Bar Mitzvah in the Time of Pandemic

Diana Kanter’s US-based cousin Ralph Ibson recounts …

What’s the experience of a bar mitzvah during a pandemic? Living in the United States, where states have set policies to contain the virus’ spread, we were uncertain for weeks whether my grandson’s bar mitzvah would take place, and, if so, under what circumstances. The date of May 2nd had been reserved for more than a year. Elliott, the bar mitzvah boy, had been working with a tutor and the cantor since last August to prepare for the ceremony. Invitations went out in March.  


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Symbols of Hope and Positive Thinking

By Maayan Morali

On 11-12 May, we will mark Lag Baomer. The story associated with this holiday is about Rabbi Akiva and his students. They were hit by a terrible plague, killing 24,000 of them over a short period. However, for one day during this difficult time the plague stopped - and during that day, nobody died. For me this story symbolizes hope and finding the positive things, even in bad times.


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IJC Favorite Finds During Lockdown

Looking for new things to try online? IJCers share some of their favorite lockdown websites!



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Networks Overcoming Anti-Semitism Group Wins European Grant

The European Union of Progressive Judaism (EUPJ) and four other Jewish groups have won a EUR 943,000 European Commission grant to produce report cards on how governments should combat the scourge of anti-Semitism. The IJC is a member of the EUPJ. One of our founders, Bill Echikson, runs the EUPJ’s office in Brussels. Jesse Goldberg, our IJC administrator, assists him.


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Preparing a Virtual Seder: the Nuts & Bolts

'Ma Nishtana halayla hazeh mikol haleylot?' How is this night different from all other nights? This year, it is not only about the Seder night being different. The way we celebrate that night will also differ considerably in an unprecedented way. Instead of joining our families, friends and communities in person, many of us will connect virtually with fellow Jews via videoconferencing in order to remember and (re)tell the story of our ancestors leaving Egypt. As Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the former Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth formulates it in one of his recent Divrei Torah: 'Ma Nishtana hashanah hazot mikol hashanim?' How is 'this year' different from all other years?


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An IJC Passover in Knack Magazine

The Belgian magazine Knack published an article late last year about Passover 2019/5779 at Ilana’s home. It was quite an accomplishment for an IJC progressive family to feature in the mainstream national press. So this Passover, we thought we would translate and reprint it for our readers.


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Prayer in Time of Corona


March 29, 2020


Brian Doyle


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

Avinu Malkeinu,

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!