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.