Sunday, 30 December 2012

The Definite Article

Those of us relying on the heimishe press for our cerebral fodder will have been feeling rather starved of late. In different times, a meeting of 30 rabbonim would be preceded by fliers from charity organisations exhorting us to send in our names, as it appears on the card, so that the details may be keyed in in their hallowed presence. Yet London was honoured by just such a meeting of Torah Olympians but not a word about it in our informative press either before or after.

The meeting was followed by a letter from 5 rabbonim proclaiming the view of the Torah but still the Torah organs wouldn’t touch the story. The engagement of the grandson of the Kvetcher to the great-niece of the Greptser will make it in full Technicolor but the 5 must rely on the accursed world wide web for their fair share of notoriety.

Aha, you may think, since the newspapers are headquartered in Stamford Hill in order to comply with the posuk, Ki m'Hackney teitzei Torah udvar Hashem m'N16, they have adopted the local Daas Torah which was hijacked and taken hostage and released only on payment of a ransom in the shape of a letter of misunderstanding. But even here there are the 20 odd who did speak up that irrespective of the allegations and accusations the accused may remain in his position and continue to perform his duties. So why is it that after this unequivocal pronouncement of Daas Torah, The Voice of Anglo-Jewish Orthodoxy appears to have undergone a laryngectomy and The Newspaper of Torah Jewry ignores both Torah and Jewry?

But the famine for the Word of God is about to come to an end and in the most unlikely of places will the faithful be nourished. Here, in this hotbed of dissent, anarchy and heresy, are you about to hear the true Voice of Torah.

The article below was written by non other than an in-house features writer on one of our Torah-true organs. I withhold the writer’s name not so much out of concern for her or his livelihood, though for that reason too, but more for the sake of the circulation of the particular publication.

If word were to get out that its writers are actively engaging their brains and writing about matters that actually concern their readers it could threaten the very future of our publishing industry. Just think what happened to the News of the World, lehavdil elef havdoles, when they were caught acting unethically and illegally and you would not want that visited on the papers that give us everything that is Neither Here Nor There but won’t give you as much as the price of milk lest they offend some vested interest.

So, ladies and gentleman, after this short intro please forget everything you have ever read on this site and fasten your seatbelts for a whole new experience. We will blast you into the Oilom Hatorah as denied to you by Ami, Binoh, Hamodia, the Jewish Tribune, Mishpacha and any and all other Torah-true publications.
They provide the yawn – here you get the brawn.

By “A Features Writer on a Chareidi News Publication”
I have heard it said many times that this saga cannot get any worse, yet the statement has been proven wrong too many times. Nobody even dares say it any longer but the sad fact remains that there are many people trying to make sense of this and failing. They are left flailing like loose sails in the wind, desperately clutching at their connection to yiddishkeit hoping to stop it from being blown away in the turbulence.

My optimism was dashed once when a letter in which the UOHC supposedly capitulated "mipnei darkei sholom" turned out to be a brilliantly crafted hoax. It was again dashed last Friday when what was supposed to be the final chapter was buried alive by a blameless, poorly-informed octogenarian threatening a nuclear strike at the heart of our imaginary Union. I now fear that the only real ending might be a cliff-hanger, leaving our kehilla doomed to remain forever an undignified non-entity.

Whichever way one looks at it and whether one belongs to the camp of the Antis, or even to those forlorn few Pro's still clutching at their last remaining straws, nobody can honestly say that our connection to our talmudei chachomim - our leaders, has not taken a severe, if not mortal, battering. Our society, more than any other, relies so heavily on emunas chachomim that it is difficult to know how we can ever recover from this.

Living in Stamford Hill, I look to those Rabonim who signed the "we demand a beis din" letter and I am overcome by an overwhelming feeling of despair. That most of them have supposedly by now withdrawn their signatures, is of no consolation. Why did they sign it in the first place? What were they thinking? How can I continue to ask them my shailos and turn to them for inspiration? Whatever faith I ever had in them is long gone.

I then turn to those who led the anti campaign. In all fairness, it is said that they tried their utmost to stop this matter from becoming the mess it turned into. I am also certain they could never have predicted this most implausible outcome. But, there are still so many unanswered questions besides. Their seemingly unexplained actions to date and their continued inaction has left too many doubts floating around for me to look to them as shining beacons of our faith.

And then we have those who sat on the fence, one very publicly so, and with the tacit silence of the remaining Golders Green Rabbis implying their agreement. I am sure there were excellent reasons for this high wire act. However, the slightest shove will send a tightrope walker flying and I need to know that my mentor has both feet planted firmly on the ground.

Getting closer to the top, we have the senior Rabonim of the UOHC. While one was performing his high wire special, another very humbly allowed himself to be lowered to the third tier of Stamford Hill Rabonim. The other senior Dayonim were left to murmur, mutter and gnash in private since the inaction of their head forced them to make their position known only by silence. Stamford Hillers, the weight of our shtriemels preventing our brains from working at full capacity (for most of us at least), were excused from understanding the inference.

And finally, we have our Av Beis Din himself. The Pros hate him for throwing them to the dogs while the Antis despair at his ineptitude and his inability to take a stance and act upon it. The fact that he managed to infuriate and exasperate both sides in this sordid business raises significant questions about his leadership abilities. Astoundingly however, thanks to the way our kehilla is run, the only pink slip he will ever see is the one in his Rebetzin’s wardrobe. Meanwhile, his helplessly confused kehilla is left despairing why it is taking so long for Halpern to be handed his.

Our union has withstood the sands of time, but in not standing up to this scandal is destroying itself from within. We watch helplessly from the sidelines as our kehilla is torn apart by the actions of a few and the inactions of many and we are left traumatised by our impotence.

But though our so called communal body might be irreparably damaged, hopefully, we will be able to find the strength to pick up the shattered pieces of our emunas chachomim and put them back together again. If we are to survive this, we have no other option.