Monthly Archives: February 2021

Chairman’s message 24 February

Dear Friends

This week I have been smiling about the Weetabix PR campaign. You may have read that Weetabix posted a tweet showing two of their cereals smothered in baked beans with the caption: “Why should bread have all the fun when there’s Weetabix?”

It is the replies that have made me smile, even in a pandemic humour shines through from unexpected places and can lift our spirits. Here are my favourites:

  • Sussex Police said “nothing warrants this”
  • The Royal National Lifeboat Institute said “our volunteers are prepared to brave all sorts of windy conditions. But not this”.
  • Sainsbury’s told Weetabix that “Beans have no authority here, no authority AT ALL” (referencing Jackie Weaver and the parish council meeting of course!)
  • The US Embassy tweeted that the pairing was not the US-UK “collaboration we were hoping for”. To which the British Embassy responded with: “Strong opinion from the nation that makes tea in a microwave.”
  • Israel used its official account to say: “Finally something that all Middle Eastern countries can agree on. Just no.”

Turning to the Synagogue, we are looking at when we can reopen as the national vaccination programme starts to have a real impact. There is very little guidance that has been produced so far but we expect to have more news for you over the coming weeks. We also have a problem with our sound system in the synagogue, which we hope to have repaired ahead of returning. In the meantime our Shabbat services continue on BelsizeLIVE and as I have said for the last few weeks please do join us for Purim tomorrow at 7pm. (To tempt you, I understand that we may hear some jokes from Rabbi Altshuler so come and listen in person).

Another synagogue event for your diary was recently announced and if you didn’t see it, on Sunday 7 March at 7pm, Music at Belsize is very excited to bring you the Pizmon a cappella group, from the USA to your home! 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. If you are interested you can join on Zoom.

Following on from Rabbi Altshuler’s announcement last week, I am happy to tell you that Rabbi Botnick and his family are now living in the UK. There will be an article in the next Our Cong telling you more about them, so do read it when it comes out. In the meantime, Rabbi Botnick is taking this time to settle into UK life and I would ask you to please give him some space to do this. He will start with us after Pesach and although I am in contact with him regularly, I would ask that for now please do not contact him directly to ask him any questions. If you have anything you feel needs answering immediately, then please come to me by email or phone. As keen as we all are to welcome him, we need to be respectful of his personal life at this time.  

Lastly, this Shabbat is the start of Jewish Book Week and its Festival, if you are interested in finding out more about the programme it can be found on

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


Chairman’s message 17 February

Dear Friends,

The weather is getting warmer and some of us are vaccinated and the schools may go back, so all in all things are improving. I came across an article last week written by three individuals who work for Potential Projects: Rasmus Hougaard, Jacqueline Carter and Nick Hobson and it starts “…it feels as if the world we know is faltering… now more than ever it’s imperative to demonstrate compassion.” That made me sit up and think! Here are some points that I took from it that you may find interesting and which I am now trying to put into my day-to-day living:

  • Compassion is the quality of having positive intentions and a real concern for others
  • Compassion on its own is not enough it must be combined with wisdom
  • To have wise compassion you have to have compassion for yourself, don’t let yourself get out of balance, don’t self-criticise all the time
  • Check your intentions before you speak
  • Compassion is a trainable skill, it doesn’t come naturally to everyone
  • Develop a genuine caring for people’s feelings and well-being

Turning to the Synagogue, as you know we are represented on the Board of Deputies by three people. Sadly, both Robert Sacks and Carol Cohen are stepping down from their position as Deputies. Deborah Nerva-Cohen is continuing. It is so important that we have a voice in this forum and can raise key issues that concern us. Please can I ask you to contact Lee if you would like to explore what this involves and Deborah or Annette Nathan will be happy to talk to you about the detail. We need your help! In the meantime, can I thank Robert and Carol for all the work that they have done for the Synagogue.

I am so proud to tell you that in spite of lockdown and school disruption, our Holocaust Memorial Day Programme for schools is being delivered virtually and has been very well received. We have already delivered to South Hampstead High School and there are some other schools who would normally attend the Synagogue, who have also asked us to do the same. An enormous thank you goes to Peter Bohm who is the driving force behind this project (never taking a “no we can’t do it” for an answer), to Cantor Heller for spending hours putting together much of the material, to presenters Rob Nothman and Hilary Solomon, and everyone else involved.

Our member, Alisa Jaffa, is in conversation at AJR online on Thursday 4 March from 4-5pm. She will be talking about how her early experiences in Nazi Germany have affected her life and perspective, and what it feels like to give testimony for the AJR Archive. Please use the link below to register for the talk which is free:

World Jewish Relief have a number of online events over the coming months that you might be interested in –

I have had some enquiries about Pesach. More will follow in the next few weeks but we will be holding a Zoom Communal Seder on the second night, Sunday 28 March. Pop this in your diary.

Lastly can I remind you again that it is Purim next week on 25 February at 7.00pm. As I said last week it will be run by the children, with the children and for the children but held virtually. This promises to be a special event so please do plan to join us and send pictures of your fancy dress to Lee (

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


Chairman’s message 10 February

Dear Friends

I love snow!! The current weather, which I know is not welcome by many of you, has lifted my spirits. I love the mountains (yes, I know there aren’t any in London!), I started skiing when I was six, so as soon as I see snow I literally smell the mountain air and imagine that I am gliding down a gentle path to a warm and welcoming lunch. It also makes everything look pretty, the trees are magical and the London grime is hidden. I am easily pleased!

Anyway, that is enough of my musing for this week, I have a few things to tell you. We held our first Shabbat Schmooze Zoom after the service last week and I want to remind you that it is taking place at noon every Saturday after the service. It’s a chance to make kiddush and chat with friends. Claire Walford’s Candle Lighting continues on Friday evenings at 7.45pm, after the Erev Shabbat Service. This is another opportunity to see each other at the end of the week. Two opportunities for you to speak to each other and feel part of our community, please do join in. 

We are hoping to bring you live Shabbat Services on BelsizeLIVE this week with the Rabbi, Cantor and Ben Wolf broadcasting from the Synagogue. Our livestream is in the process of being fixed and in the event it is not ready we will have recorded Services for you to watch instead.

Coming up fast is Purim on 25 February at 7.00pm. This is our usual Purim – run by the children, with the children and for the children but held virtually. We would love parents and grandparents to send us in pictures of your children/grandchildren in fancy dress and/or waving groggers, or munching on hamantaschen. Or you can send us pictures of yourselves doing the same! The best pictures will be put into our magazine, Our Cong, although they will be too late for the upcoming edition. This promises to be a special event so please do plan to join us and send your pictures to Lee (

If you have spare books that you no longer need, Langdon have a book warehouse in Harrow and would welcome donations. They have an amazingly large space filled with shelves of catalogued books, which they sell online. They also supply books to residential care homes and no books go to landfill. The warehouse has Langdon residents working alongside volunteers. To make it even easier for you to donate they will collect books from your homes . Please contact Langdon on 020 8951 3942 and ask for information on New Chapters. It’s not just books – they will also collect CDs, DVDs and records.

Finally, I wanted to let you know that the Kirsh Foundation run weekly free lectures, as the Lockdown University, on a range of fascinating subjects. If you would like to get onto their mailing list please contact Judi Ferreira at

That is all from me this week, stay safe and stay well


Chairman’s message 3 February

Dear Friends

As Holocaust Memorial Day arrived my thoughts inevitably turned to my parents, grandparents and the many great aunts and great uncles that I never met. The various on-line memorial services were very moving to watch but as the week progressed I realised that the current Covid vaccination programme has given me an emotional insight into what they might have experienced. Many of my phone calls with friends currently consist of comparing notes on who has and has not been vaccinated, who has or has not had a second vaccination date given to them, where excess doses might be available for those who just turn up and so on. We spend so much time and energy talking about it and yet we have no influence over it. Just as I started to go down this particularly dark rabbit hole, along came Kosher Kingdom in Golders Green to brighten up my day, make me smile and make me realise how fortunate I am to live here and now. Jewish News published an article to say that Stamford Hill’s leading Chasidic singer Shloime Gertner has recorded a jingle to play in the store, to remind Kosher Kingdom shoppers to follow coronavirus restrictions. Here is the link to the article, scroll down and you can hear the jingle, I hope it makes you smile too –

Anyone who watched our Shabbat Services on BelsizeLIVE would have noticed we had some technical issues. One of the main components that is used to stream the Services is faulty and needs replacing. Unfortunately it won’t be replaced in time for this week’s services so we will be playing a pre-recorded Service to you with the Rabbi recording his sermon and the Torah reading from home. I hope that we will be back live from next week.

I am delighted to be able to announce that from this Shabbat onwards, until regular services resume, we are introducing a Social Zoom that will allow safe, socially distanced, interactive on-line schmoozing. Justyn Trenner has organised this for us and it will take place at 12 noon for about 20 minutes. There will be kiddush and hamotzei followed by a chance to chat to friends. Don’t forget that Clare Walford’s Friday evening Zoom kiddush continues too.

I want to thank Caroline Loison and Frank Joseph for organising a great Zoom Quiz last Sunday, we had so much fun even if we couldn’t work out which flag belonged to which country. If you couldn’t make it, then hopefully you will be able to join us on something else soon.

Coming up this Thursday evening at 8pm is the talk organised by the Tikkun Olam Committee with JAMI on “Getting Through Lockdown”. If you missed the flyer, then please contact Adam Rynhold who can send you the Zoom details. You should also have seen that we are holding our Purim Service virtually this year on Thursday 25 February at 7pm. A date for you to put in your diary.

I have spent some time listening to on-line talks run by the How to Academy, my next one will be to hear Bill Gates talk about how to avoid climate disaster. They have an extensive programme and ticket prices vary but you can go onto their mailing list for free.

That is all from me for now, stay safe and stay well