Ever since October 7, our community has been in shock and grieving. Hamas’s massacre and the war in Gaza are always on my mind, and surely, always on our members’ minds. I’m grateful that the conflict in the Middle East has not generated a conflict in our community. On the contrary, members have come together to offer each other support, at services, with potluck meals, and in IJC Zooms.
The IJC perseveres. Its strength comes out during these trying times. We have continued to host groups from neighboring schools in our European Commission-sponsored Neighbors program. Before the most recent visit of 21 high schoolers, many from Arab backgrounds, I was concerned. My apprehensions were misplaced. The students came to discuss and learn, and the visit was not only without incident, but successfully introduced our neighbors to Judaism, antisemitism, and our security concerns about living as Jews in Belgium. Most of the students had never met a Jew or entered a synagogue before.
We are continuing to innovate. Thanks to our administrator Golan, we launched a post Shabbat morning member introduction. On a recent Saturday, I was delighted to learn about Klio’s journey to Judaism and Ann’s rich life – including her family’s escape from the Holocaust and a five-decade-long love affair that is still going strong with her husband Harry. The next day, it was great to gather in Ann’s home for a long overdue book club afternoon.
The IJC is 20 years old this year. We are planning to mark this milestone on December 2. Seven families, including ours, started this community with a dream. Today, we number more than a hundred, employ a full-time rabbi, run a Hebrew School, and host a large number of cultural events and religious services. Some have asked whether a party is appropriate in these trying times. It might not be the moment to jump for joy. But after careful reflection, we have decided to come together and show our solidarity even in the most difficult of times.