March 29, 2020
IJC Rabbinical Intern
We are now two weeks into lockdown and IJC’s community connectedness is proving to be very resilient. Well ‘attended’ Kabbalat Shabbat, Shacharit and study sessions have temporarily replaced our scheduled ‘live’ meetings and more is on the way. Our love and concern for one another has been expressed in a multitude of ways as we reach out via online communications and just simple phone calls. Ex-members now living abroad have been joining us too, proof if any was needed that they miss us as much as we miss them.
The Belgian authorities have added two weeks to the lockdown with the likelihood of two more, and we are all being faced with challenges we didn’t expect or plan for. IJC has many elderly and vulnerable members, families struggling to cope without school or daycare, and singles cut off from their social networks. And many of us now count friends and family among those who have been directly affected by the virus.
Being connected more intensely as a community in these troubled times is our first line of support. And many who are strong have offered concrete assistance to those in greater need, all within the limits imposed on us. Our preparations for Pesach continue unhindered, with creative online Seder solutions being made ready as I write.
IJC is also a community of faith: open, questioning and never dogmatic. Even those in our community who find it hard or even impossible to believe can be comforted by words of prayer rooted in our Jewish tradition.
So, I dare to share this prayer in the midst of my own questions, doubts and convictions. It was written by Martin S. Cohen, Rabbi of Shelter Rock Jewish Center in New York and shared by my Geiger teacher Admiel Kosman.
A Prayer in the Time of Corona
Dear God in Heaven, protect our families, our friends, and our neighbours as we negotiate these troubled seas in which we find ourselves afloat. Ever mindful of the fact that we are all Your creatures, we turn to You for guidance and for strength as we pray that the public officials charged with bringing us through this crisis be granted wisdom, intelligence, and insight born of compassion and charity. And we pray too that the physicians, nurses, and hospital employees who are on the front lines be spared all distress and disease as they care for the stricken, for the elderly, and for the infirm. Most of all, we pray that You look with kindness and generosity on us all, and particularly on those already infected for whose recovery we this day ardently pray, as is written in Your holy Torah, “For I, the Almighty, am the source of Your healing.”
Amen, may such be Your will!
Approximately 50 people joined our first Shabbat @ Home live stream last Friday and others - including ex-members in other time zones - watched it later. Hosted by Rabbinical Intern Brian Doyle at his dinner table with partner Peter and children, the IJC is now set for Zoom-type Shabbats for the next three Fridays, each one hosted by a different IJC member.
Saturday’s Torah Breakfast welcomed 21 participants and there was a lively conversation. This will continue every second Shabbat. Plans are also afoot for short Shacharit services alternating with Torah study.
Says member Yves Feller: ‘it was very doable. Although sad to have to meet this way, the turnout was amazing! I appreciated the possibilities modern technology can offer in times like these. We may have been distant, but nonetheless closer than ever.’
Julia Mozer echoes Yves feelings, adding: ‘it was a unique experience to have Brian's family in our homes and it felt very comforting to know that everyone was watching and following the same images in their homes. I also kept looking at the number of views increasing during the service and thought: Wow, this is really our biggest Friday night attendance! I was proud that our community reacted this fast to the Corona crisis and found a way to come together in such difficult times.’
This coming Friday 27 March Ilana Sumka and her family will be hosting IJC's Shabbat @Home at 17:30. Join them for a spirited, guitar playing, interactive Kabbalat Shabbat. Bring your own candles, wine, challah and Shabbat@Home booklet.
‘See’ you then!
A traditional Beit Din - pictured here - usually meets, for the most part, to settle divorces. No wonder they look so glum. But the Beit Din in Tilburg on February 23rd met for more joyous reasons. Seven members of our Giur Programme were welcomed with open arms as full members of the Jewish People. The senior Rabbi on the Beit Din remarked that she had never encountered such a fascinating and inspiring group after many years of serving on Batei Din.
IJC has reason to be proud and grateful in these difficult times. Celebrations promised when the restrictions are lifted.
All of us at IJC would like to assure you, that we are closely monitoring the pandemic situation, and appropriate measures will be taken to ensure the best course for our community. News of the spread of COVID-19 can be a source of anxiety and stress. We strive as a community to be there for each other at times like this. The Board would like to assure you that care and concern for each and every one of you is motivating our efforts to ensure that we remain safe and healthy.
Wishing you and your families to stay healthy and safe.
Among its various activities aimed at reducing the suffering and relieving the plight of refugees and asylum-seekers in the Brussels area, the Les Olives charity has launched a new initiative: the distribution of non-perishable foodstuffs to those in need. Distribution takes place once a week on Thursdays from 15h00 to 17h00, from the premises of a church in the same street as Les Olives Headquarters, just behind the Gare du Midi.
By IJC member Claude Cahn
At the recommendation of several IJC members, I took part in February in the WUPJ Beutel leadership seminar in Israel. In addition to myself, circa 12 participants took part from the UK, the US, Russia and Israel. They were diverse in age, background, beliefs and experience and it was wonderful to get to know them over the course of the week. A core explicit lesson of the seminar is the necessity for meaningful leadership, goals that are achieved through common understanding and collaboration.
As the saying goes “Mishenichnas Adar Marbim B’simcha” – as the month of Adar starts, we rejoice! And indeed, this month at our Hebrew School (HS) is full of joy and excitement, with Purim as its highlight. The older HS children are preparing the traditional Purim Spiel, the younger kids are learning the joyful holiday songs, and all are excited about the swapping of “Mishlochei Manot” with good things in them. We are looking forward to seeing all of you in our Purim party on 14 March!