Chairman’s message, 30 September

Chairman’s message, 30 September

Dear Friends

As I write to you, I still have the synagogue melodies in my head from Kol Nidre and Yom Kippur. Traditionally, I am given the honour of making the Board announcements on Kol Nidre to a packed Synagogue. This year there were no announcements but our Synagogue was still “packed” just split into many different locations. In our house we connected our laptop to our television, watched all the services and we stood up and sat down in all the right places. As I said last week, I felt a sense of belonging and that people were there with me even if I couldn’t see you. The familiar music and rhythm of the services kept me emotionally and spiritually engaged for the full period. I hope you had a similar experience.

Many of you have written in or sent messages saying how much you enjoyed the services too and I wanted to share a couple with you.

“We were glued to our iPad and were very happy with what we heard and saw. Rabbi Altshuler’s Neilah sermon was outstanding. We miss our London family. We have not seen each other for about six months. Zoom and WhatsApp are a help. And so was Belsize Square Synagogue. Shana Tova”

“I just want to write to say how much I enjoyed joining in the Live Stream services over Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur at Belsize Square Synagogue. I felt that I could really take part in the Yom Tov services and feel uplifted by them. So thank you to all at Belsize Square for widening your services to the wider community and enabling us to enjoy the Yom Tovim in these strange times.

We have also heard from you how disappointing it was that Livestream failed during Rabbi Altshuler’s morning sermon where we lost the sound and connection for a short period. I am happy to say that Rabbi Altshuler will be recording that sermon again this week and we will send a link out to you so that you will be able to listen to it.

For those of us organising the service the loss of Livestream was a tense moment and we were wondering if we would have to spend the rest of the day streaming our recorded back-up services whilst the “live” service continued in the Synagogue. Fortunately, Lee Taylor in the office at the Synagogue and David Pollins from home, managed to get Livestream working again. A heroic effort on their part!

As with Rosh Hashanah I thought you would be interested to know that we continue to have an astounding response to the BelsizeLIVE streaming. As I explained last week we count this by individual devices tuning in to a service, so when you read these figures please remember that we could have two or more people watching each device. We have had many messages from individuals who are not members who have told us how uplifting our services are and how grateful they are that we make it them available to the wider community all over the world. On Kol Nidre 1702 devices tuned in for the service with 698 devices the most watching at any one time; on Yom Kippur the maximum number we had at any one time was 597 and overall we had a total of 2040 different screens tuned in at some point during the day.

Another tradition in our Synagogue is that as Chairman I wait until the Simchat Torah Kiddush to make a speech thanking everyone who has participated in the services. I will write more after Simchat Torah but I want to thank Rabbi Altshuler now, for his thought provoking sermons and for the commitment he has shown in making Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur a memorable and involving experience for us all, wherever we are. As he reminded us, this is his last High Holydays before his sabbatical starts and we had all hoped to be in Synagogue with him during this period in order to honour him. I would like in some small way to honour him instead with this email message on behalf of us all and to say that he has a place in all our hearts.

Some of you will remember that on Yom Kippur last year Rabbi Altshuler announced that his friend Maxim Vengerov would come to our Synagogue to play Kol Nidre, before joining us in prayer. Sadly Covid-19 made that an impossibility but I wanted send a message to Maxim that he and his family are always welcome at Belsize Square Synagogue and we send them our good wishes.

On my early thank you list is also Cantor Heller, who has sung so magnificently and movingly over the Festivals so far. Over the last few months and quietly in the background he has also created back-up recordings of our services and recordings for youth services. We would be lost without him and “thank you” is inadequate but heartfelt.

I could go on but more will follow after Simchat Torah. In the meantime I can say that our Yom Kippur youth services, Kikar Kids and youth activities were also a success. Around 40 screens joined our Zoom services and the youth activities organised by Caroline Loison had 20 young people join the sessions throughout the day.

You will already have received the email about booking a place in Synagogue for our Sukkot services. Please do reply and if you prefer to be at home then please do watch on BelsizeLIVE. I am chairing a planning Committee meeting tonight to make sure that all arrangements for the remaining Festivals are in place. Can I also remind you not to bring Lulav and Etrog with you this year if you are attending .

This coming Shabbat morning at 11am we will hold Kikar Kids in the Synagogue Hall. The first “live” one was a lot of fun and if you would like attend then you must book a place. Please contact Adam Rynhold on

Many of you will not have seen the Yom Kippur Zoom Youth Service this year and I would like to end with a link to a recording that was used. It is our Youth Choir singing Adon Olam. I am very proud of them and they will producing another recording for Simchat Torah. Please go to

That is it from me for this week, the 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.

  • It’s now time to plant spring flowering bulbs, except for tulips that should wait another month until the ground is cooler. It’s also a good time to move or plant new trees and shrubs to give them a chance to establish their roots before its gets too cold.
  • Keep deadheading to prolong the flowering season of asters, rudbeckia and dahlia.
  • Keep lawns clear of fallen leaves to avoid them suffocating the grass. It’s also a good time to repair patches of lawn by reseeding or replacing bare patches with new turf.
  • Do not prune spring and summer flowering shrubs and keep the dead flowers on hydrangea to protect next year’s flowering buds.