Temple Sholom, founded in 1965, is Vancouver’s only reform congregation. For many years, it held services in members’ living rooms and basements. In 1976, it acquired a building at 4426 West 10th Avenue (between Trimble and Sasamat) – a former masonic hall. The vast majority of Jewish organizations have operated along the Oak Street Corridor since the 1940s. The only explanation for the West 10th location was it was the only building of the right size at the right price that became available at the right time. A similar case of the right building at the right time is Or Shalom, a Reconstructionist congregation that has operated out of a former church at 10th and Fraser since 1993. Temple Sholom operated in its West 10th location from March 12, 1976 to January 25, 1985.
At 2:00 AM on the night of January 25, 1985, the synagogue was firebombed and rendered unusable. There had been a prior attempt at firebombing earlier that month. Rabbi Philip Bregman received a call from the fire department and arrived to find the building still burning. He ran inside to recover the Torahs. All but one were saved, including the Czech Torah, rescued from a small town in Czechoslovakia during World War Two. The following morning, Saturday morning services were held at the Jewish Community Centre. Through the support of Mayor Mike Harcourt and diverse members of the Jewish community, two plots were bought on Oak Street, between 54th and 57th Avenues, and a new Richard Henriquez designed building completed in 1988.
In his speech at the 30th anniversary commemorative ceremony on February 13, 2015, Mike Harcourt commented that the firebombing was a shock to the whole city and acted as a wake-up call that the city’s self-image of being harmonious and multicultural was not without cracks.
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