On May 14, the middle of Belgian Pride month, IJC organised its first ever Pride Shabbat, celebrating our community’s LGBTQ+ rainbow diversity in a place that unites us, our synagogue, one important place for many where we celebrate our love of Judaism. The festivities started with a Mincha – afternoon – service, and included a short reading from the Torah portion assigned to the next Shabbat. I was asked to organise this year’s Pride Shabbat by the European Rabbinical Association and I was able to partner with George Perlov – an IJC diaspora member familiar to many who now lives in Berlin.
We opened our physical and virtual doors to LGBTQ+ members, friends and allies from all over Europe. I took care of the special service siddur and the service, which was led by rabbinical student Helene Braun – a good friend from Abraham Geiger College – who joined us from Jerusalem. The sermon was given by Rabbi Ariel Friedlander, now serving a community in Italy. More than thirty participants Zoomed in from various parts of Europe and the UK, and a further thirty filled the synagogue chairs. I’m even told some US East coasters got up early to join online. Volunteers from Beth Hillel leyned the Torah portion and IJC’s Shaya Feldman entertained us with his musical partner Maayan James, providing a fun musical interlude. George Perlov organised for his part a fascinating discussion on being queer and Jewish in central and eastern Europe compared with the Belgian capital where the participants now live.
We concluded the afternoon with a bubbles reception, where we got to meet new people and plan for more editions of Pride Shabbat in Brussels next year. Thanks to the many people who brought food and drinks to make the day complete.
This was a first for IJC – and for Beth Hillel – and evidence if that were needed of our openness to Jews whatever their background. We look forward to repeating it in years to come and welcoming more rainbow diversity into our community.
- by Rabbi Brian Doyle-Du Breuil