One of the weirdest things about living in Leuven while ‘being’ in Jerusalem and studying at Conservative Yeshivah is the temporal disconnect. Israel’s working week starts on Sunday and many if not most people there don’t work on Fridays. Here in Belgium, of course, Sunday – at least in principle – is a day to recharge the batteries, sleep late, spend quality time with family and friends, leave Zoom behind and have a lazy day. But living on two different timetables can be bit of a strain.
I teach in Leuven on Fridays and have six hours of Zoom class scheduled on Sundays. Weekend for me has now become Friday evening and Saturday, and due to the generosity of our soon to graduate Ba’alat Tefilah Anneke Silverstein and 4th year student rabbi Andres Mosquera I’m allowed to celebrate Shabbat as a day of rest from the working week, as a day of oneg Shabbat, a day to enjoy and clear my oysgezoomt head. So, living in two different timetables has helped me make more of Shabbat.
On another note, some good news from Jerusalem: Israel’s Supreme Court issued a ruling regarding acceptance for full citizenship of people who converted to Judaism inside Israel under the auspices of a progressive (Reform/Conservative) Beit Din. Until now, only those who converted outside Israel through one of the progressive movements and with a recognized Beit Din have been accepted for aliyah under the Law of Return.
The ultra-Orthodox religious political parties have vowed to prevent this ruling from being implemented, but there are signs they will not succeed. Board member Peter Goldfein recently drew my attention to a parallel with our own situation here in Belgium, one that affects us directly as a community. Historical and structural forces in Belgium have meant that progressive Judaism has not been recognized by the Belgian State or the Orthodox institutions. It has taken a lengthy 15-year court battle for Israel to accept progressive conversions inside Israel. Acceptance of conversions is a major step towards embracing the progressive Jewish experience.
Let’s hope we don’t need a lengthy court battle to force Belgium’s historical and structural Jewish forces to embracing Belgium’s progressive Jewish experience. We’re not going anywhere, rather we’re growing, expanding and deepening. So maybe it’s time for the ‘powers that be’ to wake up and smell the coffee (especially if its roasted and brewed by Ezra Feller!)
Brian Doyle-Du Breuil
IJC Rabbinical Intern