By tradition, the president of the IJC delivers a state of the shul speech on Rosh Hashanah. This year it’s my honor and pleasure as the new president of the IJC.
When I look back to this past year, I realize that the news is all positive. This community is thriving. We have put our finances in order and finished our first online fundraiser successfully. The move into Beth Hillel is working well. We have a new active, engaged and mostly female board in place. Rabbi Brian is, I dare to say, loved by all. Our numbers are growing. Our Hebrew School has doubled in size. Shabbat attendance is up. Some of our events attract close to 100 people and more.
To be sure, we face continuing challenges. Despite ongoing efforts, we still do not have state recognition. This means, unlike other synagogues in Belgium, that we do not receive money from the government. Our finances remain fragile - we are dependent on your private support. And the outside environment looks dark: anti-Semitism is rising in Belgium and elsewhere. Personally, I’ve been shocked to see how Belgium’s leaders have failed to denounce outrageous acts such as the anti-Semitic float at the Aalst Carnival.
Against these concerns, it’s hard to stay upbeat, but then just look at what’s happening in the IJC and there are lots of reasons to celebrate: the IJC is making giant strides.
Let’s start with the Hebrew School. And let’s give credit to Lisa Kelman. After several years of a drought of Bar or Bat Mitzvahs, we now have several students studying for their Big Day. Our tots class meets regularly this year instead of once a month as last year. A total of 24 children are enrolled - double from last year.
Overall membership is growing too. We are attracting new members, zeroing in on our all-time goal of 100 family-units.
Our move into Beth Hillel’s building represents another big success. Before, we had to hide our address, for security reasons. Now no more hiding and we can publish our address. We are finally getting the word out about our existence at a national level in Belgium.
Thanks to my husband Bill who heads the EUPJ Brussels office, we are getting noticed on the European level too. There are many interesting projects in the pipeline which could be of interest to our members - and raise our profile.
Our events are more popular than ever. Steve and Marion Brummel hosted a popular Havdallah BBQ dinner, allowing us to start this new session in a festive way.
Jana Nackberg has rekindled the IJC book club and discussions have been lively and interesting.
Thank you to Yves Feller who organized a successful trip last spring to Amsterdam. He and his conversion class friends, Johan Buytaert and Abir Mitra are planning a new trip, this time to Antwerp before the end of the year. Stay tuned.
Our conversion class is big another positive. Under Ilana Sumka’s and Brian’s supervision, it's really an amazing group. They make an enormous contribution to our community and we are grateful for the energy and enthusiasm.
A shout out also to Ruth Friedman. The visioning process she launched is helping us become a more interactive community making better informed decisions.
I would like to thank Lisa, Joris, and Heike for hosting the High Holidays and for Andy Harris who is our coordinator this year and who deserves acknowledgment for the great job he has done.
I can’t conclude without thanking our Rabbi Brian. His spiritual leadership provides us with a strong identity and foundation for growth. Brian is many things besides being a rabbi; he’s a father, a husband, a student, a professor, but for us, he’s always been present.
I wish you a very sweet year in and out of IJC
Shana Tova U'metuka