Dear Members and Friends of the IJC,
This has been a difficult and scary time for us all. Innocent people have been killed and others have been wounded. We worry about our children, about ourselves and about the future.
It is also a moment when we as a community stand together, when we extend a hand, an ear a shoulder to each other, to those of us who need support or just want someone to talk to. We also do our utmost to make sure that when our IJC family joins together, when we come for services, a meal, Hebrew School or another activity, that we are safe.
We stand in solidarity with the people of France, with all those outraged at the horrific attacks on lives and on our values and freedoms. We stand together with the Jewish community here in Belgium, in France and elsewhere around the world. We also extend our sympathy and condolences to the families and friends of all those who have died at the hands of terrorists.
We have a reason to be wary. But there are those who would make us more afraid and use our fear to turn us against our fellow human beings. Let us not allow the extremist minority of any community to cause us to hate. Each individual, whatever their beliefs or faith deserves to be judged on their words and actions, not by the hateful words of extremists members of their or our community. That is what it means to be a progressive Jew; we look not only inward, but outward. We reach out to each other and we reach out to others to build bridges of peace. Let us not forget that the extremists’ agendas will be advanced by us all hating and fearing others. Together we stand against all hatred and bigotry, whatever its source and whoever its target.
May we find the support we need and have the strength and courage to face the future. Together, as people affected deeply by what has happened, as a community, we refuse to give in to terror and hate, and we move ahead with the determination to continue being who we are and standing for the best in each of us and in our IJC community.
It was a proud moment to see ten of our teens called to the Torah in the liberal community of Beit Warszawa. As their student rabbi back in 2005, I had played a small part in the historical revival of Jewish life in Poland by teaching and officiating at the first child (Rachel Goodman) and adult (Ludmila Krewska) bat mitzvahs since at least the Second World War. Returning there after some years, as part of our recent IJC Teen Weekend in Warsaw, was a most satisfying experience.
Bringing Out a Voice of Hope
Despite our shock and utter desolation at the murderous attack at the Jewish Museum in Brussels, in its immediate aftermath our community rallied around remarkably. Organizing the relocation of the Magevet choir’s concert at such short notice was no mean feat.
Every so often we hear in the news about a postman who has been fired for hoarding mail. The most recent example occurred in New York when a postal worker was found with 40,000 undelivered letters in his apartment, some of which had stayed with him for over a decade.
Despite our shock and utter desolation at the murderous attack at the Jewish Museum in Brussels, in its immediate aftermath our community rallied around remarkably. Organizing the relocation of the Magevet choir’s concert at such short notice was no mean feat. The choir provided us with some joy in our sadness and some hope in our despair. No less was the work entailed in moving the Sunday School at short notice to a member’s home too. This showed the IJC at its best, working together creatively and pragmatically to find positive solutions on such short notice, respecting the security advice but defying those who would have us disrupt and cancel our daily Jewish life in the wake of such a horrifying tragedy.
In the Jewish calendar we have entered the saddest time of year, the three weeks that culminate with the fast day of Tisha b’Av. It is the height of summer, the sun blazes down relentlessly, and both people and animals are at risk of imminent death unless they find shade. Crops are also in jeopardy; if the weather gets too hot, a whole year’s tilling and cultivation can be destroyed. It is in this period that we remember the historic destruction of both Temples in Jerusalem, as well as several pogroms and dark days in Jewish history; and going back to the Bible, this was the time when Moses smashed the tablets of stone after coming down from Mount Sinai and seeing the children of Israel worshipping the golden calf.
Establishing Rituals to Keep Memory Alive
Yesterday (27th January) was International Holocaust Remembrance Day, marking the 69th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. It was designated by the United Nations in 2005, and urges every country in the world to honour the memory of victims of the Shoah and to establish educational programmes that ensure that no such genocide can ever happen again.