Author: admin

Chairman’s message 8 July

Dear Friends,

I read an article this week in the Jewish Chronicle which reminded readers that you cannot use anything electrical on Shabbat. It went on to say that Rabbi Menachem Perl of the Zomet Institute for Halacha and Technology near Jerusalem, has adapted a standard thermometer with a mechanism that programmes the device to automatically take a person’s temperature every four seconds. The article continues that the design has split the Rabbinate in Israel on whether its use is permitted on Shabbat.

This invention is very relevant to dealing with Covid-19 but to me it is also representative of what we are trying to achieve in re-opening Belsize Square Synagogue safely. In our discussions in the working groups with the Ministers we are re-inventing our services, so that they will fit within the current guidelines. For now, we are not allowed singing as you know, and no congregational responses. We also need to ensure that our Ministers remain protected from the virus when on the Bimah. Those things really change what we are used to having in our services.

However, be assured that we are making progress. We have ordered our supplies which will arrive over the next two weeks: hand sanitiser and dispensers, masks, Perspex Screens to run along the front of the seating upstairs to protect those sitting downstairs, tape for the floor, signage and more. We have started the upgrade of our Wi-Fi and have replaced the streaming camera with a wide angled one. We have a security plan. We have a first risk assessment completed but it still needs adjusting. We have worked out how to use the car park safely, with the required social distancing. We have worked out a “flow” to the toilets (sorry about the pun!). We have created a strict cleaning regime that will be in place for all services. We have agreed a booking system for attendance. We are working hard and will continue to Zoom meet this week. I hope to have more news for you in next week’s email.

In the meantime, as you might guess, the Jewish Chronicle article prompted me to Google “Little known Jewish Inventions”. I did not know that Conrad Hubert (born Akiba Horowitz), who came to New York from Russia in 1891, invented the flashlight. Eventually he turned his American Electrical Novelty Company into the well-known Ever Ready Company, famous for its batteries. Nathan Goldman, born in Oklahoma in 1898 ran a wholesale food store in Texas. In 1936 he patented the shopping cart (the article says “enough Shlepping!”) and later the milk bottle rack. Lastly Robert Adler born in 1913, arrived in America in 1941. Overall, during his lifetime he was granted 58 patents for inventions, the most famous being the TV remote control.

This is, however, a Synagogue email and you will have read last week in News from the Square that we have been working on a Tisha B’Av Zoom service for the evening of Wednesday 29 July. This is the third year in a row that we will hold the service jointly with Rabbi Jeremy Gordon, Cantor Cotsen and members of New London Synagogue. Members of both Synagogues will participate in chanting the chapters of Eicha, Lamentations. If you would like to be included in the list of individuals who are chanting, please email Cantor Heller on

On Sunday 2 August at 11.30am we will hold the Tisha B’av Annual Memorial Service of the Chevra Kadisha at Pound Lane Cemetery. The prayer hall at the cemetery remains closed, so the entire service will be conducted outdoors by the memorial. Everyone is welcome and no booking is necessary. We will need to observe social distancing and wear masks and if you don’t want to stand please bring your own folding chair. It is customary to have a small collection at this service in order to replenish the Chevra Kadisha funds. As we can’t do this for safety reasons this year, please contact Lee ( if you would like to donate.

This Shabbat we will celebrate with William Rosenberg who is having his Bar Mitzvah as an adult. William never had the opportunity to be Bar Mitzvah at 13 but has now prepared all the parts – D’var Torah, Maf and Haf and prerecorded them in the Sanctuary. I hope you will all watch the service to support William. I am very proud to be part of a congregation that inspires individuals to do this and send William and his wife Julie, very best wishes on behalf of us all.

On Sunday, 12 July at 4pm you can join Caroline Loison for Zoom Dingbats v2. No previous knowledge necessary – all you need is the ability to read, a pen and a piece of paper to write your answers down! And don’t forget to bring a drink and some snacks with you… A quiz just isn’t the same without these!!! Contact for the Zoom login details and she looks forward to seeing you virtually on Sunday!

Gardening tips are below. Henny is taking a break as she tells me that this is the time to sit back and enjoy the allotment. She will however still answer questions. John is still sending tips in and will also answer questions. Thank you both!

That is all from me and as always please stay safe and stay well.


Gardening Tips

Just to remind you that whilst they are not experts, both Henny and John have agreed to answer any gardening questions that you may have. Please email questions to Adam Rynhold at and he will pass them on.

From John Alexander

  • Clematis with large flowers which have finished flowering, can now be pruned lightly in the hope they may flower a second time this summer.
  • It’s not too late to plant autumn flowering bulbs such as Autumn Crocuses and Hardy Cyclamen. My favourite supplier is Bloms Bulbs who will post them to you.
  • Keep deadheading and putting out slug pellets.
  • Despite the cool, wet weather this past week, hanging baskets and pots still need watering.
  • We all know the expression ‘stop and smell the roses’. I looked up its meaning: ‘To relax; to take time out of one’s busy schedule to enjoy or appreciate the beauty of life.’ So go into the garden every day, or parks now that some of us are allowed out a bit more, and take pleasure in watching all the plants grow and the summer colours begin to show themselves. Enjoy and stay safe.

Chairman’s message 1 July

Dear Friends

During lockdown I have been re-watching the Harry Potter films, all of which I loved first time round and still do. The books and movies stress the importance of teams and how each individual contributes to the overall success of the group. Where would Harry be without Hermione, Ron and Dumbledore (and everyone else who helps him)? Pretty much every time Harry tries to accomplish something on his own, he is relieved to find Ron and Hermione at his side. As a team, they are able to come together and accomplish what appeared impossible. This theme runs all the way through the eight books and subsequent films and I find it a joy to look out for it, amongst the rough and tumble and excitement of the storylines.

I first thought about teamwork in lockdown when we set up the phone rota and so many of you volunteered. Thank you! Next came the Zoom Board meetings and Zoom Executive meetings and various Zoom Committee meetings and the BelsizeLIVE recorded services and the regular Sunday discussion group and Cheder and Kikar Kids and the work of our Ministers, Caroline Loison, Adam Rynhold, the office, Eve Hersov, Gordon, and, so much more… Gosh, we are good at this! However, I want to single someone out from all of this and publicly pay tribute to and thank Lee Taylor our Chief Executive. Lee is the ultimate Ron, Hermione and Dumbledore all rolled into one person. He is available at all times, supportive of all of us, good-natured even when under pressure with his family responsibilities. I could go on but just want you all to know how hard he works and how much he is appreciated as part of our Synagogue team.

This last week I have spent many hours on Zoom calls discussing how we can safely re-open our Synagogue. Another example of great teamwork! As you know our Planning Committee started work weeks ago but Government guidelines for re-opening places of worship were only published this week. Your safety is the most important thing for us and we are planning in detail for a possible re-opening. The Planning Committee met last week, as did various sub-groups to discuss all the guidelines and our planning recommendations. Lastly the Executive met to review the plans in their entirety. We have agreed that we will have rehearsals of the “new normal services” before we open to you, in order to make sure that those who do attend are safe.  We will also be producing a full risk assessment that will be available before we open and which will cover all the government guidelines.  We want to make this work, so please be understanding that it is taking some time to look at everything thoroughly and we will not open on 4 July (the earliest opening date set by the government).

We know that we can only open with 2m social distancing and we have worked out what this will look like in the Synagogue.  I am attaching two pictures so that you can see what this means for us, the white lines on the floor mark the areas where you can walk and will be a one-way system. 

Social distancing system
Seating and floor marking

For now please continue watching our services on BelsizeLIVE. This Friday I am really happy to say that Cantor Heller will be accompanied by Ben Wolf on the organ.

This Shabbat is Josh Gaberman’s Bar Mitzvah. Josh was recorded on the Bimah, as the government guidelines have permitted us to do so. He made this pre-recorded service a family event, with grandparents, uncles and cousins from the USA participating by recording different parts from home. Good friends Valerie and Peter Sussmann read the prayers for the Queen and Israel from their beautiful garden. This is, as I said above, true team work (albeit with social distancing!) I need to thank all our B’nei mitzvah families for being so collaborative with the pre-recordings and understanding of the situation that we are all in. And as with all of our recorded services, thank you to Cantor Heller for putting it all together.

Some of you may not have a Chumash. In Belsize Square Synagogue our main Chumash is Etz Hayim, if you would like to buy a copy of this it needs to be ordered from America, so please email Adam on . However I have been contacted by Jerusalem the Golden in Golders Green as they have a sale of Artscroll books with 25% off all titles until 15 July. If you want to find out about the Artscroll Chumash or other books then please contact them on 020 8455 4960. They can post to you, if you don’t want to go in to the shop. We have a stock of our own Siddur in the office and I will write again soon about how you can purchase them if you want one.

You may be interested to know that this Shabbat is Green Shabbat. The Synagogue has been a member of the ECO Synagogue movement since it started. You will have seen the plaque on our wall marking our progress towards being an environmentally appropriate community. Hopefully we will all be together next year for a ‘Green Kiddush’.

A member of our community has brought to my attention an organisation called The Bridge. A rehab and after-care residence, The Bridge, are offering free on-line counselling for drink, drugs or eating disorders through its website: Lockdown is a new word and concept for many people and the restrictions have taken a long time to get used to and caused anxiety to many. The Synagogue is not endorsing the services of The Bridge and if you use them it is “at your own risk” but I wanted to bring it to your attention in case it is useful for you.

Another of our members, Beverley Herman, has run a recruitment business for over 20 years. Beverley is offering guidance to anyone searching for a job, including help writing a CV. She can be contacted by email at

That is all from me for this week. Stay safe and stay well


Click here for full information on how we are operating.

Gardening Tips

Just to remind you that whilst they are not experts, both Henny and John have agreed to answer any gardening questions that you may have.  Please email questions to Adam Rynhold at and he will pass them on.

From Henny Levin

The weather has turned cooler and we have had some rain, so the garden/allotment is all under control!!! The fruit is ripening, and some are ready for picking.  I hope that if you have taken up the challenge of growing some fruit and vegetables and that you enjoy the fruits of your labours. When picked or dug up they may not look as uniform or as large as those you can buy in the shops but in most cases, they will taste more flavoursome and most importantly YOU grew them. Hopefully, you will be able to carry on through the year and into the future.  The satisfaction will be worth the effort.

As we are all hopefully more aware of our environment, investing in a water butt or bucket to collect rainwater will help the planet and will be especially good for house plants. A bin with lid or compost bin for all your fruit and vegetable peelings will turn into compost for next year.  Two small things that will help to make a difference. 

From John Alexander 

  • Even though it’s been raining and is a little cooler, hanging baskets and potted plants outdoors still need watering daily, but not so much that the pots or baskets drip.
  • Grass should be left a little longer in hot weather to maintain a greener lawn. However brown grass will recover quickly after rain so no need to water the lawn.
  • There are two schools of thought about watering gardens. I’ve always thought one should water in the evening so the sun doesn’t burn the wet leaves and the water has a chance to soak into the ground before the sun rises to dry it out. An alternative view is that one should water in the morning so the water can get to the roots during the heat of the day when the plants need it most. I don’t think there is any hard and fast rule about gardening generally. This is just another example of two gardeners and two views!
  • The hot humid nights combined with the luscious new growth of seedlings and bedding plants is a delight to the slugs – continue to put down pellets each week, but sparingly, and keep the pellets off the leaves.

A Jewish response to current crises

Shalom Haverim

We are entering the summer months and, as I write, it appears we are still far away from being able to resume normal synagogue life. The uncertainty in many ways is worse than all else. In addition to the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the world, we have also witnessed social unrest in response to horrific police brutality/murder in Minneapolis.

This is a good time to stress some Jewish responses to both crises – the spiritual uplift and reminders can help us during difficult times to absorb the changes in our lives and the world.

First, the coronavirus pandemic:

1. This horrendous disease that has taken the lives of thousands of people here and around the world reminds us of the precarious nature of life. Being alive today is no guarantee of tomorrow. We learn to take each day as a gift, a miracle. That is why our ancestors were so committed to prayer: acknowledging each day, thanking God for allowing us to breathe, talk, study, walk, see, hear and all the miracles that we too often take for granted. Limnot yameinu – the Psalmist tells us to ‘count our days’. Make each moment count, stop to recite a bracha when you eat and drink, acknowledge that it can all be taken away so quickly. By doing so, when we are able to return to normalcy, we will be able to embrace our lives with a renewed feeling of exhilaration at being alive and be sensitive to everything we say and do.

Expressing our gratitude for everything we have, we become more sensitive to those who have lost their livelihoods and health during this difficult period. We must use this time to grow closer to the ones we love, thankful for the short time that we have with each other.

2. The time at home has given us the opportunity for silence and quiet, perhaps for more study and reading. It certainly has been a time of reflection about our lives, what they mean, how we shall live in the years ahead. Studies have shown that people across the globe have used this time to ask more questions about God, humanity, morality, to undertake serious
philosophical and religious meditation. We have slowed down enough to realise how crucial it has been to spend this hitbod’dut (solitude time) to try to understand ourselves and what life means to each of us.

3. This pandemic has also taught us the importance of community, congregation, our tradition of linking with a minyan, being with our fellow Jews. Our sense of hevruta, of being bound together, reminds us of our obligation to each other. I have been very proud of the number of volunteers who have come forward to deliver food, make phone calls and simply to bring cheer to so many of our Belsize family unable to leave their homes at all.

Second, the issue of race:

1. We Jews know that the first premise of our Torah is that ALL human beings are created b’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God, meaning that every human being carries within him or her, no matter our race, background, religion, ethnic group, physical abilities and more, a part of God. Therefore, every human life is inviolable and sacred; the loss of one human life is as if an entire world is lost (Mishnah Sanhedrin). We must show that
racism of any sort is intolerable, not just for a week but each and every day, in the way that we conduct ourselves on the street, at home, at our places of work. It’s the basic supposition of our entire religion, it is the Torah, and what flows from that principle is our obligation to treat every human being with dignity, ‘to love one’s neighbour as oneself’ (Lev.19). There should, one day, be no such thing as race, because we are all part of the human race. Black-white distinctions, prejudice, are harmful to the human soul and must be eradicated. There is no debate about that at all. Moses, after all, married a Cushite woman, Tzipporah, who was black, and Judaism knows no racial boundaries.

2. Judaism rejects violence as an answer to social problems, the needless deaths, looting, rioting, burning, attacking law enforcement officers. Responding to justifiable anger about racism should not lead to reverse hatred and violence against innocents. Martin Luther King Jr is my spiritual
guide here. He worked hand in hand with one of our great rabbis of the 20th century, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. He taught all rabbis who had the privilege of getting our rabbinic education at the Jewish Theological Seminary that peaceful activism and protest was the answer to social woes that needed addressing, vigorously but not by violence or terror.

That principle of non-violent protest has been ingrained in the Jewish people throughout our history, by Yohanan Ben Zakkai and the Rabbis who established the first rabbinic yeshiva in Yavneh in the first century CE, who taught us that the way to God would ultimately be through study of Torah, prayer and mitzvot.

The state of Israel, which has been called upon to defend the Jewish people’s right to exist as a sovereign entity in our native land, has had to use force to protect lives, the security of the Jewish people and all its citizens. We should reject all organisations that are built upon violence as a means to address social problems.

3. We should also be very concerned about randomly knocking down statues, banning books, removing films of a different era because of racism. In the process we will be destroying much of our past, and if Christopher Columbus is an outrage to Native Americans, then there are all kinds of statues that will be offensive to a vast array of people. If Winston Churchill’s statues are removed, because Churchill did make some demeaning racial remarks during his career, what do we do with statues of people who did good for a certain part of the world, but who were inherently antisemitic? In my view, there will be no end to our rage and I am worried about where this will lead. We are living in history-changing times. What I would like to see happen is a complete transformation in how our leaders and society deal with these attacks against civil stability.

We need to hear language of comfort, hope, uplift, of a renewed sense of idealism, compassion for each other. We need to hear once again the language of the prophets – to work for justice, for the day when there will be no violence or war any longer, when the world will fulfil the moral mandates of the Torah, to exercise love for our neighbour and not hate.

That will be my goal when we usher in the new year 5781, my last with Belsize Square Synagogue. Hatikvah is taken seriously – hope should replace malaise and darkness.

My wishes to each of you and your loved ones for better days ahead – health, safety, shalom. May we all be ever sensitive each day of the year to those different from ourselves, to strive for a better world than the one we live in today, to learn together, and grow together.

Shalom for us, the Jewish people, Israel and all humankind.

Rabbi Stuart Altshuler

Chairman’s message 24 June

Dear Friends,

I recently wrote about the uncertainty created for me personally by the lack of clear guidance from the government and I have to say that this continues. However, as more information comes through on the eventual re-openings of cinemas, restaurants, art galleries, my thoughts turn to events outside of my house, although I am still choosing not to participate. Somehow this makes it even harder, knowing that others are deciding to go to places and pick up some of their lives in the “new normal”. I have come across an event that I can do from home this week and which I think is very comforting. This Friday 26 June is National Cream Tea Day 2020! Cream teas have been enjoyed by the nation since 1662 when Portuguese Catherine de Braganza married Charles II, bringing the custom of drinking tea at court with her. In 1706, Thomas Twining opened London’s first tearoom and before long, a flurry of tearooms appeared across the city in competition with the traditionally male coffee houses. The Duchess of Bedford, tiring of the long wait between lunch and dinner, took this further and invented afternoon tea, inviting friends to her country house. By the middle of the 19th century, afternoon tea was an everyday occurrence; a spread of sandwiches, cakes, scones, cream and jam – the first hint of cream teas as we know them today.

Why, you may ask, am I putting this in a Synagogue email, other than to unhelpfully encourage everyone to increase the size of their waistline. I was struck by the fact that Cornwall and Devon have been arguing ever since the 19th century about the correct way of putting jam and cream on your scone. Devon typically spread the clotted cream first followed by the jam, the Cornish tradition is to spread jam first followed by the cream. I just wanted to say that since lockdown started I have heard of many reconciliations between friends who hadn’t spoken for years and between estranged family members. So in spite of all the uncertainty, I am filled with optimism that wonderful things can come out of such a difficult situation. Maybe this will be the year for Devon and Cornwall too!

I am sure that many of you will have seen the Government announcement on the re-opening of places of worship. We are still waiting for the official guidelines as newspapers are reporting inconsistent and different things. Can there be singing? Is there a 30 person maximum at services? It is not clear. The planning group will meet on Friday to consider what we know and ideas, coming from that meeting, will then be discussed by the Executive on Sunday. At this point I have no fresh news for you.

I know that many members have family and friends buried at Pound Lane Cemetery. The cemetery is now open by appointment only and you need to give 24 hours’ notice if you want to visit a grave. It is open Sunday – Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Anyone wanting to visit needs to call Andy on 020 8459 1635 to make the appointment. Social distancing rules will apply.

Edgwarebury Cemetery remains open to visitors but please check with the cemetery office (020 8958 3388) before visiting to ensure there are no funerals taking place at that time, as you may not be allowed in if there are. Any visit to a grave involving more than one household will be limited to 12 persons, and must be booked in advance through the cemetery office. Social distancing rules will apply. In addition, the cemetery is now open for stone setting ceremonies but there will be a limit on the number of attendees, as there currently is with funerals. Any stone settings which have been cancelled recently can be rebooked by contacting Lee (

This Friday, 26th June, we are going to hold a BSS Cheder Kabbalat Shabbat at 6pm via Zoom. Please join Caroline as we mark coming to the end of a fantastic (and somewhat challenging) Cheder. We will light the candles together, bless the wine and the challah, sing some Shabbat songs and enjoy a story too. Everyone is welcome – Cheder Pupils and non-pupils with parents, grandparents and extended family too. We look forward to seeing you virtually on Zoom. Please contact Caroline ( to get the login details if you do not have the BSS Cheder ONLINE ID and password.

You may have noticed that in our pre-recorded Shabbat services we have been using last year’s bnei mitzvah services, which include some of our young people chanting “maf and haf”. Two weeks ago it was a great pleasure to hear Ellis Wantman and this coming Shabbat 27 June, Freddie Jerome will be on our screens. It’s a pleasure to hear our young people and remember the fantastic job they did. Please do log in to watch the service.

Last Thursday Professor Paul Weindling gave a talk on Zoom about the Kindertransport from Vienna to the UK and I thought that you would be interested to know that we had over 50 people log in to hear him. I have written to thank him for giving his time to us.

Last week I included I a link to a rendering of Bridge over Troubled Waters and as a result I have been sent a link to Miriam Makeba singing Erev shel Shoshanim. This was recorded in 1965 and is very uplifting. Miriam Makeba (1932 – 2008), was nicknamed Mama Africa, and was a legendary black singer from South Africa. You can find it through this link:

On the subject of things to do at home, can I remind you that John Brook is offering Challah baking lessons on Zoom on a Friday morning. Please do book in by contacting Adam on

That is it for this week, stay safe and stay well

Click here for full information on how we are operating.

Gardening Tips

Just to remind you that whilst they are not experts, both Henny and John have agreed to answer any gardening questions that you may have. Please email questions to Adam Rynhold at and he will pass them on.

From Henny Levin

  • We are now getting to the best part of the year, fruits are ripening and some are ready to eat. Vegetables are a little further behind developing their crops. There is nothing better that going into the garden or allotment to pick fresh strawberries, cherries or gooseberries at the moment. Rhubarb is nearly past its best but first potatoes can be dug up and enjoyed.
  • As we are having some rain, go for a walk in your garden with a hand trowel and fork and sweep up slugs and snails before they can get to your plants especially young dahlias. I throw mine over the garden wall into the street. There is no point in putting them in the bin. I tried that and they are such slippery characters that they can escape from anything. You can also use pellets obtainable from garden centres to control these pests.
  • There is still time to sow lettuce, rocket, radishes and spring onions and maybe also some carrots.
  • Feed your tomatoes and prick out the shoots between the main stem and their branches.

Below are some ideas for plants with variegated leaves which can be just as beautiful as flowers:

Varieties of coleus
Varieties of acers

From John Alexander

  • It’s still not too late to prune spring flowering shrubs.
  • Cut back to the ground the stalks of the last of your allium and bearded iris.
  • Stake drooping plants.
  • Dead head roses – especially after the beating they took in last week’s rain.
  • Start weeding before they set seeds – either by running a hoe over them or by pulling them out by hand.
  • Do not spray for greenfly or aphids any longer as the ladybirds have arrived to eat them.
  • Whilst the sun is shining this week, enjoy your gardens or parks – don’t fret about the garden chores, most can wait!

Chairman’s message 17 June

Dear Friends,

I spend a lot of time at home reading the newspapers and last week they were full of news triggered by the death of George Floyd. Each day brought information on protests in America, here and round the world and the start of a change in our society. This week, so far the predominant headlines are about how many people are going to the newly opened shops and what they are buying. This does not mean that the issues have gone away and I hope that you listened to Rabbi Altshuler’s sermon last Shabbat. If you did not, you can still hear it on our BelsizeLIVE Archive. Rabbi Altshuler reminds us that each of us should try to do something to reach out and change things and that racism is not acceptable. Your lay leadership was silent last week about this, deliberately allowing Rabbi Altshuler to lead us. However you should know that your Board in its entirety stands against prejudice of any sort. At this time the focus is on our support to the black community but we condemn any prejudicial actions that are driven by the colour of a person’s skin, their religion, their job or their disability.

On this subject, I wanted to share two things with you. The first is a story that I read in the Times last week, which made me smile about a very serious subject. “A far right blogger called Laura took to twitter to praise Yorkshire Tea for not having a statement about the Black Lives matters protests. Almost immediately Yorkshire Tea replied: “Please don’t buy our tea again. We stand against racism. #blacklivesmatter.” “So now I’ve got to buy PG Tips?” huffed Pamela another twitter user trying to stir things up. This sucks”. Five minutes later the PG Tips official account responded: “Yeah, it does suck, Pamela. If you’re boycotting teas that stand against racism, you’re going to have to find two new tea brands now #blacklivesmatter. #solidaritea”.

The second is a clip of Bridge over Troubled Waters jointly sung by two choirs one Black and one Jewish in Park Avenue Synagogue, New York. Please watch it on this link, it is very uplifting:

This coming Shabbat we are celebrating the Bat Mitzvah of Nina Freudenheim. Nina has recorded her portion at home and I hope that you will watch her on BelsizeLIVE. Nina is a long-standing member of our youth choir and you will hear her sing Avinu Shebashamayim with her friends in the Youth Choir (thank you Cantor Heller for using your editing skills to make this happen!). On behalf of the Community I hope that she and her family have a wonderful Shabbat.

If you are enjoying our services on BelsizeLIVE and have experienced technical issues in the last couple of weeks, this may be due to some upgrades that we have been working on to improve the picture quality and sound. We hope to have these resolved and a new camera in place for Friday. We’re sorry for any inconvenience that was caused.

As you know last week we had a Board meeting and we discussed both the re-opening of our Synagogue and the High Holydays. We are still waiting for the Government guidance to places of worship and the date quoted for this remains no sooner than 4th July. The Board has taken the decision that as a result we are unable, for now, to give you a date when we will reopen for general services. Your safety is our prime concern and once the guidelines are published we will need a little time to study and implement them. For now please continue to watch on BelsizeLIVE.

In relation to the High Holydays the Board has decided that we will plan for two types of service. Firstly over the summer, we will prepare Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services for BelsizeLIVE recorded transmission. This means that if we end up having a short notice lockdown or if guidelines on gatherings suddenly change, then we will be ready with services that we can watch from our homes. At the same time we are working on how we can hold live services in our Synagogue, which of course will be transmitted on BelsizeLIVE. We don’t know yet what the Social Distancing guidelines will be but to help us plan we will be contacting you shortly to ask whether or not you would want to attend a service, (and which ones), if we were open or if you would prefer to stay at home in any event for your own safety.

The Board has also taken a decision that both the Youth Services and Kikar Kids will take place on Zoom this year. It would not be safe to fill the Hall as we usually do but it is important that we do hold those services.

As things continue to be uncertain, I felt that we should be able to anchor ourselves in something familiar. I have chosen Challah! Our member John Brook is a “star” Challah maker and gives Zoom lessons. He has agreed to give lessons to the Community with a maximum of 10 people on Zoom at any one time. These will take place on a Friday morning starting at 8.30am for half an hour to make the dough and again at 10.30am to learn how to plait it. John is happy to run as many Friday sessions as needed, with the first on Friday 26 June. I have put a list of ingredients that you will need after the Gardening Tips but you are also welcome to sign up and just watch if you don’t want to actually bake. Please contact Adam Rynhold to book a place

This coming Sunday, 21 June from 4-5pm, Caroline Loison, our Head of Cheder and Youth, will be running to run a B² (BSS Youth) “Music quiz”. All you need is Zoom, paper and something to write with. The music quiz will have something for everyone – Disney, musicals, nursery rhymes and, of course, some Jewish/Israeli music in there too! Please contact Caroline for log in details: A perfect way to spend Father’s Day afternoon with the family.

That is all from me for this week. Stay safe and stay well.


Click here for full information on how we are operating.

Gardening Tips

Just to remind you that whilst they are not experts, both Henny and John have agreed to answer any gardening questions that you may have. Please email questions to Adam Rynhold at and he will pass them on.

From Henny Levin:

I hope that you will indulge me this week because I have a big smile on my face with two firsts. One in the garden and the other on the allotment.

At home I have a cottage garden, a little wild but full of flowering plants, some of which I planted others where the seeds flew into the garden or from cuttings taken from friends. For three years I have been watching Acanthus leaves growing in four areas of the garden. The leaves each year have been getting bigger and bigger and this year, they have all flowered for the first time. That is a big smile on my face. I attach here below a photo of one of the bushes.

My second smile comes from the allotment. Growing fruit and vegetables can be a science but I view it as an enjoyable experiment. We have to cope with clay soil which, at the moment is rock hard, we can add compost, manure, liquid feed to break it up and that is what most people do but what we can’t do is control the weather and so each year, some things grow and others don’t. Last year my strawberries came into flower in April. There was frost and only a handful converted to fruit. This year I have already picked 3kgs, so strawberry and gooseberry jam are on the menu for the Chanukah Market and if that does not take place, we will arrange a mini market. But that’s not what has put a smile on my face. I inherited a mini orchard at the back of my plot, four fruit trees, two varieties of apple, one Victoria plum and an English cherry tree. In the six years that I have had the allotment this tree has only produced a handful of cherries which the birds have picked off before I could get to them. But this year I have just picked a large box of ripe cherries. See photo below of my bounty on Sunday.

Flowers and fruit punnets

And the moral of this tale is that keep going with all the ups and downs of gardening. It will be a surprise and pleasure every year and never boring.

From John Alexander:

  • It’s not too late to plant summer flowering bedding plants to fill the odd space in the flower beds.
  • Continue dead-heading roses and pick off dead blooms from all annuals and perennials to keep them tidy and encourage new blooms. (unless, as suggested by a member, you want to leave the rose hips for the wildlife to enjoy or make rose- hip jelly: “takes hours to make and seconds to eat!”).
  • Prune rhododendrons and camelias but only if they need tidying up.
  • Continue to tie in climbers, including fast growing vegetables such as tomatoes.
  • As the last of the colour leaves the Alliums the stalks can be cut back.
  • Now as the garden settles into summer there is less work to do so more time to sit and enjoy it, weather permitting – but keep watering regularly.
  • Lastly, this is British Flowers Week (June 15-21) so the perfect time to enjoy your flower gardens.

Challah Ingredients

This makes 2 good sized challahs or one challah and eight rolls

  • 500 gm strong white bread flour
  • 60 gm caster sugar
  • 60 ml Sunflower oil
  • 10 gm salt
  • One whole egg
  • One egg yolk
  • 175 ml warm water
  • 10 gm dried yeast

You need a set of accurate kitchen scales and also preferably (but not essential) a dough scraper/cutter which you can buy on line.

Chairman’s message 10 June

Dear Friends,

As I sit down to write to you I have realised that this week has been the most difficult week of lockdown for me personally so far. I have worked out that it is because the Guidelines are changing and whereas before I did not really need to make decisions, now I do and sometimes with conflicting advice. We all have our different levels of risk taking and we also have our own home and family pressures. It is no longer “one size fits all” and so as the weeks go on we will inevitably hear different stories from our friends, which may make us question our decisions. At least now I recognise why I am more anxious and so I have decided that this week the email will also give details of things that we can still do from home and the only decision that we need to make is whether we are interested and have the time to do them.

Before I go on, here is a short update on the Synagogue re-opening and High Holidays. As I said last week, the Board meets tomorrow and will be discussing the High Holydays. Both Rabbi Altshuler and Cantor Heller will join the discussion. I will let you know next week what decisions have been taken. In relation to a general re-opening, the guidance remains the same, which is no earlier than 4th July and in the next few weeks we will receive more guidance from the Task Force. It is also very clear that each Community must make its own decisions about how and when they reopen. So we wait to see what comes next. You may have read that places of worship can now re-open for private prayer but as this is not part of what we do, the Synagogue remains closed.

On behalf of the Israel Dinner Committee, I am delighted to reveal that notwithstanding the difficult times we all face, thanks to your incredible generosity we have been able to raise £31,500 which is being sent primarily to our 3 designated charities – ASSAF, The Jaffa Institute, and Yemin Orde – as well as smaller donations which were specifically earmarked for The Israel Sports Centre for the Disabled and for the Association for Wellbeing of Israel’s Soldiers. As impressive as the funds raised, was the high level of participation with us achieving greater than 75% participation as compared to last year.

Emma Brookes, Chair of the Israel Dinner Committee, wrote to each of the charities this past week who were thrilled to receive our timely donation. ASSAF commented “we are honoured at the generosity of Belsize Square Synagogue in their continuing commitment to ASSAF’s Youth Club and ASSAF’s mission – especially in these very troubling times.” The Jaffa Institute wrote “Without friends like you, we wouldn’t be able to continue to thrive and offer ongoing support to thousands of children in our charge.” And Yemin Orde wrote “We are honoured that your synagogue and community is continuing its partnership, even during such unprecedented times in the U.K. and throughout the world. Thank you for being such dedicated partners!” We also received a lovely thank you note from The Israel Sports Centre for the Disabled.

The Jaffa Institute also sent us a wonderful video highlighting the programme we support which I would like to share with you.

We plan to continue to celebrate the wonderful work of our designated charities when our dinner resumes next year. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Emma and her Committee for working so hard to achieve such an amazing result and to thank you all for donating.

The 15-21 June is Refugee Week and I have been sent details of Insiders/Outsiders Online Events for that week. This is held in partnership with the Association of Jewish Refugees and Four Corners, London. There are events throughout the week but the one that may be of interest is on Thursday 18 June, 3.30pm, there will be a screening of the filmed version of The Ballad of the Cosmo Café, based on the sell-out live performances held at St. Peter’s Church Hall next door to us, last November. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with the play’s director Pamela Howard. Events are free of charge but registration is essential as places are limited. To register go to: Zoom login details will be provided with the confirmation of your Eventbrite booking.

Also on Thursday 18 June at 8pm, Professor Paul Weindling has agreed to speak to the community. Professor Weindling, a research professor at Oxford Brookes University, is a leading expert in the Kindertransport from Vienna to the UK and has written numerous books on Kindertransport and the holocaust. He wrote a piece on the subject in the latest issue of Jewish Historical Studies which can be read here – We are very grateful that Professor Weindling has given up his time to speak to us, please put the date in your diary. The talk will be held using Zoom so look out for the details which will be sent out shortly. Thank you to Mike Schraer for organising this.

Lastly I have been sent a wonderfully funny clip of the ENO percussion section recreating Verdi’s Anvil Chorus for Il Trovatore . Even if you don’t like opera, it is worth clicking on this link

That is all for this week. Stay safe and stay well.


Gardening Tips

Whilst they are not experts, both Henny and John have agreed to answer any gardening questions that you may have. Please email questions to Adam Rynhold at and he will pass them on.

From Henny Levin

  • It was eight years ago when my son-in-law gave me a box of his home-grown vegetables. I had never tasted such tender and sweet carrots before. It gave me the incentive I needed to find an allotment. My friends suggested exotic items which are very expensive in the shops. I grew artichokes from seed. They were inedible and at that point I decided that the basic fruit and vegetables that I enjoy eating was what I wanted to grow. So, if you are in the mood to grow something in pots at home, in your garden or on the veranda/balcony why not try spring onions or carrots this week. They are easy to grow, just follow the instruction on the packet of seeds.
  • For the children, growing cress is a wonderful and easy beginning. All you will need is a clean plastic tub (maybe one that you bought fruit or vegetables in at the supermarket with or without holes at the bottom, some compost, the seeds and a small tray to put the tub on. Fill the tub with the compost, sow the seeds sparingly, sprinkle a little compost on top, water and place on a sunny windowsill. Water regularly and very soon you will all be able to eat egg and cress sandwiches.
  • Don’t forget to feed your tomatoes once a fortnight, instructions will be on the bottle.
  • Take out weeds if they are invading your plants.
  • If you are growing strawberries, they are now beginning to ripen. Don’t leave it too long to pick or the birds and the slugs will get there before you. If they come off the stalks easily, they are ripe for picking even if they are not red all over.

From John Alexander

  • Stake floppy plants.
  • Keep Peonies especially well watered and fed.
  • Cut new growth from herbs and Lavender and pot or plant cuttings to propagate.
  • Keep newly planted bedding plants and seedlings moist and water hanging baskets and patio pots daily.
  • Continually dead-head Roses.
  • Spray Box to kill the dreaded caterpillars.
  • Keep the trunks of Tree Ferns moist – water in the evening.

Chairman’s message 3 June

Dear Friends

I have spent the week looking at old photos and moving them from old style albums into photo books. It is a slow task but one in which I take great joy. I have been surprised at how I remembered the occasions but not all the detail and even more surprised at how many pictures there are of Synagogue events and my albums go back 40 years! The Bazaar in full flow (now Chanukah Market); brides outside the Synagogue arriving for their wedding; members taking in part in cabarets, quizzes, talks; the annual barbecue in a garden; bar and bat mitzvah celebrations; coffee mornings for new members; birthday celebrations; Cheder and Youth choir concerts; classical concerts; Cantorial concerts and I could go on. My sister-in–law recently sent me this which sums up beautifully what I am feeling, and I hope you are too. “My synagogue is open. It’s open every day because my Synagogue is not a building, it is the people who are helping each other and their community. It is the prayers for those who are struggling medically, financially and emotionally. My Synagogue never closed, it just opened in every home.”

Our Synagogue continues to thrive in many ways and last week we had 40 people participate in the Shavuot Tikkun Leil. We think that is a record number! Thank you to Rabbi Altshuler, Cantor Heller and all the speakers who made it such a success and of course to all of you who joined in.

This coming Shabbat we are celebrating the Bat Mitzvah of Daisy Kidson. Daisy worked hard with Caroline Loison to learn Hebrew and her Bat Mitzvah tutor, Susanna Freudenheim, to learn her haftarah, maftir and brachot and I hope that as many of you as possible will join the service on Shabbat to celebrate with her. I hope it will be as special for her and her family as it would have been in the Synagogue. As a Community we are very proud of Daisy.

We have another virtual Board meeting next week and we will continue to discuss what we are going to do for the High Holydays. No new guidance has been published by the Government Task Force but we do need to make some decisions. I will of course keep you informed.

One change that has happened with the easing of the lockdown, is that Edgwarebury Cemetery and Hoop Lane Cemetery have issued new guidance. The cemeteries will now be open to visitors ‪between 8am and 4.45pm on all days except Shabbat and festivals. The Cemetery have asked us to make it clear that they expect all visitors to strictly obey the current government guidelines. In particular, they expect visitors to be either individuals or members of the same household, and to observe social distancing at all times. This means that if you have had a funeral during the last few months attended by only a few mourners, they ask that you do not go in large numbers to visit the grave. Please also note that the admission of visitors to the cemetery will be restricted while a funeral is taking place in the grounds. The cemetery buildings including the prayer hall, tahara facilities, office and toilets will remain closed. However, outdoor hand-washing facilities do remain available. Stone settings still cannot take place and there are also restrictions on funeral attendance. Lee has the details.

If you are looking for an interesting lecture, Circle Sq. is a dynamic network that embraces life over 50 and was co-founded by our member, Nick Viner. The group hosts a series of events (currently online) that span a variety of interesting topics. As part of their Lunchtime Lecture series, the next event is ‘Painting with Glass’ with renowned stained glass artist, Ardyn Halter on Wednesday 10 June from 1.15-2pm. The event is free and non-members are welcome. If you would like to participate then you will need to register (

You might also like to know that the Wiener Holocaust Library is currently offering free virtual talks on Zoom. Our member Frank Harding is a trustee and the library staff have been to talk to us in the past. You do need to book a place and you can find them on ( ).

Last week I asked for volunteers to help with the website project. We are still looking for “ honorary photographers, please do think about this and contact Lee if you can help (

That is all from me for this week and as always stay well and stay safe.


Click here for full information on how we are operating.

Gardening Tips

From Henny Levin

  • The continuing hot sunny weather is marvellous for some plants and the lack of rain is taking its toll on others. As John has mentioned on numerous occasion in his gardening tips, watering morning and evening is best BUT water is precious so, if possible, point the jet of water at the base of your plants so that the water trickles down into the ground to feed the roots. If sprayed on the leaves, the sun might scorch them and the roots will get very little water.
  • Your grass may be dry, scorched and looking very yellow. This is natural in this weather. Don’t worry, grass is very hardy and will grow back either when it rains or later in the year when the sun is not so relentless. Do not use any Feed and Weed products as it may kill the grass which is already struggling. The proliferation of leaves on the ground are the plants and trees saving themselves by shedding some of their leaves so that they require less water to survive for the future.
  • Dead heading can be quite therapeutic. Doing it early morning or when the sun is going down helps the plants to retain their sap. Many plants will have a second and even a third flowing if you deadhead. Keep what you have cut off in a compost bin or, if you don’t have one, a plastic bag tied up. It will make good compost in the future.

From John Alexander

  • Keep newly planted annuals and seedlings moist.
  • Remember the Chelsea Chop – cut back floppy late flowering perennials to make them sturdy, e.g. Echinacea and Sedum.
  • Clip box and topiary yew to keep them tidy.
  • Tie back climbers such as sweet peas, clematis, honeysuckle and roses.
  • Prune spring flowering shrubs.
  • Bearded Iris benefit from dividing clumps every three years, about six weeks after flowering.

Chairman’s message 27 May

Dear Friends,

I have had a very adventurous week since my last email. Sadly, not a long trip to somewhere exotic but on my reduced horizons I ventured up a ladder and onto the roof of our garden shed to chop away the neighbours’ ivy that was taking over our green roof. What you may ask has this got to do with you. Well, sitting up there I realised that I had a different view on what I usually take for granted. The trees that seem tall were not so huge, the bushes that I don’t normally see on the other side of the fence were bright and lovely and the neighbour who I don’t really know looked up and waved. It made me think that this is a time when we have the chance to check and rethink our view of others before we come out of lockdown.

Speaking of views, many of you will have looked at the Synagogue website over the past few weeks. If you have done so recently I hope that you will have noticed some changes. Over the last month or so the Synagogue website has been undergoing a ‘spring clean’, with a small team of volunteers led by Adam Hurst spending time improving the menus and navigation, refreshing some of the pages that were a little out of date and also adding in new pages. There is still some more work to do but for anyone who hasn’t explored the website for a while I’d encourage you to take a peek.

We are also looking for some volunteers in two areas. Firstly, once we are physically open again, to become ‘honorary photographers’ to help refresh some of the photos on the website and then going forward take photos of our events so we can keep them up to date. And secondly if there are any lawyers with experience in GDPR we are planning a short project to review and refresh our current policies. Please contact Lee ( if you are able to help in either of these areas.

In another area of work we have spent some time looking at our Safeguarding policies both for virtual and face-to-face meetings. The Synagogue has appointed Frank Joseph, Chair of the Education Committee, as our designated safeguarding lead for Cheder and Youth. Deborah Cohen, a Board member with experience in this area, is currently working on a safeguarding policy for adults.

Keren’s Nursery has been closed during this period of lockdown but in accordance with the Government guidelines will open again next Monday 1st June. We have been in discussions with them and they will be observing all the Government guidance on social distancing and will also have a strict cleaning regime in place. We have agreed with them which parts of the building they can access and they will not be able to enter either the Sanctuary or the Hall. Security will also be in place from Monday during the nursery hours.

I thought that you would be interested to know that throughout the lockdown our Conversion Class led by Rabbi Altshuler has continued every Monday night 7pm-8:30pm. Our students are still preparing for the Bet Din which consist of three Rabbis and is taking place by Zoom at the moment. The ritual obligations of “immersion/mikveh” will take place later when we are permitted to do so safely. I want to remind you that all congregants are invited to join the lessons, the current unit is on “Jewish History”. If anyone is interested in coming to the class, just email Rabbi Altshuler (

Lastly, please do remember that tomorrow evening at 7.30pm we will be holding our Tikkun Leil Shavuot. The programme is interesting and you will have received an email with the Zoom details. If you can’t find the email please contact Adam Rynhold ( )

That is all from me this week. As always, stay well and stay safe.


Click here for full information on how we are operating.

Gardening Tips

From Henny Levin
Having just been for a lovely walk in a woodland setting around Mill Hill, I enjoyed the sounds of the birds which inspired me for this week’s gardening tips.

  • Have you ever thought about putting a bird feeder in your garden, balcony or screwed on an outside wall? They come in all shapes, sizes, fixtures and fittings from garden centres or on-line. The seeds can be purchased from the same sources.
  • In our garden we see robins, green parakeets, gold finches, blue tits, magpies and pigeons. One can spend hours watching the little birds peck at the seeds when the coast is clear with the pigeons and magpies waiting patiently underneath the feeder for the bits that fall down. The birds come at any time to feed. Oh, I should have also included the playful squirrels who are so athletic and ingenious.
  • A bird box can be so much pleasure to watch early morning or before sunset. We have one for blue tits. The chicks have just fledged but I have been watching for several weeks the parents flying back and forth with food for their babies. They are so careful before entering the nest with the food in their mouths, watchful and very alert to danger. It’s even better that watching the telly.

From John Alexander

  • Prune late spring or early summer flowering evergreen Ceanothus after flowering to ensure a sturdy plant for next spring.
  • Alliums are coming into their own now. After the colour has gone the seed heads can be retained for structural interest or cut for indoor flower arrangements.
  • Aphids and greenfly are on the increase now with the warm weather before the ladybirds and wasps arrive to feast on them. To protect your roses and other flower buds, spray now with an insecticide, of which there are many, but I prefer Provanto Ultimate Bug Killer.
  • Dig up and divide Daffodils if they have formed a big clump.
  • Sow seeds now for summer and autumn flowering annuals. Sow directly onto soil that has been raked into a fine, crumbly texture. Keep moist.
  • Don’t forget to water after the sun has left the garden and remember to water pots and hanging baskets daily.