Sharansky leads tributes to Belsize rabbi

September 15, 2011

High profile tributes were paid to Belsize Square Synagogue's Rabbi Stuart Altshuler at his induction on Sunday.

Rabbi Altshuler was a leading voice in the campaign for Soviet Jewry and, in a recorded message, Jewish Agency chairman and former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky said: "I'm very happy to have him as a partner, as a friend, as a comrade-in-arms. I'm glad he will now devote his efforts to strengthen this special community."

In another message, violinist Maxim Vengerov recalled his first meeting with the rabbi in Chicago 13 years ago. "I remember this wonderful light which came out of his personality. Immediately, I felt as if we were almost relatives.

"As a fellow violinist, I do hope we will be able to play Double Bach [violin concerto] together one day."

Rabbi Altshuler succeeds Rabbi Rodney Mariner, who served the congregation for 29 years and is now its emeritus minister. He is only the fourth rabbi in Belsize Square's 72-year history.

Before a packed congregation including MPs Glenda Jackson and Mike Freer and a number of civic leaders, he described Belsize Square as a "unique jewel" within Anglo-Jewry, with a history and tradition to be cherished - it was formed by refugees fleeing Nazi oppression.

It had a warm and welcoming atmosphere, which encouraged learning and a community spirit.

He was responding to an address by Rabbi Joel Rembaum, his teacher and lifelong friend from Temple Beth Am in Los Angeles.

Last updated: 3:16pm, September 15 2011