Congregation Emanu-El Board of Directors
The Board of Directors consists of volunteers who strive to serve the Congregation Emanu-El community.
Drop us a line—we’d be happy to meet you!
Drop us a line—we’d be happy to meet you!
(2019 - )
President; Chair, Fundraising
Sam Godfrey became the Vice President of Congregational Emanu-El in 2018, after serving four years as a Director, including two as Chair of the Fiscal Programming Committee. He has a deep love for the Jewish faith and history, and a connection to the Shul dating back to the 1980s and Rabbi Victor Reinstein.
After his bar-mitzvah and completing high school he moved to the far cold reaches of Toronto throughout the '90s, where he gained an undergraduate degree from the University of Toronto and a Law Degree from Osgoode Hall, York University. In Toronto he worked for the Law Insurance Corporation of Ontario, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, and Parkdale Community Legal Services.
Sam returned to our kehillah in 2000, and was married to his partner by Rabbi Harry in 2003. Sam's son had his Bar Mitzvah at our shul last year, and his daughter is in our Hebrew school.
Sam currently works as a Senior Ministerial Assistant in the BC government.
As President, Sam wants to help Congregation Emanu-el continue to thrive: he cherishes the tradition, spirit and energy of the community and believes that he can best contribute by using his experience and skills to advance our good governance.
(2020 - )
Vice President; Chair, Hebrew School & Youth Committee
It’s an honour to join the Board of Emanu-El, a synagogue community I truly cherish. My first introduction to Emanu-El was via a drop-in baby group led by Rabbi Harry when my oldest daughter, Eva, was just about a year old— now I volunteer as the teen youth group parent coordinator, because somehow 14 years have passed by. Our second child, Tillie, will become a bat mitzvah this spring, while our youngest, Avi, is in kitah aleph at the Hebrew School. It’s been amazing to see how our congregation has grown over the years; along with two other Hebrew School parents, I founded and organize Kafe & Kibitz, a Sunday morning meet-up discussion group for Jewish parents, so that we parents can also engage as a community.
I work full-time as a Registered Midwife at The Midwives Collective, a busy downtown clinic I co-founded, and I am also a board member of the College of Midwives of British Columbia and Clinical Faculty member in the Division of Midwifery, UBC. I’m also an avid reader, I’ve published two books, and seven years into dog-ownership I’ve realized I’m a cat person at heart.
Treasurer; Chair Finance & Budget Committee
Solomon has a lifelong association with Congregation Emanu-El. He attended our Hebrew School and had his bar mitzvah at the synagogue. Currently Solomon is a director of Pagliacci's Restaurant and Yentel Property Management, which owns several commercial buildings in Victoria.
Solomon hopes to bring a sense of inclusiveness and greater financial accountability to the Board. He acknowledges that stepping into the role of Treasurer following one year on the Board is somewhat daunting.
Lee Henderson *
(2018 - )
Secretary; Liaison Adult Education
Lee Henderson is the award-winning author of three books published by Penguin, including The Road Narrows As You Go, The Man Game, and The Broken Record Technique. He is an Associate Professor at UVic, where he teaches creative writing. Lee began attending Congregation Emanu-El in 2018, and joined as a member that same year. He is enjoying all the meaningful learning opportunities and meeting a new community. He considers it an honour to join the Board.
Gabbai/ Ritual Director
Religious Services Chair
Aaron arranges services on Shabbat and Jewish Festivals. An exciting and major time in the year is the Jewish High Holy Days. He also enjoys organizing special celebrations throughout the year, such as Simḥat Torah, the Ḥanukkah public menorah lighting, and the ever-popular Purim party.
For Aaron, it is a kavod (an honour) to be part of a dedicated group of volunteers on the Religious Services Committee. He is grateful for the leadership of Rabbi Harry and the contributions of all volunteers who assist in leading services, chanting Torah and Haftarah.
Bottom line – together we help fashion a kehillat kodesh (a sacred community) on Canada’s true West coast. A native of Montreal, Aaron moved to Vancouver Island in January 1993. When he is not at the synagogue, Aaron spends time with his bashert Sue and their cats. His other passions include cooking, hiking and swimming.
Jewish Cemetery Committee Chair
Richard Kool has been involved with the Board of Congregation Emanu-El since 2001, and has served as secretary, vice-president, member at large, and cemetery director. Rick was very involved in the movement to create the Fisher Building and has the honour of bringing the first powerpoint presentation into the shul as part of the effort to convince the congregation that we could in fact afford to build the new addition to our historic synagogue.
Rick immigrated from Boston to British Columbia in the early 1970s, came to Vancouver Island to work at what was known then as the BC Provincial Museum in 1978, and has lived in James Bay ever since. He is now a professor in the School of Environment and Sustainability at Royal Roads University. Along with his wife Enid Elliot, Rick has four children, five grandchildren, and an aging labradoodle.
(2021 - )
Chair Membership Committee
Jean Dragushan and her family have lived in Victoria for many years. In the early 1980’s, the family joined Congregation Emanu-El and have been members ever since. After a career in the private and public sectors, Jean retired in 2010, and decided to explore more active involvement in the synagogue. She joined the Board as Fundraising Chair, a position she held for several years.
In 2020 during COVID-19, despite no longer a Board member, Jean organized several “virtual” fundraisers. That experience motivated Jean to rejoin the Board and address the challenge of connecting our members with each other and the synagogue during the pandemic and beyond.
Jean is married to Graham, and together they have two grown children (Aaron and Ellen) and three grandchildren.
(2018 - )
Director (at large)
Contemplating retirement from the Canadian Armed Forces, Ed moved to Victoria in 2006 when he joined Congregation Emanu-El. Ed is especially drawn to Emanu-El’s 1863 sanctuary and the wonderful history of the pioneer Jews who first came to Victoria in 1858. He is particularly interested in the conservation and security of the building. Since his arrival in Victoria Ed has actively supported the Jewish community and the community at large. He has served on various volunteer Boards of Directors of not-for-profit organizations and been a Board Member of the Jewish Historical Society of BC. Ed is the current chair of the National Community Security Committee of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA).
In 2018, Ed returned to the 2018/19 Board of Directors having served for ten years previously, initially as Treasurer and subsequently as the Chair of the House Committee. Ed was a co-leader of the many-faceted, year-long celebration of Congregation Emanu-El’s sesquicentennial. As a 43-year member of the Canadian Armed Forces and as a retired civil engineer, Ed offers Emanu-El his training and experience in building preservation, security, and policy development. Currently he aims to assist the Board develop the best possible policies for Congregation Emanu-El. Ed was born in Montreal and Victoria is his 14th home.
(2020 - )
Chair Communications Committee
Lincoln joined Congregation Emanu-El with his family in 2011. As a volunteer, he designed and built an updated Congregation Emanu-El website in 2013, which he administered for the next four years. He has served as a member of Emanu-El’s Online Media Working Group. Lincoln has contributed to Emanu-El programming and served on the Hebrew School & Youth Committee. Among a variety of community service activities, Lincoln was the programmer (2014-16) and director (2016-18) of the Victoria International Jewish Film Festival. He is a juror for the Vancouver Jewish Film Festival and he is the Middle East/North Africa section programmer for the Victoria Film Festival. He has served on a number of voluntary organizational boards over the years, including at Berkeley Hillel, Congregation Emanu-El, and the James Bay Child Care Society.
Lincoln is an Associate Professor in the Department of English at the University of Victoria, where he conducts research and teaches in the fields of postcolonial literature, Jewish and Diaspora Studies, and Media Studies.
Benjamin Vega Aguilar*
Benjamin Vega Aguilar *
(2021 - )
Director (at large)
Benjamin Vega Aguilar emigrated from Costa Rica to Canada 12 years ago. He found a second home in Congregation Emanu-El—a community that has become a part of his family. Benjamin’s daughter is now completing her second year in the Hebrew school. It is his hope that, as a Board member, he will be able to help create for other families, the same warm experiences he has felt here. He offers his unique perspective, in the belief that it will be a positive influence on both the Board and this community. His professional experiences have been varied: he has worked in tourism, as a naturalist, in private security, and is now developing his own catering company. He hopes that, as a Board member, he can continue to extend his roots in this community and help others to do the same.
(2015 - )
Ruthi (aka Lesley) hails from the UK where she was a managing partner in a nationwide firm of Trades Union solicitors. Since then she has worn any number of hats including mother, sailor, teacher and farmer. She has been an active member of our shul for a number of years, holding various positions on our Board, most recently that of President.
She remains on our Board as President Emerita, where her duties will include Board liaison with our Adult Education and Events team and participation in our financial planning team.
(2021 - )
For a decade or so, Zelda Dean was the Congregation Emanu-El Office Manager. Following retirement in 2021, Zelda was eager to continue serving Emanu-El and agreed to join the Board of Directors. She serves on the Membership committee and looks forward to working with the other dedicated volunteers.
Since a teen, Zelda volunteered for synagogues, Federations and Jewish theatre. She has engaged in a lifelong quest of fighting racism, antisemitism, and hate. Zelda founded Congregation Emanu-El’s Bēma Productions which is the third Jewish theatre company she launched. When she saw a recent rise in hate and antisemitism, Zelda asked the Victoria Shoah Project to join her in offering the eye-opening Holocaust Education play, Survivors, to Vancouver Island schools—an initiative that has received widespread support.
(2021 - )
Past President; Board Liaison with House Committee
After more than 20 years of living in Jerusalem and working in the Israel Museum, I arrived in Victoria in 2003, and because of the warm and welcoming feelings engendered by wonderful people at Congregation Emanu-El—including the young Rabbi Harry, I decided to remain. This community/kehillah has provided me with a sense of being “home”.
I began serving on the Board in 2005, and subsequently worked with nine Presidents, myself included. I was President during the 150th anniversary celebratory year, a year in which we successfully raised money to structurally strengthen and preserve our historic building and to hold celebratory galas, parades, performances, and extraordinary events.
For 8 years, I was the Cemetery Director, and I continue to serve on the Cemetery Committee.
After a much-needed two-year hiatus from Board activities, I decided that based on my experiences and skills, I still had the wherewithal to contribute to the well-being and development of our shul. With trepidation, I agreed to be the Board liaison for the House Committee which faces the challenges of ongoing projects and maintenance and the goal of enhancing the beauty of our historic synagogue. I welcome all able handed members as well as skilled workers to join in this worthy mitzvah work.
* New member