Many of you will recognize Maria’s smiling face from our IJC service and activities. She has become such an active IJC member in recent years – and as of June 2021 – our trusty Treasurer. When she had to stop working at the Council of the European Union at the mandatory retirement age, she cast around for a new project and IJC quickly enlisted her smiles and energy!
Maria grew up in Germany and with husband Ekkehard has three children. When the couple moved to Brussels after she passed the EU competition, they agreed that she would be the breadwinner. Maria adds: ‘it was a choice we made and totally normal for our family.’ She started as a translator but got bored and started studying law at the age of 45 and went from the Language Service to Supervision of Public Procurement. She loved the change of career even if the pay was less!
Maria’s Journey to IJC
Another challenge which Maria took on was her realization that she was not at home in Christianity – the religion of her upbringing. Once her children left home, she had more time to think about this and got interested in philosophy. ‘I started looking for a different kind of spirituality’ she says. ‘I met a colleague who was Jewish who said I should speak to a Rabbi. I started looking for an egalitarian community as I am a feminist and stand for LBGTQ rights. I met Brian, joined services and embarked on a two year journey to convert to Judaism. It grew inside me and the IJC was the perfect place to experience this journey.’
How we can Help our Treasurer
As Treasurer, she needs our help! IJC has hired a new accounting firm who insist that we keep membership dues separate from all other income such as voluntary donations or payments for other activities. So if you receive an invoice - as we all do for membership dues - please use the structured code on the invoice when paying. For all other payments such as, say, for a Break-the- Fast meal where there is no invoice, please add a description of purpose under Communication in your online payments. Maria says ‘not only will it help me and our accountants understand where our income comes from, but it will also prevent us from asking members to pay again for something they may have already paid for.’
As if being our Treasurer was not enough work (!) Maria also helps in the broader community. Close to home, she helped legalize her future Cuban daughter-in-law when she came to Belgium. She is now well integrated here having left a life of extreme poverty behind her. She and Ekkehard still help the immediate family still in Cuba. Then Maria also volunteers at an ‘école de devoir’ on Wednesdays helping mainly Moroccan kids with their Dutch homework. ‘ I have learned a lot about Islam through them and I have talked to them about the Holocaust - about which they know nothing. ‘It has been a great exercise in understanding each other’s views.’
So perhaps another adjective to add to Maria’s smiles and energy -- is her endless curiosity.
By Diana Kanter