The Hatikvah Experience

[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.

Simone had informed me that the members of Hatikvah were mostly elderly, but all of them sharp as a whistle, and that I could expect some feisty questions, so I was a little apprehensive.

There was no reason to be, of course, as I discovered when our spritely host Beryl Harris-Joachimowicz opened the door and welcomed me with a warm smile. I told my far from self-evident story, encouraged to start from the beginning. It was an amazing – and rare – experience to be listened to with such intensity, underlined now and then by a gasp of surprise (yes, there were a few). But the ladies of Hatikvah had created such a safe and positive atmosphere, that telling my story with all its unexpected twists and turns became a joy and not a task.

I’m grateful to IJC member Miriam Mark for providing some background on this wonderful group. Hatikvah Brussels was founded in 1973 by a few American and British women and grew fairly quickly into quite a large gathering.  At its maximum there were about forty members, but when companies stopped sending executives abroad it started to shrink. They may now be fewer in number (several are IJC members), but they haven’t forgotten their original social and cultural objectives. They still meet once a month at the home of a member and aim to invite a speaker or a cultural visit.  In December they have a Chanukah party, which attracts current as well as former members. Members pay a contribution to cover the cost of buying trees (as gifts) for the speaker and the recyclable plates etc. used for lunch after each meeting. The ladies of Hatikvah are certainly aware of the planet and its ecological needs. If there’s money left over, it is given to charity.

They say a person should do three things in life: write a book, plant a tree, and parent a child!  In gratitude for my visit the members of Hatikvah had a tree planted in my name and they strongly encouraged me to write that book. They also provided much needed reassurance on my steep-learning-curve of parenthood. So, thanks to Hatikvah for covering all the essentials!

Interested in participating in Hatikva's activities or becoming a member? Please contact and our administrator will connect you to the group's president Miriam Mark.

Brian Doyle
IJC Rabbinical Intern