If you are living in Belgium, you are not far from Utopia. Reading this might cause you to scratch your head - partly because we are in a season of discontent, uncertainty and flux. The past two years have been particularly unsettling in Belgium.
One evening in Venice this summer, sitting in the middle of the Jewish Ghetto’s central square, I watched the first night outdoor performance of Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice”. Never before had this play been performed in Venice, let alone in the Ghetto. The play and its cross-current of themes reverberated more deeply in such a setting.
On March 22nd, the Islamic State (IS) brought its war again to Brussels. Suicide bombers exploded powerful bombs at the Brussels Airport entrance hall and the Maelbeek Metro station during the rush hour. It was timed to catch as many victims as possible. The tally is at least 31 dead and hundreds wounded. Major roads in Brussels are closed. The city has an air about it of nervous dread.
The headlines are disquieting. A wave of populism has spread through the Western world attacking the political establishment at home and globalization abroad. Populist parties in Europe attack the EU and one member, the UK, votes on June 23rd whether to leave the EU. These movements express deep anger and fear, often ignore facts and seem attracted to irrational promises.
Something was missing. I read a report on Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s statement for International Holocaust Remembrance Day (Jan 27, 2016) that noted the Prime Minister never mentioned that the millions murdered in the Holocaust were Jews and died because they were Jews.
Last Friday, the First Night of Pesach, the IJC held a beautiful Community Seder led by Rabbi Ira. We did what Jews around the world were doing that night – retelling the story of the Exodus from Egypt more than 3,400 years ago. Jews do this because they are commanded by God to remember that they were once slaves in Egypt, were liberated at the hand of God and then made the Exodus.
“Lo, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death”. This phrase from the 23rd Psalm echoed in my mind all this past Fall. I had rushed to New York in early October to take care of my dying mother. She was in hospice care at her home. I then spent more than 2 months at her side.