Category: Chairman’s message

Chairman’s message 16 September

Dear friends

I am finding this week to be very strange as we come up to Rosh Hashanah. Normally I would be spending my time shopping for last minute fruit and vegetables for three large meals, cooking chicken soup (of course!), sorting out beds and toys for our Gibraltar family to stay and generally preparing to catch up with family and friends. I would also be checking our Synagogue service arrangements, looking at my Synagogue door rota and generally looking forward to catching up with everyone at Synagogue and hearing their news.

Whatever your usual plans are for Rosh Hashanah, I am guessing that for many, you are feeling the same as me. On the plus side (and I am always a “glass half full person”) I am definitely less stressed, I don’t have to fit in a visit to the hairdresser (I have a constant worry that someone will see my roots if they are sitting behind me, is that too vain?) or have my nails done (you can’t hand our prayer books with chipped nails!) or work out what to wear over three days. On the minus side, I just miss everyone. I miss the joy of seeing friends and acquaintances, meeting babies for the first time, squashing into the back of the youth service, popping into Kikar Kids and chatting in the tent after the service.

In case you think that this is a sad email at a time of celebration, I am immensely looking forward to watching the services on BelsizeLIVE and attending one service in person. It will be different but it will be what we each make of it. I intend to follow the services, listen to the Sermons and enjoy it. I shall think of everyone else who is also listening and for me that sense of belonging to a strong and vibrant community will fill my house and carry over all the three days. I hope it does for you too.

Our festival services started with Selichot and Rabbi Altshuler held a very successful Shiur for 20 people. More than 80 people watched Cantor Heller and the choir in the Selichot service. This is more than in a usual year and it was, I hope you will agree, a very uplifting service.

You might be interested to know that last week we held a Board meeting on Zoom and we approved our adult safeguarding policy and received training on this subject. We appointed Deborah Nerva-Cohen as the Synagogue’s designated safeguarding lead. We also reviewed the arrangements for all High Holyday services.

I wanted to let you know that Limmud have launched a digital publication, featuring submissions from across the community. It contains stories, pictures, recipes and poetry and is very interesting. It is free and can be found at where you need to type in “Renewal by Limmud Festival”.

I have been sent the recent AJR newsletter and I am really pleased that they are letting their members know that they can access services through BelsizeLIVE. To the individual who has just joined our Congregation as they watch and enjoy our streamed services and wanted to support us, welcome and thank you so much. It literally makes me smile all the time to think of your support.

That is all from me, I wish you all a sweet year ahead, shana tova umetuka.

Stay safe and stay well


Gardening Tips

Just to remind you that whilst he is not an expert, John is happy to try to answer any gardening questions that you may have. Please email questions to Adam Rynhold at and he will pass them on.

  • It’s an exciting month as spring bulbs I’ve ordered are being delivered. It’s a bit early for planting but it will be something nice to do during Succot! In the meantime it’s a good time to clear away debris that may have built up.
  • Deadhead Dahlias as flowers begin to fade, cutting back stems to the first leaves. Keep them staked so they don’t fall over in the wind or break under the weight of the big blooms.
  • Keep watering, especially in this lovely warm, dry weather. It’s interesting that we usually celebrate Rosh Hashanah in good weather. Let’s hope it is the start of a good and above all a healthy year for us all and enjoy this last bit of the summer!

Chairman’s message 9 September

Dear Friends

I read in the paper yesterday that Catherine Zeta-Jones, the actress, has collaborated with a company called Butterflytwists to design and promote a new line of vegan shoes. My first thought was that this was an act of kindness for vegan dogs and cats who might love shoe chewing (seriously, it was exactly that!!). Then I realised that actually these have been designed and launched with perfect timing, for all of us who do not want to wear leather shoes on Yom Kippur. Catherine will know about Yom Kippur as she is married to Michael Douglas whose father, Kirk Douglas, born Issur Danielovitch, was Jewish. Michael’s mother was not Jewish and he had no formal religious upbringing from either of his parents but he identifies as Jewish. You may not know that Michael was the 2015 winner of the prestigious $1 million Genesis Prize, granted each year in recognition of professional achievement, contribution to humanity and commitment to Jewish values and Israel. He was recognized for his cinematic work and advocacy for disarmament as a U.N. Messenger of Peace. He directed his award toward projects promoting diversity and inclusiveness in the Jewish world. So on Yom Kippur as you deny yourself leather footwear, you could be wearing something that will later on in the evening make your cat or dog very happy.

On a more serious note, you will have seen on the Shabbat booking email yesterday that we have a few members who are not social distancing at services and are standing chatting to each other and the Ministers. I implore you to take the social distancing seriously, as hard as it may be on you. The government guidelines are very clear, no socialising is allowed before or after a service. With the spiking of the virus that we read about daily in the press, if we are reported for this as it has been visible on BelsizeLIVE, we could be shut down. Please think twice before you go up to anyone to chat.

We held out first live Kikar Kids service in the hall. We have created another milestone! It was a great success with five families participating form their own space, each family had musical instruments to play and the Shofar was blown from just outside the Hall for everyone to hear. Do watch out for more information about Kikar Kids over the High Holydays and on the first Shabbat in October. A huge thank you goes to Richard and Sara Pollins for making this happen.

I know you have already seen a number of emails about things that are happening this week but I wanted to remind you that tonight at 8pm we are hosting Councillor Georgia Gould – Leader of Camden Council, in conversation with our Belsize member, Councillor Neil Nerva. Councillor Gould will share information on the impact of Covid-19 on local communities in Camden and beyond. My thanks go to Neil for organising this event.

On Sunday at 11am we will have our annual Kever Avot when we gather at Edgwarebury Lane Cemetery to remember family and friends who are no longer with us.

Also this weekend we have the Bar Mitzvah of Noah Jacobson. He and his family will be in Synagogue and if you are not attending the service please do watch on BelsizeLIVE. Noah has worked hard for this day having his lessons on Skype and will share the maf. and haf. with us. As always, I am so proud of our young people and grateful to their parents for choosing to encourage and involve them in the Belsize Square Synagogue wider family.

Lastly, we all heard the Government announcement last night on social distancing and only meeting six people at a time. I will write again if this has any impact on our plans, for now we have no clear guidance

Gardening tips from John Alexander are back, Henny tells me that her vegetable gardening only really starts in the Spring.

That is all from me, stay safe and stay well


Gardening Tips

Just to remind you that whilst he is not an expert, John is happy to try to answer any gardening questions that you may have. Please email questions to Adam Rynhold at and he will pass them on.

  • Now September is upon us we are entering another busy period in the garden.
  • Make sure you’ve ordered your spring flowering daffodils, hyacinths and crocus for planting this month.
  • This is also the month to plant bulbs in containers for midwinter indoor displays of hyacinths, daffodils, crocus, amaryllis and the little Dutch iris. Some, like hyacinths, can be purchased already prepared for early flowering, others will need a few weeks in a cold dark place.
  • You can also plant new perennials outside later this month so order them now.
  • You can plant seeds of some hardy annuals directly into the ground now for flowering next summer. They may need some form of covering if we have a particularly heavy frost but it’s worth trying to get an early flowering next spring and summer. Try planting pot marigolds (they don’t need to be in pots, that’s just the name), cornflower, larkspur, honesty and some poppies – opium, Shirley and ladybird.
  • Keep your hanging baskets fed and watered.
  • With a warm spell ahead, keep plants, and particularly pots, well-watered and keep sprinkling slug pellets around.

Chairman’s message 2 September

Dear friends,

This Bank Holiday brought a great surprise to us. We were feeling very low before the weekend, cold weather, back in London from Cornwall and I forgot to mention last week that I had broken my little toe by stubbing it very hard on a chair in our Cornwall hotel. To cap it all we had just cancelled our next trip to Gibraltar, as we decided that we did not want to go through any airports. The phone rang late Sunday morning and my daughter in Gibraltar said she was flying in to see us that evening for 24 hours. She didn’t want to risk not seeing us for another six months and we hadn’t been together since February. We made the bed, brought out the masks, worked out what windows and doors we could keep open and she arrived. We lived outside in warm clothes for almost all the time she was here and it was wonderful. What a difference 24 hours can make!

Now that booking has closed I am hoping that all our plans for the High Holydays will bring you a feeling that Belsize is still as we know it, well almost. We have done as much as we can within the Government guidelines (we would all love to do more of our service, but we are not allowed to or cannot because of safety concerns for our two Ministers and of course you too) and have also tried to balance the experience of those in the Synagogue with those watching from home. Please do send me feedback as we move into the services.

As I said in my last email, the Planning Committee has met and we have decided that all Succot Services and Shemini Atzeret in October (Friday 2nd – Sunday 4th and Friday 9th – Saturday 10th ) will be held in the Synagogue and will also be streamed on BelsizeLIVE. Booking details will follow from Lee in due course. Erev Simchat Torah and Simchat Torah will be Zoom services so that you can participate and again more details will follow once the plans are finalised.

This weekend is Jack Loison’s Bar Mitzvah. I am sure that you remember the piece that Caroline wrote about planning for it a few weeks ago. Jack and his family will be in Synagogue, so please do watch on BelsizeLIVE if you are not coming to the service.

Cheder returns this Sunday online and in addition to the regular Sunday morning sessions we continue to offer one-to-one Hebrew lessons on line. If you are interested please contact (but not until after this weekend!). As I said in my email last week, Kikar Kids is also back this Shabbat live in our hall. We really are up and running and I am so proud of all that we are doing!

Eve Hersov our Community Co-ordinator has reminded me that if any of you are looking for help with job hunting then Resource an organisation based in Finchley can help you, by providing expert tailored advice, mentoring, networking and training skills. Have a look at their website at or ring them on 020 8346 4000.

I have not been sent any articles for this week but have seen a wonderful compilation clip of 1950’s artists (Fred Astaire etc) dancing to a modern song. It made me smile and so I wanted to share it with you. Go to YouTube and type in: Old Movie Stars Dance to Uptown Funk.

Still no gardening tips this week. So stay safe and stay well


Chairman’s message 27 August

Dear Friends

This email comes to you a day late as I usually write it on a Wednesday. Yesterday we took the decision to come back early from our one week holiday in Cornwall and so I was on the road all day. We cut the week short having experienced 70mph winds on Tuesday, thanks to Storm Francis and with more rain forecast for the rest of our stay. I have to say that I have never experienced anything like strong winds and standing on a hill, in the storm, was one of the most exhilarating and terrifying moments of this year. Mind you most of the year has been spent indoors, so actually the bar is probably quite low!

Still on the subject of activities I am constantly impressed at the range of sports and thrill seeking activities that Mrs Klopstick undertakes. We hear about them regularly from her husband, Fritz, in News From The Square. Last week both of them were concerned that there will be no “chauffer blasting” at the High Holydays. I would like to reassure them and any of you who were concerned that we have agreed arrangements for the Shofar to be blown. It will occur just outside the Synagogue in the open air but will be clearly heard by all those in the Synagogue or on BelsizeLIVE. I am so impressed with all Mrs Klopstick’s activities that I would like to invite her onto our Planning Committee, so that we can harness her ideas. Perhaps Fritz could pass this on?

Please remember that booking for the High Holydays closes on Monday so if you would like to come but haven’t emailed yet please do so. For those of you who do want to attend you will hear from Lee by Friday 4 September.

The Planning Committee met again this week and we have now agreed that we will be able to have a small choir in our Friday evening services as well as Shabbat morning. The first service will be Friday 4 September. Another step forward! Plans are almost complete for Succot and the following Festivals and I will write again about those next week.

I am also delighted to say that Kikar Kids is coming back to Belsize Square from 5 September onwards, once a month. We think we are the first community to find a covid secure way of putting on a children’s service. Kikar will still start at 11am but will now be in the hall. As with the main service everyone will have their temperature taken when they arrive and all adults will need to wear masks. Families will sit inside a personalised square. It will be different and yet very special for young people and their families to be together again – even if in a socially distanced way! All bookings will be through the office – if you have any questions please send them to Lee or Richard Pollins.

I have been sent information on a JW3 evening ,which might interest you. The event takes place on line on Thursday 10 September from 8pm.The host for the evening will be Tracy Ann Oberman featuring the following guests; Boy George, Stephen Fry, Simon Callow, Shappi Khorsandi, Jim Carter & Imelda Staunton, Mark Ronson, Jason Isaacs, G4 and others. Visit the JW3 website and look for the “JW3’s Big Night In” page to watch the show on the night, when it will stream live. They are asking for voluntary donations.

That is all from me but I wanted to thank everyone who has written to me about their troubles with their bin collections. I am about to go outside to see if the bin was collected this week. There are no gardening tips this week but please do read the piece below by Sonny MacDonald who was the joint 1st place winner of the Cheder Writing Competition.

Stay safe and stay well


Lock down by Sonny MacDonald

This year’s Passover was different. We weren’t going to our grandparents and seeing our cousins and eating the incredibly tasty dishes that my Grandma makes, or reading and singing altogether. Oh no – This year we were going to do it in a whole unique, new and exciting way.

It all started when we started the Zoom call. One by one, our family popped onto the screen. We were all fancily dressed up while our cousins wore casual jeans and colourful jumpsuits. Laid before the screen were plates of cinnamon balls, coconut pyramids, fruit, savoury dishes too. But standing majestically in all their glory were the two silver, detailed candles, like the King and Queen. We lit them and said the prayers, then opened the books. Images of Hebrew letters peered up at us, hopefully, as if begging to be read. Pictures of Moses and Israelites were also there.

After a few more pages, we came to the Seder plate. We ate the boiled egg in salt water, the parsley, the maror or bitter herb. It made my eyes water like a stream! We then ate the matzah with charoset which represents the cement the slaves used to build pyramids. Then we sat down and sang a song which was very funny as it kept going out of rhythm.

Then we focused on the plagues. We each had a mask to show the plague we represented. Now, my cousins are extremely energetic and sitting around must’ve felt like agony or holding up Mount Everest. So, the small one, Frankie, who is fabulous but frantic and funny, started running around my aunt and uncle’s dining room. What complete chaos and a total hullaballoo! This made my Grandpa furious, which made everyone else laugh. Then she mixed up the songs with random words which was even more humorous.

In the end, we were all contented, virtuous and cheerful. I never thought it would turn out to be so distinctive and fun. I just hope next year is better!

Sonny Macdonald

Chairman’s message 19 August

Dear Friends,

Since you received my email last Wednesday I have been arguing with the Council about the failed weekly collection of my brown food-waste bin. Every day on phoning the Council Complaints Section, we were given answers that varied from “it will be collected tomorrow” to “you didn’t leave it in the right place” (no, the place hasn’t moved from where you have picked it up for the last few years) to “you have rung too early in the day for us to do anything”. On Monday we were told that we would have to wait for the usual collection day this week, which is Thursday, and it definitely wouldn’t be collected before then. This, of course, meant it was collected yesterday, Tuesday!!

I cannot begin to describe the sense of powerlessness that this brought on and frustration with the system that wouldn’t do anything to help me. All this even though I know it is only a bin and in the scheme of things not at all important. However, the experience has made me want to reach out to those of you in our congregation who were due to take GCSE and A levels this year and who are now caught up in the Grades debacle. You must be feeling so many emotions and I just want you to know that as a community we are proud of everything that you achieve. I (we) hope that when this is over you have been given the grades that you deserve and that you can move on to whatever you want to do next. As you move on to new things, stay in touch with us, send us your news.

I hope that you have all received the booking information for the High Holydays that Lee sent out and that you are replying to Adam if you want to attend. I write with some good news. The Government has relaxed the restrictions on Choirs and so from Shabbat 5 September we will bring back a quartet for the Shabbat morning services. There will still be no choir on Friday evening. We have two Bnei Mitzvah Services on 5 and 12 September, so this is really good news.

We will also be able to have a live service with the choir and Cantor Heller on Selichot. In order to achieve this and to make it a good experience to watch on BelsizeLIVE, they will be on the Bimah with screens in front of them. To comply with the government guidelines on social distancing, we will not be able to open the Synagogue to the community that evening. Please plan to watch on BelsizeLIVE and don’t forget that before the service Rabbi Altshuler will be holding a Zoom Shiur. Please look out for further publicity.

During Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur we also plan to have the choir present, although it will be smaller than usual, due to the need for social distancing. As I said, this is good news.

You may be interested to know that Friday 14 August was exactly 75 years since “The Boys” arrived in Windermere from the Camps. Individuals from our congregation were among them, namely Koppel Kendall, David Herman and Jan Goldberger. As well as Victor Greenberg – father of our member Alan Greenberg, and Zigi Shipper both of whom have spoken at events at the Synagogue.

I have been told that Limmud are organising an online tour of Britain. The tour will take place online on Tuesday evenings, from 7:30pm-10:00pm, 8 & 15 September and 20 & 27 October. Sessions will explore regional Jewish communities and history, as well as the usual Limmud mix of topics of national and global interest. Tickets are £5 an evening or with a10% discount if you book all four evenings. Go to: to book.

I have not been sent any more articles from members to publish but I am including below a piece from Ellen Polonsky who won joint first place in the Synagogue Cheder writing competition last term. The other first place piece by Sonny Macdonald will follow next week. There are no gardening tips this week but they will be back in September when there is more to do in the garden

Stay safe and stay well

Lock down – Day 730 6am by Ellen Polonsky

In the morning it’s time for the world to wake up. Not in Lockdown. You can either sleep in till 10am or wake up at 4am, getting ready for a day of gaming. This family doesn’t do either. Their parents make them get up at 8am and put on their school clothes and do all their work at the right times.

After school is finished, they have to do some homework their parents set them. This family is called the Browns. Family members: George Brown (Dad), Emily Brown (Mum), Jack Brown (older brother) and Ella Brown (younger sister). The second the work is set, they print it out. The children have a set schedule and if they are even one second late, it’s detention for them. This is because their parents used to be teachers; that’s where they met but, a week later, they were fired after being so horrible to the kids.

After a year of dating, they got married, and had Jack and Ella. The parents thought it was paradise, while the kids thought they were being tortured. “Mum … 5 more minutes sleep, please…” said Jack and Ella in bed in the morning.

“NO! YOU’RE LATE! DETENTION!” said their Mum. Jack and Ella had already fallen back asleep. “UP! Double detention!” shouted their Mum. Then they quickly jumped up, got dressed and stood in front of their Mum.

“Good! Now into the detention room we go!” as their Mum pushed them into the living room. “For how long?” asked Ella. “Half an hour!” replied their Dad. The kids groaned. So, the kids sat down. They couldn’t sleep because there were cameras everywhere so their parents could watch their every move. But they were smart and covered up the cameras with a scarf. In a second they fell asleep but then, when some footsteps woke them up, they quickly took off the scarf and sat quietly.

When they were getting into bed, Ella had an idea! They could challenge their parents to a role swap when the parents would be kids for a day and the children would be parents! So, when the sun rose up, at 8am sharp they went downstairs and Ella told their parents the idea. They obviously said “Yes”, after all, they love challenges!

So, the next day, they got up and went to wake up their Mum and Dad. But, when they came in expecting them to be dressed and ready for a day of learning, they were just sleeping. So, they woke them up but they just groaned and started playing on their game console. “WHAT ARE YOU DOING YOUNG MAN?!” said Jack. “It’s the weekend.” Said his Dad. The boot was on the other foot now! So, Ella and Jack spent the rest of the day either sleeping or watching a movie.

Chairman’s message 12 August

Dear Friends

Now that we have our Shabbat services running in the Synagogue I wanted to let you know about the plans for the High Holydays. I have been working with the Planning Group since April and I want to thank everyone (and their own teams) for their hard work and inspirational ideas. What we have achieved is a result of teamwork, creative thinking and commitment to the Synagogue. It is an honour and privilege to Chair these meetings.

For those of you who are planning to watch on BelsizeLIVE, we will be streaming all the services below as usual. If we are in lockdown or for some reason unable to hold a particular live service, then with the help of Cantor Heller we have spent the summer ensuring that we have recorded services which we can stream. These will be archived services into which Cantor Heller has added members who are leyning/chanting Haftarah and Rabbi Altshuler’s sermons.

For the live services we are now recording the choir and we hope to be able to use this, so that the services become more of what we are used to. When we do, the Choir will, of course, be on the streamed service as well.

This is what we are planning for you:

  • Selichot – Saturday 12 September: as this is a choral service with no sermon, we will be streaming an archived service. The Synagogue will not open. Before the service Rabbi Altshuler will hold a Shiur on Zoom
  • Erev 1st and 2nd day Rosh Hashanah – Friday 18 and Saturday 19 September: these services will be held in the Synagogue and streamed on BelsizeLIVE
  • 1st and 2nd day Rosh Hashanah – Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 September: these services will also be in the Synagogue and streamed on BelsizeLIVE
  • Kol Nidrei – Sunday 27 September: once again this will be a service in the Synagogue and streamed on BelsizeLIVE
  • Yom Kippur – Monday 28 September : in order to enable as many people as possible to attend on Yom Kippur we are dividing the day into three distinct parts, the idea being that we will be able to have three separate congregations attending, all socially distanced of course and quite small in number. As always, we will stream the day on BelsizeLIVE. Once everyone has left the building the Synagogue will be deep cleaned between each part of the service, so there will be a minimum of an hour and a quarter break in between each section. To make this possible Rabbi Altshuler and Cantor Heller have worked to take out some of the service to create the necessary cleaning gaps. We are dividing the day as follows:
    • 9.30-13.30: Shacharit & Mussaf
    • 14.45-16.15: Mincha – this year we will have young people taking the service as usual but will not be able to have the youth choir due to the current restrictions. However, we are recording the choir parts with the adult choir.
    • 17.30-19.30: Yizkor & Neilah. The fast ends at 19.32.

Lee will be writing to all of you next week with fuller details and information on how to book. If you come to Synagogue we will ask you to stay for the whole of your allocated service.

For those of you watching on BelsizeLIVE we hope to stream something in the breaks between the sections, we are still working on this.

Youth Services on 1st day Rosh Hashanah (starting at 11am) and Yom Kippur (starting at 11.30am) will be held on Zoom this year. They will be the same as if we would be holding them in the Synagogue Hall but without the choir parts, with shortened Torah portions and the Haftorah in English only. Next year we plan to be back in person and with our usual service in Hebrew and English and with the youth choir, but this year is an exception. Jeannie Cohen has kindly created a prayer book which we will put up on the screen during the Zoom services.

There will also be a Zoom service on 2nd day Rosh Hashanah at 11am which will be very special as it will be a teaching/fun service with a Kahoots quiz at various intervals during the service and asking questions that are appropriate to the prayers being read or the Torah and Haftorah portions. We will send out more information about this but……there will be prizes given out !

There will be live participation via Zoom on all days.

Kikar Kids:

  • 1st day Rosh Hashanah – Saturday 19 September: we will be holding our Kikar Kids on Zoom at 10am.
  • 2nd day Rosh Hashanah at 10am – Sunday 20 September: we will be holding our Kikar Kids on Zoom.
  • Yom Kippur – Monday 28 October : we will be holding our Kikar Kids on Zoom at 10:30am.

As these are on Zoom you will be able to participate.

Youth Activities on Yom Kippur
Our Head of Cheder and Youth, Caroline Loison, is in the process of planning a program of youth activities to run throughout the day on Yom Kippur via Zoom. Of course, she is making sure these don’t clash with the Youth or Kikar Kids services and a more detailed timetable will be provided nearer the time. At the moment Caroline is looking at offering four sessions split by age group (4-7s, 7-9s, 9-11s and 11-13s) and these will cover a wide variety of Yom Kippur appropriate topics/themes for help keep our young people focused on this special day and some of the ideas behind it.

Last week, I asked for people who are younger than me to send in some pieces to add on to this email. Caroline Loison has sent me a wonderful piece about arranging a Bar Mitzvah in Lockdown. Please scroll down below the gardening tips to read it. I haven’t had many replies, so if anyone of you would like to send me something, please do. I think it would be wonderful to be able to publish our experiences, whatever our age and circumstances.

That is all from me for this week. 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
In the words of Nat King Cole: “Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summerThose days of soda and pretzels and beer….”

There is not a lot that needs doing in a flower garden at the moment except clearing off dried leaves that have blown in, watering, deadheading and the occasional sprinkling of slug pellets.

So….enjoy the fine weather and take pleasure in the fruits of your labours!

Tales of a Jewish Mother from Caroline Loison

So my eldest son’s Bar Mitzvah is on 5th September. Such an exciting time and occasion for him, us and all our family and friends but an especially exciting time for me, his Jewish mother. I mean, I know that he will be the focus of everything on the day and that is absolutely the way it should be. And my husband and I (not forgetting his grandparents, uncle, aunts and great aunts etc), will be schlepping nuchas the whole day which is also the way it should be. But, as the Jewish mother, it’s me that gets to book the venue. Me that gets to book the caterer. Me that gets to book the entertainment. Me that gets to arrange the decorations. It’s a Jewish mother’s dream – I am in control of everything, just as I like to be! The Excel spreadsheet was designed and in place ages ago and I remember looking at the calendar in January and thinking how far away the Bar Mitzvah seemed and wondering when I needed to start doing a bit more planning. I hadn’t really planned that much for it at that point. Well, I had obviously booked the venue. And I had booked the food. And I’d booked the DJ. And I’d chosen the balloons. And I’d also reserved the present post box. And I’d designed the Logo. And I’d chosen the colour scheme. Actually, it sounds like I had done quite a bit of booking but, believe me, these days you can go completely “Meshugas” with accessories for your Bar Mitzvah. You can have doughnut walls, hot dog trolleys, ice cream factories, giant table football games, perfume bars, henna tattoos, photo booths or mirrors… The list is endless and can be quite overwhelming. Yes, even for an excited (and organised) Jewish mother like me! Anyway, I was just days away from making a few more phone calls… Peer pressure in the form of my best friend had dictated that I absolutely, definitely, no doubt about it, had to have a photo booth. And then Covid-19 hit. Schools were about to close. The country was about to go into Lockdown. Jewish mothers all over the world were desperately worried that their big “baby” boy or girl might not get their moment. I wasn’t worried. J’s Bar Mitzvah was in September. We wouldn’t be in Lockdown then. It would be fine. The Shul would be open again. Covid-19 would be a distant memory. My son would definitely get his moment. Of course he would. But then again, maybe he might not. In fact, it became apparent quite quickly that this would not be over by September. A lot of thinking and discussions took place between my husband and I. What should we do? Should we ask J what he wants to do? Should we make some phone calls to the people we have booked? Should we be praying for some sort of miracle to occur so that this horrid plague suddenly vanishes? Or should we just go ahead and cancel? In the end, we spoke to J and all agreed that cancelling the party would be the best thing this time and we would try to rebook a party for him at a later date. We hoped that the religious side of the Bar Mitzvah would still be able to go ahead given the recent easing of restrictions and the Synagogue’s plans to open up again. Maybe that would be our miracle?!?! I looked at my spreadsheet and made the phone calls again, this time starting each conversation with, “I’m sure I’m not the first person to call you to have to cancel because of Corona?” and everyone I spoke to replied in the same way – “No, it’s such a shame but I totally understand”. Sympathies exchanged, we then moved on to discussions about deposits being kept for the new date (August 2021 PG) and if the DJ or Post Box or caterer etc. would still be available then. Luckily everyone I called was free so everything booked was quickly rebooked. So, at the moment, we are waiting to see what happens about a second wave and if it’s on its way or not. And my Jewish mother self can relax again. Because August 2021 is ages away. Once again, there’s loads of time for me to redesign the spreadsheet, improve the logo, check the main course side dishes shouldn’t be changed, create the Israeli music playlist for the DJ… ?!?! Actually, maybe I should start the planning a bit earlier??? I might make a phone call or two next week… Just enquiring, of course! I will keep you posted on my plans, as long as you promise not to share them with J – I want them to be a surprise my son, the Bar Mitzvah boy.

Chairman’s message 5 August

Dear Friends

I usually start this email with something that has happened to me during the week. Well, this week I have had some feedback on these emails, which has made me think about them. Some young parents have said that whilst what I write is relevant to everyone, my weekly experiences do not “speak” specifically to them. Of course they are right, I don’t have young children or teenagers and can only imagine what the last few months must have been like. So, I am specifically asking younger members of the Community if you would please volunteer to send me pieces about your experiences up to now (or current as we move forward) that you would be happy to share. Whether you are a parent, single, teenager, University student, in a new job, job hunting or school age and would like something included please send it in. Nothing will be too small (just a few sentences will do) or too long (no dissertations please). I already have two volunteers, so you won’t be alone. So to those who sent in the feedback (you know who you are), thank you!

As you know we held the two trial services last weekend and have made a few changes as a result. Thank you so much to the volunteers who came and gave us feedback. I also want to thank Justyn Trenner and Carole Cohen who have been designing and testing our Security arrangements to make sure that we are both physically and Covid-19 secure. One of the things that I have consistently heard is that it is difficult for people to be in Synagogue without the choir singing. As you know we are bound by the Government guidelines that do not permit singing by a choir or by any member of the congregation. We are trying to see if we can record the choir in the empty Synagogue (this is permitted) and then add the recording into our live services. I will let you know how it goes but in the meantime please be understanding of our service limitations, they have been imposed upon us for our own safety.

By now you should have received Lee’s email on booking arrangements. If for any reason the email has not arrived please do contact him on We are also posting this information to members who are not on email.

This evening Wednesday 5 August at 8pm, Allan Morgenthau will be interviewing James Harding on Zoom. James Harding began his career as a journalist at the Financial Times in 1994 and two years later opened the paper’s Shanghai bureau where he covered the opening up of the Chinese financial markets, remaining there until 1999. In 2007, he moved on to the Times where, at 38, he became its youngest ever editor as well as first ever Jewish editor. He was ousted by owner Rupert Murdoch five years later and moved on to the BBC as director of news and current affairs. James argues that the demand for breaking news has led to “headline addiction” which is why he co-founded Tortoise Media of which he is also editor. Tortoise is a subscription service offering ‘slow news’ from award winning journalists. Allan is a member of our Synagogue and James grew up in it. If you would like to hear the interview please contact Adam on for log in details.

Our member Peter Summerfield BEM has published an interesting article “The Saga of the Useless Keys” on the Sussex University website. You can find it at
You may also like to know that Jewish Book Week have a number of recordings of events and talks accessible free from their website at

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


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:

  • Just because we had some torrential rainfall last week, followed by a short heatwave, doesn’t mean your pots and hanging baskets had enough water. Check them daily and water them daily if necessary. Give them a liquid feed every week.
  • Keep rhododendrons and camelias well-watered, especially those in pots, throughout August as they require moisture now to produce flower buds for next year.
  • Continue to deadhead roses and summer annuals plus perennials such as penstemons to extend their flowering season.
  • Wisteria continue to put out long wispy shoots that need to be cut back to five or six leaves to encourage flowering next spring.

You couldn’t make it up….Keith Weed, the son of Mr Weed and Miss Hedge, has just been elected President of the Royal Horticultural Society! The product of a match made on Gardeners’ World? This may be the only weed to welcome into your garden this year! The mother of my school friend was Olive Bush! I’d love to hear of other fun names… me via Adam in the office.

Chairman’s message 29 July

Dear Friends

Another week has gone by and I am writing to you again. I am feeling very positive as I have finally had my hair done for the first time since Lockdown began. It is so silly that a haircut (and I have to admit colour as well) can make me feel so much better, but it does. I sat in the hairdressers thinking about how much we have all adapted to first of all the isolation, and now the uncertainty, and realised that there are a few things that I cannot change or adapt. Sewing – I couldn’t do this before lockdown and still can’t. Singing – I am still out of tune. Walking backwards – I still fall over. Cooked vegetables that aren’t soggy – an impossibility for me, as hard as I try. And yet, in the overall scheme of things these are not too important. What is important (at least to me) is family, friends, our community (you) and our Synagogue.

We are making progress in reopening and we are adapting to our new Synagogue “normal”. Last Friday night Rabbi Altshuler was in our Synagogue in person and on behalf of us all, I can say that we are all delighted to see him and Cantor Heller on the Bimah together. We know that we did not get the sound quite right and we are working hard on that for this coming Shabbat. The Synagogue was empty except for Ben Wolf, who was playing the organ, so Cantor Heller could still turn around for parts of the service. He will not be able to do that once there is a congregation in the Synagogue.

This coming Shabbat we will have our last rehearsal services and both Friday night and Saturday morning services will be transmitted on BelsizeLIVE. We will not be broadcasting an archived service on Shabbat morning, just the live one. We have a very small number of volunteers who will be attending so that we can practice how our security and exit arrangements work. It is possible that we may have to stop or slow down a part of the service or that you may see someone walk in front of the Bimah, these are all the things that we want to iron out. If you watch either or both services and have any feedback please do send it to me.

Please do not decide to just turn up this weekend, we will not be able to let you in. If everything goes well, you will be able to book in for services starting with Friday 7 August. Lee will be sending you an email on Monday and if you would like to attend, then please do watch out for it. We will still be transmitting on BelsizeLIVE for all of you who prefer to stay at home.

I have been in regular contact with Rabbi Mariner during this period and spoke to him today. He is not going out to Synagogue at the moment but sends his very best wishes to everyone.

I have already mentioned that the office has Siddurim which you can buy. We have books for Shabbat; the Festivals; Rosh Hashanah; Yom Kippur or you can buy a set. If you are interested please contact Adam Rynhold:

Last Sunday about 20 people joined Cantor Heller at Pound Lane Cemetery for our annual Tisha B’Av Memorial Service . It was entirely outdoors as the Prayer Hall is still closed and as always I found it very moving. We stood around the Holocaust Memorial for the service and I am attaching an old photo of it below. I did not take my camera with me but it has now been cleaned and restored and I want to thank Steven Bruck for working tirelessly to make that happen.

Holocaust Memorial

Tonight is our Zoom Tisha B’Av Programme and Service starting at 8:00pm with a Study Session with Rabbi Altshuler. This will be followed by a Ma’ariv (evening) service, Kinnot and Eichah (the book of Lamentations), led by the Cantor Heller, Chazan Stephen Cotsen and Rabbi Jeremy Gordon, both of New London Synagogue, with members of both congregations joining in. Adam Rynhold has already sent out an email with Zoom details on it. If you need it again please contact him:

That is all from me, everyone is busier as lockdown eases so I have not been sent any information on activities. Please do send me anything that you hear about.

As always please stay well and stay safe


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

  • It is just the right time to divide Bearded Irises if the clumps have become congested. It’s a slightly tricky procedure but detailed advice is available on the RHS website at
  • Dahlias need staking and the growing tips pinched out when they reach knee height to encourage bigger flowers.
  • Collect seeds to plant for next spring from Aquilegias and Poppies as they ripen. Keep them in a sterile and airtight container in a cool place or refrigerator.
  • Keep Agapanthus well-watered and fed now to encourage flowers next year.
  • Feed Dahlias and Roses.
  • Spray Box again to protect against the fatal caterpillars.


Chairman’s message 22 July

Dear Friends

Today, 22 July, is the 1st of Av, the first of nine days leading up to Tisha B’Av the annual Fast Day which mourns the destruction of the Temple. During this period we all remember some of the terrible things that have befallen the Jewish people, for instance 22 July marks the first day of the Great Deportation of Jewish people from the Warsaw Ghetto to Treblinka. However, I do not want to write an email to you that is solemn, although it would be fitting for this period. So I bring you some interesting Jewish facts about the 22 July and 1st Av.

  • Aaron passed away at age 123 on the 1st of Av in the year 2487, about 1274 BCE. This is the only time that the Torah mentions the exact date of a yahrzeit (Numbers/Bamidbar 33:38)
  • Emma Lazarus was born on 22 July 1849 into a wealthy New York family that was descended from Sephardic Jewish Americans. Her poem “The New Colossus” was chosen to be displayed on the base of the Statue of Liberty. It features the famous lines “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
  • On 22 July 1598 William Shakespeare’s play, The Merchant of Venice, was entered on the Stationers’ Register. By decree of Queen Elizabeth I, the Stationers’ Register licensed printed works, giving the Crown tight control over all published material. (Yes, I know I am stretching this as a Jewish fact but it is the subject of the play!)
  • Lastly, not a Jewish fact, but very sweet, 22 July is Prince George’s birthday. He was born in 2013.

On the subject of younger people, Caroline Loison, Frank Joseph, Lee Taylor and I have also been working on when Cheder should physically reopen. The following plan has been approved and parents have been written to, but I thought you would be interested too. We considered re-opening Cheder “Live” at the Synagogue at the start of September. However, it would only have been possible to have three Sunday morning sessions at the Synagogue – 6th and 13th September and 18th October. The other Sundays clash with festivals. So instead of a rather disjointed start to “Live” Cheder, we have opted to delay the return to synagogue until November after half term and focus on the festivals. The timetable for the first half of term looks like this:
Sunday 6 September 2020 – Welcome to BSS Cheder Online
Sunday 13 September 2020 – Rosh Hashanah @ BSS Cheder Online
Sunday 20 September 2020 – 2nd day of Rosh Hashanah – NO CHEDER
Sunday 27 September 2020 – Kol Nidre – Yom Kippur @ BSS Cheder Online
Sunday 4 October 2020 – 2nd day of Succot – Succot @ BSS Cheder Online
Sunday 11 October 2020 – Simchat Torah – Simchat Torah @ BSS Cheder Online
Sunday 18 October 2020 – BSS Cheder Online
Sunday 25 October 2020 – Half-term – NO CHEDER
Sunday 1 November 2020 – Half-term – NO CHEDER

Online 1-2-1 Hebrew sessions will also continue in the first half the Autumn Term.

I want to express an enormous thank you to Caroline Loison, for all her hard work and Cheder leadership, it is much appreciated.

For the High Holydays we will be holding Youth Services on Zoom on Rosh Hashanah (led by Dilys Tausz and her team) and Kikar Kids (led by Richard Pollins). The Planning Group are also working on the design of Zoom services for younger people on Simchat Torah. Caroline, who as well as leading Cheder leads our Youth activities, is planning an informal programme that will run on Zoom during Yom Kippur. There will be short activities for anyone in the age range 4-13. Of course this will be in addition to our Youth Service. More information on all of this will follow in a few weeks.

You will shortly receive booking details for the August Shabbat services from Lee. I want to let you know that if you come by car, you will be able to book a place (subject to capacity) in our car park. You may need to wait in your car shortly before you can come into the Synagogue, as social distancing rules apply there too. Full information will be in Lee’s email.

The Planning Group have now agreed the lay out of the Bimah for Shabbat services, with Perspex screen protection for both Rabbi Altshuler and Cantor Heller. Neither will enter into each other’s space to make sure that they stay socially distanced and safe. We have also set up the Perspex screens along the front of the upstairs seating. Here are some pictures of how these will look.


Can I remind you that this coming Sunday is the Tisha B’Av Annual Memorial Service of the Chevra Kadisha at Pound Lane Cemetery. If you are planning to come, then please remember that it will all be outside and socially distanced. Please wear a mask and bring a folding chair if you would like to sit down. We will be handing out a booklet with the service in it, so you may want to wear gloves too but that is your decision. There will be no toilet facilities available.

I have been asked to let you know that there will be a Zoom “Limmud Together” taking place on 2 August 2020. The last one was very informative and fun. If you are interested and would like to sign up then please go to

Eve Hersov, our Community Care Co-ordinator has drawn my attention to Paperweight who continue to deliver amazing help to individuals. Paperweight offers guidance to those struggling with financial hardship particularly at the moment due to the COVID crisis. They help to manage credit card and other debts and to navigate the welfare and benefits systems. Their services include:
Financial support – managing debts, bills and budget planning. They can intervene with creditors to negotiate time to pay.
Welfare & benefits – to which benefits is someone entitled, and help is on hand to complete complex application forms.
Legal issues – support with family law (divorce and child custody) or civil law (home repossession or debt) processes.
Paperweight also releases regular Covid bulletins providing up to date information on all the latest government guidelines. You can find them at

Finally, a reminder that The Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR) are surveying in particular how Jews in the UK have been affected by COVID-19. Their aim is to gather valuable insights into how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted on health, employment, social relationships and Jewish lives. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO TAKE PART

That is all from me this week, but if you have any events or information that you would like me to include then please do send the details to me. 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

  • Watch out for suckers, particularly from rose bushes and standard roses, and tear them off at their base.
  • Seedlings of trees and weeds can be easily pulled up.
  • Keep climbers under control.
  • Don’t forget the slug pellets and water the pots and hanging baskets.
  • Continue deadheading perennials and bedding plants (just pinch off the faded flowers, or cut off if the stems are a bit tougher) – something that can done every couple of days as you walk around and take pleasure in seeing what plants are flourishing.

Chairman’s message 15 July

Dear Friends,

I have written before about the difficulty that I have in deciding what to do when coming out of lockdown. I am returning to that, as I find myself bombarded with contradictory advice from the Government, well-meaning friends, newspaper articles, Zoom discussions and social media. Every time I think that I have made a decision, I find that I am questioning myself because of the latest thing that I have read or heard. At the start of lockdown I was anxious about where was I going to get food from, then it was how am I going to stay reasonably fit without going out, now it is simply what is it safe to do? In the end I think that we all have to make our own decision based on our level of tolerance for risk taking, our age, our health, and the information that we have on safety. I am sad because we have just cancelled our annual family trip to Spain, with our Gibraltar family, as we have decided that we do not want to risk flying. We have not physically seen our daughter, son-in-law and four grandchildren since February, thank goodness for technology that allows us to speak every day.

Your personal decision-making is very important, as I am writing to tell you about the plans to open the Synagogue. I know that some of you will be desperate to come to a service and others would not want to come at all. The working group including Rabbi Altshuler and Cantor Heller, the Executive and the Board have developed the plans and we have put your safety and the safety of our Minsters at the heart of what we are planning. The services will be different from what you are used to as a result of working within the Government Guidelines. We have done a detailed analysis of all the Guidelines. I want to draw your attention to a few key points:

  • You have already seen the pictures of the limited numbers who can come to Synagogue with social distancing. We are introducing a booking system for Shabbat services and Lee will be writing to you about this shortly. The system will include a waiting list, so if you cannot attend a service having booked in, it is very important that you contact the office to let them know.  No-one will be allowed into the Synagogue if they are not on the pre-booked list.
  • Unlike some Synagogues, we are not banning any age groups from attending but leave it up to individuals to make their own decisions. 
  • There will be a strict one-way system for entry and exit in the Synagogue. You will have your temperature taken on the way in and if you have a temperature you will not be allowed in.
  • Current Guidelines forbid singing (so no Choir, just the organ) except by one Minister to lead the service (Cantor Heller). The guideline is that the singer should sing behind a Perspex screen to protect the congregation. To avoid this we have agreed that the Cantor will sing facing the ark at all times.
  • As a consequence of this, the ark will remain closed on Shabbat morning, no Torah will be taken out and all readings will be from a Chumash. Current Guidelines forbid chanting so everything will be spoken.
  • You will have allocated seating and will have to wear masks in Synagogue. Sadly, the current Guidelines do not allow you to sing or chant. You will need to bring your own Siddur and Tallit. If you need to buy a Siddur we have them and Lee will write about that.
  • There will be no call-ups. One warden only will be present to assist with decorum.
  • We are separating the Bimah into two areas, one for Cantor Heller and one for Rabbi Altshuler so they will not walk into each other’s space and will be able to avoid any airborne particles. 
  • We have developed a strict cleaning regime to keep you safe. The synagogue will be fully cleaned between the Friday evening and Shabbat morning services.

Having said all that, we are running a few rehearsals to check that everything we have planned will work both in terms of security and service format and plan to be open from Friday 7 August onwards.

We are continuing to work on the High Holydays and I will write about those in a few weeks.

On the question of Services I gave you the wrong date for Tisha B’Av Annual Memorial Service of the Chevra Kadisha at Pound Lane Cemetery. It will be on Sunday 26th July at 11.30m. Please make a note and I am sorry for any confusion. No booking needed.

You will have seen in News from the Square that the weekly Sunday Morning Adult Discussion Group is taking a break from its normal class and guest speaker formula, but will meet for discussion, debate and an open forum. Rabbi Altshuler will join the group on Sunday mornings at 10.00am and this is a new venture for us as usually the Group breaks over the summer. I want to thank Rabbi Altshuler and Claire Walford for all their enthusiasm and work with this group.

I have news of an event this Sunday 19 July at 7pm. The online Jewish Academy has invited Maxim Vengerov to be a guest speaker on Zoom. Our member Allan Morgenthau will be interviewing him. If you would like to see this interview then please contact Adam Rynhold on for the Zoom joining details.

The Jaffa Institute are running a series of Webinars about the Institute. This evening, Wednesday 15 July and next Wednesday, both are at 9pm. If you wish to attend please RSVP on this link:

The London based Institute for Jewish Policy Research have a number of interesting articles and projects. The Institute have launched a UK-wide survey designed to investigate how Jews have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The survey invites all Jews based in the UK and aged 16 or over to answer a series of questions about the pandemic’s impact on their physical and mental health, as well as their employment, finances, social relationships and Jewish lives. The goal is to generate data that can be utilised to help inform public policy, both within the Jewish community and at a national level, to help the community to steer its way through this crisis. If you would like to know more please go to their website on

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


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

Now we are into summer proper there is little to do in the garden other than deadheading, watering and keeping slugs at bay. However, Dahlias do need some attention. New shoots that emerge may need thinning. Select out spindly growth giving it a sharp pull to break it off at the ground. You should be left with a maximum of 7-10 sturdy stems per plant. If you’re growing giant flowered dahlias, limit the number of stems to 3-5 per plant so you get fewer, but bigger blooms. When dahlia stems get to around knee height pinch out the growing point at a pair of leaves to get branching at this point. Once flower buds appear, if you’re growing for giant flowers or for cut flowers, nip out the smaller buds behind the central larger bud for better quality flowers. This isn’t so important if you are growing dahlias for the border or as bedding.