After the Corona spring and Corona summer, we face the Corona fall. I hope that your summer was relaxing, even though it might have been improvised. Patience and resilience are required before anything like normality returns. The IJC is taking baby steps to restart in-person services and community life.
The Hebrew School will meet in person on Saturday, September 5th. Our first in-person Shacharit service will take place the following Saturday, September 12. Since we continue to live with the coronavirus, a special safety protocol must be respected. For those who feel more comfortable staying at home, we will continue to offer online gatherings.
High Holidays services will be online. The IJC Zoom platform will be complemented by a YouTube streaming channel. We will do our best to create the special IJC feeling of togetherness. If anyone needs help with setting up these platforms on their computer, please let us know and we will assist you.
I participated in a recent in-person Beth Hillel’s Shabbat morning service to experience what a ‘new normal’ might look like for the IJC. Mask-wearing, hand sanitizing and keeping a distance between seats were de rigueur. A part of the shul resembles a broadcasting studio. The bima is transformed into a stage and the rabbi is an actor. The services are transmitted on the internet and projected on a giant screen with members participating from their homes. On the Shabbat I attended, Hazan Yoed Sorek sang from his virtual studio. His rendition of Psalm 150, sung to the tune of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, touched me. His accordion gave Sim Shalom real fervor. Rabbi Marc asked those home to turn on their microphones to share the silence of Amida - and the silence unified us all.
The mixed in-person and online service impressed me. It attracted more participants than Beth Hillel’s traditional in-person Shabbat services. Faithful from faraway could participate. Although the presence of technical equipment seemed a little unspiritual (we used to turn off our cell phones and other electronics when we entered the synagogue), we now we depend on them to join in communal worship. The challenge is to accept and integrate technology while preserving the sanctity of worship.
I am convinced that 5781 will be a good year. Over these past months, the IJC community has demonstrated great resilience and solidarity. The warm IJC community feeling remains, even online. For example, over the summer, we welcomed a baby girl Nina to our community in an online Kabbalat Shabbat. It was a moving experience. Nina’s grandparents and family participated from around the globe. We all offered a toast. While it would have been nice do so in person, we would never have been able to bring all of Nina’s family together in Brussels.
The New Year, I am sure, will be full of similar discoveries and new beginnings. Shanah Tova!