Shabbat in Antwerp

By Anneke Silverstein

When I suggested holding an IJC Shabbat at our place in Antwerp on February 22nd, I was imagining a full table of ten people and a lovely shabbat conversation in the quiet, warm embrace of our family.  How big was our surprise to find ourselves welcoming 27 IJC members on a recent Friday night!  Creating community happens through small but very important actions. They are like little seeds from which miracles grow.

For me personally, a community is about opening doors, encouraging people to come in, welcoming everyone: not just the people you are already friendly with, but also new people or longstanding IJC members you haven’t talked to in a while.  Welcoming everyone without preconceived ideas about what they should or should not be, can or cannot do.  It’s about reaching out, asking questions, making challah, cooking, laughing, telling stories and helping out wherever you can. It’s about connecting and feeling connected.

A Shabbat meal is an excellent opportunity to create those precious community moments. But it is more then just a community getting together. On a Friday night we are able to create a ‘sacred’ community.  We don’t really need to do anything special for it to be memorable or touch people’s hearts.  We just need to take time to sit together, mark the moment, daring to be quiet as a group for a little while, breathe together, pray together and finally sing together.

And that’s just what we did!  All twenty-seven of us sang our favorite Shabbat songs, we sang in harmony, we sang niggunim, we clapped our hands, we upped the volume, we moved to the yoga room where we sat around in a circle and sang our hearts out. Our prayers resonated in the whole apartment and we all felt it.  Just like that.

It can be simple and very inspiring.