This weekend sees the start of the month of Elul, the last month of the Jewish year. The whole month is set aside for readying ourselves to enter into the upcoming Days of Awe, beginning with Rosh Hashanah, the end of the old year and the beginning of the new. Our younger IJC members start back at school, college, university around this time. The holidays are over and it’s time to get back to work.
While we might agree that ‘everything is politics’, at least at some level, it can be hard at times to believe that ‘politics is not everything’, especially coming up to an election. Europe is readying itself for community-wide elections, and here in Belgium the politicians are trying to persuade us to put a virtual ‘x’ next to their name, to make them the most popular, to elect them into government.
Last year's Vision meetings identified some key areas that members of IJC believed would make an essential contribution to the congregation's life and continued growth. One of those areas acquired the title Community Care. What do we do as a community when one of our members is in need, sick, in hospital, mourning a loss? We reach out to them! Bikur Holim, a Jewish tradition dating back to the middle ages and rooted in the Torah, encourages Jews to visit and bring assistance to the sick and those in need.
It is a privilege to study, and an even greater privilege to study at Abraham Geiger College in Berlin with inspired and inspiring people. March was a very busy month, with a couple of block seminars (a single course taught from 9-5 every day for a week!) and a couple of weekends without a trip back to Belgium. But one of those courses made the effort worthwhile. Rabbi Dr Markus Lange – a young rabbi from London working in hospice care – introduced us to some of the principals of Jewish pastoral care.
The end of the ‘civil year’ 2018 gave me the opportunity to take some much needed holiday time and travel with the family – destination Scotland. We headed off on the last days of December, drove to Calais for the tunnel crossing (long delay at UK customs), spent the first night in Oxford (Harry Potter and Narnia connections) and Hogmanay (New Year) in Glasgow at a very grand, old-style hotel in the centre of the city. We were too tired to stay up for ‘the bells’. Fort William (the Scottish Highlands), Edinburgh (more Harry Potter connections) and York were also on the itinerary. We covered just about the entire UK mainland – and everywhere: Brexit!
The Reform Movement in the US is currently investing in a programme it calls Audacious Hospitality: "Audacious Hospitality is the focused effort to embrace our diversity and reach out to those currently not engaged in Jewish life [...] Jewish populations such as Jews by choice and those exploring Judaism, Jews of color, Jews who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer, Jews who live with physical, mental, or intellectual disabilities, multiracial families, millennials, the aging Jewish population, Jews who are unaffiliated and uninspired by Jewish communal offerings, and of course, the evolving needs of interfaith and intermarried couples and families..."1 And why is this hospitality audacious? Because it sets out to shine the spotlight on the groups we tend to forget.
The Joseph story – sometimes described as a novella – covers thirteen chapters in the book Genesis and spans no fewer than four Parashot. Many will have been exposed to the Joseph story from Torah, yet most, I suspect, will know him best from recent stage and screen portrayals – not to mention his reception in the world of art down through the centuries.