Dear IJC Members and Friends: it’s Rosh Hashanah time. As we stand on the threshold of a New Year in a world that faces severe challenges, I believe our community is strong.
Last weekend, we held our traditional back from summer Shabbat. What a joy it was to see around 40 people show up to celebrate! During the vacation break, we never went silent. A number of us travelled to Tilberg in the Netherlands. We enjoyed a day of retreat hosted by Chantal in Ghent. And we gathered at Sarah S’s home to welcome Shabbat.
The summer proved surprising for me, too. In my home country Finland, I don’t expect to see much interest in Judaism. Yet this year, I attended the famed Savonlinna Opera Festival and saw….Fiddler on the Roof performed in German by Theater Hagen. Then my own, usually calm country suffered a political meltdown, with a far-right True Finns party joining the new coalition government. Week after week, revelations emerged of racist statements by its leaders. After a minister joked about the Nazis, the government finally agreed to criminalize Holocaust denial.
In August, I also visited Israel. The occasion was the culmination of an IJC-sponsored educational program called Teaching Their Chapter Run by our former Rabbi Nathan Alfred, it brought together Bar and Bat Mitzvah teachers from all of Europe - from Ireland in the West to the Czech Republic in the East and from Finland in the North to Portugal in the South. Four IJC members participated. Read Anneke Silverstein’s post about our trip.
The whole trip was exhilarating. The weather was hot and brilliant. Jerusalem and Tel Aviv were buzzing, warm, vital cities, with excellent restaurants, soothing green parks, and memorable architecture. What a success story! Yet the country, too, faces an existential crisis. The present far-right government seems determined to destroy democracy and institute a religious theocracy. On Saturday evening, I joined the weekly demonstrations opposing these changes - and was moved both by the protesters’ energy and their enthusiasm when singing HaTikvah.
In this sacred season of reflection and renewal, let us here in Belgium find similar inspiration to persevere. As we gather to observe Rosh Hashanah, let us remember the enduring values of faith, family, and community, let us look forward with hope and determination to the opportunities that lie ahead. L'shanah tovah tikatevu ve techatemu – May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year!
With warmest wishes for a meaningful and joyous Rosh Hashanah,
Anu Ristola, President