Lighting the Candles for a Brighter 2021

As I reflect on 2020, it’s fair to say that this year was quite different from what I imagined.

In December 2019, we organized a successful in-person Chanukah party. The event proved so popular that we moved it from a member’s home into a larger space at our synagogue. This year, we are organizing quite a different party. Or should we say - parties. Chanukah will be online and we will celebrate each of the festival’s eight evenings. I look forward to lighting the candles with all of you, even though I am away from Brussels during this holiday season.


The pandemic lockdown has forced us to innovate - and in some ways, improve. We have been able to connect more often and in more varied ways than before. This week, I have been looking forward to meeting with the Thursday Cafe Klatsch group. We chat for an hour exchanging news and anything that pops into our minds. Virtual Kabbalat Shabbat is popular and attended by IJC alumni all over the world. Before the pandemic hit, we were struggling to promote attendance on Friday evenings. Online may be the way to go after the pandemic subsides - or a hybrid, part in person, par virtual.

Our online IJC is thriving in other ways, too. We are reaching out to new members, in large part thanks to our membership coordinator Steven Brummel. Our budget is balanced. My thanks also go to Treasurer David Shapiro and Board members Ilana Sumka, Lisa Kelman, Diane Vermunicht and Peter Goldfein. Jesse G. who joined us a year ago has improved our administration and has proved to be a capable – and valuable - Zoom operator. 

Brian Doyle - Du Breuil, our rabbinical student, has been instrumental in our successful transition to online activities. He has structured our services and found the perfect texts and slides to accompany them. Anneke Silverstein has provided crucial support as has Marty Eisenstein.

From January on, Brian will be on a study leave, finishing his rabbinical studies. He’ll graduate in June 2021. He will continue his IJC pastoral and community care responsibilities, but will lead fewer Shabbat services. Anneke Silverstein and Andres Mosquera will step in to lead other Shabbat services. I’m grateful to both of them and also proud that IJC counts members able and willing to step up and assume important responsibilities.

As we celebrate these successes, we must admit that there’s sadness. Our own Holocaust refugee turned British spy and European Commission official Eric Mark recently passed away at the age of 98. Fortunately, his wife Miriam is out of hospital and convalescing at home. At Eric’s funeral, Valerie Perales reminded me of the important lesson that we have learned from the community’s effort to comfort Eric’s family: “This has shown me how important the community is”.

The IJC is there for you not only during sad times but for the good times too. Let’s light the Chanukah candles together and watch them shine, hoping for good times ahead.

Chanukah Sameach!