Yearly Archives: 2021

Board of Deputies Passover Message


Pesach Message

Marie van der Zyl – President, Board of Deputies

February 2021 / Nissan 5781

This time last year I wrote in my Pesach message about the pandemic which had suddenly overtaken all of us and which was already taking a heavy toll on the Jewish community. I am very sad that one year later this terrible virus is still claiming lives in our community and affecting the way we live.

Once again, Seder Night will not be the packed, joyous family event we all love. We will, for the second time, be holding intimate events with our closest family and then only if we are lucky enough to live in the same house or bubble. My thoughts are with all of you who are alone at this time or unable to see your nearest and dearest. This past year has taken a toll on all of us but I have seen great acts of generosity and kindness. In some ways, this terrible situation has brought out the best in people – from the small things, like a grandchild baking for her grandparents who are shielding, to those such as Captain Tom, whose fundraising made millions for the NHS, before his sad passing earlier this year.

Now, with millions already vaccinated and infection rates falling, we have a sacred duty to ensure that lives are saved. Every death in our community has been a tragedy for someone’s family. We must ensure that we do everything to save lives. This is the most fundamental imperative of Judaism.

Over this year, the way the Board of Deputies operates has changed, with home working for our staff and Zoom for our plenary meetings. Our online BoDCast  events have engaged thousands of people from across the country and across the world  and  our achievements have continued to grow.

We continue to work with all parts of the Jewish community to ensure that they have access to the best available information about the Coronavirus pandemic and make decisions about when to open and when to close facilities. This has included working with the Cabinet Office to get guidance translated into Yiddish for sections of the Charedi community who do not have English as a first language.

We have been working tirelessly to ensure that the Labour Party, under its new leader Sir Keir Starmer, acts firmly and decisively to excise the antisemitism which had flourished under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn. On this, good progress has been made but we need to see even more.

We have also worked hard this year on ensuring that Jews do not face hatred online, by coming up with proposals to ensure that new Online Harms legislation protects us all from abuse social media platforms. Online is the new frontline in the fight against antisemitism – and not just antisemitism, but misogyny, anti-Muslim hatred, homophobia and racism and bigotry against other religions, ethnicities and minority groups. We are working hard to ensure we are better protected. In the meantime, we have acted to stop antisemites selling their poison online by working with Amazon to ensure Holocaust denial works are removed from its platform.

We may be the Board of Deputies of British Jews but some of our most important and successful work has been in support of a group which are neither British nor Jewish. The Chinese Uyghur Muslims are subject to terrible persecution, and I was not the only one to see echoes of the Holocaust in their treatment by the Chinese authorities. I wrote to the Chinese Ambassador following a harrowing interview on the Andrew Marr Show and as an organisation we worked tirelessly to persuade MPs to support the Genocide Amendment to the Trade Bill, which would allow Uyghurs to get around the broken UN system and be able to take their call for justice in a British court.

In a year in which the world mourned the racist murder of George Floyd in the USA, we felt a responsibility to ensure that our community was one in which Black Jews and Jews of Colour do not feel alienated. To this end we set up the Commission on Racial Inclusivity in the Jewish Community with Stephen Bush as Chair. We hope that the recommendations that the Commission makes will make our community a model of inclusivity in the coming years.

Despite the tragedy in the world there have been some beacons of light in the past 12 months. I have seen our community come together like never before. Despite the physical distance, we have been looking after each other and this is has been so necessary and heartwarming. We have also seen remarkable progress in Israel’s relations with its Middle East neighbours. The Abraham Accords were signed between Israel the UAE and Bahrain. We also saw an agreement with Morocco. One of the highlights of my years was lighting the Chanukah candles in an online event with the ambssadors of the UAE and Bahrain – something I never thought I would see.

We have been enduring difficult times. It is my earnest wish that we all stay safe and look forward, as we always do at this time, to better days ahead.

Pesach Sameach to you and your families from everyone at the Board of Deputies

Marie van der Zyl
President, Board of Deputies of British Jews

**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**

Shutdown of Services


It is with regret that we have taken the decision to close our Shabbat Services to congregants during the current lockdown period. The Rabbi and Cantor will continue to stream services live on a Friday night and Saturday morning through BelsizeLIVE.

We have not taken the decision to close lightly. You may have read the new guidance released by the government which permits places of worship to remain open during the lockdown and we fully understand that many of our members still want to attend and have felt extremely comfortable with the measures that we have in place. However, after consultation with the Ministers, we feel that with the current message asking people to stay at home, it would be wrong to invite people into a setting that increases their risk of contracting the virus at this time.

We thank you for understanding and hope that you are able to join us on BelsizeLIVE for the next few weeks.

Please stay safe and well.

Mental Health Awareness Shabbat


Mental Health Awareness Shabbat UK – 22-23 January 2021

The Mental Health Awareness Shabbat (MHAS), launched by Jami in 2017, aims to raise the profile of mental health in the Jewish Community.

The MHAS falls annually on Shabbat “Bo”, the weekly Torah portion which tells about the Plague of Darkness, which has resonance with mental illness.

This year’s theme is The Impact of the Pandemic. Living through the ongoing pandemic has affected all our mental health, and this special Shabbat is an opportunity for the entire community to focus on and raise awareness of mental health and wellbeing.


Belsize Square is looking to arrange a guest speaker event the following week but there are a number of other events organised by MHAS:

Friday 22nd January 3.15pm
United Synagogue MHAS dedicated Kabbalat Shabbat with Rabbi Daniel Epstein live on THEUS.TV

Saturday 23rd January 8-9.30pm
Mental Health Awareness through a Covid-19 Lens – Looking after ourselves,
our families and our communities
(Interactive Head Room Education session)

Sunday 24th January 8-10pm
MHAS Community Conversations (Interactive Head Room Education session) 

Monday 25th January 7-8pm
Getting through lockdown: taking care of myself and my friends (interactive Head Room Education session) for ages 14-16

Tuesday 26th January 8-8.30pm
Supporting our children during these difficult times Samantha Simmonds in conversation with Dr Ellie Cannon

Thursday 28th January 8-8.30pm
Monty, Mental Health and Mazal
Zaki Cooper in conversation with cricket legend Monty Panesar

Thursday 28th January 8.30-8.45pm
Cake is my Super Power with Ilana Epstein of Ta’am – Judaism on a Plate

To find out more information please visit and to register for any events, please email

Help & Activities – Useful Links


To all our members and friends, we just want to let you know that whilst facing the challenges that lay ahead over the coming months, we are stronger by being a community. As such, we will be staying in touch (so keep checking our website).

As a first step, we are publishing a list of weblinks to organisations that are there to help, as well as a few suggestions for entertainment and education. But please note that being listed does not imply that an organisation is recommended or endorsed by Belsize Square.

If, as a member of Belsize Square Synagogue, you are using a service  that could be useful to others or you would like to volunteer to provide a useful service, even from the end of a phone or via the internet to our community please send an email to

The synagogue might be closed but the Ministers, Officers and Staff are there for you as we know you are for your community.

Local Authorities

If you live in London, most local councils are providing advice and information through their websites:

Barnet –

Brent –

Camden –

Hackney –

Haringey –

Islington –

Westminster –


Age Concern –

Red Cross –—latest-updates-from-british-red-cross

Carers Trust –


Mutual Aid – – local groups offering support in your area.

Paperweight – – offering support on advice on welfare and benefits.


Kosher Food Deliveries –

Daniel’s Bakery –

Computer Support

Zoom Advice – click here for advice on how to use Zoom – provided by our member Anthony Hellman

Coffee & Computers – – helping newcomers use computers, ta blets and smartphones

Entertainment & Adult Education

JW3 – an extensive collection of past lectures and events online as well as children’s programmes –

Metropolitan Opera – streaming a different production every day of the week free –

Amazon Audible –

Google Arts & Culture – using its Street View platform to give you online access to hundreds of museums and galleries around the world –

Open Culture – free movies, books & courses –

Israeli Movie Night –

UK Jewish Film –

Hampstead Theatre – free to watch plays –

National Theatre – new productions each Thursday –

Berlin Philharmoniker – a wonderful list of past concerts on their digital platform for free –

English National Ballet – daily dance classes to help you keep fit –

Royal Opera House – the Royal Opera is offering free online streaming of past opera and ballet performances and much more –

Europeana – opens the door to museums,art galleries,libraries and theatres –

Opera Vision – Opera streaming from all over –

London Symphony Orchestra –  Each Sunday and Thursday the LSO will be streaming archive concerts on Youtube –

Royal Albert Hall – free concerts from the Royal Albert Hall –

Museum Tours – Virtual tours of 1200 museums around the world –

Classic FM – links to all classical music and opera being streamed from all over the world –

Art Galleries – A wealth of Art is available to view and to study online:The Courtauld; Royal Academy; British Museum


Leo Baeck College –

Children’s Education

National Geographic for Kids –

Jewish Interactive –

B’nei Brith Youth Organisation –

P.E. with Joe –  new lessons every weekday morning –