Reasons To Be Cheerful
The last few days have been special in many ways. On top of the Covid-19 restrictions, many of us have had to deal with swelteringly hot weather and soaring temperatures. And watching the news doesn’t bring much solace, with Covid-19 peaks in parts of Belgium and across Europe, terrible events in Lebanon, conflict in Belarus, and so much more. Uncertainty about the future is perhaps the most difficult thing to deal with. Are the restrictions ever going to ease? Are we going to be free to travel soon? Make plans? Are the schools going to restart as normal or at least close to normal? What is ‘normal’ going to look like? What about our own synagogue life? The only certainty is it won’t be the same as it was. Humans are social creatures, and limitations on our social activities are an extra psychological burden we all have to carry these days.
But in the midst of all this negativity and uncertainty, something good – or should I say something excellent – happened. Four long-time members of IJC were fully embraced by the Jewish people after attending a unique Beth Din, convened in our synagogue Beth Hillel. I know from experience that convening a Beth Din is far from simple at the best of times. Rabbis are busy people, and although they consider Beth Din work an essential part of their rabbinical commitment, it’s not easy to get three recognised rabbis (members of an official rabbinical association) in the same place at the same time, and keeping them there for a whole day. Fortunately, Rabbi Marc Neiger of Beth Hillel did the honours this time, setting up a hybrid live/online Beth Din with cameras, microphones, projectors and screens.
Rabbi Marc and myself were present in the synagogue, wearing masks and keeping our distance. Rabbi Haim Casas (Spain) and Rabbi Philippe Hadad (Paris) joined online, all of us members of the Kerem Rabbinical Association based in Paris. Sym was first in the chair. Sym joined IJC when Rabbi Nathan was still with us. Their journey to this day has been one of twists and turns, but their arrival was spectacular. Next up was IJC’s first ever family to go through the giur programme together. Ditter Leon-Pino and Dedbie Bilbao were joined by their little daughter Anory as they proudly recited the Shema, after dazzling the rabbis with their knowledge and exceptional story. Last but not least, Nikoleta Mosquera also appeared with her husband Andrès Mosquera (now in his second year at rabbinical school) and their little daughter Rebeca. Her story and commitment to maintaining a Jewish family also deeply impressed the rabbis. It was very difficult to feel the emotion of this moment and not be able to celebrate with a warm, welcoming hug. But that time will come.
On a personal note, another member of IJC who joined at precisely the same time as me way back in our Uccle days, also appeared before the Beth Din, this time under the auspices of the European Beth Din (based in London). Rabbi Jackie Tabick (official convenor) joined from London, Rabbi Edward Van Voolen joined from Amsterdam, and Rabbi Haim Casas from Spain. I wasn’t allowed to participate in this session because the only candidate was my partner – and soon to be husband – Peter Du Breuil. I was banished to the garden for an hour. I know Peter finds it difficult to stop talking when he gets started, so I had to laugh when he told me afterwards that he rounded off his response to the first question only to be thanked by Rabbi Jackie for already answering her next seven questions. Peter is proud to be Jewish and is looking forward to continuing his contribution to our community, and not just by ironing the rabbinical intern’s shirts and pouring him the occasional G&T.
IJC Rabbinical Intern