Burquest is a non-profit organization dedicated to the religious, social, cultural and educational needs of the Jewish population of Burnaby, New Westminster, Port Moody, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and as far east as Mission. Founded in 1972, Burquest has a diverse and growing membership. From infants to grandparents, representing 5 continents, Burquest members come from a wide variety of Jewish backgrounds and exhibit a range of current interests and needs.
Burquest’s Hebrew School is the oldest “institution” within the organization, reflecting the high priority its members have always put on Jewish education. Burquest is also rich in adult programming. Other programming includes: monthly Shabbat services; High Holiday services on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur; other holiday observances, such as Sukkot, Simchat Torah, Purim, and Hanukah; Bar/Bat Mitzvah training; adult education, including Hebrew classes, adult Bar/Bat Mitzvah training; discussion groups; social activities such as picnics, parties and seniors programs.
The roots of the Burquest Jewish community can be found in New Westminster in the 1950s where there was a Hadassah Chapter, a small Talmud Torah, and several Jewish businesses. By the early 1970s there were 8 families from Burnaby, Coquitlam and New Westminster, meeting to discuss and promote the cultural and religious aspects of Judaism. On a monthly basis the group met in various members’ rec rooms. In February of 1974, the name Burquest Jewish Community Association was adopted, combining the names of the members’ cities: Burnaby, New Westminster, and Coquitlam. In 1976 society status was obtained, and by that year there was a regular Hebrew School and social events, including 75 people attending the Purim party. In the early 1990s, the current membership began to solidify. There were regular Oneg Shabbat services, though still held in members’ houses, and other formal religious activities. Using a borrowed Torah, High Holiday services were held at a Coquitlam church. As the religious program was expanded, membership grew steadily. In December of 1995, one of the community’s proudest moments came at the dedication of its own Torah, an event attended by a number of local political and religious leaders. This occasion recognized Burquest’s coming of age as a religious community. The Torah allowed more in-depth services to be held on a regular basis, including Simchat Torah and the High Holidays, as well as the beginning of a Bar and Bat Mitzvah program. Hanukah parties, Sukkot and Purim programs, and an adult study group all became part of the calendar.
In the 1990s it became apparent that a building was needed to house the Burquest Jewish community. Burquest had outgrown meeting in members' homes and community halls and churches. Religious services were being held at Saint Laurence Church, the Hebrew school was meeting at Douglas College in New Westminster, and social events often required ad-hoc arrangements at other locations. There were no offices, no library, no centralized records, and no place to call a Jewish centre. It was determined that Burquest needed a single, permanent location. By the mid-1990s a building capital campaign was begun and by 1999 enough funds had been raised to purchase an acreage in Port Coquitlam. In 2001 the acreage was sold to purchase a building at the corner of Dewdney Truck Road and Mariner Way on June 27, 2001 and renovations were undertaken to add a kitchen, elevator and classrooms. On October 6, 2002/ 30 Tishri 5763 the building was officially opened. Today Burquest is located at 2860 Dewdney Trunk Road, Coquitlam, BC.