Friday, 19 November 2010

The milk of rabbinical (un)kindness

Stamford Hill is in a lather, or, given the subject matter, perhaps that should be a latte. Whatever, the place is frothing over the no simple matter of a litre of milk.

2 businessman from Golders Green backed by a third North Westerner have set up a milk supply to challenge the long-standing monopoly of Chareidi Dairies. So far so good, you may think, until you notice the kosher seal on the bottle and the peyos will drop. For if where there is muck there is brass, where there is kosher there is brass, copper, silver and more. And as will be seen, where there is kosher milk there is lots of cream too.

For the last 10-15 years there has been a monopoly of kosher milk in London. This was supported by that bastion of holiness, Kedassia, who in return for a royalty on each litre of milk refused to certify rival milk supplies. However many sheitels you added to the cow's head its milk would remain treif. For as it is written in the Scriptures "Thou shalt mug the mothers for the kids' milk." The arrangement suited everyone especially us paying 94p+ a litre for the privilege of uber kosher milk and some kosher pig headedness in the bargain. Honestly, what are a few pennies when the sanctity of our souls are at stake?

But that has now changed. The half-goyim who reside in Golders Green are importing milk from Scotland where entire herds have been found that refuse to recognise or, more likely, are ignorant of the exclusive domain of Kedassia within the M25. Kedassia was approached for a hechsher and holding true to their principles said 'nein', we do the milking round here and not necessarily of cows. So the GGers turned to other rabbinical authorities and this is where things get tricky.

That there can be a rabbinical authority besides the Kedassia is itself open to question. But that that authority should actually declare what is and isn't kosher within Kedassia's back yard is contrary to the exclusive charter granted to them by Edward the Confessor and according to some scholars by King Ine of Wessex whom the Scots do not recognise. Turning to others for kosher certification is therefore not only heresy but treason of the highest order. This however is what the world is coming to and turn to other authorities they did.

The rabbis authorising the new milk are the London Beth Din and a Rabbi Knopfler. The KLBD is so kosher that many of their own Dayanim won't touch their meat stuff so they wouldn't slice the butter round here. Similarly, Knopfler may be a harmless fellow but of unknown pedigree on this side of Nags Head. Were it therefore only those 2 certifying the milk it would curdle as soon as it passed Manor House. Let the Golders Greeners continue fressing the treif they are accustomed to. Our kids however must suckle a pinta that is nutritious for the body and the soul.

But, as Tony Blair well knows, there is a third way and at times a third rabbi too. Enter Rabbi Eckstein and this, ladies and gentleman, is where things begin to warm up. Rabbi Eckstein took up several years ago a position as the rabbi of the Belz shtibel in St. Kildas Road. He has now broadened his horizons further north than even his birthplace in Manchester and has added the 3rd seal of approval to the Highland milk. Pity the environment for the cows must be releasing excessive amounts of methane gas in their exuberance at having a triumvirate of rabbis approving the provenance of their emanations. And rejoice Stamford Hill for thou milk has been deflated.

Lest anyone accuse Kedassia of putting principle before gain they did apparently offer a deal at the eleventh hour to add their seal subject to payment of something like 4p per bottle in order to comply with the biblical command of squeezing tithes out of teats. They were politely told to go and chew cow pat of a strictly kosher variety.

Kedassia however being Kedassia is not quite taking this on its bearded chin. Eckstein was sacked from his unpaid position on the rota of rabbis who deal with public enquiries at Kedassia's rather grotty citadel on Stamford Hill. This though is only the celestial angle taken care of. As to the more Godly problem of the loss of royalties by having alien cows plying their trade in Kedassia's hallowed meadow, well God looks after that too though with a varied record of success.

The local groceries sat on their shelves for the first week but they are now stocking it to the delight of their clients. If anyone ever accused us of being a spineless, supine bunch just ask the grocers how many requests they had prior to stocking it and how the new milk has been walking off the shelves. It is not that we are unwilling to protest it is simply that we lack the opportunity. Most of the time the rabbis and God are on the same side so offending the former risks inviting the ire of the latter which naturally we are loathe to do. Besides we all have sons and daughters and we do need to marry them off at some stage. It is only once in a lifetime that God and the rabbis part ways and on those rare occasions we immediately abandon the rabbis and leave them mooing in the cold. Miraculously too the old milk dropped in price overnight and assurances have been sought that standards in kosherness have not been sacrificed on the altar of competition.

True, Grodzinsky has been ‘requested’ not to stock the new milk. Neither for their cappuccinos which may contain only milk that frothes to the command of Kedassia hot air and nor in sealed bottles. This is on pain of, well, that which is best left unpronounced. Do however make the sums of the number of loaves and rolls they sell a day and you get the consequences of messing with the true breadwinner.

As for wider repercussions, there could be some turbulent times ahead for Kedassia. Unlike the US and Israel, London remains the only large ultra-orthodox centre where there is a virtual monopoly on the strictly kosher market. This status quo has now been breached and other products and even meat, where the main money lies, may follow. Kedassia did try to issue a rabbinical notice in support of a single certifying authority but apparently Satmar refused to sign and herein lies the problem.

As mentioned, Eckstein is a dayan in Belz which has a long-running rivalry with Satmar. Should Eckstein establish himself Satmars will no doubt be calling for their own milch cow. This could eventually lead to the break up of the Kedassia and the Padwa dynasty, banish the thought. And when one dynasty falls others are sure to follow.

Even more serious to the Kedassia hegemony is the possibility of an Eiruv in Stamford Hill. At the last failed attempt Eckstein was its main rabbinical and halachic supporter. He was forced to retreat when the main organiser was threatened by the financial backers of his kolel. Belz also did not want to be seen as being the sole supporter of a project strongly opposed by Padwa & co. That may change if Eckstein feels aggrieved by his dismissal or if Kedassia retaliates against Belz as a community. If, please God, that were to happen the milk could yet give rise to poles and string round Hackney and its environs.

May our land continue flowing Milk and Honey and may we live in interesting times. Amen!


Anonymous said...

Dear Sh......,

You are in top form!

Bagel said...

Please keep up the posts ,they so brighten up my life with chuckles.thanks