Monthly Archives: August 2020

Chairman’s message 27 August

Dear Friends

This email comes to you a day late as I usually write it on a Wednesday. Yesterday we took the decision to come back early from our one week holiday in Cornwall and so I was on the road all day. We cut the week short having experienced 70mph winds on Tuesday, thanks to Storm Francis and with more rain forecast for the rest of our stay. I have to say that I have never experienced anything like strong winds and standing on a hill, in the storm, was one of the most exhilarating and terrifying moments of this year. Mind you most of the year has been spent indoors, so actually the bar is probably quite low!

Still on the subject of activities I am constantly impressed at the range of sports and thrill seeking activities that Mrs Klopstick undertakes. We hear about them regularly from her husband, Fritz, in News From The Square. Last week both of them were concerned that there will be no “chauffer blasting” at the High Holydays. I would like to reassure them and any of you who were concerned that we have agreed arrangements for the Shofar to be blown. It will occur just outside the Synagogue in the open air but will be clearly heard by all those in the Synagogue or on BelsizeLIVE. I am so impressed with all Mrs Klopstick’s activities that I would like to invite her onto our Planning Committee, so that we can harness her ideas. Perhaps Fritz could pass this on?

Please remember that booking for the High Holydays closes on Monday so if you would like to come but haven’t emailed yet please do so. For those of you who do want to attend you will hear from Lee by Friday 4 September.

The Planning Committee met again this week and we have now agreed that we will be able to have a small choir in our Friday evening services as well as Shabbat morning. The first service will be Friday 4 September. Another step forward! Plans are almost complete for Succot and the following Festivals and I will write again about those next week.

I am also delighted to say that Kikar Kids is coming back to Belsize Square from 5 September onwards, once a month. We think we are the first community to find a covid secure way of putting on a children’s service. Kikar will still start at 11am but will now be in the hall. As with the main service everyone will have their temperature taken when they arrive and all adults will need to wear masks. Families will sit inside a personalised square. It will be different and yet very special for young people and their families to be together again – even if in a socially distanced way! All bookings will be through the office – if you have any questions please send them to Lee or Richard Pollins.

I have been sent information on a JW3 evening ,which might interest you. The event takes place on line on Thursday 10 September from 8pm.The host for the evening will be Tracy Ann Oberman featuring the following guests; Boy George, Stephen Fry, Simon Callow, Shappi Khorsandi, Jim Carter & Imelda Staunton, Mark Ronson, Jason Isaacs, G4 and others. Visit the JW3 website and look for the “JW3’s Big Night In” page to watch the show on the night, when it will stream live. They are asking for voluntary donations.

That is all from me but I wanted to thank everyone who has written to me about their troubles with their bin collections. I am about to go outside to see if the bin was collected this week. There are no gardening tips this week but please do read the piece below by Sonny MacDonald who was the joint 1st place winner of the Cheder Writing Competition.

Stay safe and stay well


Lock down by Sonny MacDonald

This year’s Passover was different. We weren’t going to our grandparents and seeing our cousins and eating the incredibly tasty dishes that my Grandma makes, or reading and singing altogether. Oh no – This year we were going to do it in a whole unique, new and exciting way.

It all started when we started the Zoom call. One by one, our family popped onto the screen. We were all fancily dressed up while our cousins wore casual jeans and colourful jumpsuits. Laid before the screen were plates of cinnamon balls, coconut pyramids, fruit, savoury dishes too. But standing majestically in all their glory were the two silver, detailed candles, like the King and Queen. We lit them and said the prayers, then opened the books. Images of Hebrew letters peered up at us, hopefully, as if begging to be read. Pictures of Moses and Israelites were also there.

After a few more pages, we came to the Seder plate. We ate the boiled egg in salt water, the parsley, the maror or bitter herb. It made my eyes water like a stream! We then ate the matzah with charoset which represents the cement the slaves used to build pyramids. Then we sat down and sang a song which was very funny as it kept going out of rhythm.

Then we focused on the plagues. We each had a mask to show the plague we represented. Now, my cousins are extremely energetic and sitting around must’ve felt like agony or holding up Mount Everest. So, the small one, Frankie, who is fabulous but frantic and funny, started running around my aunt and uncle’s dining room. What complete chaos and a total hullaballoo! This made my Grandpa furious, which made everyone else laugh. Then she mixed up the songs with random words which was even more humorous.

In the end, we were all contented, virtuous and cheerful. I never thought it would turn out to be so distinctive and fun. I just hope next year is better!

Sonny Macdonald

Chairman’s message 19 August

Dear Friends,

Since you received my email last Wednesday I have been arguing with the Council about the failed weekly collection of my brown food-waste bin. Every day on phoning the Council Complaints Section, we were given answers that varied from “it will be collected tomorrow” to “you didn’t leave it in the right place” (no, the place hasn’t moved from where you have picked it up for the last few years) to “you have rung too early in the day for us to do anything”. On Monday we were told that we would have to wait for the usual collection day this week, which is Thursday, and it definitely wouldn’t be collected before then. This, of course, meant it was collected yesterday, Tuesday!!

I cannot begin to describe the sense of powerlessness that this brought on and frustration with the system that wouldn’t do anything to help me. All this even though I know it is only a bin and in the scheme of things not at all important. However, the experience has made me want to reach out to those of you in our congregation who were due to take GCSE and A levels this year and who are now caught up in the Grades debacle. You must be feeling so many emotions and I just want you to know that as a community we are proud of everything that you achieve. I (we) hope that when this is over you have been given the grades that you deserve and that you can move on to whatever you want to do next. As you move on to new things, stay in touch with us, send us your news.

I hope that you have all received the booking information for the High Holydays that Lee sent out and that you are replying to Adam if you want to attend. I write with some good news. The Government has relaxed the restrictions on Choirs and so from Shabbat 5 September we will bring back a quartet for the Shabbat morning services. There will still be no choir on Friday evening. We have two Bnei Mitzvah Services on 5 and 12 September, so this is really good news.

We will also be able to have a live service with the choir and Cantor Heller on Selichot. In order to achieve this and to make it a good experience to watch on BelsizeLIVE, they will be on the Bimah with screens in front of them. To comply with the government guidelines on social distancing, we will not be able to open the Synagogue to the community that evening. Please plan to watch on BelsizeLIVE and don’t forget that before the service Rabbi Altshuler will be holding a Zoom Shiur. Please look out for further publicity.

During Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur we also plan to have the choir present, although it will be smaller than usual, due to the need for social distancing. As I said, this is good news.

You may be interested to know that Friday 14 August was exactly 75 years since “The Boys” arrived in Windermere from the Camps. Individuals from our congregation were among them, namely Koppel Kendall, David Herman and Jan Goldberger. As well as Victor Greenberg – father of our member Alan Greenberg, and Zigi Shipper both of whom have spoken at events at the Synagogue.

I have been told that Limmud are organising an online tour of Britain. The tour will take place online on Tuesday evenings, from 7:30pm-10:00pm, 8 & 15 September and 20 & 27 October. Sessions will explore regional Jewish communities and history, as well as the usual Limmud mix of topics of national and global interest. Tickets are £5 an evening or with a10% discount if you book all four evenings. Go to: to book.

I have not been sent any more articles from members to publish but I am including below a piece from Ellen Polonsky who won joint first place in the Synagogue Cheder writing competition last term. The other first place piece by Sonny Macdonald will follow next week. There are no gardening tips this week but they will be back in September when there is more to do in the garden

Stay safe and stay well

Lock down – Day 730 6am by Ellen Polonsky

In the morning it’s time for the world to wake up. Not in Lockdown. You can either sleep in till 10am or wake up at 4am, getting ready for a day of gaming. This family doesn’t do either. Their parents make them get up at 8am and put on their school clothes and do all their work at the right times.

After school is finished, they have to do some homework their parents set them. This family is called the Browns. Family members: George Brown (Dad), Emily Brown (Mum), Jack Brown (older brother) and Ella Brown (younger sister). The second the work is set, they print it out. The children have a set schedule and if they are even one second late, it’s detention for them. This is because their parents used to be teachers; that’s where they met but, a week later, they were fired after being so horrible to the kids.

After a year of dating, they got married, and had Jack and Ella. The parents thought it was paradise, while the kids thought they were being tortured. “Mum … 5 more minutes sleep, please…” said Jack and Ella in bed in the morning.

“NO! YOU’RE LATE! DETENTION!” said their Mum. Jack and Ella had already fallen back asleep. “UP! Double detention!” shouted their Mum. Then they quickly jumped up, got dressed and stood in front of their Mum.

“Good! Now into the detention room we go!” as their Mum pushed them into the living room. “For how long?” asked Ella. “Half an hour!” replied their Dad. The kids groaned. So, the kids sat down. They couldn’t sleep because there were cameras everywhere so their parents could watch their every move. But they were smart and covered up the cameras with a scarf. In a second they fell asleep but then, when some footsteps woke them up, they quickly took off the scarf and sat quietly.

When they were getting into bed, Ella had an idea! They could challenge their parents to a role swap when the parents would be kids for a day and the children would be parents! So, when the sun rose up, at 8am sharp they went downstairs and Ella told their parents the idea. They obviously said “Yes”, after all, they love challenges!

So, the next day, they got up and went to wake up their Mum and Dad. But, when they came in expecting them to be dressed and ready for a day of learning, they were just sleeping. So, they woke them up but they just groaned and started playing on their game console. “WHAT ARE YOU DOING YOUNG MAN?!” said Jack. “It’s the weekend.” Said his Dad. The boot was on the other foot now! So, Ella and Jack spent the rest of the day either sleeping or watching a movie.

Chairman’s message 12 August

Dear Friends

Now that we have our Shabbat services running in the Synagogue I wanted to let you know about the plans for the High Holydays. I have been working with the Planning Group since April and I want to thank everyone (and their own teams) for their hard work and inspirational ideas. What we have achieved is a result of teamwork, creative thinking and commitment to the Synagogue. It is an honour and privilege to Chair these meetings.

For those of you who are planning to watch on BelsizeLIVE, we will be streaming all the services below as usual. If we are in lockdown or for some reason unable to hold a particular live service, then with the help of Cantor Heller we have spent the summer ensuring that we have recorded services which we can stream. These will be archived services into which Cantor Heller has added members who are leyning/chanting Haftarah and Rabbi Altshuler’s sermons.

For the live services we are now recording the choir and we hope to be able to use this, so that the services become more of what we are used to. When we do, the Choir will, of course, be on the streamed service as well.

This is what we are planning for you:

  • Selichot – Saturday 12 September: as this is a choral service with no sermon, we will be streaming an archived service. The Synagogue will not open. Before the service Rabbi Altshuler will hold a Shiur on Zoom
  • Erev 1st and 2nd day Rosh Hashanah – Friday 18 and Saturday 19 September: these services will be held in the Synagogue and streamed on BelsizeLIVE
  • 1st and 2nd day Rosh Hashanah – Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 September: these services will also be in the Synagogue and streamed on BelsizeLIVE
  • Kol Nidrei – Sunday 27 September: once again this will be a service in the Synagogue and streamed on BelsizeLIVE
  • Yom Kippur – Monday 28 September : in order to enable as many people as possible to attend on Yom Kippur we are dividing the day into three distinct parts, the idea being that we will be able to have three separate congregations attending, all socially distanced of course and quite small in number. As always, we will stream the day on BelsizeLIVE. Once everyone has left the building the Synagogue will be deep cleaned between each part of the service, so there will be a minimum of an hour and a quarter break in between each section. To make this possible Rabbi Altshuler and Cantor Heller have worked to take out some of the service to create the necessary cleaning gaps. We are dividing the day as follows:
    • 9.30-13.30: Shacharit & Mussaf
    • 14.45-16.15: Mincha – this year we will have young people taking the service as usual but will not be able to have the youth choir due to the current restrictions. However, we are recording the choir parts with the adult choir.
    • 17.30-19.30: Yizkor & Neilah. The fast ends at 19.32.

Lee will be writing to all of you next week with fuller details and information on how to book. If you come to Synagogue we will ask you to stay for the whole of your allocated service.

For those of you watching on BelsizeLIVE we hope to stream something in the breaks between the sections, we are still working on this.

Youth Services on 1st day Rosh Hashanah (starting at 11am) and Yom Kippur (starting at 11.30am) will be held on Zoom this year. They will be the same as if we would be holding them in the Synagogue Hall but without the choir parts, with shortened Torah portions and the Haftorah in English only. Next year we plan to be back in person and with our usual service in Hebrew and English and with the youth choir, but this year is an exception. Jeannie Cohen has kindly created a prayer book which we will put up on the screen during the Zoom services.

There will also be a Zoom service on 2nd day Rosh Hashanah at 11am which will be very special as it will be a teaching/fun service with a Kahoots quiz at various intervals during the service and asking questions that are appropriate to the prayers being read or the Torah and Haftorah portions. We will send out more information about this but……there will be prizes given out !

There will be live participation via Zoom on all days.

Kikar Kids:

  • 1st day Rosh Hashanah – Saturday 19 September: we will be holding our Kikar Kids on Zoom at 10am.
  • 2nd day Rosh Hashanah at 10am – Sunday 20 September: we will be holding our Kikar Kids on Zoom.
  • Yom Kippur – Monday 28 October : we will be holding our Kikar Kids on Zoom at 10:30am.

As these are on Zoom you will be able to participate.

Youth Activities on Yom Kippur
Our Head of Cheder and Youth, Caroline Loison, is in the process of planning a program of youth activities to run throughout the day on Yom Kippur via Zoom. Of course, she is making sure these don’t clash with the Youth or Kikar Kids services and a more detailed timetable will be provided nearer the time. At the moment Caroline is looking at offering four sessions split by age group (4-7s, 7-9s, 9-11s and 11-13s) and these will cover a wide variety of Yom Kippur appropriate topics/themes for help keep our young people focused on this special day and some of the ideas behind it.

Last week, I asked for people who are younger than me to send in some pieces to add on to this email. Caroline Loison has sent me a wonderful piece about arranging a Bar Mitzvah in Lockdown. Please scroll down below the gardening tips to read it. I haven’t had many replies, so if anyone of you would like to send me something, please do. I think it would be wonderful to be able to publish our experiences, whatever our age and circumstances.

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


Gardening Tips

Just to remind you that whilst they are not experts, both Henny and John have agreed to answer any gardening questions that you may have. Please email questions to Adam Rynhold at and he will pass them on.

From John Alexander
In the words of Nat King Cole: “Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summerThose days of soda and pretzels and beer….”

There is not a lot that needs doing in a flower garden at the moment except clearing off dried leaves that have blown in, watering, deadheading and the occasional sprinkling of slug pellets.

So….enjoy the fine weather and take pleasure in the fruits of your labours!

Tales of a Jewish Mother from Caroline Loison

So my eldest son’s Bar Mitzvah is on 5th September. Such an exciting time and occasion for him, us and all our family and friends but an especially exciting time for me, his Jewish mother. I mean, I know that he will be the focus of everything on the day and that is absolutely the way it should be. And my husband and I (not forgetting his grandparents, uncle, aunts and great aunts etc), will be schlepping nuchas the whole day which is also the way it should be. But, as the Jewish mother, it’s me that gets to book the venue. Me that gets to book the caterer. Me that gets to book the entertainment. Me that gets to arrange the decorations. It’s a Jewish mother’s dream – I am in control of everything, just as I like to be! The Excel spreadsheet was designed and in place ages ago and I remember looking at the calendar in January and thinking how far away the Bar Mitzvah seemed and wondering when I needed to start doing a bit more planning. I hadn’t really planned that much for it at that point. Well, I had obviously booked the venue. And I had booked the food. And I’d booked the DJ. And I’d chosen the balloons. And I’d also reserved the present post box. And I’d designed the Logo. And I’d chosen the colour scheme. Actually, it sounds like I had done quite a bit of booking but, believe me, these days you can go completely “Meshugas” with accessories for your Bar Mitzvah. You can have doughnut walls, hot dog trolleys, ice cream factories, giant table football games, perfume bars, henna tattoos, photo booths or mirrors… The list is endless and can be quite overwhelming. Yes, even for an excited (and organised) Jewish mother like me! Anyway, I was just days away from making a few more phone calls… Peer pressure in the form of my best friend had dictated that I absolutely, definitely, no doubt about it, had to have a photo booth. And then Covid-19 hit. Schools were about to close. The country was about to go into Lockdown. Jewish mothers all over the world were desperately worried that their big “baby” boy or girl might not get their moment. I wasn’t worried. J’s Bar Mitzvah was in September. We wouldn’t be in Lockdown then. It would be fine. The Shul would be open again. Covid-19 would be a distant memory. My son would definitely get his moment. Of course he would. But then again, maybe he might not. In fact, it became apparent quite quickly that this would not be over by September. A lot of thinking and discussions took place between my husband and I. What should we do? Should we ask J what he wants to do? Should we make some phone calls to the people we have booked? Should we be praying for some sort of miracle to occur so that this horrid plague suddenly vanishes? Or should we just go ahead and cancel? In the end, we spoke to J and all agreed that cancelling the party would be the best thing this time and we would try to rebook a party for him at a later date. We hoped that the religious side of the Bar Mitzvah would still be able to go ahead given the recent easing of restrictions and the Synagogue’s plans to open up again. Maybe that would be our miracle?!?! I looked at my spreadsheet and made the phone calls again, this time starting each conversation with, “I’m sure I’m not the first person to call you to have to cancel because of Corona?” and everyone I spoke to replied in the same way – “No, it’s such a shame but I totally understand”. Sympathies exchanged, we then moved on to discussions about deposits being kept for the new date (August 2021 PG) and if the DJ or Post Box or caterer etc. would still be available then. Luckily everyone I called was free so everything booked was quickly rebooked. So, at the moment, we are waiting to see what happens about a second wave and if it’s on its way or not. And my Jewish mother self can relax again. Because August 2021 is ages away. Once again, there’s loads of time for me to redesign the spreadsheet, improve the logo, check the main course side dishes shouldn’t be changed, create the Israeli music playlist for the DJ… ?!?! Actually, maybe I should start the planning a bit earlier??? I might make a phone call or two next week… Just enquiring, of course! I will keep you posted on my plans, as long as you promise not to share them with J – I want them to be a surprise my son, the Bar Mitzvah boy.

Chairman’s message 5 August

Dear Friends

I usually start this email with something that has happened to me during the week. Well, this week I have had some feedback on these emails, which has made me think about them. Some young parents have said that whilst what I write is relevant to everyone, my weekly experiences do not “speak” specifically to them. Of course they are right, I don’t have young children or teenagers and can only imagine what the last few months must have been like. So, I am specifically asking younger members of the Community if you would please volunteer to send me pieces about your experiences up to now (or current as we move forward) that you would be happy to share. Whether you are a parent, single, teenager, University student, in a new job, job hunting or school age and would like something included please send it in. Nothing will be too small (just a few sentences will do) or too long (no dissertations please). I already have two volunteers, so you won’t be alone. So to those who sent in the feedback (you know who you are), thank you!

As you know we held the two trial services last weekend and have made a few changes as a result. Thank you so much to the volunteers who came and gave us feedback. I also want to thank Justyn Trenner and Carole Cohen who have been designing and testing our Security arrangements to make sure that we are both physically and Covid-19 secure. One of the things that I have consistently heard is that it is difficult for people to be in Synagogue without the choir singing. As you know we are bound by the Government guidelines that do not permit singing by a choir or by any member of the congregation. We are trying to see if we can record the choir in the empty Synagogue (this is permitted) and then add the recording into our live services. I will let you know how it goes but in the meantime please be understanding of our service limitations, they have been imposed upon us for our own safety.

By now you should have received Lee’s email on booking arrangements. If for any reason the email has not arrived please do contact him on We are also posting this information to members who are not on email.

This evening Wednesday 5 August at 8pm, Allan Morgenthau will be interviewing James Harding on Zoom. James Harding began his career as a journalist at the Financial Times in 1994 and two years later opened the paper’s Shanghai bureau where he covered the opening up of the Chinese financial markets, remaining there until 1999. In 2007, he moved on to the Times where, at 38, he became its youngest ever editor as well as first ever Jewish editor. He was ousted by owner Rupert Murdoch five years later and moved on to the BBC as director of news and current affairs. James argues that the demand for breaking news has led to “headline addiction” which is why he co-founded Tortoise Media of which he is also editor. Tortoise is a subscription service offering ‘slow news’ from award winning journalists. Allan is a member of our Synagogue and James grew up in it. If you would like to hear the interview please contact Adam on for log in details.

Our member Peter Summerfield BEM has published an interesting article “The Saga of the Useless Keys” on the Sussex University website. You can find it at
You may also like to know that Jewish Book Week have a number of recordings of events and talks accessible free from their website at

That is all from me this week. As always stay well and stay safe


Gardening Tips

Just to remind you that whilst they are not experts, both Henny and John have agreed to answer any gardening questions that you may have. Please email questions to Adam Rynhold at and he will pass them on.

From John Alexander:

  • Just because we had some torrential rainfall last week, followed by a short heatwave, doesn’t mean your pots and hanging baskets had enough water. Check them daily and water them daily if necessary. Give them a liquid feed every week.
  • Keep rhododendrons and camelias well-watered, especially those in pots, throughout August as they require moisture now to produce flower buds for next year.
  • Continue to deadhead roses and summer annuals plus perennials such as penstemons to extend their flowering season.
  • Wisteria continue to put out long wispy shoots that need to be cut back to five or six leaves to encourage flowering next spring.

You couldn’t make it up….Keith Weed, the son of Mr Weed and Miss Hedge, has just been elected President of the Royal Horticultural Society! The product of a match made on Gardeners’ World? This may be the only weed to welcome into your garden this year! The mother of my school friend was Olive Bush! I’d love to hear of other fun names… me via Adam in the office.