On May 20th, the IJC held a Welcome Shabbat service for the many new faces who have been popping up at IJC over the past few months. It replaced the annual Farewell Shabbat service normally held in May or June each year to say good-bye to the IJC members moving abroad. This year - surprisingly for an international congregation - none of our current members are leaving.
The IJC performed its duty and paid a debt to the larger Jewish Community on Friday April 28th in a ceremony at the British War Cemetery at Heverlee, near Leuven. It was for a Jewish World War II UK airman, Sidney Smith, who died very close to the end of the War.
The Syrian refugee family sang “When The Saints Go Marching In” after scrambling onto our S-Bahn carriage on a very cold and snowy morning as I rode from central Berlin to Wannsee station. My destination was the House of the Wannsee Conference in a large 1915 villa built by a German Industrialist on the shores of a lake on the outskirts of Berlin.
Jews are commanded to celebrate Pesach each spring to remember the Exodus when Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt over 3200 years ago. The Exodus is one of the defining moments of Jewish history and identity. The key way to observe this commandment is to tell the Pesach story at a Seder sitting around a dinner table with friends and family.
I got the news December 7th: great Aunt Ruth had died in New York, almost 105. The matriarch of my family, she was my very own Auntie Mame. When my boys were little, I kept reminding them that she had been born just before the Titanic sank in 1912. She witnessed more than a century of often drastic developments and at times interacted with its major players.
The urgent telegram arrived at my grandparents’ Manhattan home just before Pearl Harbor Day (December 7, 1941) from Brummel relatives in Czechoslovakia. It stated: “GRAVE DANGER SEND MONEY”. As explained to me when I was very young by my grandmother, whether or not the telegram was actually sent by our Czech cousins, it was not meant to benefit them. It was probably sent by the Aryan administrator, masquerading as them.
If you are living in Belgium, you are not far from Utopia. Reading this might cause you to scratch your head - partly because we are in a season of discontent, uncertainty and flux. The past two years have been particularly unsettling in Belgium.