Working Together Make us Stronger

My name is Anu Ristola. At our Annual General Meeting in June, you elected me as Steve Brummel's successor as president. This a huge honor and I want to begin by thanking Steve. For more than a decade, Steve has displayed deft diplomatic skills building and growing our diverse community. He has overseen three moves and three rabbis - allowing us to emerge stronger than ever. Although many of you already know and have worked with me, let me introduce myself.

 

I'm Finnish. I met my husband Bill in Paris and converted there with France's first female rabbi Pauline Bebe. Together, we moved to Belgium 23 years ago. We were one of the IJC's seven founding families. Our son Samuel was the community's second Bar Mitzvah. Our daughter Julia and youngest son Benjamin are also IJC Hebrew School Bar and Bat Mitzvah alumni.

Most of you know me as a practical person, a doer, who speaks through actions. Over the years, I have organized all kinds of community celebrations, getting my hands dirty in the kitchen, fixing the IJC house - and yes, cleaning up. I will continue this hands-on approach and will count on all of you to help. I believe that doing things together, even the unpleasant chores, is the essence of our community.

IJC is now a well-established community. My priority is to build on our historic strength and to grow a new second generation of leaders to new levels of responsibility. The IJC also must play its role as a strong representative of progressive Judaism, active in both Belgium and EU. The EU office of the European Union of Progressive Judaism opened last year with my husband Bill Echikson at its head. In Belgium, the question of state recognition is one that IJC will tackle in the coming year with the help of the task force that was formed.

Within our community, another priority is to solidify the success of our recent move into Beth Hillel's building. We have managed to retain our identity while developing strong, positive links with our French-speaking hosts. As a French speaker and former Beth Hillel member, we must continue to strengthen our neighborly relations.

Another key focus is supporting our Rabbinical Intern Brian. Despite still being a "student" rabbi, he has taken on immense responsibilities and grown on the job, earning all of our respect. Under his leadership, we are strengthening the IJC with a vibrant Hebrew School and conversion class. School enrollment is up and we're adding a new teacher. For the first time in several years, we have Bar and Bat Mitzvah scheduled. This is great news. As a convert myself, I know how important and motivated our conversion class students are. Without their energy and enthusiasm, the IJC would be a much weaker organization.

Rather than being president with a capital P, I see myself as a cheerleader for a great team. Andres Mosquera who is serving as Vice President will be a more of a co-president. I'm thankful to the support of other wonderful Board Members: Ilana Sumka, Lisa Kelman and Diana Vermunicht. Plus Steve Brummel is not disappearing - he will stay on as President Emeritus, offering guidance and support.

As a result of the Visioning meetings, our communications team of Diana Kanter, Julia Poger, and Claude Cahn have prepared an activities survey for the coming year click here for the survey. Please complete it! Your answers will help us determine how to direct our resources and energy to make this community reflect your interests.

It's less than a month until Rosh Hashanah You will soon receive a Kol Nidre Appeal email from us. We decided to try fundraising online to avoid the need for doing it during High Holidays services. The initiative came from one of our members willing to volunteer to make it happen - with the help of our Treasurer. Like all other tasks, we rely on volunteers to make the IJC High Holidays successful and memorable. If you have not volunteered yet, it's not too late. Please contact Andy Harris, High Holy Day coordinator, through info@ijc.be.

I'm looking forward to seeing you all soon at one of our upcoming events or celebrating the High Holidays in your company at IJC.

Anu Ristola
IJC President