Volunteers founded the IJC two decades ago. A group of seven families, including mine, gathered together and vowed to begin holding Shabbat dinners. One volunteer arranged to rent the meeting room at the International School of Brussels. Others contributed potluck dishes. There was no rabbi. There was no paid staff.
Today, we have a Rabbi. We are housed in a sparkling synagogue. We pay Hebrew School teachers. But we remain as dependent as ever on volunteers, donating their time and effort to enrich and enliven our synagogue. I’d like to take a few moments to give them a shout-out.
Let me start with Pesach. We were able to host 70 guests for a superb Seder dinner at a reasonable price because volunteer chefs substituted for professional caters. Chantal wielded her mastery of the giant paella pan to cook up a delicious fish dish, while Sarah put together a fabulous Matzah lasagne and I fixedmatzah ball soup and gefilte fish.
Volunteers run our administration and marketing. Jeremy, one of our first Bar Mitzvah kids, revamped our online presence. My husband Bill penned the texts together with Diana, the communication director. Danielle is helping with email announcements. Recently we spent an afternoon in the company of Anne and Harry who gave us a fun quiz. And now Golan has taken on managing our website and social media outreach. Please check out our new Instagram account, ijc_brussels.
Volunteers organize our amazing fieldtrips. After their successful guided visit of Brussels Jewish monuments, Imke and Johan invite all of you on May 28 to visit the Kazerne Dossin in Mechelen. This is the former World War II transit camp, from which, in German-occupied Belgium, arrested Jews and Romani were dispatched to Auschwitz.
As we continue to grow, we can begin to offer some paying posts. The European Commission has awarded us a grant to bring students and groups into the synagogue for visits. The program is called Neighbors. Our trainers receive stipends. Please contact me if you are interested in participating.
But overall, we remain dependent on volunteers. We needvolunteers to set up and clear after events - and to organize entire events. For example, we used to have a Kitchen Mom at the IJC - a role that I enjoyed before becoming President. We need a new Kitchen Mom or Dad, someone who makes sure that we have enough Kiddush wine, clean tablecloths, Tallits, and Kippahs.
Volunteers can be creative and entrepreneurial. We remain open to all good ideas to grow our community. Paraphrasing President John F. Kennedy: ask not what my community can do for me. Ask what I can do for my community. Propose an activity and enrich the IJC.
Before we slow down for the summer break, we will gather together as a community on the outskirts of Brussels for a retreat at the beginning of July. For this and much more, we have begun planning - and we need volunteers! Please raise your hand and contact us if you want to help out!
Anu Ristola IJC President