain a synagogue and to conduct religious services in accordance with the liturgy of Orthodox Sephardic Judaism as expressed by Haham Yoseph Haim in the Ben Ish Hai as well as other Orthodox Sephardic authorities and to foster Sephardic education.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s High Holiday services were held annually in the old kindergarten classroom of the Jewish Community Centre at 41st Avenue and Oak Street and at the Talmud Torah gymnasium. The services were led by various congregants including Micha Peled, Shalom Eran, Gamliel Aharon, Dr. Abraham Benjamin, George Moses (z”l), Nazem Aboody (z”l), Yosef Amram, and Moses Jacob (z”l).

During the 1970s our congregation held regular services at 3231 Heather Street and formed the majority minyan in the existing synagogue. It became the will of our congregation and of the existing synagogue, represented by Mr. Morris Gehrman (z”l), to merge the two congregations. The Ashkenazic Society had been founded on July 15, 1943, however it had been struck off and dissolved. After a long and arduous task, the Ashkenazic Society, Beth Hamidrosh Bnai Jacob, was restored by Order in Council of the Province of British Columbia and on March 31, 1977 our congregation amalgamated with Beth Hamidrosh Bnai Jacob.

This amalgamation was made possible due to the relentless efforts made by Mr. Morris Gehrman (z”l) and Mr. Sam Tenenbaum (z”l) as original founders of the Beth Hamidrash Bnai Jacob society in their determination to merge with the Sephardic Congregation. Following the merger Victor Setton spearheaded a fund raising drive to raise funds to remodel the synagogue. The construction was completed in 1977. A second fund raising drive and reconstruction was completed in 2004 and the synagogue now has a beautiful sanctuary, a second floor gallery for ladies seating, a library for study and learning, a social hall for simcha, and a kosher kitchen for catering.