Wednesday, November 5th, 2008, 4:00AM

My alarm rings...I need to pry open my eyes and hurry...My flight from Spain to Brussels, Belgium, departs in two hours...


I arrive in Brussels National Airport. Rabbi Tawil is waiting to take me to his home to relax before the lunch lecture. He fills me in on the Brussels community as we drive. As of late, he tells me, Brussels has become like the Washington D.C. of Europe, with diplomats representing the European Union based here. As a result, aside from the local Brussels community, many European Jewish services are now based in Brussels to serve as the home for Jewish organizations throughout Europe. The Tawils have been brought here to serve this international European community in Brussels and have set up a beautiful Jewish Community Center right in its center, just opposite the many tall, and modern parliamentary buildings and offices.

The lecture is titled, "Finding Faith in Turbulent Times"; and with the financial crisis and politics as rocky as it is nowadays, the title is most appropriate.

At the lecture I am able to personally meet, among others, Rabbi Sholom and Leah Liberow, heads of the European Jewish Study Network, who have organized this tour and whose work includes bringing out speakers throughout Europe as well as arranging retreats, video conferencing and study networks.

We need to head out quickly after the lecture—Rabbi Liberow is driving me to the nearby city of Amsterdam, Holland. The drive is about three hours and we're hoping the traffic won't delay us further.

On the way, Rabbi Liberow tells me more about his work of reaching the smaller, outlying communities throughout Europe.


We arrive in Amsterdam, at the home of Yaakov and Nechama Dinah Spiero. Tonight's lecture, in an hour's time, will be for women only, and is titled, "Making the World More Feminine."

The large hall is filling quickly and soon every seat is taken. Nechama Dinah has worked hard to arrange this program and bring in as many people as she could reach. She looks very pleased—over one hundred women are present, an amazing turnout for any location, and especially here in the community of Amsterdam.

The audience is very diverse, from all different backgrounds, but are so eager to listen. After an hour, I finish my lecture, we pause to taste from Nechama's huge variety of delicious home-made refreshments and pastries before beginning a question and answer session. At first the questions trickle in slowly, but then, as though a floodgate has been released, they continue and continue, as an amazing discussion ensues on a whole assortment of questions: men and women, redemption, feminine values, Judaism, mitzvot and of course, feminism. The women linger for hours and our discussion continues. Afterwards, several more women approach me with yet some more personal issues.

One woman, who is here for her first time tonight, and has asked many interesting, intelligent and challenging questions, thanks me for the "new perspective" which she finds intriguing. She promises to give what I presented more thought and further study.

Another woman tells me how she never had a proper chupah (Jewish wedding), despite being married for several years, but now feels encouraged to work on convincing her husband to bring this blessing into their home.

Another woman approaches and asks what were the words that I was whispering to myself while still seated as the crowd was trickling in, before approaching the podium. I respond that I recited a chapter of Psalms so that my words be appropriate, enlightening and well received. She tells me that she wants to do the same before important events in her life. The moment makes me realize how much we are all observed, and how even small acts—good or bad—are so easily noted...