Friday, 15 November 2013

Rejoice! Rejoice!

For the unprecedented denouncement by five rabbis of a former colleague not being 'fit and proper to act in any Rabbinic capacity'.

For the silence and shame of the victims

For the rabbi who acted more like a clown than a town rov

For the Rabbinate that allowed women to continue visiting an alleged molester despite first hand knowledge of the allegations

For our rotten and corrupt lay leaders, not a single one of whom has taken any responsibility

For the organisation that calls for the boycott of a local black tailor but remains silent on far worse allegations against a white-socked rabbi

For the numerous notices by the UOHC modesty squad but none for its barely publicised child ‘protection’ line

For the rabbi who is concerned with women kissing a Sefer Torah but covers up allegations of a rabbi doing far worse to women

For the rabbis summonsing the town to anti-internet offensives while doing nothing on allegations of lewd rabbinical emails and texts

For the rabbi who bans sharing a platform with reform but readily turns up for photo-ops with a rabbi under police investigation for alleged sexual crimes

For the intimidated witnesses and knobbled Beth Din

For a shul split in two with more than a majority forming a breakaway

For a community torn asunder by allegations of the most heinous nature

Rejoice! Celebrate! Jubilate! Lift your glasses in cheer. Hold up your hands to heaven. Raise your feet in dance. Let your kiddush drams overflow.

The prayers have worked, the Psalms have performed, the victims have been silenced, the police have backed off, the Beth Din is forgotten and life can resume. For victims 'the police is not the solution' but for the alleged perps the police is a fount of justice and the source of truth. Forget about Torah and tznius and all that nonsense for the masses, if the cops say no law was broken then the rabbi must be as innocent as his leg wear. And if there was consent then let him re-ascend the pulpit.

But for now the investigation is over, the suspect released without charge and the victims will just have to stew.


Friday, 8 November 2013

Wall of Separation


28 Marcheshvan 5774 [1 November 2013]

It is now several generations that Chareidi Jewry in all their dwelling places under the leadership of our great rabbis of yore proclaimed a war against the reformers who uproot the religion. Here too in London Chareidi rabbis have unanimously agreed that we have no connection, association or dealings with them in any form.

And so how astounded have we been that of late this wall of separation has been breached, for there are rabbis who permit themselves to appear on a platform called "Limmud" where the reformers also preach. The pain is great for who can foretell the outcome. It will appear in the eyes of the masses that it is permitted to hear sermons also from the reformers, God forbid.

There are also tidings that there are places of worship/frivolity (pun of tfila/tifla) that when the Sefer Torah is brought out they offer the Sefer Torah to the women's section so that they too can kiss the Sefer Torah. There are other places where on Simchas Torah the women dance on their own with a Sefer Torah and there are other such breaches that are pervaded by the whiff of reform. If we do not strengthen the wall of separation between us and them the decline will continue and who knows how far things will go, God forbid.

It is therefore greatly incumbent on every rabbi to stand on the watch and rule on an absolute prohibition to participate in any forum that is attended by the reform and to strengthen the wall of Judaism that is loyal to God and His Torah.

May God help that we should merit to withstand the breach and build fences and sanctify the Name of Heaven until we merit that speedily may You shine a new light over Zion and may we merit speedily to His light.

On behalf of the Beth Din Tzedek

Moshe Chaim Ephraim Padwa

Head of the Beth Din

Monday, 14 October 2013


Yesodey Hatorah Admissions Information Pack


on admissions to

Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls School

“In drawing up their admission arrangements, admission authorities must ensure that the practices and the criteria used to decide the allocation of school places are fair, clear and objective. Parents should be able to look at a set of arrangements and understand easily how places for that school will be allocated” (Introduction to the School Admission Code, February 2012)

1. Q. I would like to apply for my daughter to join Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls School (the School) but she does not attend Yesodey Hatorah Primary School. Can the School refuse my daughter a place because of the primary school she currently or has previously attended?

A. No. It is against the law for the School to favour applicants who attended an independent fee-paying primary school. Yesodey Hatorah Primary School is an independent fee-paying school and girls from that school may not be given any advantage in the admissions process.

2. Q. How old must my daughter be when I apply to the School?

A. For admission in September 2014 your child must have been born between 01/09/2002-31/08/2003.

3. Q. What are the main advantages of my daughter attending the School?

A. The School has a heimishe yiddishe atmosphere with a very strong frum ethos. The School was rated Outstanding by Ofsted in its most recent report; the School consistently achieves some of the highest grades in Hackney and in the country as a whole; there are no compulsory school fees payable and the School does not currently seek a voluntary contribution for kodesh studies.

4. Q. How can I obtain more information about the School?

A. Information about the School is contained at the School’s webpages here and in the Hackney Learning Trust secondary school admissions brochure (the admissions brochure). For up-to-date admission arrangements rely only on the admissions brochure.

5. Q. How can I find out about the grades achieved by the School in recent years?

A. The exam results of the School and lots of other information can be found on the School’s page on the Department for Education website.

6. Q. Has the School been inspected by Ofsted and where can I see its reports?

A. The School last had a full inspection in 2006 and an interim inspection in 2010. The full reports can be found on the Ofsted website here.

7. Q. Does the School hold an open day?

A. No.

8. Q. Am I able to visit the School prior to making an application?

A. Yes. The School’s page in the admissions brochure* states that to arrange a visit you should contact the School. The School’s telephone no. is 020 8826 5500.

9. Q. Must the parents or our daughter meet the Head Teacher, the Principal or anyone else from the School before or during any stage of the application process?

A. No. It is against the law for the School to require an interview with either prospective pupils or their parents in the course of the admissions process.

10. Q. May the School refuse my daughter a place because she did not achieve good grades in primary school?

A. No. The School does not select according to ability.

11. Q. My daughter is disabled/has special needs. Is that a valid reason for refusing her a place?

A. No. It is against the law for the School to discriminate on grounds of disability or special needs. There is a separate process for children with a Statement of Special Educational Needs. This is set out at page 14 of the admissions brochure.

12. Q. What are the criteria for being accepted to the School?

A. The School stipulates that all pupils must abide “by the principles and ethics of the Charedi community.” The School’s definition of “Charedi” and its general admissions policy can be found here.

13. Q. I am of chasidish / litvish / sefardi / yekish origin. Is this a reason for the School to refuse my daughter a place?

A. It is against the law for the school to discriminate on grounds of race, religion or belief (subject to the school’s religious ethos). Decisions on admissions must also be fair and objective.

14. Q. How do I apply to the School?

A. Parents can complete the application form online at See below for a Step by Step Guide to Making an Application for further details on how and where to make an application and for important deadlines. You should also consult the admissions brochure on page 15.

15. Q. I do not have internet access. Can I make an application on a paper form?

A. Yes. Hackney residents can download a paper form here. Residents of other boroughs should contact their home local authority for a form. See contact details below. (If applying online it is the same procedure wherever you live.)

16. Q. Must I provide any proof of identity?

A. Yes. You must include with your application a council tax bill of this year or a housing benefit letter and a gas, water, electricity or telephone land line bill not more than 2 months old. You must submit original documents.

17. Q. What is the deadline for applying to the School?

A. Friday 25 October 2013 is the date when Hackney Learning Trust prefers all application to have been submitted either online or by a paper application. (The on-line admissions website will accept applications until 31 October 2013.) See page 9 of the admissions brochure for all important dates.

18. Q. The admissions brochure mentions a Supplementary Information Form that must be submitted as part of my application. What is this?

A. The Supplementary Information Form contains the ‘Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations (UOHC) Chareidi Ethos and Rules’. This is an important form to satisfy the religious requirements for admission to the School. The form also contains a ‘Confirmation of Chareidi Status’ which must be signed by a member of the UOHC Rabbinate.

19. Q. Where can I obtain the Supplementary Information Form?

A. A Supplementary Information Form can be downloaded here.

20. Q. How do I arrange for a member of the UOHC Rabbinate to sign the Supplementary Information Form?

A. You should contact the offices of the UOHC on 020 8802 6226 (020 8458 2326 for NW London) for advice on how to obtain a signature of confirmation.

21. Q. I have read the form and I do not conform to some points on the School’s ethos. However, I think this is unfair because there are people I know who have daughters at the school and who also do not fully conform. What can I do about it?

A. Faith based criteria (which is what the Supplementary Information Form seeks to apply) must be fair, easy to understand and fairly applied. If your daughter is refused a place and you feel you have been unfairly treated you can appeal.

22. Q. I have recently moved to London and no one really knows me here / my family does not live in the Stamford Hill area and I do not know members of the Rabbinate. Can I still apply?

A. The law requires admission procedures to be fair. You should contact a rov or dayan who knows your family and ask them to write a letter for you or to contact a member of the Rabbinate to provide a reference on your behalf.

23. Q. Where do I send the completed Supplementary Information Form?

A. The completed Supplementary Information Form should be sent to the School, details below NOTE: ONLY THE SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION FORM IS SENT TO THE SCHOOL. IF THE PAPER APPLICATION FORM IS USED IT MUST BE SENT TO YOUR HOME LOCAL AUTHORITY’S SCHOOL ADMISSION TEAM. (For Hackney residents this is Hackney Learning Trust.)

24. Q. What is the deadline for returning the Supplementary Information Form to the School?

A. 31 October 2013. It is very important that you contact the UOHC about the Supplementary Information Form as soon as possible.

25. Q. I do not live in Hackney. Does that put me at a disadvantage?

A. The School may not discriminate because you live in another borough. You must apply through your home local authority who will forward your application to Hackney Learning Trust. See the contact sheet for details of some neighbouring local authorities.

26. Q. Is the distance that I live from the School relevant to the admissions process?

A. Generally no. However, if the School is oversubscribed (see below) and after having prioritised applicants under the oversubscription criteria there still remain insufficient places then priority will be given to the applicant living closest to the School.

27. Q. I applied just before the deadline. Will parents who applied before me have priority?

A. No. A child may not be given priority because their application was later than others so long that the application was submitted before the deadline.

28. Q. Once I have made an application by when can I expect a reply?

A. On or shortly after 3 March 2014 you will receive a letter or email from Hackney Learning Trust. If you do not receive a reply by that time you should contact your home local authority.

29. Q. My daughter has been offered a place at the School. Must I do anything further to accept the place?

A. The acceptance letter will have a reply form attached. You must complete and return the reply form by 17 March 2014 to confirm that you are accepting the offer. You can also accept the offer online at If you don’t do this, the offer of a place at the School may be withdrawn.

30. Q. My daughter has been refused a place. Must the School give me a reason?

A. A refusal to offer you a place must state the reasons why admission has been refused. The refusal letter must also give you information about the right to appeal, the deadline for lodging an appeal and the contact details for making an appeal.

31. Q. The School has told me that they had more applications than places available, (oversubscribed), and they have no place for my daughter. Is this a legitimate reason for refusal?

A. It may be in some circumstances. The school publishes oversubscription criteria as part of the admissions information which can be found here. The oversubscription criteria themselves must be fair and objective and must also be fairly and objectively applied. Parents must be able to understand easily how the religious requirements in the oversubscription criteria can be reasonably satisfied.

32. Q. Do pupils of Yesodey Hatorah Primary School have priority if the School is oversubscribed?

A. No. See the reply to Q.1 above.

33. Q. Is the School generally oversubscribed?

A. Last year there were 59 applications for 80 available places at the School. All applicants were successful.

34. Q. My daughter has been refused a place and I’m not sure what else I can do about it. Can I appeal?

A. Yes. You have a right to appeal to an independent school admissions appeal panel which the school must set up to hear your appeal. It is beyond the scope of this FAQ to cover appeals and a separate appeals FAQ may be published should the need arise. For useful information on appeals see this link here.

35. Q. What is the deadline to appeal?

A. 24 March 2014. This is a very important deadline and you must lodge your appeal before this date. If an appeal is lodged after this date relating to a late application the School will still have to make arrangements for your appeal to be heard.

36. Q. My daughter has been refused a place and I would like to know who made the decision. How can I find out?

A. You should ask the School which should provide you with that information. It is against the law for a single person to decide on admissions.

37. Q. I am concerned that the reasons given to me for a refusal may not be the true reasons and I would like to know what information the School or the UOHC hold on me. How can I obtain this information?

A. Under the Data Protection Act you may make a subject access request to the School and/or the UOHC to provide you with all the personal information they hold on you. Further information how to make such a request can be found here.

38. Q. My daughter is already at a secondary school and we would like to transfer her to the School for the coming school year or during the current year (In-year Admissions). Are we able to do this?

A. Yes, provided there are vacancies in the class. According to the most recent information provided by the School there are vacancies in Year 7 and in Year 11. You can apply even where there are no vacancies and you will be placed on a waiting list.

39. Q. What is the procedure for In-year Admissions and is there a deadline?

A. An application form can be requested from Hackney Learning Trust. This form should be returned directly to Hackney Learning Trust irrespective of the borough in which you live. You will also have to complete a Supplementary Information Form which should be returned to the School. There is no deadline and you can apply at any time.

40. Q. Where can I find further information?

A. Please refer to the admissions brochure for all further information or call Hackney Learning Trust on 020 8820 7501

If you have additional questions please leave them in the comments or write to

The YHS Forum is independent from Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls School and is not associated with the School.

Step-by-step guide to YHS application and Contact details

1. Set up online account at This applies to all applicants.

If you are applying on a paper form then Hackney residents only should use the application form which can be download here. Residents of other boroughs must contact their home local authorities for an alternative paper form.

2. Complete the Supplementary Information form  and contact the UOHC for it to be signed by a member of the Rabbinate.

3. Complete the application form online or submit your paper application form to your local authority preferably by 25 October 2013 but by no means any later than 31 October 2013. A late application will put you at a severe disadvantage.

4. Submit the completed and signed Supplementary Information form to the School by no later than 31 October 2013.

5. Sit back and hope for the best.



Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls School

Egerton Road, London N16 6UB

Tel: 020 8826 5500

School pages on NAJOS website

School pages on Learning Trust website

School’s Admission Policy

Supplementary Information Form

Hackney Learning Trust

Reading Lane, London E1,

Secondary School Admissions page

Tel: 020 8820 7501

School Application Form

Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations

140 Stamford Hill, London N16 6QT

Tel: 020 8802 6226

213 Golders Green Road,

London NW11 9BY

Tel: 020 8458 2326

London Borough of Haringey

Secondary School Admissions page

Tel: 020 8489 1000

London Borough of Barnet

Tel: 020 8359 7651

Secondary School Admissions page

London Borough of Redbridge (Ilford)

Secondary Schools Admissions page

020 8708 3129 / 3996

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Keep Calm and Carry On…

Eiruv blueprint

Following the ruling of the new Carry On star Rabbi Mordechai Eisner on the Brookside eiruv some of our local finer minds have applied his halachic string-pulling closer to home and the map you see above is the result. Apparently, similar principles apply to both eiruvin and so an eiruv for the gander ought to be an eiruv for the *not tznius to mention*.

Of course it being Golders Green they have an eiruv within an eiruv. Like the living rooms within their homes they have a mega super eiruv which they don’t use and is there only for show (and for carrying in hidden pockets) and then a smaller dingier eiruv where they can be themselves in their full glory. But surely if they can have two we poor cousins should deserve at least one. And if we’re going to start somewhere it might as well be south Tottenham where people will actually use it. Stick the eiruv in Fairholt Road and it will become a competition of not using it most.

To be honest, Eiruvin has never been one of my strong points. I find it difficult to get my mind round the concept of strings, planks, door frames, river banks and park railings all ganging up to create a device that enables the movement of keys from round one’s ample waist to the depth of the pocket. For once, you can’t accuse the rabbis of not being creative.

I do however foresee one minor problem or, looking at the bright side, it could in fact become a nice little earner. On Egerton Road you will notice that due to the presence of Tatton Crescent (the private road running at the side of Asda) they’ve had to move the ‘door frame’ back. Rather than position it on the junction with Stamford Hill as they have on the other turnings they’ve set  the notional door frame back to the junction with Tatton Crescent.

Now, the land on the corner of Egerton Road and Tatton Crescent is of course Yesodey Hatorah school where people get married these days at the School hall but for which the UOHC supposedly acts as agent on a commission of something like 250%. Yes, you read that correctly. Quite normal you might think and as Yesodey Hatorah has very reasonably said, what others charge for school property is none of the school’s business. True, Satmar couldn’t hire it for Shabbos for love or money but that’s because we expect the local non-Jewish schools to host our rebbes while the state aided Jewish school in our midst will not stoop to accommodate a Friday-night tish.

But returning to the eiruv, while at first blush those in control at the school may be inclined to say nyet to something as heretical, innovative and anti-chareidi as an eiruv on their land, the prospect of a licence fee, an agency and yet more urgently needed funds, for the UOHC of course, might just persuade them to pull a few strings after all.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Brooking Dissent

eisner eiruv

So Golders Green can have sit-down restaurants and cafes, schools run by a board of governors rather than a single nepotistic strongman, mixed Tashlich sessions, decent mikvo’os and now even an eiruv and all with a Kedassia hechsher. But as for Stamford Hill it has been decreed that we are to remain forever under the servitude of a cabal of kleptomaniacs who can carry nothing but their own wallets.

It’s not as if we in Stamford Hill are incompetent because in many respects we are far more capable than others. Reb Aaron of Satmar will this week lay the foundation stone and attend the opening of a shul, yeshiva and school, the other Satmar recently opened its own mega girl school, Belz has commenced a huge building project, Vizhnitz has in the last few years opened shuls and schools, ditto for Bobov and Ger.

Yet in all this time the wretched UOHC has barely managed to refurbish a single mikve after many years as a building site and another mikve remains in a decrepit state after almost a decade. It can barely sweep its own front yard and they only put their cemetery in order after protests and notices in shuls. Oh, and they also facilitate the grand theft at the Yesodey Hatorah wedding hall through an agency, a leaseback, money changers, offshore companies and anything else they can think of to rip us off.

The time has come to realise that they are simply not fit for purpose and let them disband. Their boards and committees are not elected, they do not meet our needs and yet we pay for their upkeep through their kashrus racket. No taxation without representation goes the saying but I’d forgive them even that if they provided some kind of service. But they don’t and so let them disappear and we’ll manage far better without them.

Mirvis’s Baptism of Fire

Anti limmud_edit

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Eiruv is comin’ to town

GG eiruv

… and it’s kosher too though I hadn’t realised that Brookside had quite as many rabbis.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Time for Reflection

divrei chaim - aseres yemei tshuva letter
An anonymous letter apparently posted to members of the breakaway Divrei Chaim minyan(im?)

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Headless Kapores

uohc 5773 calendarGoing, going…

5774 uohc luach


They couldn’t be more daft than we thought, could they? I mean, after a year like this we must by now know the wildest frontiers of their insanity and how could it be otherwise. Well, think again.

As the UOHC publishes its annual edict to segregate the public highway and introduces a Challa Burning service which, come on, admit it, it’s what’s really been missing from our lives and something we’ve all been begging for, and as one of their mikves which has now been a building site for about 10 years enters another year still as a building site, and as the police keep digging away at one of their loftiest, those in charge have had some other ideas on their mind.

While we’ve been rising early and begging forgiveness, unbeknown to us its entire lay and rabbinic leadership has committed mass hara-kiri. The rabbis got laid and now the lay leadership has joined them in taking a jump. And all for the sake of protecting the modesty of the one who least needs protection and harbouring he who ought to be handed over.

Let me explain. Each year the UOHC publishes a wall calendar which is displayed in its affiliated shuls. Besides the calendar bits, it lists the various services the UOHC deigns to provide to its minions. Like the Beth Din which disputatious parties prefer to avoid, the mikvo’oth of which some are little more than cesspits, the wedding-hall extortion racket which masquerades as a service to the needy at their most vulnerable hour, the fox-feeding yard in Enfield, the sodden marshes in Chesunt and, needless to say, the granddaddy of all rackets, Kedassia, which is accompanied by a dire warning of the consequences of forging the royal seal.

The format of the calendar has not changed in decades just as the dinosaurs who run that show are an annual cut and paste job. As far back as I can remember the layout has always been that in the top right corner were listed the members of the Rabbinate followed by the trustees you wouldn’t trust, the executive committee that gets little done and finally the whatever committee members who are as static as the dust on the windows of their Stamford Hill HQ.

Then to the left of the calendar appears a list of the names and addresses of affiliated shuls and shtieblech each with its rov or dayan. Despite the succession battles bedevilling almost every chasidic court with each side claiming to carry the authentic banner while accusing the other of usurping the crown, the UOHC has done a rather good job of keeping the peace. The calendar maintains an impartiality and each shtiebel is accorded the name it accords itself. And if the uninitiated are confounded by several shuls of the same name with no apparent means to identify to which faction each belongs then that is a small price to pay for communal harmony.

This year, however, the tightrope walkers must be nursing sore backsides for if they are good at keeping out of the troubles of others they are disastrous at managing their own. As we know, the last year in the annals of the UOHC has been like no other. An unprecedented resignation of one of its rabbinic star performers, a police investigation into the same star, denunciations by rivals, countless meetings of ditherers and dunces, letters, expulsions, retractions, international courts adjourned indefinitely. In short an Annus Horribilis of which the net affect is the diminution of the stature of the entire body, the decline of the moral authority of its clerics and the loss of confidence in its lay leaders.

In typical ostrich fashion at which they so excel their reaction has been not introspection, not even damage limitation but simply trying to pretend that life carries on as normal. Normal in this context meaning, that those who have done little more in their lives than warm their seats continuing in their good old ways. It’s the tried and tested method inherited on the whole from their fathers and if there’s been a hitch or two during the last year that is still no reason to chuck out the rebbe with the mikve water.

And so with the wisdom and sagacity we have become accustomed to they decided that the best policy for the calendar is to add a worm-free sandpit in the middle to bury their collective heads in and all the better to exhibit their kosher version of the horrible annus. And so the space that in the past was reserved for the Rabbinate (see top photo) this year contains nothing (see bottom photo). No lists, no names, no rabbinate and no committee. Just as it ought to be, some might think. If the rabbis must go then the lay leaders of whom not a single one took any responsibility for the mess they dragged us into should fare no better. And if their names being dropped from the calendar is the start then let’s help them finish it off.

That was still not enough to protect the modesty of the randy one and they had to go one further. On the timetable of the Beis Horo’o they also dropped the names of the rabbis on duty because, once again, if all the functioning rabbis were on display the dysfunctional one would stand out by this omission and so all had to go. Like the joke of the editor caught in flagrante with his secretary on the office desk. If the personnel were too valuable to be fired then at least the desk had to go. In our case it’s the poor calendar.

divrei chaim calendarBut hang on there, did I not say that there is one other list. As mentioned above, the left hand lists all the affiliated shuls. Those with long memories may recall that but for a brief 24 hour period when the Divrei Chaim shul was unaffiliated and which was followed by a hostage taking drama nothing has changed on that front. So with the shul intact the list too could remain intact and so published in full it is (see above). Goodness gracious for that since the UOHC do not provide enough services to fill the blank space that would have resulted from omitting that list.

And this, my dear readers, is the story of our community.

We’ve been leaderless for almost a year but now, thank God, just in time for the New Year, they’ve had the grace to admit it and finally go. What a decent lot they must have been and how we shall miss them dearly. May God bless ‘em all. Amen.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

What Shall We Do With the Drunken Sailors

DfE Yeshives education2

For the story so far see here… and now read on.

After the auditory contest between voices of reason on one side and cacophonous canines on the other it will come as little surprise to learn that the dogs gained the upper paw. It's not for nothing that 'man bites dog' makes the more implausible headline.

What supposedly happened beyond that initially reported was that a group of school heads who did not make it to the Westminster outing wrote to Rav Padwa a sulking letter stating that they do not wish to be represented by AOJSOL. For a start they felt that the acronym is too long for people who on a point of principle shun the English language and unless is was transliterated into Hebrew or circumcised by 3 or more letters they will have nothing to do with tongue twisters of this kind. Besides, it is their firmly held belief that a policy of talking to the authorities and negotiating with the DfE over the secular education of kids carries with it the stench of capitulation and surrender and it is our shirts that are white and not our flags.

The local thinking goes roughly so. Our starting position will always be that whatever curriculum they have in mind it is still lehavdil inferior to ours. Period. Sof posuk. And even if it was equal, which of course it is chas vecholilo not, non-Jewish children are not taught Yiddish or Hebrew so there is no reason why Jewish children should be taught English. Or maths, geography, history and science for that matter, which round here all come under the rubric of 'English'. To this must be added that our kids don't do drugs and we have no teenage pregnancies out of wedlock and this, as we well know, is an excuse for anything from loft extensions to double parking, honking horns and overloaded school buses. Mind you we don't do brain surgeons or precision engineers either but that's being pedantic so let's move on.

This preamble conveniently out of the way, we must then challenge the DfE that English is bichlal not so important. You see, non-heimishes have jobs descending deep into mineshafts and window-cleaning skyscrapers and the Tower of Babel story teaches us that without a good grounding in linguistics ascending too high can cause one to hit the buffers. By contrast, us chosen ones are surrounded by zillionaires who were not taught any English and have still made it in life in a way that the schlemazels at the DfE can only dream of. And so we ought to tell them that if only they experienced the taste of a Shabbos table replete with plastic tablecloths and 13 dips before the fish they too would undoubtedly concede that Rabbi Tarfon beats Darwin and 'An alleyway that is taller than 20 cubits' trumps Henry VIII and his 8 wives, thank you very much.

(It may assist to add that Richard Branson also has no university education plus he sports a beard and has not done too badly for himself either. This could raise the rather delicate matter of the name of his brand and his proste habit of hoisting up stewardesses in his arms. In fairness, though, the last time I saw his meidelech in Terminal 3 they were all clad in coats which reached considerably further than 4 inches below the knee although truth be said the coats were red and their length may have encroached beyond chareidi and into MO territory.)

So going back to where we started, since this unfortunately was not the approach taken by the AOJSOL, the dissenting schools decided to play truant. After all, what are English lessons for if not for playing up? But what really upset them more than anything was that if not for that un-pronounceable acronym the mandarins at the DfE wouldn' t even know of our existence. And since this is their trump card it warrants some further thought.

As the previous post made clear, every year the ground somewhere on the border between E5 and N16 opens up and swallows 150 or so 13 year olds, drawn as they must be to the sweet melodies of our pied pipers. Not quite pipers as the local instrument of choice happens to be the synthetic keyboard but they are mesmerised by some kind of heimishe tune nonetheless. Given that these kids are completely off the radar, the argument goes, if not for the AOJSOL snitching to the DfE they in Westminster would know nothing about our yeshivos which could then thrive happily ever after. Our Jewish ingenuity has got us out of the deepest of ruts and this one need have been no different. And even should the education apparatchiks have decided to pay us a visit and survived the trip to our neck of the woods we would still have been able to arrange an askan here and a shtadlan there to bamboozle them with facts and figures until they'd be searching for nothing but the exit.

Well, as I almost said at the outset, this is firmly canine territory of the insane type and if there is one thing to be certain of in this asylum it is that the lunatics win out in the end. Reason and sanity have no role to play other than in their scarcity and round here the less one possesses of those hazardous attributes the more one is likely to succeed. And so the AOJSOL beat a hasty retreat and for last 18 months the barking lot were able to rub their hands in glee for having totted up yet another victory. Until this letter, of course, to which far brighter minds are currently applying their assets and who need no input from us lot.

But before I retire my pen I wish to address just once thought that may be fleeting through the mind of the casual observer. One might just wonder at this stage where the parents come into all of this. I mean, it's all very well with the Westminster door-openers appearing for a photo call in the Tribune and the opponents resorting to the shul noticeboards because to them even the Tribune is not kosher enough. But surely parents must take some stand on the matter of the education of their dear neshomolech. A fair point, I'd think.

Well, Mr Casual Observer, never mind a stand, they don't even have a seat on the issue. It's more like that they lie prostrated in a permanent vegetative state, though this does require some qualification.

If a survey were to be carried out in Stamford Hill I'd lay a bet that the vast majority of parents would prefer (not much more than that, I'm afraid) their children to be taught the basics of the English language . Let's face it, at some point in life they may have to make an insurance claim or complain about the lack of kosher meals on a flight to Acapulco and should the wife at that time be institutionalised in Beis Broche and not at hand to assist a smattering of English could be something of an asset.

I'd go one further, that most parents would think it not a bad idea to teach the kids some maths, too though many might baulk at the prospect of burdening their pure souls with Pythagorean triangles and Euclidean geometry. After all, what did Hashem create calculators for. For the sake of balance I should add that many if not most would almost certainly be opposed to the study of literature in the form of Jane Austen or Henry James and not to mention that old antisemite Mr W. Shakespeare.

Yet despite this apparent eagerness of parents for some form of secular education for their male offspring they still have the lower hand at the point of delivery. Which brings us back to the barking lot.

Parent power is not something mentioned in the mishna berura and if it makes any sense it's just another reason to shun it like a vaccination. And so parents sacrifice their kids for the sake of their kids. Deny them the education they are entitled to for the sake of their birthright of a good shiduch. Coerce them by omission into a life of limited opportunities at best and public dependency at worst for the sake of not rocking the boat.

What they fail to note is that that their vessel is no longer seaworthy, the captains are drunk and the brainiest are going overboard. But those who remain will refuse to provide a life vest to their kids to carry them through the high seas of life because like seat belts it's yet another thing we don't quite believe in.

And so backwards we drift with no pointer on our compass.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Unlike Father, Unlike Son


Padwa protests

From Halichos Chanoch, by Rav Avrhohom Yonah Schwartz

I once discussed with the Rav [the late Rav Padwa] the principles of protesting against breaches [of religious practice], and he showed me the words of the Trumas Hadeshen that protest should often be avoided.

"Be aware that my soul is shocked by the hostility, strife and battle in your community which is caused mainly by scorn and abuse. I anticipate withdrawing shortly from being involved in these matters because I realise that I lack the strength to clear the paths and remove the obstacles. I am for peace but when I speak they are for war, and this is therefore a voluntary preoccupation and not obligatory and so what is it to me?"

I heard from Rav Heshil Padwa that at the time when his father the Rav lived in Jerusalem there were often demonstrations against chilul shabbos and many of the residents of Botei Broide, where the Rav served as a Dayan, would attend the demonstrations. The Rav, however, did not go. A local resident once complained to the Rav why he does not attend the protests. The Rav replied, there is indeed an obligation to protest but why do Rav Pinchas Epstein and Rav Bengis and other city elders not fulfil this mitzvah. This suggests that they are of the view that the mitzvah [of holding protests] is for people of a lower order. Although I don't consider myself to be on an elevated level I'm also not obliged to publicise myself as belonging to the lower order.

Once there was a demonstration in London against the Israeli government and the Rav refused to attend. This caused an outcry in some circles. I asked the Rav for his reasons and he replied that had he attended journalists and the media would have been aware of his presence and would have asked him questions and since he is not fluent in English he could not answer them properly. And even if his English was good enough he would also not go as he holds a position of authority and every word of his matters. He must therefore be articulate to be able respond appropriately, and no response also carries a responsibility. And so he decided that it would be preferable not to attend.

…vs. this

Padwa Brussels

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Man Overboard

Joe resignation

Something of note has taken place in Stamford Hill. In a town where a match is hot news, a motor car collision of international significance and a genieivah of any kind worthy of the attention of the General Assembly, the event we are about to describe is nothing short of Security Council import.

In a different place and era this might have called for screeching headlines in our communal press, press releases by our spinners and perhaps even a dinner or banquet to mark the the once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. This would allow our refined Dear Leaders to mingle with the fairer sex while mandating us commoners to keep an ocean-breadth's distance from those enticers and seducers. Mind you in another era we may not have been discussing this at all so best to just keep calm and rush off to call your neighbour, cousin and, if they're out, do some shopping where you may just bump into them. Or, for men that is, attend another charity reception and discuss the news over yet another plate of tsholent and kugel served of late approximately seven nights a week.

That's perhaps how it ought to have been but instead we get silence. 6 weeks’ silence to be precise. Silence on the cause, silence on the effect and silence on the event. Those who delve into philosophical narishkeitn will know the conundrum of whether a tree falling in a forest makes a noise if there is no one about to record the sound. One for next nitl, if you've yet to give it some thought. But here in Stamford Hill we go one further: we assume the tree still to be standing. And if the evidence is otherwise overwhelming we are told not to look because as Nietzsche almost said, that which doesn't kill you can still turn you into a heretic and that, trust me, is far worse.

You see, the R word has reached our shores and I'm afraid it's as grim as it sounds. A resignation has taken place in our yard and a tree has fallen in our dense forest. It may appear that no one was around to record the drop, yet the sound has reached our ears and alas it is this blog that has been anointed to bring the bad tidings unto the humble.

My friends, the tree is none other than our esteemed MBE, pontificator of some six and three-quarter decades, the beardless defender of the bearded, the wild party boy protecting our collective modesty, the guardian angel of the purest of our traditions. Our tree, our oak, our elm from chelm, our bark, our perennial, our plank, our whatever-you-can-think-of and a lot less, is no longer the sub-prime guarantor of our future generations.

For none other than Joe Lobenstein MBE has resigned as Chair of the Board of Governors of Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls School. Did I hear someone mutter that they didn't even know he was the Chair in the first place? Ah, that's probably because they have a child at the school and so the identity of the Chair is classified information. Parents have a Principal and a Head and should be happy to know who they are.

And so getting back to The Event, just as you thought the R word doesn't even appear in the kosher dictionary the MBE has tendered his resignation citing his advanced age and the increased volume of work . But let's be fair to the man. Dear Joe is in his eighties and running a school can be a bit of a burden. At a loss how to spend an enormous budget surplus, turning admissions into exclusions, shuffling the mummy and daddy chairs for the esteemed family must take up time and so even good things must come to an end at some point.

Of course you may ask whether he has also stepped down from his position as Vice-President of the UOHC, and from the presidium of the Agudas Yisroel something or other, and as advocate or some bombastic title on the police liaison committee, and from his Neither Here Nor There sopbox, and not to forget the Foreign Affairs Committee and tending to his moustache and dusting his hat. It may well be that he has stepped down from each of those august institutions and will now retire gracefully to write his eagerly awaited memoirs, publish a collection of his prized columns and speeches and perhaps even produce a line of fridge magnets featuring his witty 'Overheard' quips.

And did I mention his trusteeship of the Adath Yisroel Burial Society? How could I not? You know that organisation with the plot off the A10 which feeds the foxes below ground and the rats above. The trust which, according to its 2011 accounts, has a 'potential liability' to pay 49% of its surplus funds to the UOHC but which in 2011 is still quoting the recommendation of a 2002 actuarial report that 'no such distribution be made.' (Isn't it time the actuaries were commissioned once again?) Some ‘potential’ indeed.

As I say, it may well be that the above positions now lie as vacant as an aged strumpet begging for a suitor. And it could equally be that managing the fortunes of almost an entire family at YHS was a particular tough nut to crack. Then again it may just be that the need to spend more time with his family became particularly pressing as the School Chair was beginning to warm up of late.

And this is where we must take issue with Dear Joe. As regular readers will know, this blog can from time to time be unfavourably disposed towards the esteemed family that has taken possession of the private school maintained by the public purse, but today we must make an exception. Fair-weather friends cannot be cherished and for Lobenstein to ditch Pinter at this perilous hour mars what otherwise would surely have been a flawless record of selfless dedication to the public good and not-so-public coffers.

Of all Joe's attributes, jumping ship in choppy waters is not one we have associated him with. As one who spent a lifetime leading from the front it ill behoves him to be heading for the exit the moment sniffing noses make an entrance. As a captain surely he should have stayed behind until the last of the passengers has disembarked or is safely ensconced in a lifeboat and then perhaps explained what the heck is going on at the school where he was notionally in charge. Not jump overboard at the first sight of a cloud. Where is his renown mesiras nefesh? His world-famous shtadlonus? He may not have been there to petition Oliver Cromwell, but he has been steadfast ever since so how has it come to this?

But let us resort to the Great Man's famous words in an interview to the Daily Telegraph: 'We are survivors,' and how right he is. We can have scandals on our watch but we plough on. We can have financial skulduggery in our midst, but we hog our chair. We can preside over sexual scandals to which we respond with modesty squads. We can ride as high a horse as will fit our posterior and never will we be toppled. And if having overarched ourselves we are caught short we can always bugger off at the first sign of trouble and let others face the music. Survival of the frummest, as seen at a shul near you.

And so here is a suggested definition for the R word in the next edition of the kosher dictionary.

Resign: (sp. never with MBE) v. 1. Practised as last resort and to be presented as act of humility and self-abnegation when departing after four terms as mayor. 2. v. intr., often derog. in burial societies; to be deprecated as act of contrition. Usage: sparingly. Reserve for risk of censure by non-heimish authorities only.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Right in the wrong

Guest post by “Moish”

Apologies in advance to readers who must by now have tired of the 'painful saga', but an article in this week's JC underscores an aspect of the ensuing fallout that has yet to be fully appreciated. It demonstrates the seismic shifts taking place in frum London, if not the UK, effected in large measure by this very saga.

For the first time in living memory, a spokesman for the United Synagogue (and not merely individual dayonim acting in their capacity as 'NW London rabbonim') has gone on record criticizing the UOHC. The significance of this cannot be overestimated, especially as the criticism relates not to the UOHC's financial probity, general accountability or its (lack of) democratic mandate but on issues of chupa and kidushin. The US lecturing the Stamford Hill establishment on yiddishkeit may not be quite like North Korea lecturing the USA on human rights but in the Adath’s eyes it must come scarily close.

The story of Orthodoxy, if not Judaism, in the UK, as well as the world over, during the last few decades has been to a large extent the seemingly inexorable ascendancy of the Charedim. Their growing numbers have been accompanied by an increasing confidence not only in expressing their views, but in policing the limits of acceptable rabbinic thought and behaviour amongst those to their left. UOHC rabbonim alongside their stable mates up north have been frenetically ferreting out the slightest whiff of heresy in their backsliding 'mainstream' counterparts. Whippers-in like good old Joe have made it their job of propping up the rear (where many of their heads are firmly ensconced) from his perch in Anglo Orthodoxy's organ and through the presidiums and presidencies that have fallen his way.

Whether it was the near-career-ending furore over the mischievous leaking of the Chief Rabbi's letter to the late R. Padwa over Hugo Gryn's memorial service or the auto-da-fe that ensued over the Chief's 'Dignity of Difference', God's self-proclaimed inquisitors were always on the case. In halachic matters too, from the brouhaha over the NW London eruv to the excoriation of Dayan Lopian for his overly liberal approach to yom tov sheni, any overt deviation from the Stamford Hill cum Bnei Brak line was swiftly and harshly condemned and without the adjudication of an ad hoc Beis Din.

Although this condemnation did not always lead to a retraction on the part of the offending party, the bearded bearers of 'Torah True' principles became the force to be reckoned with on Judaic matters. This self perception of the 'Adath' rabbonim was widely in accordance with how they were viewed by the Jewish public at large: uncompromising adherents to unchanging principles.

And it is here where the tectonic shifts are taking place. Without repeating the sordid allegations of 'the curious incident of the rov in the night-time' with which readers of this blog will be well versed, it can safely be said that the reputation of the UOHC rabbinic leadership has taken a pounding. It will take a long time if ever before anyone outside their insular citadels will look to them for guidance or authority on anything, never mind issues pertaining to the status of women, sanctity, marriage or education. In the immortal words of Rav Padwa, "the solution doesn't lie with the police," and it definitely does not lie with the self-appointed UOHC religious and modesty cops.

It is no coincidence that the UOHC has chosen to keep its counsel while mainstream Anglo Orthodoxy has been undergoing a mini-revolution of its own. From the appointment of a 'yoetzet halacha' in Kinloss to the election of women onto the boards of Federation shuls and as presidents of several United Synagogues; from the expansion in the number of women's megilla readings to increased contact with rabbinic personalities from New York's Yeshiva University, a not-so-subtle snub of Charedi norms has been gaining traction while the guardian angels have been looking less than beatific.

Of course this has not all come about as a result of the UOHC's recent failures and the LBD is still firmly ensconced in black-hat territory. What has changed, however, is the deterrent factor the UOHC and its allies once represented. Whereas in the past, R. Sacks felt the need to offer an abasing response when he was called to account by the late Rav Padwa, a similar demand from the current UOHC Head (were it not to be retracted on the same day) would likely be greeted with a mixture of scorn and bemusement.

Rather than cowering in fear as they may once have done when facing an attack from their exposed right flank, mainstream Orthodox leaders would more likely be on the floor in fits of laughter. It will be a long time indeed before the rabbis of the United Synagogue are prepared to take lessons from their Charedi counterparts on what should be considered a 'deviation' from our sacred mesorah.

And it is not just external forces that are weakening the UOHC. It may be imploding internally too as their predominance on their home turf is being eroded and they concentrate their efforts on modesty squads and the like. While In the past hell would erupt at the change of hechsher of a mere yoghurt supplier, nary a peep has been heard from Kedassia officialdom in response to the tanks of a rival butcher shop parked firmly on their lawn. Since the ba'alei machshirim are a Stamford Hill Rov with the backing of a large kehilo and an ex-Stamford Hiller in out-of-reach Edgware, there is every reason to believe that the eyes and direction of the newbies are firmly set east. Were Belz to establish its own meat in Stamford Hill Satmar would have no option but to follow suit. The absence of the revenue provided by a profitable meat production would mark the practical end of the UOHC.

It would be a mistake to attribute the decline in the Union’s ‘footprint’ solely to recent events. If Rav Padwa's inaugratory address on a decapitated calf didn't raise doubts on the leadership quality of the victor at the funeral power grab, then by the time of his incoherent discourse on nobody-quite-knows-what at the Siyum Hashas, he had richly earned his nickname as the 'Moro D'saster'. This latest saga has however metamorphasised the headless calf into a headless chicken and shown the emperor to have no bekitshe and barely a loin cloth. And for this they have a certain resident of Bridge Lane to thank.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Pound of Flesh

Hager hechsher

עש”ק פ’ בהר בחקתי תשע”ג

היות ורבים שואלים אותי על הכשרים שונים על בשר. דעתי שבנסיבות הזמן אין שום שאלה של שחוטי חוץ באזורנו. אבל תמיד ראוי להקפיד מטעמי כשרות על הכשר שניתן ע"י רבנים חרדים שמאחוריהם עומד ועד כשרות שיש בע"ב שהם נציגים של ציבור של שומרי תורה ומצוות

גרשון האגער

[Friday, 3 May 2013]

In light of many enquiries I have had concerning different hechsheirim of meat. I am of the view that due to current circumstances there is no question of 'shchitei chutz' (out of town slaughter) in our area. However, generally one should insist, on grounds of kashrus, on a hechsher that is backed by a kashrus committee comprised of lay delegates from an observant public.

Gershon Hager

Friday, 3 May 2013

Freudian Glitch?


The above advert appears hot on the heels of the notice from the Committee for the Purity of the Camp (not that camp, perv) inviting people to report any “suspicious person breaching the boundaries of sanctity.” The two adverts actually appear in the same publication which has just dropped through my door despite numerous notices pasted across the entire front of my house, “We do not read in our household. We only look out of the window and we don’t even bother doing it from behind the nets because trust us the view is much clearer when you move the curtains aside and park yourself on the windowsill with your half dozen kids beside you. Och, who just left that house? Oooh, they must be doing a shiduch tonight.”

In classic fashion, I digress, but now I'm back on track. This spanking new Committee for the Purity of the Camp is “supervised by UOHC Rabbonim." You know those clowns who always go out on a limb to satisfy public opinion have again responded to 'public demand'. After all it is they who earned our respect and admiration in their coolness under fire and their resilience in the face of the mightiest onslaught they ever encountered. They proved themselves preternaturally efficient at dealing with a suspect across their own high table and now having slain one dragon who else would we turn to when sanctity is being trampled on at every crap table with a 15 mile radius? We therefore urge members of the public that in the event that you encounter a suspect wielding a Samsung S III befarhesya, he should not be approached due to the risk of contamination and should be reported at once to the Committee who "will pursue and verify and do its best to solve the problem – in accordance with guidance of the Rabbonim.”

Now I don’t know the nature of the guidance the Rabbonim will be issuing. This is of course something best left to them and we laypeople should not attempt to second guess how to resolve problems (note the lack of ‘alleged’) brought to their attention. However, this is a blog read only by laypeople as no Rav, Rov, Rabbi, Rebbe or anything remotely alliterative and worth his ear wax would be seen here in any shape or form. And so our advice I'm afraid is for the suspects only and those doing the reporting should refer to their rabbinical advisers.

On 1 February 2013 the UOHC registered with the Data Commissioner as a processor of personal data. (A blog, and a commentor like adloyada, really can make a difference!) As you will see they process data for 9 purposes, none of which is pursuing, investigating and solving problems of suspects breaching boundaries of sanctity. So should you be so unfortunate as to make an appearance on their database of undesirables, please refer to the Information Commissioner’s guides on how to make a subject access request for the information they hold on you and while at it throw in a complaint on their unlawful retention of your personal data.

But these are the boring bits and let’s get back on track with the Freudian glitch, if indeed it is one. Not that I would know since round here a difficult spot with dreams is resolved by a prayer during the Benediction of the Priests and not by delving into The Interpretations of Dreams. And anyway Jung is a much more heimishe name than Freud so there Sigmund. What kind of a Jewish name is that, eh?

In a normal situation one would have assumed that the advert meant to write girls and boys though that creates problems of its own. Round here boys and girls don’t often appear in the same sentence and besides boys wouldn’t be last. Ladies first, is just not a toiredike concept; when in a hole stop digging, apparently isn’t either. Perhaps that ought to have been men and ladies, which is the preferred term locally for the other gender, and in ordinary circumstances this would well make sense.

But these are no ordinary times. With ‘QCs’ manning helplines for abuse and purification committees conjured out of streimels almost daily, one cannot be too cautious. So this time let us give them the benefit of the doubt and reluctantly agree that they really do mean to segregate the men from the boys.

Let's face it, why on earth not? The kids are delighted that they don’t have to recite mishnayos the entire journey because they can't really tell their dads of the super new game their neighbour got for afikomon. And the men for their part can freely discuss the sizzling-hot latest report from the Committee without being troubled by their pesky vilde chayes. It’s holidays for goodness sake and fathers too are entitled to a break, thank you very much.

How much better can a family outing get than being separated from your womenfolk, segregated from your kids and in the sole company of bearded males? You get to spend the entire time just like in the mikve which must be the very meaning of bliss as defined by the UOHC dictionary.

Oh, and by the way, are there any discounts for Bnei Torah?

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

The Silver Lining

Progress yet again and kudos to Rabbi Shimon Winegarten for the new ShemaKoli abuse helpline.

It of course gives you an idea how much confidence he has in the UOHC 'help' line. It also shows a sensitivity to men and women victims which hadn't occurred to our locals when launching their unisex line. Gender separation is just for the photographers,it seems. And you can bet that the person at the other end of this line will be marginally more sensitive than the one who was answering the UOHC line with his glorious track record in 'admissions' to 'his' schools.

Should we assume that the hours allotted to men and women point to the ratio of abuse victims amongst them? Or is it simply easier to find suitable female volunteers than men?

Friday, 22 March 2013

I Don't Wanna Be Your Sugar Baggy

You know the score on the wretched lids. Kedassia say they're sodden with starch and hence forbidden. But that is not quite enough. In their quest to ensure that no Jew inadvertently bumps into some chometz, they have gone one further by sending their star enforcer deep into enemy territory to declare that those who claim tinfoil lids to be kosher for Pesach are guilty of 'mis-of-information'. 

To those who don't know the local parlance, the words addressed to an English speaking audience in North West London are the polite way of saying what would translate round here as something along the lines of, any sheigetz who eats kugel out of a tin covered with one of those lids might as well  fress a hamburger for koireich. And as to caterers contemplating making use of those lids, just dare and we  may not allow you again into the hall we 'licence' off that school.

But Kedassia may have some cracks of their own that require papering over, assuming they can find a starch-free variety for the job. The above tests show that Kedassia sugar bags may have some starchy issues that need to be urgently addressed. No one is cholilo suggesting that the starch is of the forbidden variety, but given the prevalence of chometz in starch and following Kedassia's lead in outlawing the merest chance of starch even when other hechsheirim have given their approval, surely Kedassia should be addressing this most important issue as a matter of utmost urgency.

So for the sake of assuring the starch-free hordes, can Kedassia please issue a notice beginning 'It has come to our attention..." that the starch found on the sugar bags containing their seal of approval are good, kosher starches and the sugar may be consumed in the secure knowledge that it is kosher to the platinum standard we have become accustomed to courtesy of the world's favourite hechsher.

Wishing you all a happy and kosher (if you can afford it) Pesach.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Tinfoil Treife: Kosher Guy

Lids and covers, foils and tins, wraps and towels. There is not a tired old trick that hasn't been tried and it's high time to move on. The basics are simple enough. As most readers of this blog will know, our variety of Judaism - sorry, I must interrupt myself to apologise to those readers hopping mad that I dare impute different versions to our faith - but our particular version of Judaism has of late been preoccupied by the weighty issue of the kosherness or otherwise of lids of tinfoil containers.

For the purpose of this post I need not trouble you with anything more because if you are one of those genuinely troubled by this burning question and desperately seeking a resolution then I am afraid you have hit on the wrong site and you should contact your local TAG volunteer to attend urgently to your filter.

One characteristic of our Jewish strain very much connected to the shale of the day is an addiction to anything disposable. I'm not talking about disposable nappies which in Israel they often recycle as missiles in the event that a murder suspect is picked up by the police. Missiles, incidentally, to be launched at the police not at the suspect who is innocent until proven not to be frum in which case he is guilty until he starts reciting perek shira which exculpates him by association.

In this case I'm talking of disposable tableware. Chazal tell us that the arrival of the portion of manna was an indicator of one's piety. The righteous had it delivered to their door while the common folk had to go searching further afield for their daily crust. 'twas ever thus, appears to be the message in that. Another pointer to one's holy standing was the packaging of the heavenly bread. While the frummies had it delivered on a paper plate with plastic cutlery wrapped in a crumpled polythene bag that had previously shielded their hats from a downpour, to Guardian readers, assuming there were any amongst the Chosen, it arrived in a canvas tote emblazoned, No calves were worshipped in the production of this tortilla.

There is even some archaeological evidence that Moses handed out plastic cups after striking the rock, though some experts are convinced they were polystyrene.  Of course, never did we suffer anything like the devastation of Pompei because in our case we had the seichel to wrap everything in silver foil which stopped the lava in its tracks even before Shomrim managed to reach the scene in their Chrysler Grand Voyagers and Volvo XC90s. Which neatly brings us to the source of our minhag to cover anything from dining room chairs to tombstones in polythene because this is the clingfilm within which our forefather wrapped their bread of affliction in the Land of Mitzraim.

It'll soon be Pesach when our demand for disposables reaches its peak for anything from the most capacious dustbin liners to the longest tablecloths. While plastic is the greatest contributor to our landfill fest silver foil and tin foil also make a respectable contribution. Pesach is of course also the time when we don't stop fretting over what you can and cannot eat, drink, touch, smell and even God would find it a challenge to guess what else. Years ago it was the question of machine matzos and before that it was the pre-Pesach chometz trade. Even earlier that was the banning of legumes since when the definition of a legume keeps on widening by those who could barely tell apart a soya bean from a haricot.

In more recent times, having banned sunflower, rapeseed and cottonseed oils, the rabbis have found it necessary to supervise drinking water and almost ban that other commodity which sustains our people. Yes, paper plates need a hechsher too and it was thus only a matter of time before their attention turned to the humble tinfoil lid. Like taxes to The Beatles bans are to them: if you tie a string we'll ban your street/if you dare to sing we'll ban your tweet. It is all in a good cause, however, and we should bless our good fortune that we live in an age when the rabbis needn't join the dole queue for having run out of things to ban.

Yet we cannot deny the rights of those who choose to squeeze glass in the hope of extracting a sand particle to confuse it with a grain of wheat and thus find something new to ban. To paraphrase him whom we shouldn't mention on a nice Jewish blog, I disapprove of what you ban but I will defend to death your right to ban it. If some people wish to dissect a humble lid I will defend their right to act in accordance with their principles as vehemently and trenchantly as they would deny me to act according to mine.

But let's have a look where this principled debate, so integral to the future of our moral and spiritual well-being, is taking place. Where have the rabbis been engaging their brains, sharpening their pens and expounding their reasons? If they have been doing so at all they have been very good at covering their tracks since nothing in writing has appeared from anyone other than a notice from the distributor and a line in the KLBD list.

Aha, you say, this must belong to the oral rather than the written law. Up and down Dunsmure and Cazenove Roads scholars are no doubt tugging at their beards and curling their peios in deep contemplation on the origins of the foil cover, while from the windows of the shuls extended to the very edge of the pavement emanate the lab results of the lowly lid. Or perhaps our fearless press, always primed for a screeching headline on the smallest transgression of one of them and a howling protest on another perceived slight to one of us, have taken up the cudgels to explain to their readers the opposing sides of the great lid debate.

But I'm afraid you'd be wrong. This debate, for what it is, has hardly taken place at all. The warring sides did not spar at Yeshivas Horomoh and there was no disputation at Rabinow koilel. Yiddish was not enriched by the vocabulary of scientific test results and the pulpits of the Shabbos Hagodol droshos are unlikely to resound to the crinkle of tinfoil. Sforim shelves are unlikely to be burdened by volumes of responsa on this topic, the Jewish Tribune has not as much as mentioned it while the Hamodia has dedicated not a column inch in its multi sections to the great issue of the day.

Which leads us to the uncomfortable conclusion that we are no longer capable of holding a civilised and reasoned debate in any form or manner. We can cloak ourselves in mourning one week on the passing of some great unknown and then whip ourselves into a frenzy the week after over the engagement of the son of the hairy to the great niece of the scary. We can holler in unison over planning by-laws and rant over a bus lane and it goes without saying that there must be a uniform view and opinion on the size of blouses and the length of wigs.

But when a difference emerges amongst our own on matters that concern no one but us it'll be either violence and intimidation or we fall into a stunned silence. The shtiebel that will host Rabbi Scharf and his bans will not offer a platform to the LBD even if represented by a Rabbi Padwa. The koilel that will debate the starchiness of lids will not countenance an opinion that the starch may well be a Kosher le'Pesach red herring. The obsessive followers of hechsheirim have no interest in being shown their folly and the scholars who have multiplied the size of an olive to the equivalent of a cantaloupe will ignore the sources when it does not suit their prohibitionist mindset.

And so we come to a situation where the only venue that will host both sides to this debate in a civil manner is an English language shiur for balei batim, in a not quite solidly chareidi shul, often inviting speakers with more than a whiff of kiruv to them. Only there will it not be below the banners to present their arguments, insofar as one can call them that, and only there will the same platform be afforded to the opposing view without the host being accused of selling out.

This should tell you all you need to know about contemporary chareidi society and a lot more.

Welcome to the Shul of Frum.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Rav Domb z"l (1915-2013)

At his Sunday shiur, 25 March 2012

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Don't Kill the Bill

At the risk of boring you again, you will know that this site is under legal attack from those who wish to silence all of us through this country's draconian libel laws.

If you think it doesn't affect you, think again. Literally thousands of comments, the vast majority of which were not in any way even potentially defamatory, had to be removed due to the threat of legal action. The debate affects all members of our many communities and none more so than the vulnerable and powerless. This debate has now been muted by the fear of our oppressive libel laws. The chilling effects of those laws make us all shiver.

It is mainly the likes of those who remain at the helm of our community who benefit from these laws. Impervious to criticism, contemptuous of public opinion and immune from shame, they did nothing despite years of allegations and rumour and would continue to do nothing if only they could. Our supine press remains silent and our leaders conspire to keep us all in the dark. And now when they do take action it is to shut us up.

But you who have visited this site in the '00s of '000s have ignored bans and prohibitions to participate in the public outcry that has no precedent in our community. One macher commented that in his many years of askonus he has never known anything like this. This should surprise no one precisely because much of askonus is devoted to keep us in the dark and ensure that we knew nothing of such allegations.

But no more. We will not be silenced by their campaigns of intimidation. Let's take it as a compliment that when the illegal means of their camp were exposed to show them for the thugs that they are they were forced to resort to the law and the courts. The devil not only cites scriptures for his purposes but hires lawyers too.

In face of this onslaught please do not sit silently by. There is a campaign to change the libel laws in England and a bill currently before parliament is at risk of being derailed.


Please write to your MP and tell them how the libel laws are being used in OUR community to silence legitimate debate and stifle discussion of issues that go to the very heart of our physical and moral well-being. Ask your MP to raise this case in parliament and with ministers as another example of the threat to free speech in this country and as another reason why the libel laws must be reformed.

This is a link to the Libel Reform campaign where there is a link to write to your MP. There is no time to waste as time is running out. Please write and do what you can to tell our representatives in Westminster and beyond how the current laws are affecting each and every one of us individually and our community in general.

Thank You!