Thursday, 23 July 2015

Righteous Brothers’ Unchained Melody

stamford hill cycle superhighway

Actually the opposition to the local section of the London Cycle Superhighway (currently in construction) is more malodorous than melodious though unchained and unhinged this lot of killjoys certainly are. Mind you, they're not much different to their forbears who saw in the arrival of the railway tracks the advent of degeneracy and no doubt had they been around in Edison's days they would have ordered him to switch off the light. So immersed are they in awaiting the redemption that they cannot contemplate other improvements in their sorry lives and so they worry that a cycle route through 'our' area may herald the arrival of something clean and fresh to replace the old and staid they are so fond of. And as to where it might lead, that is one route they would rather not go down, but to them it's quite enough that it takes you beyond the confines of Stamford Hill, Go- forbid.

There's not much point trying to persuade such kind of the advantages of a cleaner, healthier, quieter and safer mode of transport. God created cars on Erev Shabbos bein hashmoshes and who are we to reduce their use? As for the environment, stop worrying already and it will be alright. The eibihster wouldn't have made an XC90 if He thought it might destroy His universe and stop believing everything that scientists tell you. And anyway it's only 0.4 of a mile in our area so what's the big deal, let them go elsewhere.

uohc anti cycle route, shop locations

Don't think we're alone in this either because we're not. There are 3,300 'local' people who oppose the route. Now local is a hip and modern word which can be stretched and contracted according to its needs. In this case, of the 9 shops where a petition, supported by the loony if not sinister UOHC Modesty Squad, was available to be signed, fewer than half are anywhere near the route and 2 are outside Hackney altogether. Of course, we're not into borough and ward boundaries unless we're trying to throw an election and what matters here is the line of the hypothetical local eiruv were it not banned by this same lot. Similarly, not one of the 3 councillors who selflessly made their homes available for the same purpose represent or reside in the ward where the cycle route will run through. And if you look at the one available page of signatories (below) many live in E5 and N15. But, like kedushe, 'local' has no geographical limits and perhaps, on a quiet night with the right type of wind, the sound of a loud bicycle bell on Heathland Road can be heard even as far as Theydon Road.

cycling petitionThis generosity is not limited to geography and aims to be as inclusive as one might hope. The Petitioners, like the Tribune, want you to know that there is a Black, Polish and Muslim Community living here too. How strange I've never noticed it before. It must be thanks to the irresponsible landlords who are regularly admonished for admitting 'inappropriate tenants' to the area but now we are to embrace the rainbow stuff in order to oppose the most rainbowy pastime of all, cycling. Interfaith is wonderful when a camera is pointing at you but it's in-yer-face for the rest of the time. They even called a 'local' meeting which they made sure no one knew about just in case someone with an opposing view turned up. Debate, as we well know, can be a dangerous tool in the wrong hands. Someone might even have pointed out the real heimish-but-dead cyclist who may have been alive if he was on a route segregated from those wonderful metal boxes on wheels.

But this isn't just any dumb ban like the ones we've come to love to hate, this one is dead serious. There are no less than four reasons for banning the bikes. Traffic. Parking. Safety. Kids. Do you have no heart even towards our precious kinderlech? Ok, amongst ourselves maybe we don't mamesh give a damn for safety and barely one for kids but what's that their business? Anyway they don't need to know about it unless that meshigene blogger opens his mouth again. But shoin we're not like that all the time. We do after all have 3 ambulances on permanent standby to care for our safety though still the accidents keep on happening, but that's because our skirts are not long enough.

cycle, Tribune[4]

And so if safety is your concern naturally ban the bikes. They might soon be banning goldfish in case they bite the hand that feeds them but ribono shel olom we're talking about kiddies not fish. Hang on, we've even got a statistic. According to the Tribune, we probably have the largest child to adult ratio in Western Europe. Don't you just love that 'probably'. I mean, why stop at Western Europe? Why not the Western hemisphere, or north of the equator, or the entire universe bar Bnei Brak, Karachi and Marrakesh? The fact is that we have loads more kids than we can ever dream of looking after and still we're going strong. And so ban the bikes. Ban them today, ban them tomorrow and ban them forever because we have a ratio, don't you understand?

Come on, let's be honest, our care for kids is really legendary and so they should not be occupying West Bank with bikes. True at shaleshides at a corner shul near you kids run amok on the streets unsupervised because dad's head is in the herring and mummy's fussing over her latest salad recipe to match the colour scheme of the tablecloth runners, doilies and napkins. Fine, that is excusable. But we do encourage them to walk to school, don't we. Is that the honking of a white van I hear? Must be my ears because you cannot but marvel at the skill and dexterity with which they beg, borrow and steal just any terminology they can lay their fingers on in order to turn it on its head.

If there is a single local cheder or school that has a walk to school policy, or, worse still, a walk to school day, it must have bypassed me but then we're kenainehore a sizeable oilem these days and I can't know everything. He has to go to shachris, her cordless is stuffed in her turban and little Chaim's school's walking policy takes him from the front garden to the rusting van door for an overcrowded quarter-of-a-mile ride to school. Is that not a policy? Only white, beer-bellied tattooed UKIP voters may drive white vans but we mustn't? What kind of discrimination is that, you irredeemable antisemite? Just stand on Stamford Hill or Amhurst Park any morning and watch the manoeuvres of the safety-conscious fathers criss-crossing lanes of traffic, cutting up buses so that their kids aren't at the mercy of psychopathic cyclists and that'll give you an idea of what safety is all about.

Because if you come to think of it, true Toiredike safety is in as smooth a car ride as you can get. This is why we put a spanner in the spokes of the notion of speed humps on Jessam Avenue (where a child was recently run over) and neighbouring streets with the able assistance of our elected councillors. Who cares what logic they employed on that occasion? Safety means Perek Shira 40 days in a row and let everyone else die in a pile-up. As one of the opposing councillors said to me, the issue here is the erosion of the rights of motorists. Give him at least credit for his honesty.

It's not all safety though, they're also worried about congestion, again notoriously caused by bikes. Visit the Dunsmure Road strip of the bike route on any morning and watch the mayhem. Actually, having cycled past there on many occasions a large part of the congestion is caused by the lollipop lady crossing kids walking to school and so we should campaign to ban her too. Besides the tznius issues of a lady telling men when to stop their cars, if only she weren't constantly stopping all those cars then the traffic would flow. Ban the cyclists, ban the pedestrians, close that silly school to which parents walk their kids and just join the car revolution. Amen.

Look, while no one's around let's face it, it was the UOHC that was honest about it and who would expect anything less from them. We just don't want them commuters passing through 'our' streets. As a friend said to me, no self-respecting chasidic community will allow cyclists traversing 'their' area without a fight. We haven't imbued our streets with all that kedushe for some young, fit, attractive, liberally minded and often so dressed cyclists with tight lycra bottoms to pollute our refined spiritual environment. If you haven't watched Queen's Bicycle Race you should chas vesholem not do so because the pritzus is simply mind boggling, but we shan't take lessons from anyone on cycling being a 'clean' alternative. It is filthy for the fingers especially if your tyres are as flat as your brain and even dirtier for the neshome, Go- forbid.

Yes, this area belongs to US. We can use our cars for minche/mariv and clog up every local street because we care about parking, and as for a bike, well, es past nisht. We can close the streets for funerals and rebbes, hachnosas sefer torahs and tashlich, we can burn chometz on the streets minutes after the council has cleaned them and we can burn our schach at 12am and sod the neighbours. A simche hall is where we decide to put it and if your neighbour is Jewish even better. Let them grit their teeth and block their ears because it's still preferable to making a complaint and being labelled a moosser. If we have cyclists of our own they're more like the Real McGoy rather than a heimishe specimen in a clapped out Previa or shiny SUV and so can safely be ignored. As for the women, well minicabs aren't cyclists so what does it matter to them? And the kids, they’re in cheider most of the day anyway so it hardly make a difference.

But if we still don't win the argument we can always resort to drugs: we don't do drugs, we don't mug old ladies (and you know who does those) ergo the streets, the airspace, the very air we breathe all belong to us. And if you're still not convinced we might even have a statistic to prove it.

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Thursday, 4 June 2015

Driving Miss Reizy

Why the letter, people have been asking. I don't have in mind those who see it as chasidim reverting to form or those who believe Isis to have started a chapter in Stamford Hill. I suppose I would be a prime candidate for decapitation and yet I can assure you that I sit here with my yarmulke some distance from my shoulders.

The question, however, is being asked within Belz and within Stamford Hill where Belz would not generally feature amongst the extremists. The regular litany of bans and strictures on wigs, tights, skirts, heels and anything else the vivid chareidi imagination conjures up will rarely if ever carry on them a Belzer imprimatur. Having supported eiruvs and their dayan having backed the breakaway milk and more recently the new meat, Belz is usually an advocate for change rather than one of the local extremist groups of which we are blessed with a broad range of shades and colours. So why this letter that has caused so much consternation within and without?

Well, to answer that, an understanding is required of the tensions facing chasidic communities worldwide and not just Belz in particular. It is no exaggeration to say that chassidim are scared. Scared stiff, in fact. Chasidim in general operate to a greater or lesser degree on the basis that authentic Judaism as we know it today was born in the Carpathian mountains in the 18th century and this is what we must and do maintain. We dress during the week like the Amish and on Holy Days like Polish counts circa 1780. East European Galicia may no longer exist on the map but its heart pounds vibrantly in various chasidic dynasties.  And if we are to believe our elders and what the western media often tell us then this is what we have indeed accomplished and what would otherwise have been considered mission impossible is precisely the way we are.

But if that were true my soapbox would consist of vacuous bubbles rather than heavy suds. Because sorry to disappoint those believers who stumble along here in a moment of temptation but chasidim are nothing of the sort. We are all westerners ok. We engage in almost all the west has to offer bar that precious commodity of free speech, and especially on the printed page, and unfortunately we could do much better on the educational front. Yet notwithstanding our shortcomings we have proved very adroit in straddling the two worlds; in keeping largely to our traditions while enjoying the freedoms the western world has to offer.

Only this week Belzers across the globe watched their Rebbe's grandson's wedding live streamed through the otherwise banned you know what. For every odd flying chosid making the headlines in refusing to be seated near a female there are a dozen chasidim comfortably ensconced in club class and above.  Those guys are turning left not veering to the right. And so it is on all fronts. Chasidim can't resist issuing bans but then break them almost before the ink is dry.

But beneath this shiny veneer, those in charge know that something deeper is taking root. Our youth are drifting and chasidic circles are feeling it most acutely. Youngsters in their fur hats and breeches discuss Big Brother and not in the context of a Bar Mitzvah or wedding. They talk about I'm a Celebrity and think, get me out of here; they pick up moves from Strictly and import them to our raucous weddings. And too many rather than import the alien ways export themselves out. It is this tide that the Belz spiritual leaders are trying to stem but which in this instance has unleashed a torrent.

This in and of itself may still not excuse the letter and anyway that is not my mission. Let the Belzers do as they wish and I simply want to set out the context. One must further consider how driving is viewed generally in Stamford Hill and amongst chasidim in particular. A family where the woman drives is a subset with its own characteristics and stereotypes.  Remember there were few cars in Eastern Europe when this all began and what ever they did ride is unlikely to have been driven by a female, let alone a Jewish one. Thus ‘she drives' has become shorthand for a somewhat less traditional life style.

This is difficult to define to an outsider because it does not suggest being less Jewish or less frum in any way but it does imply being less chasidic of a certain schmaltzy type. It signifies being more relaxed about the yumminess of western culture, less minded about every uttering of the rabbis and points to having something of a mind of one's own. Not the woman driver in particular but the household she and her husband are leading. And if they are from a more stringent background then it implicitly represents a rejection of an element of our traditional values. It could even point to a closeted heretic, not necessarily of the mysterious ways of God but towards the movement and its mores.

When faced with these kinds of risks our gatekeepers would rather not delve into the details and reflexively resort to what they know best: banning. But alas such are the times that bans are not what they used to be. Banning smartphones has made not one bit of difference as Whatsapp may like to tell you. It has become impossible to enforce and too much of a necessity to too many people for it to be realistic to even try. Banning long wigs and sheer tights has not affected their ubiquity and banning the internet has just made more people sign up.

It is in this context that women's driving becomes an issue, not as a cause but as yet another symptom, and a very overt one at that, of the much feared downward spiral. What follows could be – for men - short sleeves, coloured shirts, a short coat and heaven forfend even a short suit, and once you reach there who knows where it all ends. If this sounds like madness then you are evidently not a chosid in any sense of the word and have never vacillated prior to the wedding of a second cousin thrice removed whether to wear a streimel or a hat. But as any self-respecting chosid will tell you, many an apostate started by twisting his peyos rather than curling them and when the woman starts driving then the proverbial has truly hit the fan.

But there is something more at play and even apostasy is not the entire truth. We are well aware that there are many good Jews who don't look and conduct themselves like us and are no less Jewish for that. For ourselves, however, we, by which I mean men and women alike, generally want to be the way we are because it's what we know, what we like, what we believe to be right and what we want for our children. Part and parcel of that is the standing of women in our society.

No one forces anyone to have large families and no one prevents those women who wish to work from doing so and indeed plenty do. But yet many women do have large families, out of choice or out of being conditioned to make such choices, and prefer to stay at home to raise their children and look after the home. And very many of these same women choose or have been taught to choose not to drive. You or I may not approve but then no one has asked us. God save us if we all have to live our lives in accordance with the latest headline of the Daily Mail or The Guardian, and when they start singing from the same hymn sheet it really becomes scary.

Yes there are women out there who would love to drive but their husbands won't allow them. But then there are men out there who'd love to trim their peyos and beards but their wives won't allow them. The comparison may be somewhat disingenuous but the fact is that a woman wanting to drive will be as anxious of the sisterhood's displeasure as she will be of her father's and husband's censure. As a woman from a prominent Belz family said to my wife, she would love to drive and there are other things in the system that she is unhappy with but she chooses to belong there and so must take the good and the bad. I might think that they often get a raw deal and if one side of the equation chooses to sit in the kitchen while the other gets the car I hardly need to tell you who's living the good life. You may also question how free such choices are but once again it's not what you think that matters. Trust me, being around  when some of these women tell you that they can make up their own minds for themselves would put many a sturdy man to flight.

And to those wonderful Jews out there falling over each other to tell all who care to listen how this is not Judaism I say thanks but no thanks. If the Chief Rabbi, Board of Deputies, the JC and other bastions of Anglo Jewry would care to speak up on the parlous state of chasidic boys' education in general or the rampant cover-up of child abuse in the larger community I'd cheer them to the rafters. But that is where one barely hears a murmur. It is only when they feel the need to tell the wider world how Belzers do not practise the real Judaism that they suddenly find their voice.

Well, let me remind them of what we constantly hear from them when the boot is on the other foot, that there is no ‘real’ Judaism and yiddishkeit comes in all shapes and sizes. So you don't lecture us on ours and we will leave you alone with yours. Should they ever come to burn bras in Belz then an invitation will undoubtedly be extended to all those terribly nice people out there but in the meantime your chorus has that same self-righteous ring that you all too often accuse us of.

So raise a Lechaim to Belz for the simche in their Rebbe's court and for the all but signed peace treaty they reached this week with their lifelong adversaries. But you needn’t drive yourself to distraction by a ban which if it’s to be honoured will be only in the breach.

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Wednesday, 22 October 2014

פתחו שערים – Open the Gates

Yesodey Hatorah Application Pack - Year Beginning Sep 2015

This website is proud to present for the 2nd year running a tri-lingual Information Pack which includes a step-by-step guide and FAQs on applying for admission to Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls School.

For once I should and will shut up about my pet peeve. I wouldn’t really be doing my cause a favour if I slagged off the school while trying to promote it. So for today I will do no more than remind you that this is a school that has recently been judged by Ofsted to be Good and which comes after a rating of Outstanding that lasted for over 8 years.

If you have decided that this is the school you want for your daughter then follow the instructions and she should be offered a place. Don’t believe whatever you’re told about getting your child in and don’t be deterred by whatever obstacles are put in your way.

The School has 80 places to offer and year after year is heavily undersubscribed. So if you are frum and live in the Stamford Hill area and you want your daughter to attend Yesodey Hatorah then you should almost certainly be able to get her in. It is your right and so long that you go about it correctly you will find that despite their formidable appearance those gates are actually scaled quite easily.

The deadline is very soon, 31 October, so don’t delay and get your application in at once.

Best of Luck!

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Friday, 19 September 2014

How the Pinter got its Head

Weinberg YHS Appointment, Minutes

Having dealt extensively with the anointment of Rivky Weinberg (née Pinter) as Headteacher of Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls School it is time to take a closer look at the formalities the school adopted for the process. Famous for its adherence to the letter and spirit of the law, it was a certainty from the start that YHS's selection and anointment process would be entirely above board. But to scotch any doubt we now have the minutes of the meetings of the governing body relating to the appointment (above) to prove the point.

To save you wading through the deliberations, and having to follow Pinter as he moves in and out of the meeting, let me summarise for you the proceedings in what I hope will be a few brief paragraphs.

Mrs Pinter passed away on 12 March of this year and on 18 March 2014 the Governing Body headed by the Adath Burial Society trustee, Tony Bibleman, met to consider the appointment of a new Headteacher. At this very early stage they're already talking of advertising for a replacement 'worldwide', presumably because having interred so many bodies the Chair knows all too well what a rotten crop of educators London has to offer. The Governors are also very concerned about the advert being drafted in accordance with the 'hushcoffa' (sic) of the school. (Making a hush about the coffers is a rather sad pun so let's drop that one.)

Who ever knew that there existed hashkofes on job adverts but thanks to Yesodey Hatorah we are enlightened. We now know that while a hashkofe-compliant ad requires no mention of qualifications or experience as a prerequisite for the job, repeated mention of the former headteacher with a Pinter surname is a must.

A governor also suggested the need for the new Head to be proficient in Yiddish despite the fact that Yiddish is rarely if ever heard in the classrooms of that school. Since the need for Yiddish didn't make it through to the adverts we must take it that the school's lawyers vetoed that one. Nice try, though, and a shame too as it would have narrowed the field even further.

Adverts are duly published around the end of April in the Hamodia and Jewish Tribune and on 13 May 2014 the Governing Body chaired by the Undertaker convenes again. The governors are at a loss that the advert has produced only a 'handful of enquiries' and so they come up with a wheeze: include a photo of the school. Show the world the fortress and gates which are so good at keeping out undesirables and applicants will come flocking in their droves. No one as much as mentions that tinkering with the text of the advert might increase interest, assuming that was their aim, and instead it is proposed -and seconded- that the Undertaker and the Acting Head would put their heads together to find a hashkofe-compliant photograph for the ad. What a relief.

There was another slight problem, as the clerk pointed out, that a Headteacher for a maintained school must be qualified and preferably hold the NPQH. Once again the Undertaker comes to the rescue. Could she not be trained up, he ponders aloud. L'man Hashem, don't mention any such requirements in the advert, it's only a photo that the wretched ad needs and the qualification will follow after. (It now turns out that Weinberg (née Pinter), who is not qualified, has undertaken to acquire the necessary qualifications, which just goes to show how prescient a Chair the Undertaker is. I too am thinking of applying to fill the empty chair on the UOHC Rabbinate on the basis that I’ll 'train up' later.)

But hang on there, there is a far greater problem and which could lead to a serious breach of the peace. In a hitherto unheard of spontaneous outbreak of Pinter fervour 'well over 60 parents' wrote to the Chair/Undertaker demanding Mrs Weinberg as Head Teacher.

I urge you to stop here and pause for a moment. The school has barely started advertising for a new Head, at this stage there has been no mention whatsoever of the appointment process to parents, let alone proposing to them a choice of candidates, and their views have not been canvassed in any shape or form. Yet out of the blue not half a dozen, not two dozen, but well over 60 parents are writing unsolicited letters urging the school to appoint an inexperienced and unqualified candidate who’s been living aboroad for the last decade or so and who just happens to be Pinter's daughter. I have always been an an admirer and an avid reader of Weinberg’s peerless column and I have never harboured any doubt about her remarkable abilities but still this clamour for her Headship has left me flummoxed.

Naturally, and perfectly in line with the famed humility of her family, Weinberg didn't even want the job and 'would not apply.' However, if you took the trouble to ask her, and as an absolute b'dieved, and maybe if you threw in £90,000 per annum and, between you and me, some relocation costs she might just consider the position. Assuming of course that the stains on the wallpaper have all come out by then and the carpet has covered up all that unsightly rot so that she can clear her previous desk.

And so in order to keep the mob from storming the bastille and install their desired candidate, Pinter himself, aka daddy to Wienberg, reluctantly agreed to 'be involved in briefing prospective candidates.' A perfectly logical decision since as we've just heard, Weinberg didn't really want the job anyway.

This, my friends, is how we come to the further meeting of 17 June 2014 when the Head of Hackney Learning Trust (HLT), Tricia Okoruwa and Head of Secondary Schools at HLT, Martin Buck, come along to rubber stamp the process that will in due course confirm Weinberg's anointment. Pinter was not present when the selection committee was formed and with a Governing Body to do his bidding he could well afford to take a break. And avoid any conflict of interest, of course.

Anyway, returning to the meeting, fine words were exchanged, the Undertaker lamented that they had only 2 applications and Mr Buck told the governors that 3 adverts 'demonstrated that they were serious about making an appointment for the best candidate and were not just looking on the doorstep of the school.' As if to prove that point Weinberg/Pinter was duly imported from some 2000 miles away. Even a cynic like me can't call that on the doorstep, can I?

As to where the Buck stops (sorry, but another bad pun) 'Mrs Okowuro (sic) and Mr Buck left the meeting and Rabbi Pinter returned.'

It hardly needs repeating that Weinberg (née Pinter) was duly appointed and let us reflect on the size of the fish-head Weinberg consumed last year Rosh Hashone and over which she sniffled the Yehi Rotzoin to become a Head and not a household tipster. Her prayers have boruch hashem not gone astray and as we say in Yiddish, when a fish stinks it stinks from the very Head. And occasionally from the Principal too.

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Thursday, 31 July 2014

How to Hijack a School…

…as taught at Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls School

To those of you who have not yet heard, and that assumes that you read neither the Hamodia nor the Jewish Tribune, the voluntary-aided Yesodey Hatorah Senior School (YHS) has just appointed a new head teacher. She goes by Rivky Weinberg, but don't be fooled by her surname. Her maiden name was Pinter, daughter of Avrohom/Abraham Pinter, and that is the story that concerns us here.

This appointment is rotten at so many levels, so brazenly bent, so beggaring belief, so cynically contemptuous of staff, parents, pupils and the entire community, so disregardful of any modicum of propriety that it is difficult to know even where to start. But start we must and as the mishna teaches us, it’s not your job to complete the task but that isn't an excuse not to have a go.

Head teacher age

Let us begin with what is certain about Weinberg, which is her age. Wienberg is 33 years old and this makes her one of the youngest head teachers in the UK. In fact, as the table above shows (see Table 4), she may well be the very youngest head teacher in England!

So what are those exceptional qualities that have earned her this appointment at such a young and tender age? And what is so unique about her that she had to be brought over from Israel after a search that apparently spanned more than half the globe? Well, if we know little of her supposed experience it is not for lack of opportunity. Unlike other head-teacher appointments to frum schools up and down the country, Hamodia saw fit to dedicate a third of a page to this appointment but mentioned not a single qualification. It talks about her 'wealth of relevant experience' but remains vague on the details. Likewise, a letter was posted to parents notifying them of the appointment but with a similar lack of detail.

Another certainty is that she has little recent teaching experience in this country because she has been living abroad for the last few years. As far as anyone can remember, when she was living here about 10 years ago she worked at the Hamodia where daddy of course is an 'adviser' and which explains the hyperbolic announcement of her appointment. The grapevine further suggests that until very recently she's been the co-author of the popular Hamodia household-tips column, 'That's an Idea', where she went under the name of R. Vine. Whether advice on how to get chrein stains out of your husband's shirt qualifies one as a head-teacher is anyone's guess but apparently the YHS appointment panel think it does and I am in no position to argue.

So without the years, without apparent qualifications and with some vague experience only, what else might be behind her appointment? I shan't keep you guessing and considering how the vacancy arose may give us some clue. In March of this year the former head teacher of the school, Mrs Gitty (Rachel) Pinter, passed away. She was the wife of the Principal of YHS, Avrohom Pinter, and she was head teacher since about the 1970s when YHS was still a private school. It was following her passing that it fell to the governing body to appoint a new head teacher which they have now done.

And this is the point I am getting to. Rivky Weinberg has been appointed as head teacher for one reason only: because she is lucky enough to be daddy's girl and daddy believes he can get away with it. Her qualification is being her mother's and father's daughter and her experience consists of having them as parents for some 30 odd years. I haven't made this up and the governors have themselves said so. "As a daughter of Mrs Pinter she has a deep understanding of" yada yada yada.

Let me say that I'm prepared to believe that Weinberg's appointment is perfectly within the law. This school that denies its pupils anything from qualified and experienced teachers, a comprehensive curriculum, a broad range of school trips and even school meals, will gladly splash out generously on legal advice whenever its carefully constructed façade of lies and misinformation is under threat. You can therefore rest assured that they've covered themselves from every angle with the best advice that money can buy. But what neither lawyers nor ingeniuous household tips can do is remove the stench and boy does this stink.

YHS head ad, relocation

In the four-and-a-half months of the vacancy there were perhaps only 6 adverts with relatively few details of the job description, they contained no requirements for qualifications and in some of the adverts there was not even mention of experience. The ads repeatedly stated the availability of relocation costs as if it was a foregone conclusion that the candidate will have to be headhunted from abroad, though pinpointed is probably more apt. But if you had any doubt what it was that really mattered, every single advert mentioned the fact that Mrs Pinter had passed away. And if you still were not sure where they expected the candidate to come from, they mentioned a salary of about £90,000 per annum and salaries of that size go to one family only.

What an insult to our entire community. London is simply too intellectually and spiritually impoverished to provide a head-teacher to this academic powerhouse of barely 300 girls which spends almost as much time censoring their books as teaching them. Tens of schools up and down the country, some of them as frum as YHS and frummer, manage with mature local talent who have deservedly earned their positions, but this particular school that denies its pupils anything it does not have to provide will splash out on an unqualified 30-something for this senior post simply because she is a Pinter specimen. What contempt for their long-standing and qualified senior staff that a young nipper of a Pinter with little experience will be lording over them. What callous disregard for the welfare and education of hundreds of girls by appointing a head-teacher with so little to show for. And what rank hypocrisy of its Principal, Pinter himself, who has the effrontery to hold himself out as an authority on education.

This is the Yesodey Hatorah that boasts how it has been educating local children for some 70 years yet only one single family must provide almost all its senior staff. This is a school that spends only 75% of its overall budget, and of that less than half is spent directly on its pupils, yet pays its Pinter staff in the upper level of the bands even while it reduces pupil numbers. This is the school that despite its low numbers requires a full time Principal and Head Teacher and who if they are not husband and wife must be father and daughter.

YHS head ad, 90kAnd they may have a point. Considering that the majority of the teaching staff are gaggling unqualified teenagers who themselves left the school barely a couple of years ago, an unqualified head teacher just slightly older may be a perfect fit. The only difference, however, is that while the unqualified 18-year old GCSE teachers are dumped in front of a class of 16 year olds and paid next to the minimum wage for the honour, the unqualified head has been imported despite having little to declare but yet she will be paid, if the advert is anything to go by, around £90,000 p.a. without ever having to give a class in her lifetime. Because at YHS Principals and Head Teachers are for welcoming VIPs and solemnly roaming the corridors but that little pesky thing known as teaching is way below them.

Mins, Effect of Principal on app of HT

Hiring teenage teachers and discarding of them a couple of years later carries with it other perks too. It assures that there are few staff to aspire to or challenge the ruling family for any of the top jobs. And anyway who would even want to apply with that lot breathing down your neck. At the meeting when Pinter was considered as Principal, and at which a representative of Hackney Learning Trust was present, the problem with a future head-teacher appointment was discussed. And now it has come to pass.

This is how Pinter was eased in as Principal while his late wife was crowned Head, this is how another daughter was parachuted in as Senco and a panoply of daughters, daughters in law and nieces as teachers and now this latest arrival is to be anointed head teacher. That cynicism can stoop to this level requires a fair bit of experience and this she has seen at close quarters in abundance.

Let's not trouble the Chair of Governors in whose name this fiasco is being carried out, a certain Mr Theo Bibelman. As one of the chief communal undertakers he is the perfect candidate for covering up the rotting carcass he presides over. But let's spare the poor man for the moment as he recuperates from a search for a head teacher that 'stretched across three continents'. No doubt that was Africa, South America and Oceania and even there he must have lost his spectacles if all he could find for the job is a former authority on how to remove chometz crumbs from fridge shelves.

A week before the announcement of Weinberg's appointment, at the school's graduation ceremony and speech day, a letter from Bibelman was read out on his behalf. He couldn't deign show up in person for some silly 16 year old girlies just like not a single governor showed their shameful faces either. Not even the Principal, Pinter, on his fat wage, who otherwise pops up for the opening of a lemonade bottle,  graced the event with his appearance. Yet Weinberg was in the audience. Nevertheless, Bibelman's letter informed mothers that the governors were still in the process of appointing a head-teacher. Still in the process, yeah, of course they were. And how many of the other candidates were in attendance?

But still you think I'm biased and Pinter, aided and abetted by his cronies and stooges, hasn't quite hijacked the school, Weinberg's appointment is down to her incredible precociousness, the many family members in senior positions pure coincidence and otherwise everything is run strictly on merit. So perhaps explain why Pinter has a job at all. He does not spend too much time at the school, he never addresses pupils and appears neither at the start nor at the end of year ceremonies. The only time he is guaranteed to show up is on one of his VIP invitee visits when naturally there are cameras in tow. Yet he draws a full time wage despite the fact that he is both principal of his private schools and dean of his private seminary. A man of many talents, no doubt, and generously funded by the taxpayer.

And he isn't just any principal. With a bunch of do-nothing governors, he is the one who fulfils their duties too. He sees to admissions, to employment, to maintenance, to cheque signing, to external relations and to wherever he can stick a finger in so long that it consolidates his control. But as a governor he wouldn't earn a salary and so Principal suits him just fine especially when he has all the governors and trustees in his pocket.

Sem proposals

But still it's my bias. So consider how Pinter and his Head-teacher wife have been allocated space in the school to set up their own private, fee-paying seminary (6th form), Be'er Miriam, and for which they pay no rent. To make this space available the school reduced the available numbers of pupils thus reducing the ‘problem’ of overcapacity (see excerpt from the minutes above). And yet despite the reduced numbers the Head Teacher's salary kept on rising until it now stands at about £90,000 p.a. And now it is YHS girls who've been thrown to the wolves by being rejected from this very same seminary by a faceless, nameless panel who won't even give you a reason other than 'you don't fit in'.

Mins, hall hire, principal

But that is also not enough. It is Pinter who was responsible for negotiating the wedding hall contract (see above) by which hard-pressed parents and communal organisations are ripped off to the tune of about £2,500+ per event. The contract is between YHS and Simchas Nisuin which is an arm of the UOHC. Pinter is a trustee of UOHC, Lobenstein was chair of governors of YHS at the time and deputy president of UOHC and there was other crossover between members of both organisations but no one declared any interest. Which is how these two communal organisations have effectively conspired to rob us, the community, blind. And all within the law, no doubt.

YHS Trust, contact

Let us make no pretences. This entire process is rigged. The trust which controls the school has a minimal number of 3 trustees, each a long-established Pinter stooge, with the contact none other than Pinter himself at his home address. They in turn appoint a governing body of yet more stooges and cronies who rarely speak up at meetings, on those rare occasions that they bother turning up, who are happy to delegate anything and everything to the Principal, who in his benevolence is happy to take almost everything on. The governing body in its turn elects a chair, previously Joe Lobenstein and now Bibelman, both undertakers of impeccable credentials and each happier than the other to rubber-stamp all that suits the Dear Principal & Co's agenda.

And now for his troubles they have presented Pinter with the ultimate prize by crowning his daughter head teacher and with a masterstroke guaranteeing the succession for the next generation. As a member of one of the school bodies said to a complaining parent: "I know terrible things have been done under this phrase but I am really only following orders." Says it all, really.

But it is not just the governors and trustees who are to blame. The blame must be shared with the Hackney Learning Trust who know exactly what is going on but are too frightened to take Pinter on. With the JC and other newspapers who will quote Pinter incessantly on almost anything but will never try to pierce the veil that shrouds his organisations. With the Jonathan Freedlands and the Lord Glasmans and the bobbies and the machers and the shvitzers who will all come dancing to the Pinter soirees, sip his chareidi kool-aid to show the world how wonderfully inclusive they are but will not raise as much as an eyebrow at his shenanigans. How come he and his family occupy so many positions and how come he has a full time role as principal and yet can be all over town as soon as a lens pops up?

Then there are the organisations like NAJOS, Agudas Yisroel Housing, the London Jewish Forum, adoption agencies, health forums and a multitude of others who will give Pinter seats on their boards and consult with him despite the fact that he will allow no one of any independence anywhere close to his. On top of that there is our fawning media, renowned for its openness and fidelity to truth, who can always be relied on to do his bidding. Instead of thundering headlines at YHS's undisguised contempt these papers will display his picture almost weekly and report extensively on the crowning of his daughter without even a murmur of disgust.

And last but not least is us. Whether we are frightened, suffering from a severe bout of Stockholm Syndrome, or worst of all, apathetic, this could not happen if at some level we did not will it. Like some kind of Candide we have been led to believe that however bad things are it's still the best possible outcome and if not for the blue blood of that family we'd be even worse off.

The plain truth is that we are sheep and for that we deserve nothing better than the wolves we have snarling over us. Bibelman was quoted as saying what a proud appointment this is for YHS. It is not. It is a shameful appointment by a shameless governing body for a shamed community.

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Friday, 25 April 2014

So who’s a ‘mooser’, Pinter?

yhs mooser

Click to enlarge

The email you see above (read it slowly and savour the chill as it courses up your spine) appeared in the inbox of a parent trying to get his child into Yesodey Hatorah School. After getting nowhere with the school’s admissions supremo, namely one Abraham/Avrohom/Avraham/Avrumi Pinter, the parent chanced upon the idea of raising his case with The Learning Trust and other public bodies who might be able to assist. The parent had exhausted his efforts with communal bodies and rabbonim but with little to show for it, which will come as no surprise to us locals. And so he started badgering outside bodies in the hope that they can wield the stick that gets our bigwigs quaking in their oversized trousers. This, it appears, earned him the honour to be at the receiving end of the above email.

I should add that without an apparent provenance (though do note the sender's ever so clever address) the email may be a mere coincidence with no connection to YHS and its content entirely unrelated to the dealings that the parent was having at the time with our dear friend Pinter. It would be a strange coincidence, especially as similar letters have been sent to parents at a similar juncture in their dealings with the very same person and some even referring to the addressee's skirmishes with Yesodey Hatorah, but then strange things do happen.

In yet another instance concerning YHS admissions, the case went to the UOHC Beth Din which issued a ruling unfavourable to the school. So what did wily Pinter do? To frustrate the Beth Din decision he immediately set about changing the school's constitution. And when he was caught and warned that his efforts would be brought to the attention of the Charity Commission Pinter reverted to form: 'Mooser' he cried.

But change the constitution he did anyway. Or to be more precise, he closed down the charity altogether and started a new outfit with a very different constitution. For a start, he purged the school of the pesky rabbinical committee and so leaving it with no formal rabbinical oversight. (This has its perks too especially if you wish to invite a pornographer to the opening of a chareidi girls' school.) Besides for the rabbis, a large board of trustees was also disposed of and instead a few stooges were installed to act as Pinter's front. This grants him de facto internal control of the school with any outside challenge instantly repelled with the 'M' word, or the deed, depending on the expediency of the moment.

Whatever the case, Pinter is no stranger to mesirah whether accusing others or allegedly engaging in it himself. Some years ago there were pashkeviln denouncing him for having allegedly reported a local family to some official body or other. For far as Pinter is concerned 'M' is where the alphabet ends if not begins.

And why am I telling you all of this, you may be wondering? Well, if you've been following the local rumour mill you will probably have heard that of late few things can go wrong in town without this blog and its alleged author being somewhat implicated. It must be only a matter of time before the Keddasia Pesach-non-Kosher-LePesach meat nets and the curious case of the local shul injuncting its rabbi are somehow found to bear this blog's imprimatur. Specifically, first-hand reports suggest that Pinter has been claiming that blame for the failure of his cack-handed attempt to redact GCSE exam questions and the recent Ofsted inspections of local yeshives may be laid at the door of the alleged yours truly. As they say, it takes one to know one.

So before I go on let me set the record straight on this rather important point:

No one associated with this blog, allegedly or otherwise, has made any report or provided any information to Ofsted in respect of boys' education, be they yeshives or talmud torahs based in Stamford Hill or elsewhere. Similarly, no one associated with this blog has made any complaint or provided any information to Ofsted, Ofqual, the British Humanist Association or the National Secular Society in respect of the redacting of exam questions or the content of GCSE curricula.

I hope this is clear enough though it would be too much to expect from those desperate to deflect attention from themselves to let the matter rest at this. Indeed, one would expect nothing less from so fine a practitioner of the dark arts of dirty tricks and smears as Pinter, honed to perfection over decades in the tzniusdike salons of kiddush-wine socialists and fellow supporters of the party of chareidi stalwarts like Peter Mandelson and Damian McBride. Heimish to a tee.

However, given Pinter's unrivalled media and networking skills, his chairmanships, principalships, spokesmanships and not to mention his photogenicity (or should that be photogeniality?) you might think that when cornered this brave and heroic man would don some pugilistic handgear, figuratively of course, and strike back. Or at least defend himself.

Unfortunately, it falls to me to disabuse you of any such notion. It appears that at the time or place Pinter took his media course, crisis management was not a module on offer. They may have managed their budget the way Yesodey Hatorah does (25% unspent) and restricted their curriculum to the minimum they could get away with. Very difficult to know in the secretive world of some institutions.

The net result, however, is that we have ended up with a run-of-the-mill playground bully who doesn't just cower in a corner when under attack but makes himself invisible altogether . Whether it be allegations of child abuse in the community for which he has appointed himself spokesman and a lot more, rabbinic abuse within the communal body where he acts as a trustee, school 'admissions', unqualified teenage teachers for GCSE subjects, redaction of exam questions, a wedding hall extortion racket, even a school complaint directed at him or indeed the email above, whatever the case Pinter, like McCavity, is nowhere to be seen.

And stupid me had been thinking that 'bullies are cowards' is just not a toiredike concept.

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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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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.

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Monday, 10 December 2012

Rome has whimpered…

Padwa
הנני בזה להודיע כי דברתי עם מרן הגאון מוהר”ר טובי’ ווייס שליט”א רב גאב”ד ירושלים עיה”ק ת”ו ואמר לי שהוא ימנה ב”ד לבירור דברים בהפרשה הכאובה, וכבר עוסקים בזה להרכיב הב”ד
וד’ יפרוס סוכת שלומו על עמו ונזכה לראות בקרוב בישועתן של ישראל בבלצ"ג ברחמים רבים
[מקום החותם]
I hereby announce that I have spoken to Rabbi Tuvia Weiss the Rav and head of the Beis Din in Jerusalem and he told me that he will appoint a beis din to investigate the matters in the painful saga, and there are indeed those who are engaged in forming the beis din.
May God spread His shield of peace on His people and may we soon merit to see the salvation of Israel when the Saviour shall arrive in Zion with great mercy.
[signed]
Roberts

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Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Once more unto the breach

So the day has arrived, the game's afoot and kick off just hours away. The vuvuzela shofers will sound, the home team will cheer the players bought from overseas by cheque book scribblers and not a few brown-bags if not brown-nosed bungs. The fans will wrap themselves in the team colours of black and white, many own goals will be scored, the captain is guaranteed to be ruled offside and if I'm not careful I'll shortly be running out of metaphors.

But what do they hope to achieve and how do we measure their success? If a sell-out crowd is what they're after they have secured it by shrinking the stadium and summoning the kids which are never in short supply round here. We do have them for a reason, after all. If logging off or filters is their aim it may cause a temporary upward blip and then life will settle back to its normal course just as it did in the USA. The organisers will want to see how widely the event is covered on websites which their filters would otherwise block so some leeway will always be needed.

Whatever this rally's lasting legacy is it will not be to halt the onward march of technology or turn the tide of the internet, social media and global communications. It is only with the aid of the internet that they could arrange this event, hire the venue, bring speakers from around the globe, leaflet the place day after day and then gloat for ever after on their delusions of might and power.

For badly deluded they are. To arrange this event they have practically sold out the North West segment of the community. If I were a Golders Green resident I would be asking myself why must I associate with this lot if they care so little about me. North West London had a meeting discussing the internet only about 2 months ago. Without fanfare and in a modest school hall about 2000 people listened to an array of speakers who discussed practical solutions to a modern-day problem. The speeches were in English which is the vernacular of Golders Green and at least one of the speakers was a technology expert.

So why is this meeting called for again and why do they pretend to represent klal yisroel? If the UOHC represents all its constituent shuls why were virtually all notices and posters in Yiddish? Is it not that they are simply embarrassed to repeat all this nonsense in English where it will be judged by more level-headed people and laughed off the pitch with a mass exit from the stands?

If I were not carrying in the eiruv every Shabbos because the UOHC banned it, if my wife and kids were stuck in at home, elderly people and the disabled housebound due to the obduracy and intractability of the UOHC rabbis I would be asking what is in it for me. To ensure the attendance of the various chasidim, Padwa went grovelling to their rebbes, signing his name and his mother's name like a pleading supplicant. To placate the Belzers, Reb Leibish was kept even from the substitutes’ benches, and in order not to upset the Satmarers speeches are all in Yiddish besides one at the end by which time the holy ones can make their exit for their ministering angel will not attend an ESOL course. Yet to its long suffering members in Golders Green the UOHC and its rabbis have shown nothing but an oversized middle finger.

What they will be saying loud and clear tonight is: Klal Yisroel includes you not. Your meetings do not count, your support is unnecessary, your attendance not called for and your yiddishkeit in grave doubt. We are happy to take your moolah for our pounds of kosher flesh but as for you in person your smell is rather too pleasant for us less sensitive noses.

In New York they at least made a pretence of achdus but no such trivialities concern us here where scornful disregard is the name of the game. Obscure Lubavitch rabbis from Edgware are kosher but Rabbis Ehrentrau, Lichtenstein, Gelley, Abrahams and many others count for nothing. They summon Mount Sinai to their cause as if Judaism is dependent on 4000 loonies but they are nothing more than the club whose home ground they will occupy: a 3rd tier league devoid of star players.

And that is as far as they go. To the rest of us they will appear like wolves howling at the moon. Having sold out to the most extreme elements they will warn, threaten, cajole and plead supposedly for the future of Judaism and the souls of our children. Here in our community is a school established by communal figures, funded by communal coffers when not directly by us the taxpayers yet it excludes children at a whim term after term and year after year. And when the brothers who act as goalkeepers, players, captains, referees, managers, chairmen and shareholders all in one are summoned by Padwa he is laughed at to his face.

They will talk about sanctity yet here in Stamford Hill, in Craven Walk, is a mikveh which has been a building site for close to a decade grossly insulting if not endangering the women who use it. But they care for women only in their state of dress not undress. It was a similar situation with other mikvehs until someone stepped in. Funds are available for this extravaganza but as far as true kedusha is concerned let them dunk themselves in drains and keep the fancy mikves for the men. It is no exaggeration that we have some of the worst mikves in the entire chareidi world. But then others push their buggies on Shabbos while our womenfolk are better off stuck in at home.

And then there are the masses of our youth which see through all this hypocrisy, double dealing and sanctimony. They will not be saved by your howling of Shema. Your voice will not reach their ears just like when many of them are sexually and physically abused their cries do not reach yours. Your bans and prohibitions will ring hollow when all you seek to cover up are your own misdeeds. Many of these youths, our very future, are gone forever not thanks to the Internet but to you sitting there blinded by the glare of the floodlights and booming out your own voices to drown out all others.

Howl, howl, howl, howl! Oh, you are men of stones.

Had I your tongues and eyes, I’d use them so

That heaven’s vault should crack. She’s gone forever.

(King Lear, Act V, Scene III)

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Mutiny in the terraces

anti protest

Another day another poster. The anti-internet rally organisers have been pasting our walls for the last fortnight with the palette of colours technology places at their disposal while the opposition uses nothing more than an old fashioned word processor and so must do with black and white.

The message however is clear: Leave the kids at home - this is not where they belong. If you want the kids to see their gedoilim take them to a shul not a stadium.

The organisers have spent a fortune to shrink the stadium so that banks of empty seats are not flashed round the world by tweeters at the anti-tweeting rally. All they need the kids for is as a stop gap and so at worst they might have to readjust slightly the partition. Moving the goalposts is what they call it at Leyton Orient.

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Sunday, 2 September 2012

Rav Schlesinger opposes rally

schlesinger asife

Hurrah for common sense! Finally someone is prepared to say what many are thinking and saying in shuls and mikves up and down the square mile that the event is an ego trip of our dear Rov and Rosh Hakohol and the expense, the invitees, the leaflets and the venue are simply to show that we can do everything that NY can. Except of course that NY has an eiruv.

It may be for the wrong reasons but how refreshing to see a contrarian view in these mad times. Reb Elyokum may also be concerned only with children, teens and koilel yungeleit rather than the event as a whole but then one must be mad to want to bring kids along in the first place. Incidentally, the Schlesingers are also the ones who won’t hold their events in YHS which suggests they know a lot more than we do.

Reb Elyokum: we’re all Briskers for a day!

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Open letter to Internet-banning rabbis (Yiddish)

Open letter to rabbis banning the internet (Yiddish)

I would love to translate this letter which has been doing the rounds on the internet and if only I found the time. (Any takers?) It was written in response to the New York anti-internet rally in May and a recent incident which scandalised the Satmar enclave in upstate New York when a father of several kids was kicked out of the family home after confessing his atheism to his wife.

Basically the letter blames the ills of the internet’s influence on our society on our rotten education system. If the rabbis are really interested in doing something about the problem, the letter says, they should stop navel gazing, banning and controlling. Instead they should institute some sorely needed reforms, teach children the beauties of a Judaism that isn’t about excluding, banning, beatings, petty disputes and power struggles and our children might not be dazzled and fall for the world outside their ghetto on their first point of encounter.

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Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Devil’s Advocate – On the Anti-internet rally

CCI28082012_0000 (2409 x 3436)

Inquisition… Enlightenment… Reform… Communism… Zionism… Technology – Find the odd one out

In the race to the bottom that the anti-internet campaign has become it appears that no form of words is too stupid, no expression too trite, no metaphor too far fetched and no analogy too extreme for the fearmongers and thought police organising these events.

Strange then that despite the apparent strength of their convictions and the steadfastness of their resolve the organisers will not spread the message beyond Hebrew and Yiddish speakers. Unlike strawberry, grape and fish infestations in which the English language is squished for the sake of saving a Jewish soul from the hazards of creepy crawlies, saving us from the catastrophe unleashed by the internet is confined to Hebrew and Yiddish speakers.

So as a public service we will provide a blow-by-blow translation of the clarion call for a mass stampede to Leyton Orient’s home ground as leafleted daily in tabloid typeface, brash graphics and garish colours. Oh, the wonders of technology. And so that the sacrifice of entire forests is not in vain we here will ensure that the message to rescue Judaism from oblivion reaches its widest audience.

Today we start with a debate between the Devil and his counterpart on the war being waged against God's Chosen on the battlefield of the world wide web. As every Miltonian scholar well knows the Devil gets the best lines and it is no different when trying to ensnare us poor vulnerable souls in the trap set by Tim Berners-Lee.

So without further ado here goes the first skirmish in the fight of the blinding light of fundamentalism and raging fire of ignorance against the candle of reason and the flame of knowledge.

 

A SERIOUS DEBATE BETWEEN THE YETZER HORA (evil inclination) AND THE YETZER TOV (good inclination) ON THE DOMINATION OF GOD'S PEOPLE OVER THE LAST THOUSAND YEARS

Yetzer Hora

Yetzer Tov

I established an INQUISITION to apostatise ever more Jews

But Jews martyred themselves and went into exile leaving behind their wealth, possessions and belongings!

I developed the HASKALA (enlightenment) to create "enlightened Jews"

The sages of Israel with the holy power of the Torah and Hasidism successfully defeated it.

I created the REFORM to reform Judaism

The Gedoilim of the generation railed that 'Novelty is forbidden by the Torah' and Jews remained steadfast to tradition.

I organised COMMUNISM to divert the Jewish people

With immense devotion Jews maintained synagogues, schools and mikvo’oth until thank God it was destroyed.

I brought ZIONISM to destroy Jewish continuity

The people of Israel obeyed the call of 'Who is to God, let him come unto me' and there survived a Judaism devout  to God and his Torah.

Now I have produced TECHNOLOGY that is ripping God's people to shreds and this time I will UPROOT EVERYTHING

You just wait, hold tight, my battle for the rescue of the future has only just begun. As always with God's help we will succeed with a mighty victory.

For this purpose thousands of Jews, no evil eye, will assemble at 'The Assembly of the Jewish People’ in Leyton Stadium

Instead of engaging in a futile debate on the nonsensical analogies let’s just for a moment take them at their own word. Let us assume that the common denominator of the comparators is indeed that they were all aimed at destroying Judaism and that technology is the Inquisition of 2012. Yet one cannot help but notice that while the historical movements exerted pressure from the outside, whether by coercion or persuasion, in the case of the internet it is something we have and continue to embrace of our own free will.

No one forces you to connect to broadband, there is not auto-da-fe to make you sign up to a smartphone, the NKVD won’t make you open an email account and nor is there anything to prevent us logging off en masse if we were minded to do so. The problem for them is that we don’t want to. The same people who will attend the rally because they share some of the concerns or because they feel compelled to show their face will also log on once they get home to check news reports and web gossip of the event, assuming they weren’t monitoring the bans in real time on their very proscribed phones.

And that is the difference. We want the internet to communicate with the wider world, to broaden our horizons in hitherto unimaginable ways, to expose the corruption and downright idiocy of our leaders, to engage in the openness and accessibility denied to us by our education and way of life, to widen our circle of acquaintances, to debate freely issues we care about, to taste forbidden fruits available elsewhere and, increasingly, to decide we quite like what we see and move over altogether.

This is what we gain by technology and this is what they fear. If the 9 circles of hell exist in every amoled screen then we descend each more willingly than the last. So let them rail, let them threaten, let them ban. It is they who are acting like our persecutors of times bygone and our threat today comes not from without but from within. The web, however, is here to stay and the sooner it brings an end to the madness we have engulfed ourselves in the sooner we may see the end to rallies like this one.

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Friday, 27 July 2012

NOlympics 2012

Living in Stamford Hill you wouldn't think that little more than a couple of miles away the biggest show on earth is about kick off in under 24 hours. The top end of the Amish Kapoor sculpture may be just about visible from our unlawful lofts but believing prevents you from seeing. Zaha Hadid could have designed the foundations rather than the roof of the Aquatics Centre and we would have been equally unimpressed. And as for a minute's silence, you first must know about the dead before you can commemorate them.

True we've had some new pavements on Clapton Common which may, or may not, be part of an Olympic street improvement scheme, buses with an orange streak and Games 2012 sign ply the roads while low-flying helicopters ply the skies but that, I'm afraid, is as far as it goes. The games might as well be taking place on the Comoros Islands and we would not have been much the poorer.

For a start the Opening Ceremony is on Friday evening at 9pm which means that even if you take in Shabbos with the stragglers, schleppers, holies and dishevelled you still won't get even 5 minutes' worth of Danny Boyle's reputed masterpiece. Those chachomim had to programme it pinkt late on a Friday afternoon and this after the torch passed our area on a Shabbos. I mean just how insensitive can you get. And will Boyle include rear extensions and ceramic floor tiles to represent our contribution to this green and pleasant land? Slumdog, schmumdog, geb nor aher a millionaire.

This may all be good for a laugh but truth said it's just how we want it. I may, and do, find it all very sad and upsetting that we must keep ourselves so absolutely apart but I cannot pretend to represent my brethren on this point. It also ain't gonna change any time soon either. We want to keep to ourselves and there's as yet no law to stop us. There will be many who will share the glorious and uplifting moments of the games with their children on the web (TV is not for sharing) regardless of what the bumpkins will ban but as far as official or even semi-semi-official participation in any part, forget it.

A single, unofficial torch bearer in far-flung Lewisham who has been decried from at least one pulpit will be the sum total of our involvement. Even the one school we have that is maintained at public expense didn't deign to mention the O word even once lest it fail instantly the Chareidi doping test (in which the more doped and duped the tested the higher the score). In fact the Olympic legacy (which we'll come to in a moment) they have bequeathed to their pupils is a ban on ice skating at the local rink. Mamesh lekoved the Olympics and how very thoughtful of them.

We may of course mention the Jubilee celebrations because in our minds we are still living under the protection and grace and favour of a benign monarch. Our sycophantic leaders like anything royal because it allows them and their schools to write letters to the Queen and then lie back and dream of the honours. Frolicking with bobbies, inviting them to our events and bestowing honours on them is also kosher because power round here is hard and soft power is for wimps and schlemiels. In the tiny brains of those who run our affairs power is at the end of a baton and in the clink of a handcuff and fraternising with the bill allows some of the steely shine to rub off. But to take part in any other celebration of this county is simply something to avoid like, well, the Olympics.

But there is one noble exception. No one can accuse the rest of the world of forgetting about us completely while the London Jewish Forum has a beat to its heart. In 2010 it secured £50,000 from the Mayor's Olympic Sports Legacy programme. It was to raise a similar amount itself making it a total of £100,000. The projects the money was to be spent on included 3 "integrated sports events" of which one was to be directed at the "strictly Orthodox community." A spokesman at the time said: "City Hall is interested in those who don't do much physical activity. There is a lack of facilities in religious communities." It just makes your heart melt at the chesed directed towards us.

So what happened to this 'integrated' event whatever it is to mean? Have you heard of it? Has it taken place? Will it take place? Or is this yet another case of some terribly nice people expressing their concern for us at the very highest level and then walking off with the accolades or, in this case, the cash? I make no accusations though I did ask the London Jewish Forum for details of the event but they have as yet not replied. After all I'm not a bobby or politician so why bother?

It's not as if we don't have a representative on the Forum. Click on their website and there on the masthead with his trademark goofy smile is our representative at the top table of society. It would be nice if he could make some enquiries on our behalf when this integrated event will be kicking off especially as integration and cohesion are his hallmarks. He should act fast though or 'his' schools might ban participation before the event even gets off the ground.

But let's not be mean on the very day this fest of goodwill amongst nations takes off. Surely some bright spark will come up with a legacy for the nearby park once the games are over. It could be ideal for a wedding hall. It's closer than the Decorium, larger than YHS, cheaper than the Mayfair Intercontinental, higher than the Prince and Princess, your badchen can drone on till 4 am without disturbing anyone's sleep and last but not least it's legal. It even has large grounds so there’s potential for extending. What more can you ask for? It’s just the kind of legacy chasunos are meant to create.

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