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.
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.
Yet another month has gone by as we shelter in place. Although I would like to change the subject, COVID 19 has kidnapped our lives. It’s hard to find any news that doesn’t deal with at least some aspect of the pandemic. The Belgian government has started to relax the rules of confinement and we are hopeful that life will get back to normal. But what will the new normal look like? What does this mean for the IJC? Over the past two months, we have discovered new strengths via online communication. The IJC was an early adopter and transferred many of its activities online at record speed.
What everybody feared has happened -- a second lockdown. This time, we know the drill, having rehearsed in the spring. Let’s hope that this time the shutdown will be short and our final one.
The IJC will continue services and its activities online. We have purchased a professional camera and audio system, ensuring High Holy Day quality. During this difficult period, it's important to stay connected. Rabbi Brian, the board, and I are available if anyone needs assistance - or just a cheery voice to contact.
Spring is here and it feels like a vacation with the bright sunlight and warm weather - but what a strange vacation! The COVID-19 lockdown has deprived us of much of the enjoyment of this lovely time of the year. It’s been almost one month since the Belgian government confined us and there is no end in sight. Our lives have taken on surreal dimensions. We are limited to essential outings. The IJC has stepped up to fill a void.
In this moment of anxiety, we have an opportunity to explore and think creatively about our community life. In-person gatherings are cancelled but virtual meetings are encouraged - and the IJC 2.0 has sprung into action.
“Bashana Haba’a”, Hebrew for “next year”, is the title of my favorite Rosh Hashanah song. Over this holiday season, I have been repeating the chorus in my head: “You will see how good it will be next year.” It will be better next year when the pandemic passes.
This year’s State of the Shul could focus on a long list of missed gatherings. COVID-19 has been devastating. When it hit, IJC transferred most of its activities online, but our Purim party, our Refugee Shabbaton, our Havdalah BBQ, and even the welcome Shabbat services to our graduating conversion class were cancelled. Now, we just celebrated the High Holy Days, the pivotal moment in our faith, online.
On January 31, the United Kingdom left the European Union. It was a sad day for many of our British and non-British members. For most of us, it is difficult to understand why the UK wanted to divorce a partner with whom it has worked profitably for many years.
The break appears pointless and irrational, especially when in today’s world networking, partnering, sharing, allying and collaborating are the buzzwords. We in IJC are in sync with the world around us and believe in alliances. Over the past years and months, we’ve taken several important steps to increase our outreach and influence, both inside and outside of Belgium.