Monthly Archives: March 2021

Chairman’s message 17 March

Dear Friends

You will have seen the email on Monday letting you know that we are reopening from this Friday for services and I am so happy that we can do this. With the reopening and the easing of lockdown I shall stop the weekly emails, this will be my last for now. I will of course let you know if anything important happens and can always be contacted on my email (chairman@synagogue.org.uk).

Can I remind you that all the same protocols still apply with social distancing, wearing masks and arriving on time if you want to be admitted into the service. We have worked hard to ensure that everyone who attends feels as comfortable as possible and the feedback we received when we last opened was excellent. If you have any questions regarding our procedures then please contact Lee. For those who prefer to watch from home we will continue to stream all of our services on BelsizeLIVE.

As we are open we will also be able to hold all our Pesach services in the Synagogue, with the exception of the second night which will be on BelsizeLIVE only as we will be holding our Zoom Communal Seder at the same time. Watch out for the booking email for details. For full information on our Pesach activities check the synagogue website.  

Can I remind you that we have our comedy evening coming up this Sunday 21 March. It promises to be a fun night with three fantastic comedians who will entertain us all. Please do join us and if you can, make a small donation through the synagogue website (https://www.synagogue.org.uk/payment-step1/?paymenttype=6109).

Lastly, I would like to thank Peter Bohm and his HMD team again for continuing to deliver our on-line HMD into a number of schools, through various virtual platforms. Thank you to Rob Nothman, Hilary Solomon and of course Cantor Heller.

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

Jackie

Chairman’s message 10 March

Dear Friends,

Last week was Special Education, Autism, Dyslexia, and ADHD awareness week. A Sussman cousin posted this message which I wanted to share with you as I found it made me stop and think.

“When you have a neurotypical child, you feel reasonably assured that class participation and decent study habits will result in good grades. These kids have close friends. They get invited to participate in social things and clubs. But when you have a child with certain differences, this is often not the case. Learning may take longer, both academically and socially. Despite their tremendous efforts, results are often a fraction of their peers and social acceptance is fleeting, setting them up for painful comparisons and bitter frustration. It is exhausting for parent and child alike. For all the children who struggle every day to succeed in a world that does not recognise their gifts and talents, and for those who are walking beside them, please let this be a gentle reminder to be kind and accepting of ALL people.”

This Sunday,  Cheder is holding a very special Pesach J-POD session ONLINE from 11am. Susannah, one of our Cheder teachers, will be leading everyone in an 18-minute Matzah bake. Following that, everyone will split into Breakout Rooms to learn about Bedikat Chametz with Cantor Heller and the Seder Plate with Caroline. J-POD sessions are open to the whole Community and aim to be an opportunity for everyone to come together and learn as one whole “Belsize Community”. Anyone wishing to join the session should contact Caroline (caroline@synagogue.org.uk) for the Zoom details. You will need plain flour and water (plus salt and oil if wanted) to make your own Matzah. No yeast required!!!

Last Sunday, Music at Belsize hosted the Pizmon choir. There were 31 screens watching the concert, probably more than 50 people. Pizmon have written to the committee to say:  “I hope all is well with you! I just wanted to reach out on behalf of myself and everyone else in Pizmon to say thank you once again for having us today. I know we all had a ton of fun interacting with the Belsize Square community and are so grateful for having had the opportunity, and I hope we get the chance to perform for you all again in person sometime soon! Wishing you all the best :)”

You should have seen the email about our virtual Pesach. Also, please remember there is a Zoom COMEDY EVENING – Sunday 21 March at 8pmJoin us for a fun evening of laughter as with professional comedians Philip Simon, Mark Simmons & Joe Bor. Recommended age 16+.

This weekend we have an Officers meeting and we will be discussing the possibility of our Synagogue re-opening for Shabbat Services. More will follow.

That is all from me, stay safe and stay well

Jackie

Shalom, Belsize Square Synagogue

Sadly, we are moving towards the end of my tenure at Belsize Square Synagogue, but my hope is that new opportunities and discoveries will open for both the congregation and for my own rabbinic journey that begins abroad on 1 July.

In the last Our Congregation I began to review my thoughts on some of the achievements and, at the same time, challenges that there have been and
those that lay ahead for the congregation.

A few more areas for us to consider:

1. Israel: You all know that Israel is a passion of mine. I am proud that many people in the congregation have told me that they have learned so much about the State of Israel, its history and reason for being, from our classes, sermons and time together.

Israel will continue to be a major source of debate in the community, but I do hope that we will all realise, regardless of our political leanings, that there is a general assault against our Jewish state that is not going away. In fact, it may get more heated as tensions brew with Iran and there may be less support from the new administration in the United States.

We have to be smart, informed, vigilant and ready for the arguments and the political posturing that may attempt to undermine Israel’s very existence. My hope is that you will all remain part of the front line against these abuses and canards as Israel will need every single voice of support, given the powerful vitriol against her. I am thankful for those who have cared for Israel during these past years and grateful for our trip there some five years ago and our meetings with Natan Sharansky, Ambassador Michael Oren, Rabbi David Rosen and other dignitaries. I am grateful for all of you who have made our Yom Ha’atzmaut dinners so successful, raising precious funds for our worthwhile Israel charities. But I am also grateful for the dissenting voices who have disagreed with me: the way we grow as a community is to invite healthy debate. Continue the good work. As the Psalmist says, If I forget thee, O Jerusalem…

2. Leadership: I am thankful that there have been so many wonderful leaders, committee chairs, members of the Board and Honorary Officers with whom I have enjoyed working over the past ten years. These are people who give their time and energy on a daily basis, just because of their love of the congregation. I would encourage you all to get more involved, to sign up for committees and get your voices heard. A vibrant congregation needs a constant stream of involved members.

3. Cheder and youth: I am grateful for having worked with the heads of Cheder, Jeanie Horowitz and now Caroline Loison. They have both brought their passion for teaching our youth and their love of Jewish life to the Cheder. Parents, stay involved, let your children know you support the efforts at making sure they have a good Jewish education and experience. It will happen with your involvement and assistance to Caroline and the teaching staff. Of course, as a rabbi, I hope that we will continue to “raise the bar”, extend our goals for Jewish education and think of ways we can keep our postBar/Bat Mitzvah young adults on a Jewish learning path. It is vitally important to have the youth more involved in a wider community youth movement, as it is virtually impossible to sustain vibrant youth groups as single entities. I hope that the synagogue will be able to find a way of making this happen.

4. Life cycle: I would have loved to have seen more weddings at the synagogue – the ones we have had have been so precious and beautiful. At the end of life, we have had amazing representation in the running of Edgwarebury Cemetery. Our funerals, our shiva minyanim and our marvellous Bereavement Support Group spearheaded by the brilliant Eve Hersov, have been shining lights of my time here at the synagogue. Keep up your wonderful work.

5. Social action: This is one area that needs a great deal of commitment and attention and I am pleased that the Tikkun Olam Committee has been set up, led by Deborah Cohen. We could be doing much more to reach out to other faith communities, to support our already existing programmes with St Peter’s and the local mosque and to make the sort of Mitzvah Day activities in which we have excelled a more regular part of our community agenda. As Rabbi Tarfon taught us: The work is much, we will never fulfil everything but we should try to leave a beginning for future generations.

By now you will have heard that I shall be starting my new position in Sarasota, Florida in July, so the next piece I write for Our Congregation will sadly be my last.

I wish you all a chag Pesach kasher v’sameach,
Rabbi Stuart Altshuler

Chairman’s message March 3

Dear Friends

This email is short as work and family life have taken up so much of my time this week. We have a new grandchild born at the weekend and I can’t resist the opportunity to share the news with you. Something to smile at I hope, rather than focussing on the pandemic and vaccinations.

In the odd minutes that I have found to relax I have been following, on TV, “Married at First Sight, Australia”. For anyone who doesn’t know the programme, a number of couples meet for the first time at a “wedding” (not legally binding) and then the show follows their progress as married couples. Lots of tantrums, partner swaps and general insight into human behaviour. I would love to say that I watch it to understand human psychology for my HR professional life but actually it is just jaw dropping and fun. We all need that distraction and I hope you have found your programmes too!

I have a huge thank you to send to everyone who was involved in the Purim Zoom, it was a joy to watch and I felt very connected. Cantor Heller tells me that we had over 120 people attend. My phone rang just afterwards and I did a video call with someone, still wearing my ruby Princess crown and earrings. They were far too polite to comment and I didn’t think about it until after the call was finished!

Can I remind you again that this Sunday 7 March, at 7pm, Music at Belsize is very excited to bring you the Pizmon a cappella group, from the USA . Please do join and in case you didn’t read it last week  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.

We are planning a Comedy Evening on 21 March with three comedians booked to entertain you. Compered by the hilarious Philip Simon, we promise you an evening of fun and laughter. Details will be sent shortly but please put the date in your diaries.

Our virtual Kikar Kids service returns this Shabbat morning at 11am.

This week Cantor Heller started his Siddur workshop, it is not too late to join it. It runs on a Tuesday for the next three weeks from 8-9pm. Please contact Cantor Heller if you are interested: cantor@synagogue.org.uk

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

Jackie