It’s AGM - Annual General Meeting - time. On June 12 we will meet at the synagogue and discuss how we have fared over the past 12 months and what we hope to achieve in the coming year. The IJC has come out of the pandemic stronger than ever. The synagogue is filling up again, holding in-person services and in-person events, including our recent successful Seder. I’m optimistic about our future.
Here are some reasons for my upbeat message:
Rabbi Brian: Our generous, learned and compassionate rabbi has finished his studies and is soon to be ordained. We can count on his support and leadership.
Financial Stability: Our accounts are in balance. Treasurer Maria Loose has transitioned us to a professional accounting system, with a transparent, above board budget. After many years of rejections, we are finally getting some support from the Belgian government to pay part of the Rabbi's salary.
Grants: We have won our first European Commission grant. It will fund an exciting project called Know Your Neighbors, bringing non-Jewish students into our synagogue for visits.
Harmony: During the pandemic, our community’s Facebook page turned into a battleground over Mideast politics. This was unfortunate. What is fortunate is that the page rules were reformed and discussion has become calmer. We also had a session with Rabbi Lea Muhlstein about how to disagree respectfully. I believe the temperature of debate within our community is back to normal. This reflects that the IJC is not a political organization but a spiritual one.
While I am proud of these accomplishments, we face challenges ahead. We need to balance in-person participation with online opportunities. Some of our members live far away from the synagogue and find it more convenient to join online. We will keep Zoom as an option for some events.
We are reforming the Hebrew School. During the pandemic, the school was reduced to two classes. Our hope is to attract more children by moving most of the classes to Sundays to avoid conflict with other activities. We thank Anneke Silverstein and Nada Joppe, two experienced teachers, for working on this new and exciting educational program.
The Rabbi and the Board are deep into organizing next year’s calendar. All the religious events are scheduled and will take place at the synagogue, except for the High Holidays. Other social activities may be held outside the synagogue or on the east side of Brussels in members’ homes.
Volunteer-led activities play an important role in our community. If you have an idea for a new activity, the AGM is the time to raise it with the community.
After many year’s absence, there has been even cautious talk of organizing another Shabbaton, together with the Hebrew School. An entire weekend celebration of our Jewishness together would be such a wonderful way to reconnect.
Let me conclude with a summer wish for all of you. As you know, I’m from Finland. One of my favorite writers is Tove Jansson, creator of the Moomin characters. My childhood hero was Moomintroll. When Moomintroll became scared, his friend Too-ticky confronted him with these wise words: “All things are so very uncertain, and that’s exactly what makes me feel reassured.” This is why I feel confident about the IJC's future.
I wish everyone a wonderful summer break.
- by Anu Ristola