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Looking In and Looking Out


IJC can be rightly proud of its inclusivity and welcoming ‘open tent’ approach to membership. The membership committee – Maria, Golan, Steve and I – recently reviewed our membership list, and in addition to observing substantial growth (we will soon break IJC records) we were also amazed at the incredible diversity of our membership. IJC includes Jews of every age, Jews of colour, LGBTQ+ Jews, Giurim, and we are also proud to include non-Jewish partners who often play a significant role in our community life.


Like any Jewish community, we also have our differences, but we give priority always to respect for the other.  If two Jews mean three opinions, what happens when one hundred Jews have to share the same space?  Yet we manage because we respect each other’s difference, and that often means we don’t confront, put each other on the spot, or cancel each other.

 

When a strong community like IJC is comfortable with its inclusivity ad intra, a time comes when we need to consider our inclusivity ad extra – to the world around us, Jewish and non-Jewish. Via the Neighbours Project we have welcomed hundreds of school children into our synagogue so they can get to know another side of Judaism that goes beyond the stereotypes they carry from their home environment, social media, news etc. But there is another side to the Neighbours Project - and that is the Neighbours Coalition.


The school visits (see photo) might be less numerous after the funded part of the Neighbours Project comes to an end, but the Neighbours Coalition will remain a permanent venue for IJC’s interfaith outreach. IJC now leads an expanding coalition of Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Humanist and several civil society groups with one important common denominator: combatting antisemitism, Islamophobia, and every form of hatred and discrimination. During Chanukkah last year, representatives of several coalition partners joined us to celebrate and share their own understanding of the miracle of light.


This year I have been privileged to participate in a special edition of World Prayer Day organized by the Belgian Baha’i community in Hasselt, sharing a ‘prayer platform’ with people of every faith and none. Golan and I were also invited to an Iftar (see photo) organized by Fedactio (https://en.fedactio.be/) in Antwerp on the first night of Ramadan, with 200 guests, including the Belgian Prime Minister and the recently appointed Minister of Justice. I will attend a more modest Iftar in Hasselt next week organized by the Turkish Muslim community.

 

And recently, four IJCers spent a Sunday afternoon in Leuven visiting its four mosques on Open Mosque Day where we were received with warmth and gracious hospitality. I hope more members of our community will be able to share in this outreach in the future. Two events are being organized in April and May. The first is a webinar on antisemitism and Islamophobia on social media since October 7, the second is an in-person workshop at the Synagogue focusing on allyship between Jews and Muslims. Details about the Neighbours Coalition, its partners, and upcoming events can be found on our website https://www.ijc.be/neighbourscoalition. These events are open to all coalition partners and their representatives and that includes you!

 

Rabbi Brian

 

 

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