Introduction / History
Before WWII an estimated 75,000 Jews lived in Belgium. Approximately 24,000 were murdered in the Holocaust. Some were hidden by Christians and some were able to flee to Britain. As anti-Semitism increases in Europe, some French speaking Jews are moving to Israel or North America. The French Jews of Belgium speak multiple European languages including English.
Where Are they Located?
Most Jews in Belgium live in large cities such as Brussel, Antwerp and Ghent.
What Are Their Lives Like?
Jewish parents strongly encourage their children to pursue graduate educations. Jews often find their employment in medicine, law, higher education, science, and finance. Jewish scientists win the Nobel Prize many times above their percentage of the general population. One of the issues today for Judaism is that many Jews marry outside the faith resulting in children of mixed heritage. Conservative rabbis will only marry a mixed couple if the non-Jewish person is willing to convert to Judaism. Accordingly, to be considered a Jew in most Jewish circles, one must present evidence that he or she was born of a Jewish mother. At the age of 13, the Bar Mitzvah ceremony for a boy (or Bat Mitzvah for a girl) is an important rite of passage, which marks him or her as an adult member of the community. While these ceremonies were more spiritually focused in the past, they have become equally important as social events. Judaism is a non-evangelistic religion. The Jews do not seek converts. A non-Jew or Gentile can become a Jew only through a time of prolonged study and commitment.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Traditional Jews see Abraham as the father of their faith and Moses as the great lawgiver. The Law or Torah, the Prophets and the Writings make up the Jewish holy Scriptures. Judaism is a moral, fiercely monotheistic religion. One obtains favor with God by obeying the laws found in the Scriptures. The writings of the Rabbis, the Talmud, are seen as an essential guide to knowing and following the commands of God. The two main holy days of the Jews are the Passover which celebrates the Jews leaving Egypt under the leadership of Moses and the Day of Atonement in which Jews fast, pray and confess their sins. The Jewish Shabbat runs from Friday at sunset until sunset on Saturday. Religious Jews use the time to attend synagogue and to spend time with their families. Jews are known their philanthropic work and helping the less fortunate. The Jews living in the Belgium are diverse population and can classified into at least four major groups. The strictest branch of Judaism is the Orthodox. They believe the Law and Prophets, what Christians call the Old Testament, is the literal, inspired Word of God and still completely binding on their lives today. The liberal or progressive branch of Judaism is called Reformed. They do not believe in the miracles of the Torah and that Judaism must be fully integrated into modern scientific world. The Conservative Jews try to find a moderate, middle path between Orthodoxy and Reformed Judaism. One final part of the Jewish population are non-religious or secular Jews. These Jews do not attend synagogue and may go to work on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. These secular Jews may be atheists, agnostics or deists. All four groups of Jews are represented in Belgium. A small but growing group of Jews in Belgium call themselves Messianic Jews. These Jews have accepted Jesus of Nazareth as their Messiah. Orthodox and many Conservative Jews deem them as no longer Jews.
What Are Their Needs?
The Jews of Belgium need to see that their good works can never get them right with God. The only way that God forgives sins is through death and resurrection of His Son Jesus. The Jews who accept their Jesus as Messiah are frequently led into the kingdom of God by Christians who model the love of Christ to them.
Ask the Lord to send French speaking believers to build friendships with Jews of Belgium and demonstrate God's love to them. Pray that God raises up a Messianic disciple making movement among the Jews of Belgium. Pray that more and more Jews would be willing to investigate the claims of Jesus Christ. Pray that God would open the spiritual eyes of the Jews as they read and study the Old Testament.
Scripture Prayers for the Jewish, French in Belgium.