"Mazel tov!" rings out from the jubilant crowd as the groom crushes the glass, echoing the familiar sounds that have launched Jewish marriages for thousands of years. Yet, in this case, the turf is somewhat unfamiliar – it is neither the hallowed courtyards of Jerusalem, nor the lavish banquet halls of New York’s Burroughs. It’s the quaint remote island of Victoria, British Columbia.
One of the first graduates of The Jerusalem Kollel to be placed, Rabbi Shia Greineman has met astonishing, yet not unforeseen success. Rabbi Greineman has been the leader of Orthodox Jewry in Victoria, B.C. for the past 18 months. The Orthodox community, or "family" in his own words, has grown close to 200%.
Leading holiday services along with hosting meals for dozens is only the beginning. The Rabbi and the Rebbetzin find a way to relate to any given person on their own terms and allow them to connect to their heritage as they can.
The community now boasts of a synagogue with weekly Shabbat services, some kosher food availability, and even a Mikvah that is underway. The fact that a kollel family is now stationed there has been the real injection that has given Victoria its vigor – and they’re not just any couple either. As proud congregant, Peter Gary describes it, Rabbi Shia Greineman and his wife, Chavi, have succeeded in “holding our little community together with great knowledge, a good sense of humor, and warmth that is exceptionally disarming”. Which is why the idea of a traditional Jewish wedding in the milieu of a remote resort island is not as remote as one may think. When it comes to Jewish tradition, it appears, there are no limits. Indeed, no man is an island, and Victoria, British Columbia is now testament to that.
In the words of a congregant:
I have known Rabbi Greineman for about a year. Let me tell you a little bit about him. My name is Michael Strumpf. I was a Professor of English for a little less than half of a century. I have known many, many individuals, among them, a number of rabbis.
Some of these rabbis were smart; some of them were handsome; some of them had brilliant and magnetic personalities; some had remarkable voices; a few possessed oratorical splendiferosity, and a few were true scholars whose knowledge was far more than skin deep. Occasionally, a rabbi would also be able to use his knowledge of psychology to help members of the congregation with individual problems. Never have I met anyone, of any age, who possessed most or all of these qualities, until now.
My wife and I, by accident, found Rabbi Greineman’s shule purely by accident. When we entered his tiny synagogue, we were shocked by its size. But size does not determine the quality of one’s faith. In the front sat a young man. His face and voice both indicated the depth of his sincerity and knowledge as the Saturday Service continued. Here was more than a rabbi; here was a teacher, a leader, still a learner intent on not only providing knowledge but also questioning us for our viewpoints. He truly captivated everyone who was present that day.
Since then, my wife and I have tried to attend Shabbat Services as often as possible.
Why? Because we honestly feel that we are in the presence of a leader. He is a deeply spiritual man; he is a deeply devoted man, a man married to his faith in God and to Judaism, an inspiration to us and to his wife and two small boys. We only wish that there were more men like our Rabbi. He makes us so proud to be Jews.