Few could have scoured the papers during the past few weeks like I did. Thank God for the extra time afforded by Yom Tov to turn the pages ever so slowly and scan the lines ever so carefully to try and find that elusive news item of Lord Sacks's visit to the Hill. This was after all a visit to a Stamford Hill school, whose 'principal' is constantly telling us how proud he is to be chareidi and how integrated his school is. Yet when a chance arose to show off his chareidi cohorts the stage was surprisingly bare. Although the Chief turned up with the chief executive of the United Synagogue, Simon Hochhauser, his counterpart in the Union, our own Rosh Hakohol Dovid Frand, was nowhere to be seen. Nor was the 'buffoon' in attendance despite his role as the nominal (nominee?) chair of the board of governors. And now like the death of Bin Laden they won’t even show us the photos in the papers.
It is of course not for me to say why a visit of the Chief Rabbi didn't make it into the papers with a photo of Rabbi and 'rabbi'. Perhaps geriatrics several thousand miles away searching, burning and selling their chometz take precedent. Or perhaps the 'rabbi' is only comfortable in the company of Indian High Commissioners, members of the Board of Deputies, prime ministers, mayors and the old bill. Actually members of this list share a common feature in their lack of facial hair and on the whole, other than the old bill, an absence of head gear. This would also explain the presence of the beardless chief executive of the United Synagogue but not his Union counterpart. The beardless buffoon's absence would still remain a mystery unless he was too busy arranging the pre-Pesach bin collections, the clanging of which we never cease to hear.
It's also not as if others were coy about appearing with the Chief Rabbi in public. In the photo above he is in the Bobov Shul as part of his visit and being warmly greeted by Reb Leibel Stempel. So it appears it is only the 'rabbi' who treats the Chief’s presence like a crime scene and like Macavity is nowhere to be seen. There is however a difference and herein lies the point.
The more extreme elements of the community don't shun Bobov in the way they shun YHS and Bobov does not have an exposed right flank to protect as the 'rabbi' does. Bobov is also a large community with a strong following even after its recent split and is perfectly capable of looking after itself. Unfortunately that is not the case with YHS. Due to the way a single family has monopolised the school it has no natural or grassroots constituency to turn to when things turn sour.
Thus so long that Hebrew classes are free, teachers are on the whole heimishe girls barely out of their teens and the admissions is to all intents and purposes restricted to the YHS Junior school, any concern about the voluntary aided status of the school will be the sole concern of the loonies and the kids will keep on filling the shifting admission numbers. Should there however arise a backlash due to visits by undesirables, or closures due to goyishe weddings, the school may quickly find its intake dry up. The various categories and definitions of 'chareidi' the school has conjured up to keep kids locked out of those tall gates would quickly become academic if it cannot fill the minimum admission places.
And so just like Sacks could make it to the church but not to Hugo Gryn's funeral, so the 'rabbi' may be seen with anyone high ranking so long that there’s not a whiff of frumkeit about them but not with the far-from-heimishe Chief Rabbi Sacks in situ. This is no surprise to us as little surprises us about the 'rabbi' round here. Unlike outsiders who are disarmed by his humour we never get to see his humour and rarely even his impressive physiognomy. Any disarming carried out locally tends to me more surreptitious, more conventional and rarely a laughing matter.
What however is surprising is that Sacks agreed to play the fool.