Category: Chairman’s message

Chairman’s message 24 February

Dear Friends

This week I have been smiling about the Weetabix PR campaign. You may have read that Weetabix posted a tweet showing two of their cereals smothered in baked beans with the caption: “Why should bread have all the fun when there’s Weetabix?”

It is the replies that have made me smile, even in a pandemic humour shines through from unexpected places and can lift our spirits. Here are my favourites:

  • Sussex Police said “nothing warrants this”
  • The Royal National Lifeboat Institute said “our volunteers are prepared to brave all sorts of windy conditions. But not this”.
  • Sainsbury’s told Weetabix that “Beans have no authority here, no authority AT ALL” (referencing Jackie Weaver and the parish council meeting of course!)
  • The US Embassy tweeted that the pairing was not the US-UK “collaboration we were hoping for”. To which the British Embassy responded with: “Strong opinion from the nation that makes tea in a microwave.”
  • Israel used its official account to say: “Finally something that all Middle Eastern countries can agree on. Just no.”

Turning to the Synagogue, we are looking at when we can reopen as the national vaccination programme starts to have a real impact. There is very little guidance that has been produced so far but we expect to have more news for you over the coming weeks. We also have a problem with our sound system in the synagogue, which we hope to have repaired ahead of returning. In the meantime our Shabbat services continue on BelsizeLIVE and as I have said for the last few weeks please do join us for Purim tomorrow at 7pm. (To tempt you, I understand that we may hear some jokes from Rabbi Altshuler so come and listen in person).

Another synagogue event for your diary was recently announced and if you didn’t see it, on Sunday 7 March at 7pm, Music at Belsize is very excited to bring you the Pizmon a cappella group, from the USA to your home! Pizmon is the co-ed pluralistic Jewish a cappella group of Columbia University, Barnard College, and the Jewish Theological Seminary. There is no charge for this event but Pizmon will include a payment link at the end of the concert for anyone who wishes to support them. If you are interested you can join on Zoom.

Following on from Rabbi Altshuler’s announcement last week, I am happy to tell you that Rabbi Botnick and his family are now living in the UK. There will be an article in the next Our Cong telling you more about them, so do read it when it comes out. In the meantime, Rabbi Botnick is taking this time to settle into UK life and I would ask you to please give him some space to do this. He will start with us after Pesach and although I am in contact with him regularly, I would ask that for now please do not contact him directly to ask him any questions. If you have anything you feel needs answering immediately, then please come to me by email or phone. As keen as we all are to welcome him, we need to be respectful of his personal life at this time.  

Lastly, this Shabbat is the start of Jewish Book Week and its Festival, if you are interested in finding out more about the programme it can be found on

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


Chairman’s message 17 February

Dear Friends,

The weather is getting warmer and some of us are vaccinated and the schools may go back, so all in all things are improving. I came across an article last week written by three individuals who work for Potential Projects: Rasmus Hougaard, Jacqueline Carter and Nick Hobson and it starts “…it feels as if the world we know is faltering… now more than ever it’s imperative to demonstrate compassion.” That made me sit up and think! Here are some points that I took from it that you may find interesting and which I am now trying to put into my day-to-day living:

  • Compassion is the quality of having positive intentions and a real concern for others
  • Compassion on its own is not enough it must be combined with wisdom
  • To have wise compassion you have to have compassion for yourself, don’t let yourself get out of balance, don’t self-criticise all the time
  • Check your intentions before you speak
  • Compassion is a trainable skill, it doesn’t come naturally to everyone
  • Develop a genuine caring for people’s feelings and well-being

Turning to the Synagogue, as you know we are represented on the Board of Deputies by three people. Sadly, both Robert Sacks and Carol Cohen are stepping down from their position as Deputies. Deborah Nerva-Cohen is continuing. It is so important that we have a voice in this forum and can raise key issues that concern us. Please can I ask you to contact Lee if you would like to explore what this involves and Deborah or Annette Nathan will be happy to talk to you about the detail. We need your help! In the meantime, can I thank Robert and Carol for all the work that they have done for the Synagogue.

I am so proud to tell you that in spite of lockdown and school disruption, our Holocaust Memorial Day Programme for schools is being delivered virtually and has been very well received. We have already delivered to South Hampstead High School and there are some other schools who would normally attend the Synagogue, who have also asked us to do the same. An enormous thank you goes to Peter Bohm who is the driving force behind this project (never taking a “no we can’t do it” for an answer), to Cantor Heller for spending hours putting together much of the material, to presenters Rob Nothman and Hilary Solomon, and everyone else involved.

Our member, Alisa Jaffa, is in conversation at AJR online on Thursday 4 March from 4-5pm. She will be talking about how her early experiences in Nazi Germany have affected her life and perspective, and what it feels like to give testimony for the AJR Archive. Please use the link below to register for the talk which is free:

World Jewish Relief have a number of online events over the coming months that you might be interested in –

I have had some enquiries about Pesach. More will follow in the next few weeks but we will be holding a Zoom Communal Seder on the second night, Sunday 28 March. Pop this in your diary.

Lastly can I remind you again that it is Purim next week on 25 February at 7.00pm. As I said last week it will be run by the children, with the children and for the children but held virtually. This promises to be a special event so please do plan to join us and send pictures of your fancy dress to Lee (

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


Chairman’s message 10 February

Dear Friends

I love snow!! The current weather, which I know is not welcome by many of you, has lifted my spirits. I love the mountains (yes, I know there aren’t any in London!), I started skiing when I was six, so as soon as I see snow I literally smell the mountain air and imagine that I am gliding down a gentle path to a warm and welcoming lunch. It also makes everything look pretty, the trees are magical and the London grime is hidden. I am easily pleased!

Anyway, that is enough of my musing for this week, I have a few things to tell you. We held our first Shabbat Schmooze Zoom after the service last week and I want to remind you that it is taking place at noon every Saturday after the service. It’s a chance to make kiddush and chat with friends. Claire Walford’s Candle Lighting continues on Friday evenings at 7.45pm, after the Erev Shabbat Service. This is another opportunity to see each other at the end of the week. Two opportunities for you to speak to each other and feel part of our community, please do join in. 

We are hoping to bring you live Shabbat Services on BelsizeLIVE this week with the Rabbi, Cantor and Ben Wolf broadcasting from the Synagogue. Our livestream is in the process of being fixed and in the event it is not ready we will have recorded Services for you to watch instead.

Coming up fast is Purim on 25 February at 7.00pm. This is our usual Purim – run by the children, with the children and for the children but held virtually. We would love parents and grandparents to send us in pictures of your children/grandchildren in fancy dress and/or waving groggers, or munching on hamantaschen. Or you can send us pictures of yourselves doing the same! The best pictures will be put into our magazine, Our Cong, although they will be too late for the upcoming edition. This promises to be a special event so please do plan to join us and send your pictures to Lee (

If you have spare books that you no longer need, Langdon have a book warehouse in Harrow and would welcome donations. They have an amazingly large space filled with shelves of catalogued books, which they sell online. They also supply books to residential care homes and no books go to landfill. The warehouse has Langdon residents working alongside volunteers. To make it even easier for you to donate they will collect books from your homes . Please contact Langdon on 020 8951 3942 and ask for information on New Chapters. It’s not just books – they will also collect CDs, DVDs and records.

Finally, I wanted to let you know that the Kirsh Foundation run weekly free lectures, as the Lockdown University, on a range of fascinating subjects. If you would like to get onto their mailing list please contact Judi Ferreira at

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


Chairman’s message 3 February

Dear Friends

As Holocaust Memorial Day arrived my thoughts inevitably turned to my parents, grandparents and the many great aunts and great uncles that I never met. The various on-line memorial services were very moving to watch but as the week progressed I realised that the current Covid vaccination programme has given me an emotional insight into what they might have experienced. Many of my phone calls with friends currently consist of comparing notes on who has and has not been vaccinated, who has or has not had a second vaccination date given to them, where excess doses might be available for those who just turn up and so on. We spend so much time and energy talking about it and yet we have no influence over it. Just as I started to go down this particularly dark rabbit hole, along came Kosher Kingdom in Golders Green to brighten up my day, make me smile and make me realise how fortunate I am to live here and now. Jewish News published an article to say that Stamford Hill’s leading Chasidic singer Shloime Gertner has recorded a jingle to play in the store, to remind Kosher Kingdom shoppers to follow coronavirus restrictions. Here is the link to the article, scroll down and you can hear the jingle, I hope it makes you smile too –

Anyone who watched our Shabbat Services on BelsizeLIVE would have noticed we had some technical issues. One of the main components that is used to stream the Services is faulty and needs replacing. Unfortunately it won’t be replaced in time for this week’s services so we will be playing a pre-recorded Service to you with the Rabbi recording his sermon and the Torah reading from home. I hope that we will be back live from next week.

I am delighted to be able to announce that from this Shabbat onwards, until regular services resume, we are introducing a Social Zoom that will allow safe, socially distanced, interactive on-line schmoozing. Justyn Trenner has organised this for us and it will take place at 12 noon for about 20 minutes. There will be kiddush and hamotzei followed by a chance to chat to friends. Don’t forget that Clare Walford’s Friday evening Zoom kiddush continues too.

I want to thank Caroline Loison and Frank Joseph for organising a great Zoom Quiz last Sunday, we had so much fun even if we couldn’t work out which flag belonged to which country. If you couldn’t make it, then hopefully you will be able to join us on something else soon.

Coming up this Thursday evening at 8pm is the talk organised by the Tikkun Olam Committee with JAMI on “Getting Through Lockdown”. If you missed the flyer, then please contact Adam Rynhold who can send you the Zoom details. You should also have seen that we are holding our Purim Service virtually this year on Thursday 25 February at 7pm. A date for you to put in your diary.

I have spent some time listening to on-line talks run by the How to Academy, my next one will be to hear Bill Gates talk about how to avoid climate disaster. They have an extensive programme and ticket prices vary but you can go onto their mailing list for free.

That is all from me for now, stay safe and stay well

Chairman’s message 27 January

Dear Friends,

First of all thank you to everyone who took the time to email me last week, to say how much you enjoy my emails and are pleased that they are back. I really do appreciate it and it makes me feel very connected the Community.  

It is almost a year since John and I decided to shield ourselves and I find that is extraordinary as the weeks pass in our lockdown routine. However, I am sure that my week is like a Harry Potter staircase (always changing pace and direction) as the day to do the ironing seems to come round quicker than any other day. I think that I am fortunate as I have John to keep me company, my HR work and the Synagogue to keep me busy and no children living here to home school. I know that for many of you it is not so easy and I was recently sent this quote, part of which made me think “just don’t patronise me!” and part or which resonated with me. I hope some of it resonates with you too. The ideas come from Gyles Brandreth – writer, broadcaster, former MP, founder of the National Scrabble Championships. Here are some of his ideas to help us through lockdown: 

  • Be a leaf on a tree: belong to something bigger than yourself, a community of some sort. 
  • Cultivate a passion: have something in your life you really love doing. This can be anything, no matter how mundane or esoteric.
  • Break the mirror: we should stop thinking about ourselves, look up and turn our attention outwards. 
  • Audit your happiness: make a list of the things that make you happy and make a list of the things which make you unhappy, then try to make the first list longer than the second. 
  • If you want to be happy, act happy: it is possible to tell yourself to cheer up. A quote from the Dalai Lama adds to this: ‘Choose to be optimistic, it feels better’.

I hope by now that all those of you who are older members will have received a phone call from a volunteer who work with the Tikkun Olam Committee. We want to check that you are OK and just have a chat. If you haven’t had a call or know of anyone who hasn’t then please let Lee know in the office. 

Today is Holocaust Memorial Day. The AJR held their remembrance service yesterday on Zoom with Rabbi Altshuler and Cantor Heller taking part. We are sorry for posting the wrong details in last week’s NFTS but you can watch a recording of it here – We will mark Holocaust Memorial Day this coming Friday night at our Erev Shabbat Service.

On 11 February at 7.30pm the Jewish Musical Institute are holding a gala evening, which is free to join. The gala concert will be available on all JMI platforms worldwide – you will be able to simply click on either of the following links from 7pm and click in. or

The Leo Baeck School in Haifa is holding a free Zoom event on Sunday 7 February at 2pm: Rabbi Leo Baeck, Living a Religious Imperative in Troubled Times. This will be a conversation between author Michael A. Meyer and Lord Daniel Finkelstein. If you would like to attend this then please contact Adam Rynhold who will send you a link to register.

Lastly please don’t forget our synagogue events, The Big Belsize Square Synagogue Quiz this coming Sunday at 7.30pm (register for it by contacting the office) and our session with Jami on mental health, Getting Through Lockdown: taking care of myself and my friends. 

Stay safe and stay well,


Chairman’s message 20 January

Dear friends,

With encouragement from the Board I am starting my weekly email again during this lockdown. I had thought that the quote: “just when you thought it was safe to go into the water again…….” came from the 1975 film Jaws but on checking Google, I find that this is a warped version of the original. Jaws in known for two quotes: “ You’re going to need a bigger boat” (not really relevant to us!) and “You’ll never go in the water again” (also not relevant!). So I’m am going to stick with the first version, it summarises my thought that I hope you didn’t become bored with my last set of emails.

I think this current lockdown is harder than the previous ones and I am not quite sure why. Maybe it is the shorter and darker days, the unknown length or the constant stream of contradictory stories in the press. I have days when I am optimistic and days when I feel quite low, and on those low days I look forward to the familiarity of the Shabbat services which are so reassuring. I hope you are continuing to watch them on BelsizeLIVE even though none of us can attend in person. I would like to remind you that Claire Walford continues to run her Zoom Shabbat Candle Lighting and Kiddush on a Friday at 7.45pm. Please do join if you can.

We are working on providing some more Zoom activities/events for you, social and educational. We hope to do something linked to the service and also maybe a speaker during the week. More information will follow soon. As well as this, please do send me any information that you have on interesting events and speakers and I will add them to this email. Please do book into the Big Belsize Square Synagogue Quiz taking place on Sunday 31 January at 7.30pm, it is free and you just need to let the office know that you want to be part of it.

This coming weekend is Mental Health Awareness Shabbat. Jami are putting on a number of events and you can check these out here –

I am going to keep these emails short and for now there are no gardening tips, as my resident expert tells me there is nothing much to do at this time of year.

Stay safe and stay well.


Chairman’s message 21 October

Dear Friends

A few weeks ago I became an Honorary Freeman of the City of London. As it is an Honorary title it gives me no rights but it is interesting to know that were I not “Honorary” I could drive my sheep and cattle over London Bridge; have a silken rope, if hanged and carry a naked sword in public. I can’t say that I will miss any of those privileges!

I was given this honour by the Worshipful Company of Tobacco Pipe Makers & Tobacco Blenders, one of the City of London’s renowned Livery Companies. Like all Livery Companies, it encourages fellowship, supports charities and education, and plays an integral role in the City of London’s governance. The Company was originally founded in 1619 as a trade association tasked with regulating the manufacture of clay pipes. Since that time, it was twice dissolved and re-established, and so – despite its 17th century origins – it is now listed as a Modern Livery Company having been re-formed in 1954. John joined the Company in 1991 when he was granted The Freedom of The City of London. He was Master of the Company in 2009/10, hosting his Master’s dinner in Mansion House and participating in two Lord Mayor’s Shows. I was his Mistress (yes that is the title!) and so I am an Honorary Freeman as a past mistress (but I am pleased to say not yet a past wife).

I took my oath of allegiance on Zoom and quaked as I did it. It made me consider how we take for granted that members of our community are willing to stand on the Bimah and participate in or lead all parts of a service. I want to thank everyone, adult and youth who takes the time and trouble to learn our Trope, our Minhag and our music and who participates so wonderfully, without looking nervous at all. I also need to mention our Bnei Mitzvah and applaud the commitment it takes to stand in front of the congregation. This coming Shabbat is Rio Beckwith-Leever’s Bar Mitzvah who has been taught by Joe Hacker. Rio will be in the Synagogue with his family and if you are not attending please do join us on BelsizeLIVE to celebrate with them.

On this subject, I am delighted that our Joe and the Jews sessions led by Joe Hacker for Bnei Mitzvah will continue online on Zoom. They are happening on the 14 November and 5 December at 10am when the participants will discuss the parasha and other relevant subjects for our future bnei mitzvah youngsters.

You might be interested to know that the Executive met recently and discussed a number of matters including the fact that Cheder is remaining on line this term. We have a Board meeting in November where further discussions will take place.

I thought you would also like to know that our Honorary Officer, Rob Nothman, has been interviewed by Maccabi GB. Rob spoke about his career in broadcasting and answered some questions. If you would like to watch this it is on:

This coming Sunday 25 October there are two events that the synagogue is hosting – a quiz for the Youth and a Concert for the whole community:

  • Caroline Loison will be running an ONLINE Trivial Pursuit-style quiz for B²/BSS Youth this Sunday at 4pm. Everyone is welcome for an hour of fun. Questions will vary in difficulty for all ages. Please bring a pen and paper to write your answers down and a drink and some nibbles to enjoy whilst you quiz! Caroline will be ONLINE from 3:50pm – Please join her.
  • From 7pm, Music at Belsize is delighted to present an orchestral concert, which will be professionally recorded live in our synagogue and released as an exclusive video premiere on our website. The concert will feature the incredibly talented London Young Sinfonia, conducted by Elias Brown, with guest conductor being none other than our member, Philip Keller. The orchestra will perform Haydn’s sparkling symphony no. 90, followed by the epic symphony no. 4 by Beethoven. What a treat to have this available to us, particularly as this year is the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth.

I have also been told about an event run jointly by InsidersOutsiders and the AJR on Sunday 25 October 5pm-7.30pm when there will be an online talk: Restitution: Gimpel vs the French Government – a Seven Year Saga. For seven years, the grandchildren of eminent art dealer René Gimpel (1881-1945) mounted a campaign to recover three paintings by André Derain, which they believed were seized from their grandfather in forced sales during the occupation of France. Finally, a verdict in the case – Gimpel vs the French Government – was reached on 30 September 2020, after copious research, forensic detective work and two high court proceedings. One grandson, also called René Gimpel, will recount this extraordinary saga, and describe how during the war his grandfather, his English wife and their three children were involved in Resistance activities throughout occupied France. This event is free but you need to register and to do so please go to the InsidersOutsiders website at

That is all from me for this week. Gardening tips are below.

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.

  • Although there are still flowers in some gardens, such as fuchsias, dahlias, asters, chrysanthemums and even the odd stray rose, most perennials are ready to be cut down and tidied up for the winter. The ground in the beds should be cleared of debris and made ready for planting bulbs.
  • Climbing roses should be pruned by the end of the month.
  • Watch for the first signs of frost: leaves on plants such as dahlias and cannas beginning to go black. These plants, and begonias can either be cut back and lifted and stored in a dry, frost free place or else, if they are in a reasonably sheltered place, covered in mulch after being cut down and left to come back in the spring.
  • Containers with summer flowering plants that still look OK can be kept going for another two or three weeks before replanting for winter colour and spring bulbs.

Chairman’s message, 14 October

Dear Friends

As I sit down to write this email I have realised that it is my 30th one! When I started I didn’t expect to be doing them for so long but thought I was just giving out some important information at a time of great uncertainty. Yet now, they have become a part of my life and my routine each week revolves around writing them. I scour the Sunday news for a relevant or funny story (no luck this week), I spend Monday thinking about the previous week and if anyone would be interested in what I have done, I spend Tuesday deciding that my life is not interesting enough and then sit down early on Wednesday morning to write to you. This week I find that my head is still full of Synagogue melodies and so this email isn’t about what I have been doing all week but it is about our wonderful services that started with Selichot and ended with Simchat Torah.

Our two Zoom Simchat Torah services were a joy to participate in. We had 30 screens joining in for each service. Stewart Kerry was our Chatan Torah and read beautifully. Rabbi Altshuler was Chatan Beresheit and it was an honour to hear him. An enormous thank you goes from all of us to Cantor Heller who organised the Zoom, produced some uplifting videos with songs for us to watch or sing at home and of course delivered the Zoom service as well. As I said on the Zoom at the Kiddush, I thank both Cantor Heller and Rabbi Altshuler for embracing screens, masks, social distancing, hand sanitising and of course technology and giving us the most wonderful experiences throughout this period.

I also need to thank the Choir and Ben Wolf, you may not be aware that not only did they sing at our services but they came in to record services in case we couldn’t have them live (indeed last weekend we had to use the recordings) and to record for Simchat Torah. Thank you!

This was the last year that Dilys Tausz will lead the Youth Services and I cannot thank her enough for all the hard work she has done with her team (thank you to all of you too) over the years in encouraging our youngest members to participate and in leading these services. Thank you also to Richard Pollins for leading Kikar Kids and continuing to do so.

I have already thanked many people over the last few weeks but don’t want to forget Gordon, Paul and all those who deep cleaned our Synagogue so many times over the last few weeks, so that those who wanted to could participate in live services. I will finish by thanking Adam Rynhold, David Pollins and Lee Taylor for all they have done in keeping our services Covid compliant and streaming to those at home.

Talking of the Pollins family, I am delighted to be able to tell you that Richard has been awarded the British Empire Medal in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list. Many of you will know that Richard was born without legs and that Vera, his mum, has Motor Neurone Disease. Last year Richard did a 40 kilometre “No Legs Walk” to raise funds for Motor Neurone Research and raised £66,614. He was honoured for this. I send congratulations on behalf of all of us.

This coming Shabbat we are celebrating the Barmitzvah of Max Slotover which will take place in the Synagogue. We are pleased that the latest restrictions have not impacted on our ability to host Bnei Mitzvah at the synagogue and look forward to welcoming Max’s parents, Victoria and Tim, their family and friends. If you attended services pre-Covid on a Shabbat morning you will have seen Max and his brother Joey at most of them. Please join on BelsizeLIVE to celebrate with the family.

On Sunday 25 October at 7pm, Music at Belsize is delighted to present an orchestral concert, which will be professionally recorded live in our synagogue and released as an exclusive video premiere on our website. The concert will feature the incredibly talented London Young Sinfonia, conducted by Elias Brown, with guest conductor being none other than our member, Philip Keller. The orchestra will perform Haydn’s sparkling symphony no. 90, followed by the epic symphony no. 4 by Beethoven. What a treat to have this available to us, particularly as this year is the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth. The flyer is attached to this email.

You will already have seen the announcement about Mitzvah day which this year is on Sunday 15 November. We will again be running a number of activities both in the Cheder and also the wider community, including collecting and distributing food and other essential items for the Camden Food Bank, as well as putting on a virtual concert for the residents of the Wellesley Road Care Home in Camden. Please look out in News From the Square for the list of items most needed by the food bank as well as times for you to drop them off at the Synagogue on Sunday mornings from the start of November. We are also asking for volunteers who either play a musical instrument, would like to sing or tell some (audience appropriate!) jokes to join the concert and let the office know by 25 October so we have time to put a programme together. Please contact Adam Rynhold at if you would like to be included.

Lastly I have been asked by our member, Emily Marbach, to let you know that if you are venturing out, the Bulgarian Cultural Institute (located at the Bulgarian Embassy, 186-188 Queen’s Gate, SW7 5HL) have an exhibition inspired by the 77th Anniversary of the saving of the Bulgarian Jews from the Holocaust. Emily’s artwork is on display at the exhibition which finishes on 20 October.

That is all from me this week. 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.

  • I was asked this week how to overwinter geraniums as the plants did so well this summer. The hardy geraniums, those wild looking plants with many single flowers that bloom all summer are actually perennials that can be left in the ground. Like all perennials, they should be cut back now or as soon as they have died down at the end of their flowering season.
  • Tender geraniums are actually pelargonium – this is what we all usually think of as geraniums – the ones that look so lovely in all the window boxes throughout France. They can be taken up and potted and then kept away from frost on a sunny windowsill in a shed, garage, kitchen or in a heated conservatory – anywhere with light, so long as they don’t catch the frost.
  • As soon as the earth has dried up a little, start planting spring bulbs outside – although they can go into containers now. However tulips must not be planted until after the first frost. They can be planted right up to the end of the year, until the soil is frozen solid. They rot and get diseases in warmer soil and only start putting out roots when it’s very cold. However, remember, squirrels love tulips – but not chilly powder!
London Young Sinfonia flyer

Chairman’s message 7 October

Dear Friends

You may remember my story in the Spring of being on the roof of our shed. Well, I haven’t had to do that again but we have now cleared it out. Our house is small and so everything that we don’t use but “may need some day” ends up in the shed. It took us a whole day to do and meant that we filled up the car with black bags full of things that went to the tip. Some of it was easy to throw away, broken plant pots, footballs with holes in them, dried up paint pots, cushions that were never going to recover from the damp. Some of it was quite tough, riding boots that I hadn’t used for 15 years and never would again but kept “just in case”; the lost opportunity of seeds that we had bought at a garden show years ago but never got round to planting, so the mice had enjoyed them instead; a broken children’s tent where, looking at it, I could still hear the laughter over many years. Yet at the end of it, we had space (which we are already filling up with new “may need them some day” items) and a great sense of achievement.

I watched our Succot services on BelsizeLIVE and was thinking that yet again they were, thank goodness, what I have always known our Synagogue to be. We have not filled up a metaphorical car boot and thrown parts of what we do away, so that we can fill up with the new. We have managed to embrace a “new normal “ while keeping our minhag and sense of community. Our Ministers and Choir have played a large and key part in that but so have you. You have watched the services and emailed with comments and thanks, you have volunteered, you have attended, you have read my emails (!!) and for that I thank you all.

On thanks I wanted to mention and thank Justyn Trenner, Carol Cohen and everyone who volunteers for Security. Justyn stood outside the Synagogue for most of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and he, with support from Carol, organised all the Security protocols. Without them we would not have been able to hold our live services. Thank you!

Now that the Festivals are almost at an end, please do send me information on things that you hear about that people might be interested to follow as the days get shorter. If you have ideas for Belsize Community events or speakers that we might be able to hold on Zoom then please send them in.

You will have seen the booking email for Erev Shabbat & Erev Shemini Atzeret on Friday 9 October, and Shabbat & Shemini Atzeret morning service (including Mazkir) – on Saturday 10 October. These are live services in the Synagogue and if you would like to attend please do book but they will also be streamed on BelsizeLIVE.

Our Simchat Torah services will be held on Zoom this year, this is the first time that we are doing this, so please do try and join us. Rabbi Altshuler and Cantor Heller have been working hard on the content of these services and of course on the Saturday we will also hear and honour our Chatan Torah, Stewart Kerry and Chatan Beresheit, Rabbi Altshuler. The services are on Saturday 10 October at 6.45pm and Sunday 11 October at 10am.

I wrote several weeks ago to say that we were hoping to open our Cheder after half term. Last week, we held a meeting to discuss this and made the difficult decision that we would keep BSS Cheder ONLINE for the moment due to the current uncertainty surrounding the Pandemic and the direction that it is taking. We will, of course, be reviewing this situation on a regular basis and we will keep you informed of any updates as and when there are any. We continue to have an innovative and engaging online Cheder, and Caroline Loison is constantly coming up with new ideas, so whilst we would all like to be back in the building I am very proud of our Cheder online.

I have been sent a link to a wide range of free podcasts from the last Limmud. It does seem that there’s something for everyone. The Limmud sessions are available here

The Wiener Library have a new online exhibition : The Persecution of Black People in Nazi Germany: Ronald Roberts’ Story. This exhibition explores the life of Ronald Roberts, born in Germany in 1921 to a white German mother and a Black British/Barbadian father. You can find it on the Wiener Library website at:

That is it from me for this week but I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to email me or Lee about the Festival Services so far and to also comment on my community emails. It is all much appreciated. Please keep doing so.

So for now, the gardening tips are below. 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.

  • Not wanting to trespass into Henny’s field (or allotment), Gardeners’ World is providing advice on what vegetable seeds can be sowed in October for next year’s crop of peas, salads, lettuce, broad beans and cauliflower. Check it out here.
  • Given the torrential rain of the past week the garden is too wet to plant bulbs other than in pots and containers. We’ll have to wait for a few dry days and perhaps even sunny spells. Until then keep any bulbs already delivered in open boxes in a dry and airy location. When planting, start with daffodils then hyacinths and tulips when its cooler.
  • Continue to keep the beds and lawns free of fallen leaves. Be considerate of neighbours if you feel it necessary to use leaf blowers or vacuums.

Chairman’s message, 30 September

Dear Friends

As I write to you, I still have the synagogue melodies in my head from Kol Nidre and Yom Kippur. Traditionally, I am given the honour of making the Board announcements on Kol Nidre to a packed Synagogue. This year there were no announcements but our Synagogue was still “packed” just split into many different locations. In our house we connected our laptop to our television, watched all the services and we stood up and sat down in all the right places. As I said last week, I felt a sense of belonging and that people were there with me even if I couldn’t see you. The familiar music and rhythm of the services kept me emotionally and spiritually engaged for the full period. I hope you had a similar experience.

Many of you have written in or sent messages saying how much you enjoyed the services too and I wanted to share a couple with you.

“We were glued to our iPad and were very happy with what we heard and saw. Rabbi Altshuler’s Neilah sermon was outstanding. We miss our London family. We have not seen each other for about six months. Zoom and WhatsApp are a help. And so was Belsize Square Synagogue. Shana Tova”

“I just want to write to say how much I enjoyed joining in the Live Stream services over Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur at Belsize Square Synagogue. I felt that I could really take part in the Yom Tov services and feel uplifted by them. So thank you to all at Belsize Square for widening your services to the wider community and enabling us to enjoy the Yom Tovim in these strange times.

We have also heard from you how disappointing it was that Livestream failed during Rabbi Altshuler’s morning sermon where we lost the sound and connection for a short period. I am happy to say that Rabbi Altshuler will be recording that sermon again this week and we will send a link out to you so that you will be able to listen to it.

For those of us organising the service the loss of Livestream was a tense moment and we were wondering if we would have to spend the rest of the day streaming our recorded back-up services whilst the “live” service continued in the Synagogue. Fortunately, Lee Taylor in the office at the Synagogue and David Pollins from home, managed to get Livestream working again. A heroic effort on their part!

As with Rosh Hashanah I thought you would be interested to know that we continue to have an astounding response to the BelsizeLIVE streaming. As I explained last week we count this by individual devices tuning in to a service, so when you read these figures please remember that we could have two or more people watching each device. We have had many messages from individuals who are not members who have told us how uplifting our services are and how grateful they are that we make it them available to the wider community all over the world. On Kol Nidre 1702 devices tuned in for the service with 698 devices the most watching at any one time; on Yom Kippur the maximum number we had at any one time was 597 and overall we had a total of 2040 different screens tuned in at some point during the day.

Another tradition in our Synagogue is that as Chairman I wait until the Simchat Torah Kiddush to make a speech thanking everyone who has participated in the services. I will write more after Simchat Torah but I want to thank Rabbi Altshuler now, for his thought provoking sermons and for the commitment he has shown in making Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur a memorable and involving experience for us all, wherever we are. As he reminded us, this is his last High Holydays before his sabbatical starts and we had all hoped to be in Synagogue with him during this period in order to honour him. I would like in some small way to honour him instead with this email message on behalf of us all and to say that he has a place in all our hearts.

Some of you will remember that on Yom Kippur last year Rabbi Altshuler announced that his friend Maxim Vengerov would come to our Synagogue to play Kol Nidre, before joining us in prayer. Sadly Covid-19 made that an impossibility but I wanted send a message to Maxim that he and his family are always welcome at Belsize Square Synagogue and we send them our good wishes.

On my early thank you list is also Cantor Heller, who has sung so magnificently and movingly over the Festivals so far. Over the last few months and quietly in the background he has also created back-up recordings of our services and recordings for youth services. We would be lost without him and “thank you” is inadequate but heartfelt.

I could go on but more will follow after Simchat Torah. In the meantime I can say that our Yom Kippur youth services, Kikar Kids and youth activities were also a success. Around 40 screens joined our Zoom services and the youth activities organised by Caroline Loison had 20 young people join the sessions throughout the day.

You will already have received the email about booking a place in Synagogue for our Sukkot services. Please do reply and if you prefer to be at home then please do watch on BelsizeLIVE. I am chairing a planning Committee meeting tonight to make sure that all arrangements for the remaining Festivals are in place. Can I also remind you not to bring Lulav and Etrog with you this year if you are attending .

This coming Shabbat morning at 11am we will hold Kikar Kids in the Synagogue Hall. The first “live” one was a lot of fun and if you would like attend then you must book a place. Please contact Adam Rynhold on

Many of you will not have seen the Yom Kippur Zoom Youth Service this year and I would like to end with a link to a recording that was used. It is our Youth Choir singing Adon Olam. I am very proud of them and they will producing another recording for Simchat Torah. Please go to

That is it from me for this week, the gardening tips are below. 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 now time to plant spring flowering bulbs, except for tulips that should wait another month until the ground is cooler. It’s also a good time to move or plant new trees and shrubs to give them a chance to establish their roots before its gets too cold.
  • Keep deadheading to prolong the flowering season of asters, rudbeckia and dahlia.
  • Keep lawns clear of fallen leaves to avoid them suffocating the grass. It’s also a good time to repair patches of lawn by reseeding or replacing bare patches with new turf.
  • Do not prune spring and summer flowering shrubs and keep the dead flowers on hydrangea to protect next year’s flowering buds.