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Like an Open Book?

A few weeks ago, I was invited to participate in a programme on BRUZZ TV, Brussels Flemish network. I was there as a book, a living book, being borrowed by six different people who had the chance to ‘read’ me by asking me questions – six questions each. We spent almost three hours in an ice-cold film studio (the a/c was running full blast) in the beautiful Flagey building for a broadcast segment that will last no more than 10 minutes (to be broadcast in September, 2023 – I’ll keep you posted).

On the cover of ‘me as a book’ it says Brian Doyle-Du Breuil, Progressive Rabbi in Brussels. And that’s what most of the questions focused on. Why did you become a rabbi? What did your partner think? Are they Jewish? Are you raising your children Jewish? Was it okay to be gay in a rabbinical seminary? What is your community like? Do they accept you as gay? Do you have the respect of other Jews and Jewish communities? What do other Jews in Belgium think about progressive Jews? What’s the main difference between Progressive and Orthodox Jews? Aren’t you suppose to wear a black hat and have a string of curly hair running down from your temples? You don’t look like a rabbi!

I realized on the way home that so many of my responses were positive, maybe even a little too positive? I tend to be an optimist, so perhaps what I said was what I wanted people to hear. Was my portrayal of my life as a rabbi and progressive Judaism as a whole too idyllic? Like the garden of Eden in B’reishit, perfect in every way, gender neutral, clean rivers of nourishing and sustaining water, and food enough for everyone, innocent, maybe naïve? From my perspective, our IJC community is the best manifestation of Progressive Judaism and it gets better every year as new members help us grow and existing members offer their gifts. So I took every opportunity to promote IJC, but we’ll have to wait for the editor to do his work to see how much has survived.

But Progressive Judaism, of course, is a human endeavour and isn’t a garden of Eden. Indeed, at times it can seem like a wilderness – even within our Jewish world – where we seem isolated and struggling to survive. Yet every year we return to B’reishit and are reminded of what things could be, a perfect world with enough for everyone, sustaining water, a true paradise. And while we also know that the idyllic world of Eden is no longer perfect, we also know it can be repaired. And that’s where we come into the picture… by striving to make the world a better place, by repairing what we find to be broken, by repairing our Progressive Jewish world where it is broken and needs repair, by pushing our own IJC forward to be the best it can be – not perfect, just the best it can be, by repairing what needs to be fixed.

Our IJC members are what we need to survive as a community, especially at times when we find ourselves in the wilderness, but even when things are going well. Our younger members give us hope for the future. We have every reason to celebrate them and to celebrate all our members. Our members will make the world a better place, repair and heal what is broken, will repair and heal our Progressive Jewish world where it is broken and needs repair, will repair and heal our own IJC community so that it can be the best IJC possible, not perfect, just the best it can be.

As we enter our summer recess – with some fun community events to keep us connected in July and August (more about these in my next post) – we can look forward to a new Jewish year with our 20th Anniversary celebration as the highlight of a year of engaging programming.

In African Ubuntu ethics they say “I am because we are.” Let’s support and cherish each other.



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