JG: So tell me how we came to have a Reform congregation in Vancouver.
JB: Well, we were sitting having dinner one night with my father and mother. And we said, “Well we really have to send these kids to religious school but we don’t want to send them to Schara Tzedeck because it’s Orthodox and we’re not and the Beth Israel is too big and too expensive. There should be another choice in Reform congregation.” So my father said, “Why don’t you start one?” Well, so Leon put an ad in the Jewish Western Bulletin: “Anyone interested in starting a Reform congregation please call Leon Berlow.” At the same time the Union of American Hebrew Congregations felt that this was a site quite ripe for a new Reform congregation. And so they scheduled their regional conference up here unbeknownst to us until we received a, we saw in the Jewish Western Bulletin some publicity. So we contacted them and we said, “Listen, we’re interested in getting this thing going. Do you want to meet with us?” So we went to the weekend and we met a few people.
And the other people who were involved right at the beginning were Peter and Cornelia Oberlander, and Hal and Leonor Etkin, and Harold and Marge Lando. Those were the three people who, Marge Lando had come from a Reform background in Seattle so she knew what she was talking about and I think the Oberlanders too. But most of us who started came from Orthodox backgrounds that just didn’t suit us anymore. And we started to talk to people in Seattle and they promised us to send a rabbi once a month so we could have services. We would have to pay for housing them in a hotel and feed them and they would send them free. They would give us prayer books, I mean they were old but it didn’t matter. They would also start us out with some school books because the school was incredibly important to us. We started the school in Marge Lando’s basement. Peter Oberlander taught, I can’t remember who else taught at that time. We started our services at the centre with our Torah, my great grandfather brought a Torah from Russia and it had been sitting under the bed actually for most of the time. And so we took out the Torah and I’m not sure where we got an arc, somebody lent us an arc. And we said we would start to have services at the Jewish Community Centre.
JG: Is this the one on 41st or the old one? Let’s see, they moved up to 41st in ‘60-something.
JB: Oh no, this was at the new one.
JG: So it was around the 60s, something.
JB: Yep, ‘65, ‘70, ‘67, something like that.
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