Prague holds a special place in Jewish history. On April 26th, making a conscious link to that history, the European Reform/Liberal Jewish movement (EUPJ) held opening ceremonies for its four-day Prague conclave at a very special location: the Smetana concert hall in the Municipal Hall, an art nouveau treasure. This was the first major Jewish meeting held there since the 18thWorld Zionist Congress in August 1933 (see photo).
Our civilization at its core is run on principles and values. In the rush of daily life, they can be overlooked or forgotten. Being reminded of them is well worth it to individuals and society in general. They allow society to see things in a wider context and hopefully avoid sacrificing them by, for instance, confusing means with ends. I found a good example of this in my recent tour of Washington DC.
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.
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.
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.
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.