Tel: 020 7794 3949
|Rabbi's Message - February 2012|
I thought I would do something totally different this month. Instead of the usual “words of wisdom”, I decided to instead to share with you more about myself and my family. After all, it has now been a year since I joined my Belsize Square family and I am certain that most of the members of our congregation know absolutely nothing about me.
By sharing all this information with you now, I can anticipate all the questions that would normally be asked of me. So, here goes:
I was born in Los Angeles, California, in a wonderful Jewish family on the west side of LA, one of the few “native” Californians! I am the son of Leo, z”l and Dorothy Altshuler—my father, Leo, z”l, was a prominent Beverly Hills attorney, but more than that, he was my role model and hero. He was a proud Jew, brilliant man and an incredible father. I am with him every day of my life. My mother, Dorothy, will be 91 years young on 5 February and was a typical, loving, doting and caring Jewish mother. She is still independent, a social butterfly, attends concerts, operas and theatre and still drives herself and her friends to every venue.
My oldest brother David, z”l, died four years ago at the young age of 62. He was dear to me and we were extremely close. His loss was tragic for all of us. My other brother Bruce, who came with his wife, Melinda, to visit us from Los Angeles, took over my father’s law practice in Beverly Hills and, yes, we are also close.
My daughter, Elana, is married, 33 years of age, born in Jerusalem, married to Matthew, a new attorney and recent law graduate of Georgetown University Law School. They have three children and Elana Rahel, my beautiful daughter, is an exceptional mother and person. Their oldest Jonah, attends Jewish Day School and the middle son Roi, has just begun attending the JCC pre-school. The baby Ryann, their daughter, is not even crawling yet!
My son, Eitan, 31 years of age, lives in Tel Aviv, having made aliyah five years ago. He is brilliant, working hard, looking for the right “Mrs. Altshuler” and enjoying his life in Israel.
I find that life has been way too short to enjoy ALL the things that I love dearly: music, books, travel and friends. I love music and started playing the violin when I was but four years old with an EIGHTH size violin barely the size of my hand. I played in a symphony orchestra at the age of eight, gave a concert with the renowned Jack Benny at the age of eleven, appeared with my violin in concert on an episode of “I Spy” with Bill Cosby and Robert Culp. After years of training, I put the violin down and often regret that decision because I love playing my instrument so much.
At the age of eleven I taught myself to play the guitar and mastered every Paul Simon, Donovan, Beatles, James Taylor and Gordon Lightfoot song on the guitar. Then there came piano at the age of 14, an instrument I always regretted I did not learn how to play at an earlier age.
Now, of course, I am in awe of my wife Ella’s incredible talent to write music, sing, record and perform. She looks forward to her first performance here at Belsize Square!
I am an avid sports fan and participant, having played baseball seriously until the age of 15 and then not so seriously until the age of 35—that’s why I have a bad right knee today! I also loved playing basketball (a terrific outside shooter) and golfer, having been on my high school golf team.
Besides playing sports, I also love following my favourite teams: in baseball, the Chicago White Sox, in basketball, the Chicago Bulls and in American football, the Chicago Bears. Why Chicago teams? An old family heirloom—my parents were born and raised in Chicago and the plague of rooting for teams that never quite make it to the top has continued as a family tradition.
I love politics, I am a news junkie, I love reading as much as I possibly can; I love my Judaism, I am a diehard supporter of Israel and avid Zionist. Most of all, I am grateful for the many friends I have all over the world and especially for my family—my Ella, my son, Micah, 14, from St. Petersburg, whom we brought over to raise when he was six months old, a year after our son, Sergey, died of leukemia in December 1996 at the age of nine.
It’s about time that I shared all of this with my family here at BSS. I am enjoying my career outside of academia and back in the pulpit and just hope and pray that I can carry this great community to further greatness and a love of Judaism and Torah.
I hope to see all of you at our many programmes this month, at services and in the classroom. On page five you will find our syllabus for the Monday night Modern Jewish History course, 8:15 -9:30pm, 23/1, 30/1, 6/2, 13/2, 20/2, and 27/2.
With wishes for a beautiful February!
Rabbi Stuart Altshuler