Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Bridge over Troubled Waters

We're in the eye of a storm once again and it's now happening with such frequency that storm is almost the new balmy. Laugh at us if you must but if excitement means x had a baby girl after 6.9 boys followed by "Wow!that'sjustsomoiredik", and pushing at the boundaries of knowledge is discovering from the reverse phone search at the back of the Shomer Shabbos the name behind the mobile number advertising second hand tin foil dishes and glatt kosher slippers which will cover you toe to ankle so that when in a floor-length housecoat if you stretch your hand to fix that net curtain after an extra-long peep it still won't show even a hint of varicose veins, if that is how excitement is defined then you should appreciate why a tornado once in a while gives us the frisson of cold water to a weary soul.

But let's not run away with this one despite the whiff of Salem and McCarthy about it and not to mention Tehran and Raqqa. As this blog has said time and again, storm or no storm the winds of change are blowing all around us and to which, thank the Lord, Stamford Hill is no exception. We can't have it both ways: either we're a backwater and we end up with the problems of Gateshead or we're a 21st century metropolis to match the greatest out there like Bnei Berak and Borough Park and for that we must also share some of their blight.

And so here goes. A few years ago a woman with roots in Stamford Hill left the community. Not so rare these day but this one was an exception. Because rather than skulk away as is expected of those who discover that there's more to life than Oldhill Street and Dunsmure Road have to offer she left firmly on her own terms. Not only has she given press interviews and spoken publicly of what heaven on earth means in practice, she also set up an organisation called Gesher (bridge, in Hebrew) to assist others hitting the ground as they make the extra-terrestrial landing from that heaven.

Many will undoubtedly disagree but I regard her efforts as laudable. So as to justify the cradle-to-shive gravy train and the multitude of chesed to fatten the few and give the rest target practice for their hakoras hatov, we rear our offspring to be as unself-sufficient as possible and to leave the rest to the askonim.

Dare to snip your lifelong umbilical cord, or leash for short, and you will be forced to fend for yourself in a very scary place. Hatzole won't rescue you after the inevitable drugs overdose and shomrim won't be there to apprehend your attacker after being glassed on a Saturday night. For whether you admit it or choose to live in denial that is the lamentable lot of those not reared on Torah Tzivo from 3 years old. And so those who make the choice to leave often do quite literally sink because round here even being taught how to swim is a monopolistic racket of its own.

You can see what Gesher is up to on its website, with support groups and practical assistance for those drifting away. More importantly though to our story are the fair number who may not be interested to leave but are nonetheless keen on meeting up with likeminded people -men and women together no less- for a chat or whatever else they do at these gatherings. I have never attended but reports suggest that scions of nice and even choshuv local families pop up from time to time. ('Nice' in this context meaning 2 or 3 buy to lets, some chesed on the side and never having put as much as a sheitel hair out of place; whereas 'choshuv' can mean anything from a top-table seat at a sholem zocher to running one's own shul.)

It is possible, and those of a sensitive disposition please turn away, that even Darwin is mentioned at such meetings. I can't say for sure but I really wouldn't be surprised if it gets as bad as that rachmone litzlon.

So as far as Salem goes this is a rather easy one. It will come as no surprise how this pioneering young woman is viewed round here but since she makes no effort to conceal herself there's not much of a hunt for this particular 'witch'. For their part, however, the turnips who've made it their business to regulate almost every aspect of our lives have not yet figured out how to deal with her. Their arsenal of exposure, expulsion, boycott and dismissal with the WMD of excluding kids from local schools proves ineffective with someone who's put her neck out and leads from the front. It is in the face of this that the system is as lost as a rabbi on a witness stand.

The McCarthyism at work, however, is an entirely different story. The search is on for commies in our midst: the viper's nest, the fifth column, the snakes in the grass, the epicureans in the temple. In addition to the Gesher meetings which have been simmering for some time there recently emerged reports of youngsters (and perhaps oldsters too) who slip away on a Friday night beyond the non-existent eiruv boundaries to the greener pastures of Dalston and Shoreditch and beyond. The reports said they merely went bowling which is local shorthand for the very pinnacle of La Dolce Vita. Ko Riboin and Ko Echsoif are wonderfully uplifting tunes which send goose pimples up many a spine but apparently some find greater solace in will.i.am and Adele (pronounced, incidentally, Ahdell and NOT Eideleh). There is no accounting for people's tastes and unfortunately this is just how it is.

These murmurs gradually grew into a roar when more credible reports surfaced of individuals tucking in at McDonalds and caught on camera as Big Burger was watching. Marital splits, rabbinical summons and communal disgust quickly followed and the search for potential red, blue and green shirts in our black and white midst took on a new degree of urgency. Which neatly leads us to the crisis as it reached fever pitch.

Facts may be blurred but this hardly matters when you get a stampede of the Modesty Squad's 3 rabbis and 14 volunteers, Satmar 26 and its rabbinical loose cannon if not loose screw, Satmar 86 and its nasty contingent and the rest of the town baying for kedushe. Let the facts look after themselves so long that the intention is Godly and the effect deadly.

And so word reached town that a Gesher cell had been busted and that a rebbe had been caught attending the meets. A rebbe is the name we give to a primary school teacher in a cheder teaching everything bar secular studies which in most cases means teaching 95% of whatever it is that a cheder teaches, and this new angle to the story really did shock the town.

The 'suspect' had violated every stereotype and mental image we have both of rebbes and of the supposed transgressors. We're constantly being told of the havoc caused by the internet but it is supposed to infect only those who are predisposed to some straying. And when it does find a target there are usually outward signs such as shrinkage in the yarmulke and a northward direction for the beard and peyos.

But here was a rebbe who by all accounts is the cream of the crop and to whom an entire community not just entrusted its kids but fought to get their precious neshomolech into his class. A rebbe who could straddle the formidable 26/86 divide of Satmar and teach at both places, who dresses like our forefathers prior to the first partition of Poland, with glasses are from the 1950s and not for a vintage look and a beard that would put any Maharishi to shame. Even if he had not actually crossed the 'Bridge' he was supposedly caught loitering upon it wich is very troubled waters indeed.

Cynics like me might suggest that once in a blue moon we find that rare specimen of a good 'melamed' and he turns out to be a covert apostate. Others queried who would want him in his current state as if desire in its crudest sense is the only motivation for wanting to see what's on the other side. The rest, though, did not simply feel betrayed but shocked and frightened too. The rot has reached the beams holding up our entire edifice and who can tell how far it still has to travel.

It is one thing dealing with rumours of rebbes fiddling kids or giving them an occasional hiding. The latter can be excused if the rebbe is going through a tough a spot of domestic or financial bother and anyway a hiding from time to time won't do the kids any harm. True a broken limb is not ideal but no one has ever died from it and it does the kids a world of good to have the fear of God spelled out on their backsides. And as for the former, that's just rumours and once you get into the fiddling sphere it's lawyer's wigs we reach for. Our unshakeable belief in innocence until never proven because the police are not the solution, social services are out to get us and at the bottom of the pile lurk the self-hating apostates who have no other ambition but to smear us with the worst allegations which are all made up.

But this of course is different. Having an apostate for a rebbe of our dear kinderlech is shaking at the very core of our foundations and so sack him first and then ask questions. Which is exactly what they did. 26 and 86 put aside their differences in a manner not seen since they jointly defended Chaim Halpern from allegations in the UK and Weberman even after a conviction in the US. A single boot will do nicely and if P45s is something they handle at those places then it was two of them that landed on the poor chap's plate. He might be the breadwinner of a large family but where God's honour is at stake we will eradicate the evil in our midst no matter the personal cost. It is only when a woman or child cry foul that the rules of the game allow for some tenderness, towards the suspect of course.

And from here things get really murky. Within about 24 hours of the deed being done came the backlash. The 'suspect' had just returned from the US having married off a son and when his daughter also got engaged and now his family’s been left without means of support. Who saw him, who said he was there, was surveillance used to nab him and if so who is watching the watchmen, and if he did attend the meeting is that reason for summary dismissal without being allowed a word in his defence? Then came the spinners with a whatsapp audio recording that it's all a setup and that in fact it's the work of another known apostate. This was then followed closely by pious outbursts lamenting malicious gossip which has laid a family to ruin.

You can bet that as soon as the kugel hit the fan the Modesty Squad was nowhere to be seen. The UOHC invertebrates instantly pointed the finger at Satmar who in turn started blaming each other. It is not for this blog to attempt a reconciliation between the warring sides other than to say that it is the UOHC nasties with their 'advice' and 'assistance' who have created the environment within which this has all taken place. Just consider the Orwellian name of The Committee for the Purity of the Camp that those hosiery fetishists and skirt sniffers have titled themselves.

It was only a few weeks ago that they pasted the town with notices calling a drifter who'd advertised his services as a private tutor a 'serious danger' to kids. And this while the UOHC's Childline is left dangling in the hands of their senior member who's given a dispensation to prance about at any number of mixed parties. It is in this malevolent and malicicous atmosphere that the new story broke and for which those scoundrels with their unmatched batallion of volunteers must take the primary blame.

I'll leave the finer details to the rumour mill but in the meantime the culprit or victim, depending on your point of view, was first said to have gone into hiding, then was spotted in Uman and latterly is said to be in Israel. To some he is repenting and being re-radicalised while to others he has always been innocent and is simply waiting for the storm to pass. As to his job, in a twist of irony the gentler souls at Satmar 26 have a cranked up rov who is refusing to take him back while the recently appointed rov at 86 is said to be a finer and more compassionate fellow and not only are they taking him back but are also offering him the hours vacated by 26. The Lord does truly move in mysterious ways round here.

And so a Stamford Hill storm passes into the night. No deluge and flooded homes. Our impregnable fortress has not quite been invaded but it is not intact either. A wall has been breached and who knows what might come blowing in next. For as I write the chill of a new storm with a different name is already being felt.


  1. Pathetic and embarrassing behaviours yet again from the good and great at the Union.

    Why oh why are one or two senior Golders Green Rabbonim cosying up to the Union crooks yet again??

    When will they underst and that the charred community in NW London has zero interest in having any association whatsoever with the Union in any form.

    Stay away!!!!!

  2. Mr. Tickle
    Your erudition etc. is wasted in Stamford Hill. Nobody here has heard of McCarthy and certainly not of Salem. I wonder how any people in Stamford Hill know what invertebrate means or what WMD is.
    In my youth the chareidi children were known to be the most learned, educated and bright children in England. Now they are known to be stupid, ignorant and entirely unprepared for whatever the future might hold for them. 50 years of UOHC domination and what have they or us got to show for it?
    BTW you are being rather unfair on Senator McCarthy. He was a democratically elected member of his country's government. He was reflecting the views of a sizeable chunk of the American peoples' views (But not the entertainment and media industries which were broadly controlled then as now by the liberal, and not so liberal, left). And above all, his "suspects" were interviewed in public, were allowed to have legal representation and were given the opportunity to justify themselves.
    What happened in London when certain women wanted to testify about RCH?

  3. I thought GG kehilla had made it clear that they want nothing to do with the the Union. Which Rabbi from GG is "cozying up to them"?????

    What's his motivation? Hasn't DCH, RSW, RGH etc made their views clear???

  4. It's certainly unfair to simultaneously accuse the Rabbinate of senile incompetence and a diabolical ingenuity in erecting barriers to leaving the community. Such barriers certainly exist, but to me they simply don't bear the hallmark of malice aforethought.

    Boruch Hashem, I never grew up in that environment and had the benefit of a good education - so I suppose it is rather unfair of me to denigrate the efforts of those who have had to deal with these disadvantages in life, have overcome them, and have found it necessary to vigorously challenge the undoubted grime of their previous life.

    However, I think for both pragmatic and compassionate reasons, a more tolerant approach recognising the absolute necessity and near ubiquity of human hypocrisy is called for. I feel a Taqfirist black and white absolutism abounds in the discourse around people who are "OTD" from onlookers who are both off and on. Whose Derech? Who defines "frum"? Are we not all sinners? Weberman has inspired me with an object lesson in how there can be no dissonance between a long career as a rapist and an strongly held internal identity as a frum Jew; is it so impossible to be a frum Jew and eat (discretely) at McDonalds? We may be mortified of our brethren, ashamed, aghast - but can we deny their identity? #YouAintNoJewBruv rings hollow - comforting, but not for long.

    I cannot help feeling that however well meaning the intentions, encouraging people to break with their cultures, traditions and heritage cannot add to the sum total of human happiness.

  5. Although there is no unified entity by the name of "Golders Green", from where I sit, I don't see that people here "want nothing to do with the UOHC". Most have little affection for the Stamford Hill, but don't have enough of a problem with the status quo to "demand" independence.

    To be honest, for the average Golders Greener, davening in a UOHC shul means little more than not using the eruv in public. Few people care which freezer in the cost shop others buy their chickens from; eating at least milchigs in restaurants under LBD supervision is hardly controversial and if you'd like to have your din torah heard by (among others) the perfectly competent R. Yehoshua Posen, then what's wrong with that?

    There's no doubt that those at the top of the UOHC are either gormless, evil or both and CH's ongoing presence is a festering sore, but neither have much tangible day to day impact for most people.

  6. Very well written and entertaining.

    This sarge leads me to a couple of questions that I hope someone could enlighten me,

    1) why is it the weaker (financially) become the korben there were others from grater families involved in the McDonald's gate affair ?

    2) are we to believe that eating chazir treif is forgivable, but reporting someone that sexually abuses children, yidisher neshomahs to a point of mesiras Nefesh, is not forgivable ?

    Have the charaidisher world come up with a third testament, is this the way HKBH is happy with

  7. Dovid - Fair point. However the fact that Dayan Posen now competent is neither here nor there. He would have made a competent Rabbi at HA. The traffic warden is also competent. He can be competent outside of the Union. He is utterly beside the point and he is not a community Rabbi. Nobody wants a NWL community Rabbi moving closer to the Union Rabbis in SH. And yes the vast majority of charedi NWL want an independent kehilla with local NWL financing, local NWL kashrus and with no connection to the utter incompetence at The Satmar run Union and its Rabbinate. Our new HA rabbi understands this very clearly.

  8. Peculiar Hat.
    It most certainly is malice and self-aggrandisement. Just not much forethought.
    Also very few have managed to escape the disadvantages imposed on them by the "derech". The main culture here is entirely state welfare and chessed dependant.

  9. HAdass34yr – I can’t claim to know what the “vast majority of Charedi NWL” wants, but I have yet to see much real evidence of efforts to put any desire for independence into practice. I have no doubt that your new rov has a clearer view of the Union’s deleterious impact than most, but I question whether the younger generation in particular has any real desire to set up a new framework.

    On the less right-wing side, those who daven in shuls such as Ohr Chodosh have already cast their lot outside of the Union’s reach. And conversely, I see little to suggest that the members of Ohel Moshe, subservient bunch that they are, will ever do much to challenge their rov’s obeisance before his paymasters.

    Add in the fact that relations between NWL’s charedi rabbonim are a picture of petty divisiveness, and the prospect of herding this particular bunch of bearded cats into a unified group seems distant at best. I don’t doubt that the rather dog-eared status quo will continue to fray at the edges, such as via increased public eruv usage, but, at this stage at least, I don’t see a catalyst for your hoped-for breaking of ties with N16.

  10. How can you say that? The UOHC are looking to offer the new HA Rov a seat on the Vaad Kashrus/Dayan if he comes on our side. So is the Reid here on the Hill.

  11. What does coming on the UOHC's side mean? Taking the side of the Tzedoikim against Chazal in being "einoh modeh be'eiruv?

  12. Strange that the union don't appoint the ruv of bais shmuel horav moishe halpern as a dayan or at least a motz he has got about 95% of his shul behind him and fitted like a hand in a glove into the shul as ruv since taking over he has kept out of controversy

  13. Ruby - what does that have to do with anything? A leopard doesn't change his spots. It's bad enough that a man who has been responsible for so much dissent in out community with the eruv parsha, and acted so outrageously after his brother was outed, is a shul rov, never mind having an official Union title.

  14. Reuven it's Sad that you have such an attitude even as what you say about reb moishe or even reb chaim that they did wrong does it mean FOR EVER you will be against them haven't they had days to do tsuhvoh don't we in our religion have ellul rosh hashono yom kippur to repent WE WOULD LIKE HASHEM TO DEAL WITH US AS WE DEAL WITH FELLOW JEWS yes our ruv reb moishe was supporting reb chaim yes he did things I did not agree but since the petiroh of his father reb chuna zatsal and taken over he has been very helpful to us his balabatim and our shul has lost prominent members and Alex strom has been very sick we have through very hard times and our ruv reb moishe has taken us through these hard times in ruchinois and gashmios So reb moishe is is biggest Talmud chochom of all his brothers sold come a dayan or motz

  15. Dear Ruby
    What do you mean "to do teshuvoh ... To repent"
    No one has ever admitted to any wrongdoing? Everything done was acceptable and lesheim Hashem... Halevai there was a letter of apology and recognition of misbehaviour
    Can you please explain yourself?

  16. See this; http://www.nospank.net/sexdngrs.htm
    I hope you are being sarcastic in your suggestion that spanking is OK.
    About 4 decades ago, there was a Rebbe in a SH School, who not only gave grand slams with a cigarette in his other hand.
    If a kid was wearing tight trousers (like most did at the time) & had (juicy) nice behind. The kid was a candidate to stand next to the Rebbe with cigarette in his left hand the kids behind would be spanked with his right hand, while reading the gemorah.
    When the cigarette was finished, and the kid was crying too much to continue saying anymore, the Rebbe would say it is a free country you are allowed to cry, & grab the kid, by the scruff of his trouser using his left hand & place him in OTK position, & continue spanking with his right hand, as the lesson would go on, and the rest of the kids watching in awe.
    Although most kids didn't dare look out to see what was happening, at one point the spanking would go visious, & the Rebbe's face would change color, thinking back in time, after discussing it with others, at that point the Rebbe was violating his contract to keep Tvilas Ezra.
    Many from that time suffer what is mentioned in above link, That Rebbe walks freely.

  17. Satamford, not everyone in Stamford Hill was raised in blissful ignorance, and I for one find it refreshing to be able to read a blog that has a modicum of articulation and a grasp of historical events outside of pubs being converted into shtieblech. Makes a considerable difference from Your Write Lines, I assure you.

  18. Any inside perspective on today's new of closing down Tashbar?

  19. BB
    Of course, I was also raised in Stamford Hill and I have heard of McCarthy and Salem and also know what invertebrate means but you and I are a tiny minority.
    You yourself confirm what I say by both the style and the substance of You Write lines.
    Same goes for published letters in JT and Hamodia.
    I am willing to bet that at least 10 times as many people in SH read You Write lines as follow this or any other blog.

  20. Without a doubt. Of course it is (Your Write Lines)a 'sanctioned' publication, ergo those who read it are drip fed the most minuscule of details with regard to the outside world. There is a growing number of youngsters however who read blogs such as this, but of course must keep that a secret from their peers. The chedorim and yeshivos don't take too kindly to 'heretical' works criticising failings of the community at large. But that doesn't mean that the status quo should remain, and that blogs that are at the literacy level of an eight year old should be our only go to. I've been following this blog for a good few years now, and whilst I don't necessarily agree with all the various points made over the years, for the most part I've found it refreshing and informative, without the usual propaganda one may find elsewhere.

  21. The current head of OFSTED has a fanatical cast iron emunah worthy of any Stamford Hill vaad. Yes, children are not the private property of their parents. They should be given a proper education, and kept safe from all forms of abuse, and clearly there is a problem if children join terrorist groups.

    But to state that the "Shulchan Oruch not compatible with 2010 Equalities Act" is spoiling for a fight. What have the Jews ever done to the gay community to deserve this?

    They might say with more accuracy that from their intolerant point of view, Leviticus, and the indeed the entire concept of faith in anything other than the pre-eminence of human rights barristers, and centuries of faith, is not compatible with a zealous enforcement of a zeitgest barely 5 years old. That'll be £750 an hour please. And 10p for the photocopying.

    We need to strip back human rights to its origins as a response to the genocides of the past few hundred years. We have on the one hand untold heaps of human corpses, machine-gunned into pits in the silent forests of Eastern Europe. we have on the other hand a complaint about non-compliant paperwork. It's a degradation and a dilution of the very concept of human rights.

    So while I,and I suspect almost all other religiously minded Jews, would never dream of harassing, or discriminating against a gay individual because of their sexual orientation we would never dream of disrespecting the shulchan oruch either. If zealots like these make us chose, some of us will chose to go along with the tide, but most of us - as we have done so many times in the past - will stick with our birthright.


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