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.



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.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

A Stamford Hill retrospective – Volvo City

This is a TV documentary on Stamford Hill from some time during late 80s/early 90s.

The days before the Previa was invented (or did it take us time to make the discovery?), when mobile phones were the size of bricks, when Pinter was still ‘Abraham’ and a mere Deputy Headmaster and when the cops didn’t have to engage in PC claptrap. There are some real gems there especially from our dear old friend and a nice reminder of what sheitels looked like in those bygone days.

Some things however never change. According to the police officer in the programme ‘this particular community are on the edge of forever but their forever is back, behind them… It’s almost as if the future is irrelevant apart from the messianic legend.’

If you think he’s overstating his case look out for next week’s jamboree at Ally Pally when they’re going to rail against the internet and technology. Time to chuck out your microwave ovens, folks.

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.

Friday, 22 June 2012

On the dangers of mobile phones

The following relates to reports of a man arrested in Stamford Hill for alleged child abuse (or for buying tzitzis for a child, if you believe local reports). I picked this up on facebook and I can’t vouch for its veracity. We do mass produce urban myths round here but it’s still a nice one.

There's no big news in this one, but it does have an interesting twist... There's a little scandal going on in (Stamford Hill) London, since yesterday afternoon. A chasidisher 'kollel' yungerman was arrested for molesting young kids/kid. The police arrived at the Kollel and asked the Rosh Hakolel if he knows 'ploini ben ploini'... the Rosh Hakolel said "No" (of course he wouldn't be a musser and give over a fellow jew to the police...). So the police told him "We know that you do know who he is... but it's o.k." Then they had two policemen block the entrance of the Kollel from both sides so no one would escape, and they placed a phone call to the yingerman's cell-phone, when the phone rang they knew exactly who the guy was and they took him away... I guess now there's more proof of the ‘danger’ of having a cellphone...!

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

The Queen and We

Living in this country I cannot but join in the outpouring of celebration for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. Belonging at the same time to the Jewish religion I cannot but feel nauseous by the sycophancy of our Chief Rabbi's prayer, speech in the House of Lords and appearance on the Today programme's Thought for the Day.

We as Jews have good reason to be grateful for the stable and democratic society we live in where all religions and races are treated equally and where the rule of law reigns supreme. History has given us ample opportunity to sample an array of alternatives and it hardly need be said that they haven't always been pleasant. The Queen as Head of State embodies these values and an occasion like this gives us an opportunity to join our fellow countrymen and women in celebrating the stability of her reign and showing appreciation for her unflinching duty to the citizens of this country.

But to thank her as her "loyal and devoted subjects" for "her repeated acts of kindness to our community and its institutions" smacks of grovelling servility rather than respectful appreciation. It reminds me of an old age home in Jerusalem where residents saw fit to display on the wall near the lifts a framed appreciation to the management in similarly fawning terms. And of the cringeworthy mazel tov adverts the Hebrew teachers of local schools place in the advertising sheets when the offspring of those who deign to pay their salaries are engaged and married.

While it may be incumbent on us to show appreciation to the Queen as the titular head of state, as citizens of this country we also have a right to expect no less than these kindnesses. The idea that we as a community owe her something more than the rest of the country is belittling and insulting. The Chief should be reminded that he is not in the 19th century talking to huddled masses of refugees in Toynbee Hall in honour of Queen Victoria but his prayers are for born and bred British Jews in 2012 to honour Queen Elizabeth II.

He doesn't however stop at her kindness to us. Rabbi Sacks praises Her Majesty's sceptre as being 'law and morality, equality and freedom.' The Queen may carry out her role with grace and discretion and a great sense of duty but it is parliament and not the Queen that makes laws. And the Chief Rabbi's prayer aside, I have yet to hear of Her Majesty being referred to as an arbiter of morals. Her concern is indeed the welfare of the people of this country but her passion lest we forget is also corgis and horses. The Chief must be scaling the very top of his lofty register with "for sixty years the Queen has spoken gently to the better angels of our nature."

Here are links to prayers of the Church of England, the Catholic Church, a letter from the Muslim Council of Britain and the Chief Rabbi. To the Chief's benediction add his speech in the House of Lords, the most syrupy extract of which was republished on the front page of the JC, flavoured by his panegyric on Thought of the Day and garnished with yet another paean to the Monarch in an op-ed article in The Times.

Pray tell me, why is it that of all prayers the Jewish prayer and thanksgiving must sound as if it is addressed to the Tzar, Kaiser and Sultan all rolled into one? Are only we Jews her 'loyal and devoted subjects' and is it only we who must "express our deepest sentiments of loyalty, esteem and gratitude?" Why can the others do with a British nod of the head while we must genuflect and repeatedly fall on our knees as if it's Yom Kipur in shul? We are not minions living under her protection; we are equal citizens living in a democratic, plural society and this slobbering nonsense is insulting and belies the truth. It is precisely that we require no special favours that we are so fortunate.

It was also sneaky of Rabbi Sacks in his Thought of the Day broadcast to translate the mishna הוי מתפלל בשלומה של מלכות as 'pray for the welfare of the monarch'. The closest would be, for the welfare of the monarchy, which is for the institution and not the person. A more accurate translation however would be for the welfare of the state, or as the Chief himself translates it in his Siddur, 'pray for the welfare of the government.' That is what we ultimately pray for. The Queen is indeed the personification of the state but that still need not turn us into quivering vassals.

So yes, raise your cups in a lechaim to the Queen and join the throngs in celebrating her reign of six decades and appreciating her dedication to her citizens. But if republicanism be your bent have no qualms in joining the anti-monarchy protests for it is precisely in the fact that we are equal citizens of this Sceptered Isle to take part in all aspects of our society that we celebrate.