Category: Chairman’s message

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 (

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 (

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.


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 ( 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


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:

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


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

Chairman’s message 27 January

Dear Friends,

First of all thank you to everyone who took the time to email me last week, to say how much you enjoy my emails and are pleased that they are back. I really do appreciate it and it makes me feel very connected the Community.  

It is almost a year since John and I decided to shield ourselves and I find that is extraordinary as the weeks pass in our lockdown routine. However, I am sure that my week is like a Harry Potter staircase (always changing pace and direction) as the day to do the ironing seems to come round quicker than any other day. I think that I am fortunate as I have John to keep me company, my HR work and the Synagogue to keep me busy and no children living here to home school. I know that for many of you it is not so easy and I was recently sent this quote, part of which made me think “just don’t patronise me!” and part or which resonated with me. I hope some of it resonates with you too. The ideas come from Gyles Brandreth – writer, broadcaster, former MP, founder of the National Scrabble Championships. Here are some of his ideas to help us through lockdown: 

  • Be a leaf on a tree: belong to something bigger than yourself, a community of some sort. 
  • Cultivate a passion: have something in your life you really love doing. This can be anything, no matter how mundane or esoteric.
  • Break the mirror: we should stop thinking about ourselves, look up and turn our attention outwards. 
  • Audit your happiness: make a list of the things that make you happy and make a list of the things which make you unhappy, then try to make the first list longer than the second. 
  • If you want to be happy, act happy: it is possible to tell yourself to cheer up. A quote from the Dalai Lama adds to this: ‘Choose to be optimistic, it feels better’.

I hope by now that all those of you who are older members will have received a phone call from a volunteer who work with the Tikkun Olam Committee. We want to check that you are OK and just have a chat. If you haven’t had a call or know of anyone who hasn’t then please let Lee know in the office. 

Today is Holocaust Memorial Day. The AJR held their remembrance service yesterday on Zoom with Rabbi Altshuler and Cantor Heller taking part. We are sorry for posting the wrong details in last week’s NFTS but you can watch a recording of it here – We will mark Holocaust Memorial Day this coming Friday night at our Erev Shabbat Service.

On 11 February at 7.30pm the Jewish Musical Institute are holding a gala evening, which is free to join. The gala concert will be available on all JMI platforms worldwide – you will be able to simply click on either of the following links from 7pm and click in. or

The Leo Baeck School in Haifa is holding a free Zoom event on Sunday 7 February at 2pm: Rabbi Leo Baeck, Living a Religious Imperative in Troubled Times. This will be a conversation between author Michael A. Meyer and Lord Daniel Finkelstein. If you would like to attend this then please contact Adam Rynhold who will send you a link to register.

Lastly please don’t forget our synagogue events, The Big Belsize Square Synagogue Quiz this coming Sunday at 7.30pm (register for it by contacting the office) and our session with Jami on mental health, Getting Through Lockdown: taking care of myself and my friends. 

Stay safe and stay well,


Chairman’s message 20 January

Dear friends,

With encouragement from the Board I am starting my weekly email again during this lockdown. I had thought that the quote: “just when you thought it was safe to go into the water again…….” came from the 1975 film Jaws but on checking Google, I find that this is a warped version of the original. Jaws in known for two quotes: “ You’re going to need a bigger boat” (not really relevant to us!) and “You’ll never go in the water again” (also not relevant!). So I’m am going to stick with the first version, it summarises my thought that I hope you didn’t become bored with my last set of emails.

I think this current lockdown is harder than the previous ones and I am not quite sure why. Maybe it is the shorter and darker days, the unknown length or the constant stream of contradictory stories in the press. I have days when I am optimistic and days when I feel quite low, and on those low days I look forward to the familiarity of the Shabbat services which are so reassuring. I hope you are continuing to watch them on BelsizeLIVE even though none of us can attend in person. I would like to remind you that Claire Walford continues to run her Zoom Shabbat Candle Lighting and Kiddush on a Friday at 7.45pm. Please do join if you can.

We are working on providing some more Zoom activities/events for you, social and educational. We hope to do something linked to the service and also maybe a speaker during the week. More information will follow soon. As well as this, please do send me any information that you have on interesting events and speakers and I will add them to this email. Please do book into the Big Belsize Square Synagogue Quiz taking place on Sunday 31 January at 7.30pm, it is free and you just need to let the office know that you want to be part of it.

This coming weekend is Mental Health Awareness Shabbat. Jami are putting on a number of events and you can check these out here –

I am going to keep these emails short and for now there are no gardening tips, as my resident expert tells me there is nothing much to do at this time of year.

Stay safe and stay well.


Chairman’s message 21 October

Dear Friends

A few weeks ago I became an Honorary Freeman of the City of London. As it is an Honorary title it gives me no rights but it is interesting to know that were I not “Honorary” I could drive my sheep and cattle over London Bridge; have a silken rope, if hanged and carry a naked sword in public. I can’t say that I will miss any of those privileges!

I was given this honour by the Worshipful Company of Tobacco Pipe Makers & Tobacco Blenders, one of the City of London’s renowned Livery Companies. Like all Livery Companies, it encourages fellowship, supports charities and education, and plays an integral role in the City of London’s governance. The Company was originally founded in 1619 as a trade association tasked with regulating the manufacture of clay pipes. Since that time, it was twice dissolved and re-established, and so – despite its 17th century origins – it is now listed as a Modern Livery Company having been re-formed in 1954. John joined the Company in 1991 when he was granted The Freedom of The City of London. He was Master of the Company in 2009/10, hosting his Master’s dinner in Mansion House and participating in two Lord Mayor’s Shows. I was his Mistress (yes that is the title!) and so I am an Honorary Freeman as a past mistress (but I am pleased to say not yet a past wife).

I took my oath of allegiance on Zoom and quaked as I did it. It made me consider how we take for granted that members of our community are willing to stand on the Bimah and participate in or lead all parts of a service. I want to thank everyone, adult and youth who takes the time and trouble to learn our Trope, our Minhag and our music and who participates so wonderfully, without looking nervous at all. I also need to mention our Bnei Mitzvah and applaud the commitment it takes to stand in front of the congregation. This coming Shabbat is Rio Beckwith-Leever’s Bar Mitzvah who has been taught by Joe Hacker. Rio will be in the Synagogue with his family and if you are not attending please do join us on BelsizeLIVE to celebrate with them.

On this subject, I am delighted that our Joe and the Jews sessions led by Joe Hacker for Bnei Mitzvah will continue online on Zoom. They are happening on the 14 November and 5 December at 10am when the participants will discuss the parasha and other relevant subjects for our future bnei mitzvah youngsters.

You might be interested to know that the Executive met recently and discussed a number of matters including the fact that Cheder is remaining on line this term. We have a Board meeting in November where further discussions will take place.

I thought you would also like to know that our Honorary Officer, Rob Nothman, has been interviewed by Maccabi GB. Rob spoke about his career in broadcasting and answered some questions. If you would like to watch this it is on:

This coming Sunday 25 October there are two events that the synagogue is hosting – a quiz for the Youth and a Concert for the whole community:

  • Caroline Loison will be running an ONLINE Trivial Pursuit-style quiz for B²/BSS Youth this Sunday at 4pm. Everyone is welcome for an hour of fun. Questions will vary in difficulty for all ages. Please bring a pen and paper to write your answers down and a drink and some nibbles to enjoy whilst you quiz! Caroline will be ONLINE from 3:50pm – Please join her.
  • From 7pm, Music at Belsize is delighted to present an orchestral concert, which will be professionally recorded live in our synagogue and released as an exclusive video premiere on our website. The concert will feature the incredibly talented London Young Sinfonia, conducted by Elias Brown, with guest conductor being none other than our member, Philip Keller. The orchestra will perform Haydn’s sparkling symphony no. 90, followed by the epic symphony no. 4 by Beethoven. What a treat to have this available to us, particularly as this year is the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth.

I have also been told about an event run jointly by InsidersOutsiders and the AJR on Sunday 25 October 5pm-7.30pm when there will be an online talk: Restitution: Gimpel vs the French Government – a Seven Year Saga. For seven years, the grandchildren of eminent art dealer René Gimpel (1881-1945) mounted a campaign to recover three paintings by André Derain, which they believed were seized from their grandfather in forced sales during the occupation of France. Finally, a verdict in the case – Gimpel vs the French Government – was reached on 30 September 2020, after copious research, forensic detective work and two high court proceedings. One grandson, also called René Gimpel, will recount this extraordinary saga, and describe how during the war his grandfather, his English wife and their three children were involved in Resistance activities throughout occupied France. This event is free but you need to register and to do so please go to the InsidersOutsiders website at

That is all from me for this week. Gardening tips are below.

Stay safe and stay well


Gardening Tips

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 and he will pass them on.

  • Although there are still flowers in some gardens, such as fuchsias, dahlias, asters, chrysanthemums and even the odd stray rose, most perennials are ready to be cut down and tidied up for the winter. The ground in the beds should be cleared of debris and made ready for planting bulbs.
  • Climbing roses should be pruned by the end of the month.
  • Watch for the first signs of frost: leaves on plants such as dahlias and cannas beginning to go black. These plants, and begonias can either be cut back and lifted and stored in a dry, frost free place or else, if they are in a reasonably sheltered place, covered in mulch after being cut down and left to come back in the spring.
  • Containers with summer flowering plants that still look OK can be kept going for another two or three weeks before replanting for winter colour and spring bulbs.