Shofar blasts herald Belsize Square revamp

By Ruth Rothenberg, October 7, 2010

Belsize Square Synagogue celebrated the completion of its year-long renovation and 70th anniversary series of events with a rededication service attended by the mayor of Camden, Cllr John Simpson, and Finchley and Golders Green MP, Mike Freer.

The 450-strong audience heard chairman Paul Burger praise the mastermind of the project, Jonathan Joseph, for more than doubling the capacity of the synagogue to 600, and fundraiser Alan Morgenthau for producing the not-quite-yet-reached £1.85 million target.

Mr Burger said that the finished building would have been a source of "pride and joy to the small group of refugee families" who founded the congregation.

Three small areas, including a choir gallery, have been turned into one large flexible space, without affecting the building's external dimensions.

Among the many touches linking the present with the past were the adult grandchildren of the founding generation, who carried the full sifrei Torah collection back into the Ark.

Guest speaker Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg of New North London Synagogue, grandson of founding Rabbi Georg Salzberger, said the fact that the synagogue was ready in time for use on the High Holy Days was itself a miracle.

Up till now the congregation had always moved en masse to an outside location, initially to cinemas and most recently the Decorium hall in Woodside Park.

Conducting the service, Rabbi Rodney Mariner said that by next year a new rabbi would be in place, following his imminent retirement.

At the end of Sunday's service, the Ark curtains were opened by fourth-generation children for the singing of "Anim Zemirot", two plaques were unveiled to major donors and deceased members involved in the early life of the congregation, and a seven-man shofar voluntary rang out – in various tones and timings – to the astonishment of visitors and regular members alike.

Last updated: 5:15pm, October 7 2010