Chairman’s message 15 July

Chairman’s message 15 July

Dear Friends,

I have written before about the difficulty that I have in deciding what to do when coming out of lockdown. I am returning to that, as I find myself bombarded with contradictory advice from the Government, well-meaning friends, newspaper articles, Zoom discussions and social media. Every time I think that I have made a decision, I find that I am questioning myself because of the latest thing that I have read or heard. At the start of lockdown I was anxious about where was I going to get food from, then it was how am I going to stay reasonably fit without going out, now it is simply what is it safe to do? In the end I think that we all have to make our own decision based on our level of tolerance for risk taking, our age, our health, and the information that we have on safety. I am sad because we have just cancelled our annual family trip to Spain, with our Gibraltar family, as we have decided that we do not want to risk flying. We have not physically seen our daughter, son-in-law and four grandchildren since February, thank goodness for technology that allows us to speak every day.

Your personal decision-making is very important, as I am writing to tell you about the plans to open the Synagogue. I know that some of you will be desperate to come to a service and others would not want to come at all. The working group including Rabbi Altshuler and Cantor Heller, the Executive and the Board have developed the plans and we have put your safety and the safety of our Minsters at the heart of what we are planning. The services will be different from what you are used to as a result of working within the Government Guidelines. We have done a detailed analysis of all the Guidelines. I want to draw your attention to a few key points:

  • You have already seen the pictures of the limited numbers who can come to Synagogue with social distancing. We are introducing a booking system for Shabbat services and Lee will be writing to you about this shortly. The system will include a waiting list, so if you cannot attend a service having booked in, it is very important that you contact the office to let them know.  No-one will be allowed into the Synagogue if they are not on the pre-booked list.
  • Unlike some Synagogues, we are not banning any age groups from attending but leave it up to individuals to make their own decisions. 
  • There will be a strict one-way system for entry and exit in the Synagogue. You will have your temperature taken on the way in and if you have a temperature you will not be allowed in.
  • Current Guidelines forbid singing (so no Choir, just the organ) except by one Minister to lead the service (Cantor Heller). The guideline is that the singer should sing behind a Perspex screen to protect the congregation. To avoid this we have agreed that the Cantor will sing facing the ark at all times.
  • As a consequence of this, the ark will remain closed on Shabbat morning, no Torah will be taken out and all readings will be from a Chumash. Current Guidelines forbid chanting so everything will be spoken.
  • You will have allocated seating and will have to wear masks in Synagogue. Sadly, the current Guidelines do not allow you to sing or chant. You will need to bring your own Siddur and Tallit. If you need to buy a Siddur we have them and Lee will write about that.
  • There will be no call-ups. One warden only will be present to assist with decorum.
  • We are separating the Bimah into two areas, one for Cantor Heller and one for Rabbi Altshuler so they will not walk into each other’s space and will be able to avoid any airborne particles. 
  • We have developed a strict cleaning regime to keep you safe. The synagogue will be fully cleaned between the Friday evening and Shabbat morning services.

Having said all that, we are running a few rehearsals to check that everything we have planned will work both in terms of security and service format and plan to be open from Friday 7 August onwards.

We are continuing to work on the High Holydays and I will write about those in a few weeks.

On the question of Services I gave you the wrong date for Tisha B’Av Annual Memorial Service of the Chevra Kadisha at Pound Lane Cemetery. It will be on Sunday 26th July at 11.30m. Please make a note and I am sorry for any confusion. No booking needed.

You will have seen in News from the Square that the weekly Sunday Morning Adult Discussion Group is taking a break from its normal class and guest speaker formula, but will meet for discussion, debate and an open forum. Rabbi Altshuler will join the group on Sunday mornings at 10.00am and this is a new venture for us as usually the Group breaks over the summer. I want to thank Rabbi Altshuler and Claire Walford for all their enthusiasm and work with this group.

I have news of an event this Sunday 19 July at 7pm. The online Jewish Academy has invited Maxim Vengerov to be a guest speaker on Zoom. Our member Allan Morgenthau will be interviewing him. If you would like to see this interview then please contact Adam Rynhold on for the Zoom joining details.

The Jaffa Institute are running a series of Webinars about the Institute. This evening, Wednesday 15 July and next Wednesday, both are at 9pm. If you wish to attend please RSVP on this link:

The London based Institute for Jewish Policy Research have a number of interesting articles and projects. The Institute have launched a UK-wide survey designed to investigate how Jews have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The survey invites all Jews based in the UK and aged 16 or over to answer a series of questions about the pandemic’s impact on their physical and mental health, as well as their employment, finances, social relationships and Jewish lives. The goal is to generate data that can be utilised to help inform public policy, both within the Jewish community and at a national level, to help the community to steer its way through this crisis. If you would like to know more please go to their website on

That is all from me this week. As always please 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

Now we are into summer proper there is little to do in the garden other than deadheading, watering and keeping slugs at bay. However, Dahlias do need some attention. New shoots that emerge may need thinning. Select out spindly growth giving it a sharp pull to break it off at the ground. You should be left with a maximum of 7-10 sturdy stems per plant. If you’re growing giant flowered dahlias, limit the number of stems to 3-5 per plant so you get fewer, but bigger blooms. When dahlia stems get to around knee height pinch out the growing point at a pair of leaves to get branching at this point. Once flower buds appear, if you’re growing for giant flowers or for cut flowers, nip out the smaller buds behind the central larger bud for better quality flowers. This isn’t so important if you are growing dahlias for the border or as bedding.