Last week I wrote about how strange this Rosh Hashanah was going to be. I thought I wouldn’t enjoy the services for all the reasons that I gave last week and yet, I found myself easily following the services at home and humming along with the choir. No need to worry if I was out of tune, no concerns over whether I was whispering too much in the silent parts, no scramble to find my place in the prayer book if I got distracted. Above all though, I felt a sense of belonging and that people were there with me even if I couldn’t see you. I was “home” in all senses of the word, both physically and spiritually. I hope that you experienced this too, whether attending a service or watching on BelsizeLIVE.
I am pleased to say that all our services in the Synagogue over Rosh Hashanah were full and I have had wonderful reports from people who attended one. Rabbi Altshuler and Cantor Heller made it a moving experience and the choir sounded superb. For those of you who were not there and have asked the question, yes they were singing live, it was not a recording. One member who attended wrote to me:
“Thank everyone for an absolutely exquisite service. We were privileged to get tickets today and, moreover, to belong to such an international, wonderful Synagogue.”
We also had an astounding response to the BelsizeLIVE streaming. 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. On Erev Rosh Hashanah 272 devices tuned in; on Rosh Hashanah first day 698 devices tuned in ; on Rosh Hashanah evening 95 devices tuned and on Rosh Hashanah second day there were 506 devices tuned in. That is a total of 1571 screens tuned into services. We know that people watched from as far away as America, Israel, Australia & South Africa. We have had messages telling us how wonderful the services were, such as:
“I joined you via streaming for Rosh Hashanah. I live in Sussex and although there were Services being held locally, I am having to shield. I have to tell you that for me the Belsize Square Synagogue Services were beautiful. The Rabbi, the Chazan, the Choir all gave such Spiritual uplift and I really deeply appreciate the amount of work involved. Thank you all so much and I look forward to being with you on Kol Nidrei and Yom Kippur.”
Whether you were at home or in the Synagogue, I hope you agree that it was very special to be able to have Cantor Heller open our Ark and for us to see all the scrolls for the first time since lockdown.
A question that I have been asked this week by people who watched at home is, how could we have someone blow the Shofar in the Synagogue when it is against the guidelines? Well, I can reassure you that the Shofar was blown outside the Synagogue. There is an emergency exit door at the side of the Synagogue by the Bimah and Patrick Sciamma stood outside in the open air with a microphone and blew it from there. We had placed a plastic screen across the door so that no droplets would enter the Synagogue. You will also have seen Adam Rynhold moving screens and microphones during the services, this was so that they could be thoroughly cleaned between each person using them.
Our Youth and Kikar Kids Zoom services were also a great success. 20 young people took active parts in the Youth Service in Hebrew and English with many more watching with their families at home. On the second day Rosh Hashanah there was a Family Quiz related to the Festival with prizes. Here are some quotes from participants about the two days:
“ I just wanted to let you know how much we enjoyed the Rosh Hashana youth services ……. I found Sunday’s service particularly warm and intimate, not an easy feat through a screen.”
“You still managed to ensure the children were involved, took part and felt comfortable through your encouragement as you would have done had we been doing it live.”
If you don’t have a place at the live services for Kol Nidre or Yom Kippur please do watch on BelsizeLIVE. The link is www.synagogue.org.uk/services/live. Don’t forget about Youth and Kikar Kids services and also all the activities for young people on Yom Kippur. Details are in the booklet that we sent out but if you don’t have them any more you can find it here www.synagogue.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/HH-Booklet-2020-v2.pdf
I thought you would like to know that before Rosh Hashanah three things happened. Firstly, between the Honorary Officers and myself we signed greetings cards with messages to every member (sometimes one card to the whole family). In addition, 12 volunteers baked 43 honey cakes that were delivered to some of our more elderly members who said that they would like to receive them. Thirdly, every member aged over 30 received a phone call or message from the Tikkun Olam Committee phone volunteers. Thank you to everyone who made this happen, baking, phoning, writing, delivering and organising. This is what defines us as a Community, we truly care for and take notice of everyone. I hope you know that even if we don’t see each other, you are still part of this wider family.
I am attaching to this email this year’s D’var Torah booklet containing the pieces written by each of our young members who have had their Bar or Bat Mitzvah. We usually publish this in hard copy but as you have it with this email please do take time to read it. It is inspiring.
I would like to finish by letting you know that the Board of Deputies have sent us the Rosh Hashanah messages sent to the Jewish community by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. You can find them at:
That is all from me this week. Stay safe, stay well and if you will be fasting then I hope you fast well too
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 email@example.com and he will pass them on.
- Although many of the summer flowering plants are coming to an end, Fuchsias will keep going until the first frost. You can also buy Persian Cyclamen in flower, which will flower into the winter and winter flowering pansies which will flower throughout the winter and into the spring. However I’ve found that winter flowering pansies are best if bought now in full flower as in my experience they don’t put out many new flowers until the spring. Ornamental cabbages are a favourite of ours. They come in many different colours and should be planted now and will usually last all winter. Often in spring they produce a tall spike of yellow flowers which is a bonus.
- The past week has been very dry and warm so gardens and pots still need watering. Even though rain is forecast it probably won’t be enough so do keep up with the watering.
- Dahlias are in full bloom now, but as soon as the flowers fade cut their stalk down to the nearest leaves to ensure new flowers open.
- Remember to order your spring bulbs as they’ll need planting before too long.