From truck driver to rabbi, and proud of local roots

The new rabbi being installed today at Congregation Kolot Mayim is uniquely local.

Rabbi Lynn Greenhough, who was raised in the Happy Valley area, is the capital region’s first rabbi born on Vancouver Island.

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She was ordained as a rabbi in June in New York through the Jewish Spiritual Leaders Institute and was hired by the Kolot Mayim Reform Temple in July.

Today’s installation ceremony is at the Jewish Community Centre, 3636 Shelbourne St.

“It really is a recognition where the community is invited,” Greenhough said. “It will be in the context of a Friday night service.

“It’s exciting and it’s an opportunity for really the entire Jewish community to celebrate, not just Kolot Mayim.”

The Jewish Community Centre is also where Congregation Kolot Mayim holds its regular services.

“We alternate,” Greenhough said. “We have a service every week. One week the service will be Friday night, the next week it’ll be Saturday morning.”

There are also observances of Jewish holidays, with Rosh Hashanah coming up.

Greenhough, 67, held a job quite removed from her religious interests before becoming a rabbi.

“For 20 years I worked for Canada Post,” she said. “I was a truck driver.”

She attended Elizabeth Fisher Junior High and Belmont Secondary and is proud of her local roots. She is also a longtime resident.

“I’m a Canadian, I’m a Victorian,” she said. “It doesn’t get much more homegrown.”

Greenhough wasn’t raised in a Jewish household but she converted to Judaism in 1992 and then married into the faith.

“So it’s been really a journey of learning and of connecting with community,” she said.

Greenhough said going on to become a rabbi was the result of a definite process.

“People ask me really frequently: ‘How long was your program? How long have you been studying to become a rabbi?’ ” Greenhough said.

Since a rabbi typically attends a seminary for five years, she usually tells people she has been training “about the past 25 years.’”

“My husband and I were involved in Congregation Emanu-El for a number of years,” Greenhough said.

“I taught there, I was very involved in the religious leadership in terms of leading services and then we went over to Kolot Mayim.”

There she was also a teacher and in leadership positions, she said.

“I have been conducting funerals,” she said. “I’m a member of the burial society and I’ve done a lot of teaching around Jewish tradition and rituals around death and dying.”

Along with all of that, she taught in the religious studies program at the University of Victoria.

Kolot Mayim is one of 25 congregations across the country belonging to the Canadian Council for Reform Judaism

“Many of the people in our congregation are very committed to a reform tradition of social action, social change, social justice,” Greenhough said.

“I’m really happy to be with a congregation that wants to have discussion and engagement.”

She estimated the number of Jewish people in the Victoria area at several thousand.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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