Friday, 4 April 2014

A Tale of Two Hatzoles (and two venues)…

… but one singer

What I'm going to write about is so secret and so highly classified that not even all who regularly pop up for photo ops with the old bill and other epauletted worthies are in on this one. But in my mission to keep my readers informed I will nevertheless share it all with you despite the fact that I may be breaching the Official Secrets Act. But please lmaan hashem don't say you heard it from me because I'm in enough hot water as it is and this is one I can do well to avoid.

You must have all heard of last night's kumzitz, between you and me little more than a fancy word for a concert especially when held on leil shishi, which took place at the Walthamstow Town Hall in aid of Hatzole North West. Its star performer was none other than Abraham Fried.

Since the Walthamstow Town Hall is kind of on our turf the rabbis banned it. I mean, what use would rabbis be if they allowed concerts? All you have to do is allow one concert and next they'll be twerking in Yesodey Hatorah at £500 a booty shake. I said our turf with 'our' meaning Stamford Hill, because if you were to measure the distance between the Walthamstow Town Hall and Golders Green Road and the Walthamstow and Stamford Hill we work out closer. In addition, the Walthamstow was once the hall of choice before Yesodey Hatorah came onto the map at £2,500+ a pop and since our crowd hired it more than theirs it further enforces our rabbis’ jurisdiction over events taking place there. This being the case it puts the Walthamstow firmly into our orbit which translated locally means, our rabbis’ sphere of bans.

We haven't invented any of this and Russia nowadays also operates a similar policy in its 'near abroad' and given the commitment of Russia to freedom of expression, democracy and rule of law we have quite a bit in common with Reb Vlad. But let's leave that for another day.

Anyhow, two local rabbis competed with each other over the quality of their handwriting and each wrote a note denouncing the event. To one it was mere frivolity while to the other the concert organisers were no less than emissaries of Satan. This last one then went on to hint darkly at what might befall those daring to attend.

The event went ahead anyway especially as its purpose was not even a local cause and none other than Dayan Abraham gave a talk. So much for the power of bans. To be fair though, those same rabbonim might have preferred a ban to frequent certain establishments in St James or more recently in Stratford. However, as I explained earlier this is a turf war and their writ does not run to those distances. It's tishn they manage not tables.

And so we come to the classified stuff. This coming motzei shabbos Hatzole Stamford Hill will be holding its own fundraising event at £360 a head and with the very same Avraham Fried as its star performer. Yet not a word, handwritten or otherwise, from those who've made it their business to ban all in their sight and a lot more beyond.

It may well be that word of this event has simply not reached the rabbis since the organisers have made a concerted (excuse the pun) effort to keep the local riffraff in the dark. There were no adverts or announcements on ticket sales and only the local refined lot were solicited via a discreet text message. The riffraff is of course good enough for the annual Reich's fress up and lots of photo ops for VIPs so long as they fill up the hall and turn out their wallets, but when it comes to a seated dinner with fine wines please take a haircut before we’ll consider you lot. Of course Hatzole belongs to all of us as we're constantly told and no one would dream of doubting that, but still there are times when the little people and big beards are best kept at a safe distance. Fressing is for the masses, entertainment for the few, appears to be the message.

And not just the people but the rabbis too. Apparently the line up of speakers does not include any Stamford Hill rabbonim despite that it is for the supreme local charity and that truckloads of rabbonim are commandeered annually for the local event when we’re all invited, nay, marched at the end of a barrel but with no wine in sight.

To explain this apparent inconsistency let us return to the turf war we mentioned earlier. You see, Hatzole has thought it wise to hold this melave malke in Kinloss and there lies the answer for it works roughly like this: when Hatzole NW comes onto our territory then they're spat in their face, figuratively of course, because they tend to bring their dirty habits and promiscuous crowds with them and try to corrupt our pure youths by offering some entertainment for all. But when Hatzole Stamford Hill want to let their hair down they climb Archway in the other direction where they're as far as can be from the hoi polloi who know not how to hold a knife and fork and never mind dine in the company of £360-a-headers and for whom fun is a filthy word. And that they are also safe from the interdicting killjoy rabbonim cannot do any harm either.

The two events do however share another feature besides the common singer. Both the NW and SH events was and is for men only. This is undoubtedly to do with the time of year when men face the challenging task of deciding which matzo and wine vintage to opt for and it was felt they deserved a respite from their arduous toils and be afforded the opportunity to wind down with some music and dance. Women on the other hand are already in throes of ecstasy while scrubbing the grouting between the tiles behind the cooker and coaxing out that recalcitrant crumb from under the freezer and with life-affirming mitzvos like that it would be a total waste to indulge them any further.

And so if you're one of the recipients of the cherished text do enjoy your meal and ban-free song especially as it's for a good cause. But do please have in zin to be moitze all us lot who've been left behind.

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Thursday, 5 January 2012

Immaculate conception?

Bonei - CopyBonei Olam (Builders of the Universe) is a charity that provides financial assistance to infertile couples. It is an international charity headquartered in New York with all the fundraising gimmickry we have become accustomed to in these types of chareidi organisations. Garish brochures, hair-raising stories, hysterical calls by the ‘gedoilim’ accompanied by every sentimental cliché decency and common sense should have prevented them from including. Intended to tug at potential donors’ heart, and purse, strings they usually induce severe bouts of nausea if not outright disgust.

The organisations tend to tell you everything there is to know about themselves except for that delicate thing called money. Generally, funds are raised to be spent immediately as we don’t really do long term. Featuring a supposed orphan with mock tears crying for the bread your money will supposedly buy is far more effective than telling you how your donation might cure malaria or cancer ten years hence.Giving people fish rather than teaching them how to fish is our preferred route to salvation and even then knowing how many fish have been raised and how much is syphoned off for commission is classified information.

In this case, due to the ‘sensitive’ nature of infertility –I mean we chareidim don’t quite do that, do we?- discreet meetings are arranged at private homes for men of means with leaflets tailored to whoever their godel happens to be. At the meeting a well laid ambush is set up with high-pressure tactics to get you to sign up for a direct debit. Those who pledged £1000 will tonight be wined and dined at a specially laid on dinner for the larger donors.

The leaflet heading is marked ‘London’ and the impression is that money raised locally is used for couples in this country. The footnote on the leaflet contains an exhortation not to discuss the matter in public so I shan’t say anything other than ask how necessary financial assistance for infertility is in this country where we’re blessed with the NHS? True, there may be a wait but with couples marrying in their teens what exactly is the hurry? Surely it’s not written in the scriptures that morning sickness is part of a couple’s bonding ritual during their first months while getting to know each other.

We also have a home grown charity Chana which although it carries out its work with less fanfare it is no less effective for that. It hosts public information events with professionals and also provides counselling. It is run on the whole by women though there are male support workers too and counselling is also provided in Yiddish. It relies less on the gedoilim nonsense which is a good idea as when it comes to reproduction gedoilim can be something of a turn off.

My point however is Bonei Olam’s logo of a single person, which looks male though it could possibly be a female with trousers, conjuring out of thin air an entire chareidi family albeit slightly on the small side. Difficult to tell how they do it. Perhaps the gedoilim can manage even miracles unknown hitherto since the days of Joseph and Mary or maybe they provide a cloning facility. If we can have Dolly the sheep why not Tuli, or Chaim, the kid?

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