British Columbia

Jewish community in Victoria celebrates installation of home-grown rabbi

Rabbi Lynn Greenhough from Vancouver Island will be the new spiritual leader for the Congregation Kolot Mayim in Saanich, B.C.

Rabbi Lynn Greenhough converted to Judaism in 1992

Rabbi Lynn Greenhough grew up on a farm in Happy Valley on Vancouver Island and first encountered Judaism through a history book she read in elementary school. (Kolot Mayim Reform Congregation/Facebook)

Rabbi Lynn Greenhough wasn't born into the Jewish faith, but she is now the first rabbi in the Victoria-area that was born on Vancouver Island.

Greenhough can pinpoint her journey to Judaism to her elementary school days in Happy Valley when she picked up a book about the rise and fall of the Third Reich. 

"Back then in the 50s, [Happy Valley] was a small farming community about 12 miles west of Victoria," Greenhough recalled. 

"I was reading this book and I've no idea even how it came to be in this elementary school classroom."

Greenhough, whose father had served in the army during the Second World War, said she was struck by the immense injustice of the Holocaust, and the millions of Jewish and other people who died as a result. 

"I felt in my bones somehow — and I didn't know how — I was meant to be a Jew."

From that point on, Greenhough started learning about Judaism, the Hebrew language and Jewish history. Eventually, she formally converted to Judaism in 1992 at the Congregation Emanuel in Victoria, B.C. 

"When you have a sense of becoming the person you're meant to be, living the life you're meant to live, there is a congruity with that decision and that choice," she said.

"It has been the joy of my life."

Greenhough was ordained in July and was installed as the rabbi of the Kolot Mayim Reform Congregation on Friday, Sept. 6. (Kolot Mayim Reform Congregation/Facebook)

The idea of becoming a rabbi was a dream of Greenhough's but she was  limited by the fact that most of the big seminaries are in large American cities like New York, Boston or Los Angeles. The majority of the rabbis on Vancouver Island, for example, are from the U.S. 

"It's tricky for Canadians because certainly the seminaries where women would be accepted are all in the United States," she said. "So, you have to go prepared to take out massive loans, basically, because if you're studying in the United States, it's hard to get Canadian money to finance that education."

She was able to find an online program and this June, she was ordained. On Sept. 6, she was installed as the new rabbi for Kolot Mayim Reform Temple in Victoria. 

She says her vision for the congregation will be rooted in her earliest encounters with the religion — learning and bringing in people "who feel on the edges of those traditions."

"I'm hoping to kind of extend my arms and say ... what is it you want to learn and let's learn together."

Listen to the segment on All Points West with Rabbi Lynn Greenhough here:

With files from All Points West