President Anu Ristola’s speech to Rabbi Brian, January 22, 2023
I remember our first meeting. It was during a summer Kabbalat Shabbat that we organized at our home in 2008.
What had brought this white-haired distinguished-looking gentleman from Scotland to us, I wondered? Brian had heard about our English language Liberal community and wanted to check us out. It turned out to be love at the first sight. Like Brian, many IJC members come from varied multinational backgrounds and speak many languages, finding a home here in Belgium temporarily or permanently.
In the following years, the love affair became mutual and turned out to be a match made in heaven. Brian became more and more involved in the IJC as a volunteer. It was a stroke of good luck - some would say, a fate that when we needed a new rabbi, Brian had begun his rabbinical studies.
To be honest, the installation feels long overdue. Brian has been the IJC’s de facto Rabbi for almost five years. After becoming a rabbinical student, he assumed all our rabbinical duties. He helped stabilize our community, leading us through Covid-19 and building us into the strong, sustainable synagogue that we are today.
Brian leads moving services. He supports our Hebrew School, runs our Giur conversions, and contributes to the Adult Education programs. I enjoyed his lectures during Covid on Biblical Poetry, a subject that is close to his heart.
From the beginning of his rabbinical studies, Brian has always been there to offer pastoral support. Like most Jewish communities, we have our divisions, but Brian is our rock and unifier. We can always count on his wisdom. Truly, we are lucky.
Brian, it's been a long time since our first Shabbat together. I hope - and I believe - that there will be many more together in the future.
As a symbol of our appreciation, let me offer you a special Scottish tallit on behalf of the whole IJC community.