It's already 20 years. In 2003, seven families decided to set up a new synagogue in Brussels, one catering to the international community. The theology would be non-orthodox, welcoming all and treating all equally. The working language would be English. Our motto would be ”a home away from home.”
Today, we’re some 100 member units strong from all over the globe - from the US to South Africa, from Sweden in the North, to Spain in the south and to Israel in the East. Plus more and more of our members are locals, Belgians attracted to our open, welcoming, and inclusive spirit. We’re no longer just “a home away from home,” but a Jewish home within a home.
Our accomplishments are many: a Rabbi supported by the Belgian state, weekly Shabbat services - alternating between Friday evening Zooms and in-person potluck dinners - and Saturday morning Torah readings, a thriving Talmud Torah, a home for lectures (this month about Jews in Antiquity), a book club, a monthly Klatsch and much, much more.
We’ve won a series of grants, from the European Commission and others. In the past month we welcomed several school groups to the synagogue. The Neighbors program aims to demystify Judaism for our non-Jewish neighbors. We’re reaching out to other schools and youth sports groups. If you have an idea of who could benefit from a visit, please contact me. And Rabbi Brian has constructed a new interfaith “coalition”.
The IJC is also leading a new training program for Bnei Mitzvah teachers called Teaching Their Chapter. Our former rabbi Nathan Alfred is teaching. Four IJCers are attending. Two dozen other students are participating, coming from all over the continent, including my home country Finland!
We’re beginning to plan the IJC’s 20th Anniversary Celebration. It will take place on December 2, 2023 and should be a great moment for all of us to gather. We have much to celebrate!