Friday, 6 May 2016

Star Wars

Readers of the Jewish Chronicle were kept entertained over Pesach at the clash of two titans of Anglo Jewry over none other than our friend, the revered 'Rabbi' Pinter.

It all started when Geoffrey Alderman suggested that the way to resolve the Ofsted 'crisis' (or the-failure-to-educate-boys crisis, with no inverted commas) would be to facilitate round-table discussions between Ofsted, the government and local chareidi parents. Alderman then added that he can think of no one better to facilitate such discussions than the Great Beard himself.

We'll come back to this marvellous suggestion a little bit later though logistically it should not be too difficult. Boruch Hashem, Pinter's beard has been released from the camera lens shutter where it had become entangled and which forced him to go AWOL while the BBC and the Independent were running prominent stories on local boys' schools. The 'Rabbi' did however pop up to call for the resignation of the head of the National Secular Society. Pinter might have an eye for any vacancy that could arise following his call, or he could always slip one of his gifted offspring into the empty chair. If a surname automatically qualifies you for a headteacher job why not for the head of the National Secular Society too?

Anyway, to get back to Alderman's column, his innovative proposal of Pinter facilitating something to do with parents was not before he labelled Pinter the 'self-appointed spokesperson' of our community. And this appears to have sufficiently riled Shimon Cohen to prompt him to take up cudgels on behalf of the Great Man. Pinter's Caretaker, you could say. Cohen after all does spinmeistering for a living though I honestly cannot tell you whether Pinter is a client or if this is altruism of the highest order.


After dismissing Alderman as Anglo Jewry's 'Mr Destructive', Cohen went into sycophantic overdrive. Pinter, you see, is not just any spokesman and never mind a 'self appointed' one. Believe it or not, the Great Man's achievements are 'legendary' though regretfully no list is provided of what those achievements might be.

Well, with a ringside view of these two giants locking horns it falls to your hapless blogger to try and separate the sparring sides. With Pinter being in the frame, it makes this that bit easier to resolve as no endeavour of his is complete without photographic evidence making its way to the weekend papers.

Who can't just rattle off those Herculean achievements? Setting up a chareidi publicly funded school; cushy jobs for himself, his late wife and at least 3 of his daughters; a wedding hall for which hard-pressed families pay through their noses even while the Legend stands cap-in-hand at the Treasury gates supplicating on behalf of those very same mugs; setting up a kitchen with public funds to facilitate the hall but withholding school dinners for years from the school kids. Do we need the even scarier legends? Like hauling a pornographer to the opening of a chareidi girls school renowned for its adherence to every footnote of Oiz V'Hodor Levusho?

But enough of all this legend already. Let's get down to the real stuff of facilitating discussions between the government, Ofsted and parents, though here I'm afraid both Alderman and Cohen have got it awfully wrong. The difficulty with this proposal is neither the government, the majority of whom are on Pinter's speed-dial, nor Ofsted with whom he is on first name terms. It's that pesky thing called parents which Alderman clumsily throws into the equation where the problems really start.

Parents? Who they? They breed and feed the nippers and provide the grease for the cogs of our great machine to turn, so is that not enough? Parents in Stamford Hill have even less say in their children's education than Pinter has in the hiring and firing of the head of the National Secular Society. Being a good parent in Stamford Hill means delivering your children to the school gates and turning away body and mind the second you've prised your hand away from the screeching toddler. The next time you'll take them in your arms will be when giving them away for a second time down the aisle en route to the chupah. During the interim schooling years, however, it is the parents’ role not to look, think or know.

The other side of this bargain is that the schools will take charge of the little ones mind, body and soul from as early in the morning till as late at night and for as many days of the year as circumstances allow. The schools will also turn out good yidelech who pray a lot and think a little and let God (with some help for George Osborne) do the rest. And all this for a basement rate of school fees which barely pays for decent koidesh lessons, never mind a full secular curriculum. That's the deal and trust me it works well most of the time.

Alderman also goes one further. Not only should parents be at the table but, Pinter, that champion of parents' rights, should facilitate the discussions. That chap at whose schools the initials P T A are as rare as the Great Man off-centre on a photo shoot and where elections for just the one parent governor are even rarer, where parents are threatened and blackmailed into submission, where parents are lied to and brickwalled when the arbitrary admissions disfavour them, where exams are redacted and marks withheld while parents are kept in the dark, where information is provided to parents about once a term during a good year, where parents are good only for ‘producing’ letters in 65 of their names in supposed support for a headteacher from the anointed family. And Alderman believes that no one other than this champion of parental rights is better placed to facilitate such discussions.

Sorry Mr Alderman, but your idea is a dud from inception. It's not the parents who have willed this madness into being and it's not disenfranchised parents who will resolve it. The problem lies with people in the public eye like Pinter who will talk of anything but the real problems in their own backyard. When several years ago people with some foresight tried to facilitate just such discussions they were rebuffed not by parents but by the same school heads who are now wailing the loudest.

Our enemies are not Ofsted nor the government but our own short sightedness. The cry for reform is no longer driven solely by a government trying to keep a lid on Islamic extremism. It is now the products of the system who have grown up with nothing to show for their years of their so-called education who are calling for reform the world over. Having been reared by our system, they know our modus operandi from the inside and are proving as adept in the game as we have been hitherto. Those same ministers and MPs, media and lobbying groups no longer listen only to the long beards but they are also getting to hear the sorry tales some of those leaving have to tell.

For Alderman, though, this was at least just a proposal. According to Cohen, however, such discussions have already taken place. Come on Mr Cohen: we'll forgive you the "legendary achievements" if you can tell us where and when they were conducted, how many parents were invited and how parents can join future discussions. Copies of the minutes would also be useful though requests of that nature are known to create blockages for your Legend.

Seriously, though, Mr Cohen: are you really suggesting that such meetings would take place without a single photograph finding its way into the papers? Did the most photographed person after Taylor Swift turn up to these meetings incognito? Given a photo with some local parents is not something to make a fuss over, but is it truly the case that a meeting with clean-shaven, yarmulke-less Ofsted and government officials did not merit a single group photo with you-know-who in the centre?

Now that would be legendary indeed.


  1. It would have been a courtesy for Mr. Cohen to address him as Professor Alderman, which he is, just as Alderman addressed Pinter as Rabbi Pinter, which he is not.

  2. It would be really helpful if OFSTED did focus exclusively on poor education. And they do. However they also spend a disproportionate amount of time ticking off 4 - 13 year old religious children for not being able to tell their L, G, B,TS, Q from their GNC. This is a kulturkampf OFSTED has explicitly stated in an inspection report which is in opposition to the Shulchan Oruch. Of course respect for everyone regardless of characteristics, whether protected or otherwise by the Equalities Act, is important. It's called mentschlichkeit, and to be properly taught, you need not allocate time on the timetable so that a box can be ticked, or copy out legislation onto your school letterhead and call it a policy document, then file it somewhere - it's something you teach by example.

    To pretend that OFSTED haven't been spoiling for an ideological secularist fight is to be utterly disingenuous.

  3. stamford hiller9 May 2016 at 12:17

    As expected Mr. Tickle has again given us a brilliant, well written and broadly true analysis of the situation.
    It is a pity that his apparent antipathy to Rabbi Pinter has somewhat clouded his judgement and led him a bit off the central point.
    For many decades the Stamford Hill chareidi moisdois hachinuch and the various state authorities had a quite satisfactory modus operandi with an unspoken arrangement that so long that both "behave" one will not bother the other. Indeed, some years ago, when one inspector broke the implicit agreement with Belz Clapton they (Belz) went to court, led by Rabbi J. Baumgarten and won.
    About 20 years ago the YHS found out that by conforming to certain conditions they could get millions of pounds from the government and they did. And, in fact when the newly developed school opened, Mr. Tony Blair, then the prime minister, was guest of honour. Mr. Tickle has already written much about this so I don't need to expand.

    At the time this grant become public knowledge there was circulated to the heimishe public a detailed letter signed by, among others, Reb Yossel Stern z"l and Reb Gedalia Ostereicher z"l, both senior hanholo members of major London chadorim warning of the dangers of accepting secular state funding for heimishe moisdois and on the fundamental rule that there is no such thing as something for nothing sooner or later will come "payday".
    And as they predicted, it did!

  4. Whats news with kedassia/posen/fed/hool etc?

  5. Can I point out that aside from gift aid the schools targeted by Ofsted take no money from government.

    Also it needs to be stated that demanding that children be educated to standards beyond those prevailing in the dark ages is eminently reasonable. I fear the interests of children have been subordinated to a wider fight by both sides.

  6. The Hat.
    How was the YHS girls' school and attached hall financed?

  7. Exactly my point. Ofsted have given YHS a relatively free pass compared to Beis Aaron and Tashbar.

  8. stamford hiller16 May 2016 at 11:59

    The Hat.
    No. The money was not a gift or a "subsidy". It was a purchase and the buyer has now called to collect.

  9. stamford hiller16 May 2016 at 12:29

    The heimishe press claims that there is now a "gezeiras sh'mad"
    What will the Rabbinate of the UOHC advise?
    They appear to have 3 choices. 1) Take up arms. 2) Run away. 3) A Yom Teffilah (preferably at 86). Well, which one?

  10. At risk of repeating myself, the two Stamford Hill schools subject to partial or full closure orders from Ofsted were both private schools. YHS by comparison is rated "Good" by Ofsted.

    There is currently a negative correlation between state funding and state intervention - if you take money from the government, you are regarded as lower risk and will be less likely to face an inspection.

  11. stamford hiller16 May 2016 at 21:14

    The Hat:
    But that is because having been "bribed" the school conforms to, at least the minimum, state requirements. Those of us who, like me, don't want the secular immoral curriculum imposed on us and have what are, I hope, true torah views and standards, and are willing to pay for it, are suffering because of their greed and selfishness.
    I reminded you, yet again, of that fundamental rule. There is no such thing as something for nothing.

  12. Perhaps you consider a closure notice and no government funding to be true Torah values.

    Personally I find Talmud Torah im Derech eretz quite a powerful idea. If you believe that chazal knew how to make a gas turbine then it behoves you to study their wisdom as well. If you don't then it implies that the study of classical Talmud will not suffice to address the world we live in. If there is one v thing chazal knew how to do, it was to adopt. "eis laaaos lhashem heferu torescha" was not written by a German Rabbiner of the late 19th century but by a Tanna reflecting on why we ended up in exile in the first place.

    Adaptability is key. The fundamental rule of any human organisation is that there are few fundamental rules which will not evolve over time.

  13. stamford hiller19 May 2016 at 12:14

    The Hat:
    Government funding and closure notices are entirely unrelated. And neither has anything to do with Torah values.
    Torah im Derech Eretz is a wonderful idea but how do you define, in this context, derech eretz. It is fair to say that it has nothing to do with gas turbine design etc.
    The key point here is not adaptability "eis laasos" but something much more serious.
    The government, quite rightly, says that in order for a school to be registered i.e. function it must conform to certain minimum standards.
    Among the standards are rules regarding hygiene, security, and protection from abuse etc. All of which are acceptable and indeed desirable.

    The snag is that they also want to impose, by law and as a condition of allowing the school to stay open, what should be taught.
    If the law just stated that the 3 Rs and perhaps a minimum of history, geography and physics etc. were compulsory I do not believe there would be much difficulty.

    The problem (and it is a BIG problem) is that they also demand teaching of such vague concepts as "British way of life" (What is the "British way of life? I am quite well educated and I don't know - I DO know how gas turbines work!!).

    Worse than that. They want us to teach our kids about "alternative life styles", you know what I mean. They want us to teach our kids about other faiths, including avodoh zoroh. They want us to teach our kids about evolution and other concepts entirely alien to torah values.

    All this is entirely irrelevant and unconnected to how the school is funded. the

  14. Now we are back on the same page. But please as an educated man or woman you must know that the scientific evidence for a world several billion years old is extremely strong. As a crude example, we could take the current size of the universe (which we can deduce by comparing the intensity of light from distant stars which decreases according to an inverse square law compared to their colour which is a proxy for their size as stars of different sizes burn with different intensities) with the rate at which the universe is expanding which can be deduced from the Doppler shift of these stars using a technique used with precision in radar. Time, we all know, is the distance travelled divided by the speed. And so we arrive in the region of 'billions'. Now yes, a scientific mind knows that a first order extrapolation of distance is invalid because stars can and do slow down. The Doppler shift interferes with the colour, as does the Earth's own velocity. It is a ballpark. The use of colour as a proxy for size is also fraught with imprecision. There are some intricate more precise techniques. What every Jewish boy and girl should know work a decent education is that this universe had a beginning in the approximate region of several billion years ago.

    There are multiple fossils in differing layers of rock. They are not fakes. We know when layers of rock are laid down by, for example, comparison of Antarctic ice cores which record the atmospheric conditions in each year's layer of frozen water with the chemical composition of rocks. Again there are imprecisions but we can be sure that millions of years ago this Earth was home to species no longer seen. Whether you accept the logical tautology that animals with a mutation that enhances reproductive success will be more reproductively successful on average (a phenomenon you can see in action in your lifetime with the evolution of antibiotic resistant microbes) is a major factor in the shaping of the evolution of life in this planet is a minor detail.

    I do not believe that censorship of any history is helpful. We have a whole generation of young modern orthodox Jews who have no idea that around thus time of year in 1948 Jews raped hundreds of Arab women, murdered thousands, and forcibly dispossessed tens of thousands in Ramla and Lod. Censorship is not just a Chassidish issue.

    We all know why certain types of learning are censored. A society in which the Rabbinate draw inordinate authority from God Almighty cannot deal with modern science. A society which has condoned and been complicit in the oppression of Palestinians for 50 years cannot deal with the horror it has wrought. And a society struggling with Islamic extremists is attempting to outlaw the reverence afforded to our mesorah of millenia.

    We have always been a nation of iconoclasts, of talmidei chachomim, of rachmonim, and of an ancient and ever evolving tradition. These are things worth fighting for.

  15. stamford hiller20 May 2016 at 11:10

    Jews raped hundreds of women? Murdered thousands of Arabs? Forcibly displaced people from their legitimate homes? WTF did you get that from?

    I have read old editions of Der Sturmer (I am reasonably fluent in German and can read gothic script) which says similar things but they were printed at least 6 years before the date of your alleged events. No matter, anyone who can expound so much bu**sh*t on what is, generally, a heimishe blog wouldn't allow such a minor detail to bother him/her.

  16. I was wondering who would ask that. I have it on no less an authority than David ben Gurion, who also happened to be fluent in German.

    As I said, the gaping ignorance in this area is astounding..

  17. stamford hiller20 May 2016 at 14:10

    2 really reliable authorities!
    David ben Gurion (the Buddhist) and Wikipedia.

    I have it on better authority that Jews make matzos with the blood of Christian children.

  18. stamford hiller20 May 2016 at 14:31

    On a more serious note. David ben Gurion's antipathy to Etzel and Lechi in general and Menachem Begin z"l in particular (arguably the greatest force in the creation of the State of Israel) was at least as great as that of medieval Christianity to the Jews. To believe one about the other are about equally daft, stupid and wicked.

    Good Shabbos

  19. I thought you would ask that as well.

    So I would note that: -

    (1) the admission of guilt is sourced from David ben Gurion's published diary as well as Wikipedia. Just because something is on Wikipedia doesn't mean it is wrong - just that it is available for free online.

    (2) the operation was conducted by the IDF after the Haganah had merged with Irgun and Etzel. The IDF was therefore under ben Gurion's own political command at this stage. Battalion commanders included Moshe Dayan, who later served as a Labour defence minister. Some companies recruited from ex-Irgun volunteers did participate, but so did some companies recruited from former Haganah fighters.

    The reference to the blood libel is mildly offensive and unnecessary. As Mr Tickle knows, one of the defences to an accusation of libel is that of truth.

    A very good shabbos to you too

  20. I would venture that the historian Benny Morris knows at least as much about what went on in 1948 as Mr Hat here, and yet he's managed to avoid adopting our mortal enemies' perspective.

  21. stamford hiller21 May 2016 at 23:40

    Good Voch.

    As The Hat rightly says, just because it is on Wikipedia doesn't mean its wrong. It also means that it doesn't mean its right. A quite useful reference work but certainly not a reliable or authoritative source.

    And, of course, Ben Gurion's published diary is no more trustworthy than Ben Gurion himself. Probably less.

    The Hat's point (2) is so full of shtussim that it is unarguable.

  22. Dear James,

    Instead of sticking your head in the sand, why don't you read respected historian Benny Morris' book to see if he agrees with my characterisation? Here is one quote.

    "the Jews committed far more atrocities than the Arabs and killed far more civilians and PoWs in deliberate acts of brutality in the course of 1948."

    When presented with the operational order to expel the Arabs in writing with Rabin's signature on the bottom what alternative characterisation is available?


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