Thursday, 4 June 2009

Why I voted

Because I value the fact that however high and mighty the leaders may be and however much they corrupt their position they still must come back to us for our vote every few years. Cynics may snigger and sophisticates may scoff but if it were all one big con why do countries like China not join in the fraud and hold elections? Why did Russia rig its elections despite that the governing party could have won in a fair vote? Because a fair election is in itself is a challenge for those who cannot bear being reminded that they are appointed by the people and can be removed by the people. I voted to remind myself and those in power who put them there and who can removed them.

Because as the son of a father born in the shadow of revolution and who suffered greatly at the hand of the Nazis I feel it a duty to support the democratic process. At times when the BNP is on the ascendancy the task is all the more urgent.

Because by participating in an activity that the whole country is engaged in I feel part of the country, part of the democratic process that governs this country and part of the excitement that is politics. I am excluded, part by choice and part by the company I keep, from the main activities that glue this country together. I don't generally follow sports and have never attended a major sporting event, I don't own a TV and am not animated by Big Brother or The Apprentice and other programs that has the nation glued to its seats (though I was a tad moved by Susan Boyle's first, and only first, appearance), I rarely visit a pub and when I do it is miles away from home where I know none of the locals, I don't place a wreath anywhere on Remembrance Day, I don't put up holly in my windows before Christmas and I don't even visit Ikea on a bank holiday (I prefer the quiet on a workday evening).

That doesn't mean that I don't feel part of this country. The problem however is that I have few outlets where I can participate and genuinely feel one with my countrymen and women openly and comfortably. I feel precluded from activities on the above list, which is by no means exhaustive, because they are alien to my upbringing and culture as well as because they are avoided by fellow orthodox coreligionists. If there are cultural activities I enjoy I do them covertly due to fear of censure by the locals but in any event seeing a play or watching a film doesn't give you a sense of belonging you get by discussing what is on every TV in the land.

So I follow politics and I vote. It's kosher. It's exciting. It's driven by ideas. And it gives me a sense of belonging and an affinity and connection to the man on the street, to the reports on the radio and in the press (no TV, remember) and to the way this country is governed.

And finally because I look at what is done in the name of religion to politics in Israel where the Rabbis who care not one tshulent bean for democracy and would abolish it overnight if we were so unfortunate to witness the Messiah they pray 3 times a day for, yet they exploit it and corrupt it to the core when it suits their avarice and greed. Every one of them makes our MPs and the moats and duck ponds look like saints compared to their corruption and there is no chance in the world of them ever being caught.

So I grab my polling card, lift my eyes to heaven and thank Him above than, unlike His faithful in the Holy Land, none of His servants on this sceptered isle dictate how and for whom to vote and on this day, the anniversary of the massacres in Tiananmen Square, I am able to express my view on who I want to represent our country in the EU parliament.

Long Live Freedom and Democracy!

Monday, 11 May 2009

Pepys in Hackney

"Going out towards Hackney by coach for the ayre, the silly coachman carries us to Shoreditch, which was so pleasant a piece of simplicity in him and us, that made us mighty merry." Samuel Pepys's diary entry for 10 May 1666.

Silly indeed!

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Press roundup

It's about time we holies of holy start holding an 'Idiot of the Week' competition. The contenders would be many and the competition strong. It could go under the name of Stamford Hill's Got Little Talent, though some may object on the grounds that buffoon yitzchok's weekly 'Overheard' epigram counts as originality of the first order. Anyhow, were such a contest to be held no doubt this week's prize would go to the one and only Judith Weil. While she has deserved an accolade many a time for her insightful reports into the even holier and thus madder in Israel, this week she has outshone even herself which is no mean feat.

In a headline piece on 'flu, apostrophe compliment of Ms Weil being as she must a kvetch in grammar as in chareidi mores and madness, Weil and her esteemed blockheads at the Jewish Tribune dedicated a significant part of the article on the 'flu (aka s*** flu) to why its proper description is verbum non grata in chareidi circles. This, she informs us is due to its association with 'daver acher' which, we are further told, is the chareidi euphemism for a, shhhh, careful, is no one looking? for a PIG. I can't believe what I've just said. I'm going to get the Ross/Brand treatment. My God, get me a Rabbi, quick, I've just said something that no Jew has uttered since 3 weeks ago when they read the very word in the Torah. Thank G*d, I was chatting outside at the time. Divine providence to avoid me hearing that forbidden word. Thank You Hashem!

But then turning over the paper, there in black and white, and in Yiddish letters, noch, were the very words 'swine flu', or, it being Yiddish, it was spelt more like, shvein flu. Now what is going on? Is swine permitted or forbidden? Could it possibly be that what is permitted when talking in Yiddish is forbidden in English when the goyim and that detestable organ, the JC, can hear? Or could it just be that in Yiddish we say chazer and everyone knows whom we mean, whereas the cow who wrote that piece is trying to defend the pigs who run the chareidi show in Israel with their noses so deep in the trough they wouldn't be able to tell the difference between a swine flu and the human variety even it sneezed in their faces?

Mind you it could just be something to do with the piece in the JT impugning the Sephardi Kashrut Authority for its certification of Kingsmill bread. There have been suggestions that animal-derived enzymes, are used in the bread. The JT in its tireless determination to keep its readers informed of everything forbidden quoted an anonymous, (amazing how brave these chaps are), kashrus 'expert' being worried about a non Kedassia authority's position on enzymes that it may be contrary to halochoh (sticklers in transliteration this time). Hopefully not from dovor acher though.

Interesting though that this stickler for linguistic rectitude knew the outcome of a Japanese criminal trial involving 3 teenagers who either knowingly or innocently imported drugs to Japan and were caught. Weil knows to tell us that they were 'naive' and that it did not occur to any of them what the packages may have contained. You see it may be that the lads were told that they were carrying forbidden substances and they took it to mean dovor acher and since the JT impugns no one but the less holy they wouldn't have discovered that the swine, pig and every other name you can throw at the sender of these parcels was himself of the very chareidi variety.

So now that we have a winner we can move on to the runner up. None one other than the redoubtable Ita Symons quoted in the JC referring to 'some grotty street in Hackney'. And you know what? She wasn't even referring to Oldhill Street or Dunsmure Road, not even to the manicured lawns and trimmed privets of Schonfeld Square. Well, Mrs Symons, if you think Hackney is grotty you are welcome to piss off to Judith Weil's enclaves where you can concrete over all open spaces, assuming there are any left given that every spare inch must be used up for another synagogue for the 15 sons and 12 son in laws of yet another rebbe who's died so that each can smash the windows of the others. That'll give you a taste of what grotty looks like. And once you've tasted the probity and integrity of all the lovely people Judith Weil is in thrall of, and having experienced chazeirim at close range you may even hark back with nostalgia to the probity of the Hackney finance team.

Friday, 23 January 2009

A Dilemma

I have a non-Jewish friend. Wow! I hear you say. Where did you get her from? What, it's a her!? Does your wife know about it? Shikses have Jewish friends!? How did you do it? What did you say the first time? You know how many times I've tried, but whatever I say doesn't seem to impress them. Antisemites. Sometimes they don't even smile.

There's a counterpoint too. Whom are you trying to impress, you shaigetz? You think that by having a goy for a friend you'll save your skin when Hitler, the sequel rolls into town? You think goyim look up at you because you have one of theirs for a friend? And who is she already? Your Polish cleaning lady probably. A classy English girl like the ones on aeroplanes won't even look at you. So we're not jealous and you can stick her in your mikveh bag. Anyway, what do you think she thinks of you? That you're cheap and you're selling out and just wait till you fall out with her and she'll call you a bloody Jew. My builder, a real englisher goy not one of these cheap poilishers, told me how he respects us for sticking to our own and talking in Yiddish when discussing in front of him the snags of his building work.

Phew! Now that that's out of the way we can carry on. I have a non-Jewish friend. A woman for all my troubles, as will soon be clear. I can't go into the details of the genesis of our friendship as it would blow my cover and, dear reader, you shall be tickled no longer. A harrowing thought that I wouldn't visit on even my first cousins once removed whose weddings I am being dragged to night after night for a lousy meal of (if you're lucky) 'schnitzel or beef, sir?' I do digress, don't I. Which reminds me... Ok, I promise to stick to my script from now onwards.

I know a lovely woman. My wife knows about it, since you ask, and there's no hanky panky and it's all hunky dory or as we say in Yiddish it's a kosher saucepan and a kosher spoon. We used to be closer and regularly have a coffee, she then moved to NY, (big deal, so she's Jewish after all, eh?) and we kept in touch by email. She then moved back and we would meet from time to time but less regularly as we were both working in different parts of town. Not the closest of friends but friends nonetheless.

Without going into the background, part of the reason we got to know each other is because she takes an interest in Israel and things Jewish. She would tell me of her membership of organisations working towards peace in the middle east and would ask me questions about Jewish practices. I in return would ask her what made her take an interest in our people as opposed to so many other peoples round the globe and was tempted to believe that we really are special after all and the rebbe in school and the speaker at the last wedding do really know what they're talking about. What in any event is certain is that we had a basis for countless discussions. This widened to generally shared interests and thus a friendship was formed. As said, not of the David and Jonathan intensity and without even remotely any Romeo and Juliet characteristics but friends nonetheless.

Well, within the last few weeks this particular friend has moved to Stamford Hill and that has unsettled the situation somewhat. While notionally I live and breathe Stamford Hill, walk the walk and oy do I tok the tok and generally am mad 'north north west', at heart though 'the wind is southerly' and even north-west can at times feel a tad stifling, if you get my gist. What I am getting at is that although to my chosen brethren I am one of them or almost so, to myself it doesn't always feel that way. So I go about my business the way it suits me though when at home do as Homer does and tuck in thsolent and kugel like the best of them. I tsk tsk on every new perceived travesty, feign injury at the slings and arrows the Jewish Tribune and the shul noticeboard constantly tell us are heading my way, sacrifice my kids to schools I wouldn't go anywhere near were I in my right senses and when everyone is looking religiously avoid handing over directly money to the lovely girls in Grodzinsky. OK, some of that was an exaggeration but nonetheless I am a local amongst the locals and for the moment intend to leave it that way.

So the question is, how does one deal with a friend like the one I've just described? If I had things my way I'd invite her for a Shabbos meal and introduce her to my family, I'd pop over to her for a natter now and then, get to know her boyfriend, and do all the other things friends usually do. In reality however, every time I go out on Shabbos resplendent in my eastern-European feudal garb I am nervous what would happen if I were to bump into her at all or, worse, while she were lugging a few heavy Morrisons bags. Imagine the sight: Shabbos morning 11.30ish when Stamford Hill goes about its kiddush business, men in their taleisim taking up the width of the pavement, girls and 'ladies' allowed to overtake on the outside, I mean, what's wrong? you don't need a ladder to climb the curb, and suddenly, 'oh, hello Howard, how are you?' and if I'm even more unlucky, down go the shopping bags and out comes a lovely female hand to greet me.

God in Heaven, if you are really watching us minions from high up above and you take a genuine interest even in the coming and goings of Portland Avenue and Heathland Road on a Shabbos morning then I know you must be so proud of your kinderlech in your celestial abode showing off to all the other gods how no one's naches comes close to yours. Pure Yiddish nakhes. But God do you want that merry-go-round to come to an abrupt halt and a sudden stop? Do you want mouths to fall wide open, men and women to stop in their tracks within four cubits of each other, bekitshes and skirts to freeze in their billowing state, plaits and peyes to stand quite literally on their heads, not to mention an overflow on the letters page in the News Update and a condemnatory op-ed in the Hamodia? Is this really your divine will? Well, then you know what you have to do to achieve it. But please, oh please, Hosanna, do chose someone else for this spectacle which I know will give you such heavenly delight. It'll make Your Shabboth, no doubt, and You'll be choking over Your tsholent with Your dear angels, but please again, use someone else to play the role. For as much as I love You, and You must know I do because I've been singing all the latest chart toppers in Yiddish and Hebrew with lyrics exuding my love for You, still forgive me this time, I'll make you more promises than I do during the take-off a an aeroplane but please please please choose someone else.

And if You really must, make her at least visit Waitrose so that she doesn't accost me with bloody Morrisons bags.

Monday, 29 December 2008


The time of week when I most think of this non-entity of a blog is Friday night. It starts in shul, me sitting hidden away in the alcove that is my place, assuming no one has pinched it or there is no simche with brothers, uncles, nephews and cousins far removed from all over the globe taking up the spare and not so spare seats. It is always my seat, chair is more like it, and a rather wobbly one at that, that goes first as I have a revered minhag passed down to me from previous generation to tuck in kugel and salad after the candles have been kindled and if I turn up to shul late, well, unlike a plate of kugel, whatever is missed is shul can always be made up.

The only downside of course being that my seat gets pinched and unfortunately I'm not one of those who shove people off MY seat. First because I don't really have a seat as that was nicked ages ago and second the place I do have to rest my posterior is in reality no more than a tiny space improvised once a week to serve as a repose for my tired self in an area which would otherwise have remained unoccupied. There is no table to rest my siddur in the corner I would never call home and it only really serves its weekly purpose when everyone is seated, for as soon as the point of rising to your feet arrives and all posteriors turn to west I'm squeezed into my little space with a gap to breathe only when the guy in front brings his rear end towards me while shokeling forward and like a swimmer I catch a bit of air at each alternate stroke.

As said my permanent place was stolen eons ago by a smug-face bastard who turns up to shul one of the first and settles into 'his' place as if he has a life tenancy if not a freehold over the place. At his funeral they will lament how punctual he was at the services while those following my cortege will hear sniggers if they only mention the word shul in the eulogy. So let me put it on the record: he is a thief and I am his victim. Let them say over my dead body what an angel I was that even when my seat was stolen in fluorescent-light robbery I turned my nether cheeks and parked them on the equivalent of a double red route during Monday morning rush hour where at any time I may and often am asked to move on to suffer the humility of joining in with a full throated Lecho Doidi in full standing view while those seated have the privilege of catching up on their sleep. And dare no one mention that the real reason for me keeping shtum is that I possess the pusillanimity of the main ingredient of the Friday night soup and like a good Jew don't want to make a fuss -though he will get it- and have the whole shtibel staring at me and muttering, not only does he turn up to lechi neraneno but he turns over the whole place. Go back to where you came from, fress your kugel and in case you haven't noticed some people do prefer to daven. Oysvorf!

So there in that little corner shielded from the glare of the strip lights above and the stare of the eyes around me I can indulge in some day dreaming, insights into the Sedre, some people call them, while heads round me fall like nine pins for a taste of the more authentic nocturnal visions. Truth said I have had an opportunity to stock up on material for my musings. After the shower that is de rigueur for every God-fearing Jew on a Friday afternoon, prostrated on my bed while waiting for the water droplets to be absorbed in my towelling robe or evaporate from those areas the towel can't reach I get the chance to leaf through the weight of newspapers that one cannot get through Shabbos without.

The 150gsm card that the Tribune is printed on, the multi-sectioned Hamodia, the free London Jewish News whose only merit is that it's free and possesses on the comments page some prominent bosoms, clad of course, what do you think we are? A bunch of proste goyim? the one and only JC, oy! what we do without it! we may be blessed with about 5 newspapers and advertisers servicing the holy square mile but how would we discover what's really going on in our midst without the JC? Who's abusing whom? Who stole what? Who by custody and who by penalty? So they don't have a columnist with the sagacity of buffoon yitzchak or tell us which rebbes are in town. I mean that's only because they can't fargin us our gedoilim while the best they have to offer are Rabbis, cough, splutter, Bayfield and Romain. But anyhow I was listing the papers to be perused while drying from the pre-shabbos douche to which must be added the clutch of non-Jewish papers to help me catch up with the doings outside Stamford Hill, NW London and that long and narrow horn-shaped strip on the eastern Mediterranean, not to mention some smatterings of Broughton Park and Brooklyn, NY.

To be continued, to be sure, bli neder, im yirtse hashem, I'm not promising, I do have a chasene tonight and I have to pick my brother up from the airport, but mertseshem I'll really try...