[Ha]Tikvah means ‘hope’, and ‘hope’ is another word for ‘trust’, and ‘trust’ is another word for ‘faith’. If you don’t know what to believe, a sense of hope is a very good start. These were my thoughts as I drove into Brussels one quiet, uneventful morning in late October on the invitation of IJC member Simone Robin to share with an amazing group of women known as Hatikvah about my journey to the rabbinate.
I remember when I first started coming to services at IJC how confused I was by the way we greet each other on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and some of you might feel the same.
On Rosh Hashanah some say Shanah Tovah – a simple greeting – ‘have a good year’. Or the longer Shanah Tovah u’Metukah – ‘A Good and Sweet Year’. The focus here is on the New Year aspect of Rosh Hashanah. New Year? That name is already a bit confusing because it’s late September, early October.
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.
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.
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.
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.