Yearly Archives: 2020

WJR Refugee Appeal Cards

We have all seen the terrible images of refugees forced to leave their homes and risking all to seek safety elsewhere.
Now instead of buying your host the usual gifts, like flowers or a box of chocolates, you can give them a gift card that shows you have donated to the World Jewish Relief’s refugee appeal. The card’s artwork is shown below.
The minimum suggested donation is £10 per card. They can be purchased through the synagogue office or by clicking here.



If you would like to know more about WJR’s appeal click here



Mitzvah Day


Mitzvah day this year is on Sunday 15 November and will soon be with us.

We will still be collecting much needed donations for the Camden foodbank at the Synagogue both this Sunday morning and next Sunday morning from 10.00am to 12.00pm. Please do come along to drop off whatever you can – we will of course be following Covid protocols, such as simply unloading contributions from the back of people’s cars.

If you have items to donate and cannot or would prefer not to come to the Synagogue, please let us know and we will do our best to arrange for someone to collect them from you directly.

The latest list of items that they have requested is set out below. Please note they do not currently need pasta.  For any questions please contact the Synagogue office.




Tinned fish

Tinned fruits



Washing up liquid



Tinned vegetables



Tinned meat

UHT Milk

Baked beans

Shampoo & shower gel

Washing powder

Toilet roll

Non-caffeine teas

Rosh Hashanah Message from Board of Deputies

Rosh Hashanah Message

Marie van der Zyl – President, Board of Deputies

September 2020 / Tishrei 5781

This has been a year like no other. The global pandemic has affected life more in a short space of time than any other event in peace time.

Of course, the effects have been experienced worldwide with hundreds of thousands dead and millions more badly affected by this virulent virus. We are a small community but we have been hit heavily. Sadly, our death rate has been more than double that of the general community and we have lost some wonderful people since March, taken from us way before their time.

It has been a time to mourn but also a time to act. The Board of Deputies lobbied hard to ensure that local councils could not cremate bodies without first consulting with the families of the deceased. This was a fine example of collaboration between Jews and Muslims who shared the same concerns. We collaborated closely with other community organisations to ensure that UK Jews are received all the help and information possible in the emergency, using all of our resources for the benefit of those affected. We collated a document bringing together all of the special guidelines for Passover this year and devised a card for members of the community to print off, fill out and post through the letter box to neighbours, letting members of the local community know that people are available do a food shop or even just to speak to someone on the phone who is self-isolating. No less importantly, our team has had the sad but necessary duty of collating the deaths we have endured so that we have an accurate record.

Last year, we were in the midst of Labour’s antisemitism crisis. Twelve months on and Labour are, in the words of new leader Sir Keir Starmer, “under new management”. We set out our Ten Pledges on anti-Jewish racism in January and they were enthusiastically adopted by the new leadership team. The progress we have seen is very encouraging. The scourge of antisemitism has not disappeared from the Labour Party but the determination to address it and take action where it is needed, as in the case of the sacking of Rebecca Long-Bailey, gives all of us reason to be optimistic after a dark few years.

Even Coronavirus could not completely overshadow the worldwide movement which developed rapidly in response to the racist murder of George Floyd. We in the Jewish community felt we needed to formulate our own initiative. The result is the Board of Deputies’ Commission on Racial Inclusivity in the Jewish Community which is being chaired by distinguished journalist Stephen Bush. We need to make sure that we are accepting of people of all backgrounds and I look forward to making progress on this most important of issues.

Those who know the Board of Deputies will understand we work on a diverse set of issues – indeed so much that it is impossible to list everything in a short message.

We exist to ensure that the UK’s Jewish community can live freely, happily and continue to practise our traditions.

We are passionate about protecting our religious freedoms, whether the right to circumcise our baby boys in accordance with our tradition or to ensure that employees are able to take time off for Jewish festivals and follow their Jewish traditions within the law.

Our interfaith activities have certainly made the news – for example our support for the Chinese Uyghur Muslims currently suffering oppression in China, has raised awareness of the problems.

Through Pikuach, we supervise religious education in Jewish schools, and, pandemic permitting, we travel the country with the Jewish Living Experience exhibition, educating non-Jewish children and adults about our way of life.

We engage with Government ministers, MPs, local councillors, diplomats, faith leaders and with a huge variety of public bodies on behalf of the community we represent.

We can only do this work with the help of communities across the UK, so I thank you for all the support that you all give. Let’s hope the New Year truly does bring health and happiness to all of us.

Shana Tovah.

Marie van der Zyl

**Carol Cohen, Deborah Cohen and Robert Sacks are Belsize Square’s representatives to the Board of Deputies. If you would like to discuss any matters relating to the Board of Deputies with them, please contact the office for their contact details**

How we are operating during the Coronavirus outbreak


During this unprecedented time Belsize Square Synagogue is continuing to maintain activities and support the community as much as we can.

We are continuing to communicate with you all via email, post and through our regular News From The Square and Our Congregation publications as well as regular updates on our website. This web page sets out a current summary of how we are operating in all aspects of Synagogue life.


Assistance for those requiring shopping, prescriptions and other help

The most important thing we can be doing at this time as a community is ensuring that we are all looking out for each other. For any members unable to do their own shopping or collect prescriptions, we have set up a group of volunteers to help. Please contact Adam ( if you would wish to volunteer or need assistance.


In addition during these very difficult times, we want to ensure that none of our members are without social contact, particularly those who are self-isolating, sick or without close family. With this in mind, we have put in place a phone tree so that we can speak to our members at regular intervals. Please contact Adam ( if you wish to volunteer or would like to receive calls.  We have also established a web page with links to useful organisations (



In line with government guidelines the synagogue building remains closed. We are continuing our regular services virtually as set out below. Any members who need assistance in accessing these events on their computer should call the synagogue on 020 7794 3949 where we can explain how to do so over the phone.  A copy of our prayer book is available online for any members who do not have one but wish to follow along.

Friday night – Cantor Heller chants the service live from the bimah at 6.45pm every Friday night via BelsizeLIVE (

Shabbat Morning – we are maintaining a virtual service, broadcast from 10.00am. Each service includes Shacharit, the weekly Torah and Haftorah portions and Mussaf. The Rabbi records his weekly sermon and the Cantor leads kaddish for those who are remembering loved ones.

Kikar Kids is currently running every Shabbat via Zoom. Reminders are sent by the Synagogue office as usual and please contact email for more information


Lifecycle Events

For guidelines on funerals, stone settings, or just to find out more information about our burial scheme – please contact Lee Taylor (

Edgwarebury Cemetery remains closed to the public until further notice and is only open for funerals with very limited attendance permitted in line with government guidelines and operational capabilities. For full information check the cemetery website (


Social events 

We are continuing to hold as many events as possible that can be run virtually. So please keep your eye on the Synagogue home page for events that will continue to be held, such as our regular Sunday morning Adult Discussion Group (see below).


Adult Discussion Group

Our popular Sunday morning discussion group is being held virtually. Please contact the Synagogue office for details of how to connect.


Synagogue meetings 

All Synagogue Board, Executive and committee meetings are continuing as planned, virtually via Zoom. Login details will be circulated by the office prior to each meeting.


Synagogue Office

Lee and the team are working normal hours from home, and the office phone number has been diverted, so you are still able to reach us. At this time we would prefer you to contact the office via the synagogue email address if possible and someone will call you back as required.

We wish everyone well during this time and are looking forward to seeing you all in person as soon as we are able.




COVID-19 – Synagogue Closure


For full details on the synagogue programme click here


Dear Friends,

It is only a short time since I wrote my last email to you on Friday and so I was worried that there might not be much to say. I was wrong!! Our Community is buzzing with ideas and it is wonderful to be part of such an active and thoughtful group of individuals. You may have noticed that I have changed my greeting from “dear member” to “dear friends”, this is because I feel that a positive that has come out of this most difficult period is that we have taken time to get to know each other and to talk to people that we might not have spoken to before. There is a great sense of community and belonging, at least so it seems from the emails that I get. For me this is such a positive and I hope it is for you to.

I want to start by thanking everyone who has volunteered to help with phone calls and also those of you who have volunteered in response to last week’s email. I will be sending out more information on activities over the next few weeks. Please keep the offers coming!! With this thanks comes an apology… the individual who emailed me about FeldenKrais, I am so, so ,sorry but I have lost your email and can’t get in touch with you. Please resend it.

One of the great offers that has been made came after discussion at the Tikkun Olam Committee. Claire Walford will host a Zoom Communal Kiddush each Friday night from this week. Many families are already doing this amongst themselves but if you are not able to participate with family or friends then please contact Claire on to let her know that you would like to join and she will email you with Zoom joining instructions each week. There will be candle lighting, Kiddush and HaMotzi and possibly a little time to Zoom chat. The whole event will take 30 minutes and will happen at 7.30 after the Friday night service ends. Everyone is welcome and you do not need to have any wine, candles or challah at home nor do you need to join each week, only when you feel like it.

If you find yourself with food in your fridge but are bored with your recipes or don’t know how to use up what you have, then email Claire on the above email address with a list of the ingredients and she will send you a recipe. No guarantees that you will like it but at least it will be something new to try!

For those of you who are interested in Limmud , you may like to know that the “Limmud Together UK” on line event will run on Sunday 3 May from 10:00-18:00. This will cost just £10, with a concessionary rate of £1 for those who have been financially impacted by Coronavirus. It is free for anyone who has volunteered for Limmud in the last year. If you would like to sign up here is the link :

I also wanted to let you know that, as you will have already read, earlier this year we created the Emeritus Rabbi Award to sponsor a young person who wanted to do volunteer work in Israel with one of our Charities. The global pandemic has sadly made this an impossibility and consequently the award will roll over to next year.

Finally, as promised in an earlier email our Cheder has gone on line with one to one Hebrew reading lessons and Jewish Study class lessons. Last Sunday was the first virtual Cheder and was a great success. Thank you to Caroline and everyone who is teaching, as well as to all the parents and children who are participating.

On the subject of children please do participate in the Kikar Kids Shabbat Zoom service (thank you to Richard and Sara Pollins) if you have children aged 0-9. This happens each Saturday at 11am and you can join on this link:

Meeting ID: 954 2852 3320      Password: Kikar

Lastly, if you are interested please look below for gardening tips. I have not received many… more are needed please.

Stay safe and stay well



Gardening Tips

  1. Bulbs aren’t just for spring! Plant common favourites such as gladioli, dahlias, crocosmias (or rarer beauties like Sparaxis and Tigridia) now for colourful displays in summer.

  2. As they start to grow again after a winter rest, this week is the perfect time to give your houseplants some attention such as feeding or repotting to get them looking their best.

  3. Now’s your last chance to prune late-flowering shrubs such as buddleias, hydrangeas and fuchsias; give them a tidy soon and enjoy flowers later in the year.




Board of Deputies – working for our community

An update from the Board of Deputies –

Rarely in living memory has there been such a sustained period of national turmoil in this country. Uniquely, this coincided with an upsurge of anti-Jewish racism which has caused huge anxiety throughout the Jewish community. Needless to say the end of 2019 and the beginning of this year has been one in which Board of Deputies honorary officers and staff have been working at full capacity in order to deal with the issues of concern to Jews in the UK.

The central event in this cycle was the General Election. It was the third in the last five years and the Board of Deputies had been on high alert for much of the autumn. Within weeks we had finalised an updated version of the Jewish Manifesto. We wrote to candidates in all constituencies around the country asking them to sign up to the Ten Commitments, which gave the politicians a distilled version of the community’s priorities. Dozens got in touch with the Board of Deputies to let us know that they supported the commitments in full.

Running concurrently with the election campaign has been the ongoing antisemitism crisis in Labour which became one of the key issues for Jewish voters. Following Labour’s defeat and the announcement of Jeremy Corbyn resignation as leader, the Board of Deputies produced Ten Pledges on antisemitism, designed to give a route-map for the new party leader to rid the party of the disease of Jew hatred. All leadership candidates had signed up to the pledges within days although, disgracefully, deputy leadership candidates Richard Burgon and Dawn Butler refused to align themselves to these basic steps to combat racism.

The 10 Pledges have become a pivotal part of the campaign and have been cited by all the leadership candidates. The Board of Deputies is shaping the debate over antisemitism and, most importantly, showing the way forward for the next leader. We may have harsh words to say about the disgraceful lack of action to expel antisemitism from Labour but we also have a constructive role to play.

The Labour antisemitism crisis provided the backdrop to the appearance of former Prime Minister Tony Blair at the Board of Deputies’ President’s Dinner in November. Mr Blair, in conversation with TV journalist Natasha Kaplinsky, told a packed audience  “Let me be frank, there is going to be a complete battle in the Labour Party because what has happened over these past years – particularly over antisemitism – is absolutely killing the party.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel was also a guest at the dinner. She said the Board of Deputies was “tireless in educating British society about Judaism, building interfaith bridges, defending the interests of British Jews, and confronting antisemitism in all its awful guises. Your work ranges from the level of individual communities and synagogues, right to the highest levels of Government, as I well know.” The video played to guests that night and which is has since been released via YouTube, was a departure for the Board of Deputies. This was actress Tracy-Anne Oberman’s personal reflections on the impact that antisemitism has had on her life. Other interviewees, including Rachel Riley, Lord Mann and Dame Louise Ellman – also voiced their deeply concern about Jew-hatred and why they believe we need to act against the racists.

Amid the turmoil of a General Election we had the happy privilege of helping with the organisation of the Prince of Wales’ pre-Chanukah reception at Buckingham Palace. Around 400 guests were invited, with the focus on those who, through their community work and volunteering efforts, make a huge contribution to their communities. In his speech, the Prince of Wales commented on his decision to hold the reception. He said: “If I may say so, Ladies and Gentlemen, I see this as the least I can do to try to repay, in some small way, the immense blessings the Jewish people have brought to this land and, indeed, to humanity.”

Mental Health Awareness Shabbat


Mental Health Awareness Shabbat UK – 31 January 2020

Focus on Dementia

Belsize Square Synagogue is unusual from other congregations in numerous ways, but we are distinguished by having more people over the age of 100 than any other London shul. Longevity and good health are enjoyed by the majority of our older members who defy the odds and embrace life with fierce independence and a passionate interest in friends, family, politics and in some cases Bridge.

But we are no different from many other congregations or the national statistics when it comes to a bump in the baby boom generation and a significant and exponential increase in our membership over the age of 70. Thankfully, 70 may be the new 50, but our 70-something generation tends to be busy looking after grandchildren and older parents and in-laws.  We have a growing number of people that are delivering “care” for friends and family – younger and older.

Eve Hersov, our Community Care Co-ordinator reports that about 20% of our older members have some form of dementia, and she has a tendency to be involved across the generations at certain key points with this disease. Dementia has a huge impact on families first at diagnosis and then later when support needs may increase.

The Social Action – Tikkun Olam Committee wants to raise community awareness of this important issue and are hosting a Mental Health Awareness Shabbat on Friday evening 31 January. Eve will speak about her work, will be available after the service, and there will be materials made available for people to take home. Please join us and learn a few pointers about improving communication and comfort of our friends and relations who need our support.