Planning for the New Year

With 2020 behind us, we can start to look to the future. Vaccines are arriving. The pandemic will be defeated. The open question is when. We don’t know when we can resume in-person services and Hebrew School. It’s unlikely that we will have a community Purim party or even Seder in-person.  While we would like to be back to normal and see each other in the flesh, we are forced to do our best in the present virtual environment.  We are all imagining how to make the upcoming festivals as entertaining and educational as possible. Please send me any ideas.


In the coming months, our community faces another challenge:  Brian will be finishing his rabbinical studies and we will see him less often. Fortunately, Anneke and Andres are stepping in and leading services. We also will join Andres’s Kabbalat Shabbat services from the SHAPE/Mons Havurah. And we encourage you to participate in Shabbats hosted by the World Union of Progressive Judaism communities around the globe. Over the past few weeks, I have “attended” English-language services in Australia and Israel and I enjoyed them very much.

One New Year resolution of mine is to up our engagement with our extensive IJC diaspora. From its beginning, the IJC has been “home away from home” for Jews and their families from around the world on a short visit or a long term stay in Belgium. The new “virtual” allows us to connect more. During our eight nights of Chanukah celebrations, it was a pleasure to have former Rabbi Nathan Alfred light the candles from Jerusalem. Other IJC alum hosts hooked up from Geneva and Berlin. Our next lecture will be given by another distinguished alumnus no longer based in Brussels: Anthony Gardner, a former US ambassador to the European Union. 

As much as we are a “global” shul, it will be important to rebuild our local roots and gather in person.  Please think about what type of celebration we should hold when the synagogue is reopened. Even after the pandemic subsides, however, we will not just return to what we had in the past. We will need to marry our new online expertise and experiences with the opportunities for in-person events.  During the pandemic lockdowns, we have learned what it means to get together, even online, and practice our Judaism together. These experiences will stay with us for a long time and we can build on them.

Anu Ristola

President IJC