Comic of intergenerational argument. by the Forward

Letters to the Column: Belgium Jews, and where to send Jewish books

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We love hearing from you! After a recent column about where to donate Jewish books, I got a rush of responses—some rather fierce—reminding me that if any of the books are in Yiddish, or about Yiddish subjects, both the Yiddish Book Center and YIVO should be considered. Below we include a letter with more resources and suggestions, as well as a letter with updated information about the Belgium Jewish community.

Dear Bintel Brief Editor,

I write you from Brussels. I read the letter from the woman born and raised in Brussels and now living in NY. She is asking for your advice on whether to ask a non-Jewish American boyfriend to consider converting to Judaism and even moving to Belgium.

I am a member of an English-speaking Progressive Jewish congregation in Brussels, the International Jewish Center, or IJC, (www.ijc.be). It is the only English-speaking congregation in Belgium for non-orthodox Jews. It was founded in 2003 by a group of American and British Jewish families. It now has 80 families as members, services every other week, a Hebrew School and many social / educational events. A good portion of its membership consists of mixed couples and families who want to create Jewish families and where often the non-Jewish partner joins our conversion program.

I write to ask if you would consider passing news of our congregation to the letter writer as it sounds as if our IJC congregation is made for her the situation and I doubt she would know we exist. On the first point, I can say that we have many couples coming to IJC with the same situation hoping to find a place where they can join a Jewish community and welcome the non-Jewish partner into that community. Many of the non-Jewish partners do in the end follow the conversion route. And the IJC reflects its American roots by being very open and operating (mostly) in English. On the second point of ignorance we exist, I can tell you, as a member of IJC since its establishment and its president for 12 years, the Reform movement remains practically unknown in Belgium among the Belgian Jewish community. Belgian Jews who have stumbled upon IJC and have not viewed themselves as orthodox have been astounded we exist (and then joined).

Your letter writer has to make a big decision about her relationship. It is my hope that forwarding to her information about the IJC will allow her to know more about her options in Brussels if she were to “pop” her questions to her boyfriend and he agreed. We are a Jewish community in which it is unlikely that he would feel alienated.

Best regards,
Steven Brummel – President Emeritus IJC (Brussels)
International Jewish Center (IJC)
Rue des Primeurs 80
B- 1190 Brussels
Belgium
General email: info@ijc.be

Dear Editor,

To me, the obvious answer on where to donate an incredible Jewish library is to another Jewish library which might want to fill in its collection of rare and out of print materials. Libraries often post their policies regarding donations:

Touro College Library

YIVO Institute for Jewish Research

Spertus Institute Library

Brandeis University Library

The Sheridan Library at Johns Hopkins

Hebrew Union College Library

Unfortunately, many institutions are currently curtailing the acceptance of donations due to Covid.

When our library removes (secular) materials from our collection we donate them to Better World Books, an organization that sells the books to interested parties. We recoup a small fee; they provide us boxes for transport and pay the postage.

Your answer to Bereft was very comforting, but as a librarian I am inclined to take it in another direction.
Regards,
Carol Schapiro
Midtown Librarian
Touro College New York

Letters to the Column: Belgium Jews, and where to send Jewish books

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