The IJC is on a journey whose path at times is unclear. Founded in 2003, the IJC has been a home away from home - a Progressive Jewish home - for a very diverse, multilingual set of congregants. IJC’s membership changes each year because of its nature - to a large degree made up of expats who move in and out of Belgium. Yet, even though the membership roll changes, the IJC ‘feeling’ remains the same – very open to newcomers, very tolerant to different forms of Judaism and often very intimate in its services, its school classes and its holiday events.
Every year the world observes Holocaust Remembrance Day. For those who read this, it is obvious what this day commemorates and why it is necessary. The Nazi attempt to exterminate an entire people using industrial methods for mass murder stands as the embodiment of evil and as a warning to future generations. Among the host of ceremonies and events this year, I mention a few in Brussels and elsewhere that I found notable – some of them with links to our own IJC members.
What do you do if you are a Jewish family with a child approaching Bar Mitzvah age, are not a member of a synagogue and want your child to have a Bar Mitzvah ceremony? Order out, it seems – a form of DIY (Do It Yourself). Find a rabbi, a tutor and the trappings of a synagogue (a torah, etc.) to allow you to construct your own Bar Mitzvah experience.
The IJC had a great start in its new home in the Beth Hillel building with its first Shabbat services on Jan 5th and 6th. Although it was still the holiday period, the IJC had a large turnout for a special service honoring the departure of a member family (Gilly Weinstein and John Weissberg) for New York. They have contributed so much to the IJC since they joined in 2009. Gilly has been a very active Board member since 2012 and John has re-engineered the IJC web systems. The service was a bittersweet occasion.
Since its beginnings in 2003, the IJC has fostered a welcoming atmosphere geared mainly to the expat experience – that its members were strangers in a land not their own and were far from their own family and old friends. It has been a Jewish “home away home”.
The 1939 New York World’s Fair was an exciting moment for the world at large. It was a work of optimism whose planning took place in the midst of the Great Depression and was intended to make people see how bright the future could be. It was a counterweight to the mushrooming gloom about the likelihood of war. It converted a garbage dump in Flushing Meadows into a glowing display of man’s progress in science, technology and industry. Actually, it was the first world exposition showcasing what the future could be.
As many of you know, we have been searching for a long-term home ever since the IJC came into existence. This has proved to be extremely challenging given our needs and our resources. Our current location will not be available for much longer so the IJC needs a new home.
I am delighted to announce that we have an agreement to move to Beth Hillel from January 1, 2018.The boards of both communities are doing their utmost to make a co-habitation attractive and mutually fulfilling. Our Rabbis have met several times over the past months and our ‘Side by Side’ services earlier this year were viewed very positively by the vast majority of IJCers who attended.To be clear, this is not a merger. The IJC would share a location but operate separately from Beth Hillel; but of course there will be important synergies in terms of sharing space and in cooperating with each other.
Let me mention some key advantages for the IJC – and they are really substantial:
Given the times we live in, the IJC has constantly been delicately balancing security with (lack of) visibility. To have our name on the door, an address on our website, to be able to come ‘out’ is very exciting! We can openly say (including in writing) “this is us, this is where we are, find us here!” - an enormous departure from the past.
I am confident that sharing Beth Hillel’s space will help IJC not only to continue to exist, but to truly flourish.
We are guaranteed the right to use our current location through December. While IJC might be allowed to stay longer, planning and carrying out a move takes time. With the target date of January 1, 2018, we can organize the move in stages over the autumn.
If you have any questions or comments at this time, please let me know.
For the Board
September 1, 2017