Chairman’s message 13 May

Chairman’s message 13 May

Dear Friends,

As you will know yesterday was the festival of Lag B’Omer. This minor holiday occurs on the 33rd day of the Omer, the 49-day period between Passover and Shavuot. It creates a break from the semi-mourning of the Omer and key aspects of Lag B’Omer include holding weddings (it’s the one day during the Omer when Jewish law permits them), lighting bonfires and getting haircuts. This year there was no chance of doing any of those three things and yet it still made me feel how comforting the Jewish festival cycle is. The Festivals come round regardless of any lockdown or virus and for me, particularly this year, that pattern provides a solid anchor, regardless of how we do or don’t celebrate them.

Still on the subject of Lag B’Omer, last Sunday we had nearly 40 pupils who joined us to celebrate Lag B’Omer at our Cheder ONLINE. There was an Assembly as usual with Havdalah and the Shema and then everyone split into Breakout rooms for 40 minute Jewish Studies sessions. Years 1 & 2 created paper bonfires and made Carob Truffles with Susannah Alexander, Years 3 & 4 played a Lag B’Omer Battleships game and had great fun doing a Kahoot quiz with Benji Nathan, Years 5 & 6 went on a (virtual) pilgrimage via Google Earth to Meron in Israel and ate S’mores ( a traditional campfire food) around a (virtual) bonfire with Caroline Loison and Years 7 & 8 discussed the importance of freedom and rules and when/if rules should be brought in, thinking of some of their own rules, with Jeannie Cohen. Our iGCSE class also met virtually with Marion Godfrey and they discussed if people are turning towards or away from religion in these tricky times and the importance of having a state religion and the pros and cons of this. Next week our brilliant Online Cheder team will be planning some more fantastic and hugely creative sessions for our pupils to learn about and enjoy celebrating Shavuot. All children in school Years 1 and above (and regardless of whether they have been attending Cheder or not) are welcome to join. If you or someone you know would like to join then please contact Caroline Loison (, for more information as well as the Zoom log-in details. Meanwhile a thank you from all of us goes to Caroline and the team of teachers, for creating this fantastic virtual event.

While I am writing about Festivals I want to let you know that I have formed a small group of people including Rabbi Altshuler and Cantor Heller to plan for the Autumn, looking at Selichot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah. At this point we have no idea what the Government guidelines will be on religious gatherings and so we are planning for all eventualities including normal services, Social Distancing or at short notice a further lockdown. We are including Youth and Kikar Kids Services in our plans. I will write again about this once there is more information from the Government, which is likely to be in early June.

I thought you would like to know that Belsize thrives on BelsizeLIVE!!!
When we installed our live stream in 2013, following generous funding from The Six Point Foundation, it was originally for the benefit of our elderly members, particularly those who were Holocaust survivors. Soon, many other housebound members and families, spread all over the world started to join our services. Now, in 2020, and thanks to occasional, generous donations, BelsizeLIVE is still going strong and is enabling all of us to be able to enjoy our beautiful Shabbat services from the safety of our homes.

It is not always easy to see how many people are watching at any one time. When you log on to BelsizeLIVE the number of viewers is displayed, however as more join this number does not always change and therefore doesn’t reflect the true viewing figures. Also, multiple family members are often watching around one device. I was astonished to learn that since lockdown it is estimated that our services have been viewed over 2000 times. We will always be indebted to our donors, and we also owe a huge debt of thanks to the IT skills of Cantor Heller and to both he and Rabbi Altshuler for bringing their spiritual guidance, and inspiration into our homes. A special thanks also to David Pollins for his technical support which ensures that the whole system works for us.

Rabbi Altshuler and I have a regular call every Monday morning and this week we were discussing what else you might find helpful and supportive in these uncertain times. Starting next week Rabbi Altshuler will be available every Thursday afternoon between 2pm and 6pm for anyone who would like a one to one phone call or Zoom meeting with him. You will need to book a time to talk to him by emailing with you phone number and the time which suits you best.

Mike Schraer, a member and Warden at Belsize, is a Trustee of the Jewish Historical Society of England, an institution which may be familiar to some Belsize members. It produces an excellent quarterly journal and the latest edition covers the Kindertransport, with a whole series of articles about all sorts of aspects. We are seeing if we can organise a Zoom talk for the community by selected authors but in the meantime here is the link to the journal:

That is it for this week. Please keep sending in ideas and information, it is great to be able to include what is happening in the wider world and in our Community. As always, stay safe and stay well.


Click here for full information on how we are operating.

Gardening tips

This week’s tips from Henny Levin:
I am no expert at gardening, I just love it – pottering each day in the fresh air and checking out what needs doing. This year is particularly difficult as it is very dry and we need to adjust out planting regime to fit in with the weather pattern. Also, it is very difficult to get hold of summer bedding plants and seeds. Hopefully, garden centre restrictions will be lifted soon.

  • Look after your finished spring bulbs for next year. Do NOT cut back the foliage but allow it to die back naturally. Add liquid fertiliser all around the clumps. This will help with next year’s display.
  • Water is very precious in the south of England so optimise your watering regime doing it early and late in the day – and start collecting and recycling water whenever possible.
  • Thin out clumps of hardy annuals like wild geranium bushes. They are lovely but very quick to grow and invasive. They stop other plants growing.

And from John Alexander:

  • Water only after the garden is no longer in the sun as hot sun will burn wet foliage.
  • Sprinkle slug pellets sparingly but regularly, say once a week, if your garden is plagued by slugs.
  • Gradually acclimatise your baby plants and tender ones kept under cover during the winter before letting them out into your garden permanently.
  • As your Hostas come into growth, it’s a great time to divide them. Keep them well-watered as they establish.
  • Bamboos need regular watering during dry periods. They require a high level of nitrogen in the spring and a balanced fertilise through the growing season until late August.