Thursday, 23 October 2014

ושמרו בני ישראל את השבת – ShabbatUK Special

I know that ShabbatUK (or ShabbosUK as we don’t call it) has hardly registered round here but I for one can’t help being inspired by it. Shabbos is truly a gift that all can partake in. From the chosid who brings it in early on Thursday night with multiple helpings of tsholent and kugel and barely draws it to a close Sunday morning at 3am while seeing off the Shabbos Queen with the leftovers (some households serve it for Sunday supper too), to obsessed halachists fretting with the opening of fridge doors and unscrewing bottles, to the less observant who might celebrate Shabbos with a Friday night dinner and leave it at that.

One thing is certain: from the hushed elegance of the candlelighting by the woman of the house before sunset on Friday to the more raucous extinguishing of the fire by the man of the house after nightfall on Shabbos, Shabbos is a uniquely Jewish experience. In an age of slavery it introduced the concept of a universal day of rest for everyone from the master to the animals, and it remains no less relevant in our non-stop, 24/7 era. For as long as Shabbos lasts there is little but Shabbos and what surrounds it. Time to reflect, time to enjoy, time to reap the fruits of the week that was and time to rejuvenate for the week to come.

Let us not pretend that it is always easy and the long summer Shabbos afternoons can be a challenge even for the most faithful. But then this is after all religion and not the product of focus groups; one size fits all is in the nature of the beast. Yet nevertheless at its heart is a day of rest, a day of spiritual enhancement and physical enjoyment, a time for parents to enjoy their children and a time for children to get the attention of their parents. As the zmiros goes, Hashomer shabbos habein im habas, Shabbos is observed with the son and the daughter.

So how welcoming to see the new Chief Rabbi’s initiative in organising and promoting ShabbatUK when thousands will partake in the joy of Shabbos, and for many of who it may well be their first such experience. It is often humbling to see how others react to Shabbos when for us who were brought up with it it can sometimes come across as stale and boring. Unfortunately, I will not be hosting anyone or doing anything towards this special Shabbos and yet it is impossible to see and read the excitement about it and not get carried along. So here, dear readers, is my vort lekoved Shabbos Kodesh, ShabbatUK.

On Friday night we recite 3 times the words of Vayechilu hashomayim v’horoetz, which are the psukim for the 7th day of the Story of the Creation in Sefer Breishis. We say it once privately in the shmone esre, once publicly immediately after and a 3rd time over wine with our family at the start of Kiddush.

The words are:

ויכולו השמים והארץ וכל צבאם
ויכל אלקים ביום השביעי מלאכתו אשר עשה וישבות ביום השביעי מכל מלאכתו אשר עשה
ויברך אלקים את יום השביעי ויקדש אותו כי בו שבת מכל מלאכתו אשר ברא אלקים לעשות

And the heaven and earth were completed with all their hosts
And on the seventh day God completed all the work which He had made, and He rested on the seventh day from all the work that He had made
And God blessed the seventh day and He sanctified it for He rested in it from all the work which He created.

These psukim teach us the specialness of Shabbos. Completing a job doesn’t always bring with it rest. One can complete a job and still be troubled by aspects of it, wanting to go back and change something, regretting at not having done things differently and altogether being stressed about the job despite the fact that it is complete. This is why completing a job is not quite the same as resting from it.

Rest, however, on its own is also not enough. Even when you put your feet up from a task completed other anxieties may arise. What now, what next, are often the prevailing thoughts after having laboured on a project even if it was successfully completed, and holiday blues is a recognised mood that some people experience when taking a break. A blessing is required to introduce peace and harmony to rest and the absence of work in itself is not enough. And when spirituality is introduced to that blessing only then do we have a true day of rest and respite from the rough and tumble of life.

This is what these puskim teach us: Not only did Hashem complete the Creation on the day of Shabbos but He also rested on that day. That too was not enough and In addition Hashem endowed this special day with His blessing and then sanctified the day on top of it all.

It is this blessing that we feel at our Shabbos table surrounded by our families and enjoying the Shabbos food and it is this spirituality and kedusha that we aspire to in the uplifting Shabbos prayers and zmiros.

It must be a privilege and a duty for us who were born into it to be able to share it with others.

Gut Shabbos!

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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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Tuesday, 23 September 2014

ולמכון שבתך השמים

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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Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Constant own goals

Vaad Lemaan Tohar Hamachaneh letter Iyar 5774

The above was sent to me with the following text:

The matchless Vaad Lemaan Intimidation of the Machane has come close to scoring a spectacular own goal by shielding an apparently known abuser. Local moisdos (and possibly others) recently received the attached letter.

Phoning the mobile number given during the designated times goes straight to a pre-recorded message saying only that the person concerned is "Mrs [X]" (that narrows it down, then - presumably it might possibly be the choshuva rebbetzin) and saying that if you want more help, to call 020 xxxx xxxx. Calling that number gets you another voicemail message asking you to leave a message. Having done so, you then eventually get a call back in person from one of the stalwarts of the heilige Va'ad, who "having taken legal advice" explains that, leider, they can't give out her first name. But she is an [X] [X] who has been "abusing against boys", but it seems she's AC/DC and is choshud for girls as well.

Shame, otherwise it wouldn't be so bad and she could be given a safe job in one of our chadorim and the whole thing could be kept quiet. And she has teenage children of her own. And she lives on [X] Road (we could be getting close to identifiable details here...).

And the goyim are sort of aware of her but not really, and it would be worse for her if she was properly reported to them for what she is thought or known to have done or planned to do, so the Vaad is keeping everyone safe in this much preferable way. Everyone, that is, unless you happen to be a goy. Or a modern-orthodox Yid (I use the term Yid loosely of course). Etc.

Shameful.

Someone should advise the said woman to undergo a gender reassignment and she’ll be perfectly safe. She might even be asked to fill the empty plinth on the rabbinate.

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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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Friday, 24 January 2014

Horrible Histories

Yesodey Hatorah is holding a fundraising evening and good luck to them for that. They don’t have to pay for the use of the ‘voluntary aided’ wedding hall that is extorted from the rest of us so that’s already £2,500 gained. As they say, every little helps.

As part of the build-up to this annual event, Hamodia has been running a 4-part series, "Yesodey Hatorah - Past and Present",  which is supposed to be a "short historical review of its history". Several photos accompanied the articles with Reb Shmelke Pinter appearing in many of them but not a single photo of that minor inconvenience, Rabbi Pardes, who by chance just happened to found the school.

Hamodia correctionTo be fair to them, they apologised in advance for "unintentional inaccuracies, of which we would be pleased to be informed" and by week 3 some corrections duly appeared. The corrections included a number of local names who had given 'substantial support' to the school and also noted that Reb Dovid Berkowitz was a 'menahel' prior to Pinter senior. I suppose we ought to deduce that other than those few corrections the remainder was accurate to a tee.

 

I hate to rain on their parade but I can't resist pointing out what appears to be a little invention that inexplicably made its way through the army of scholars and highly qualified history teachers who must have fact checked every syllable to ensure that nothing slipped through the barbarians at the gate safeguarding their family’s honour, prestige and not a small fortune. I will leave it for readers to decide whether what follows forms part of the 'unintentional' or whether it has mens rea scribbled all over it. To assist you along with this little brain teaser here is just a small clue: the current 'Principal' of the voluntary aided senior girls' school happens to function as an 'unpaid advisor' to the Hamodia. Could be a red herring or may possibly hold the clue to the puzzle. We may never know.

IMG_00001318Anyhow, back to the 'history'. According to the second instalment of the series (above) the genesis of Yesodey Hatorah school was at a meeting called by Rabbi Pardes in 1942 in war-torn London. Of that meeting the Hamodia has this to say: "Rav Pardes called a meeting attended by Rav Rabinow, Rav Shmelke Pinter" and which included Pinchos Landau, Getzel Berger, Shaul Bodner, Wolf Schiff, Efrayim Nussbaum, Yechiel Schwimmer, Sholom Hanstater and Avrohom and Mendel Getter.

So no mistake there. Pinter the Elder was firmly in attendance at the school's founding meeting and which would make him a co-founder of the school.

Now for some facts. I am told that in 1943 Pinter was a melamed (Hebrew teacher) at the school of 6 year olds. One former pupil told me that Pinter Senior taught him mishanyos. Another former pupil told me that in 1948 Pinter was teaching 8 year olds and that he taught him gemore. Knowing the status of melamdim in general even these days and all the more so then, one can reasonably question whether a future melamed would be invited to a meeting attended by the Great and the Good. But let's leave assumptions and, you might say, prejudices aside and concentrate on the more concrete evidence.

1957, Dec 20 - Part 3The above (click to enlarge) is a JC article from 1957 under Reb Shmelke Pinter's byline who by then was well enough established at the school to be titled Prinicpal. The JC had published an entire supplement that week dedicated to the school and also in aid of a forthcoming fundraising dinner. (Note the Guest of Honour!) . Pinter starts the article with this same epic 1942 meeting and lists all the attendees save for one significant omission. Himself. This begs the question: are we to believe that at a time when he had yet to establish himself as the sole principal operator, his title notwithstanding, he failed to place himself at the centre of the action? Or is it the case that he was simply not there?

A World Apart, 120-121If you are still following me, there is even more to it. This meeting is also mention in A World Apart, The Story of the Chasidim in Britain (London, 1997) by Harry Rabinowicz, and it gives as its source the above JC article. But note how by then myth is surreptitiously replacing fact. In the JC article, Reb Shmelke quotes Rav Pardes addressing the meeting, "We are in serious danger." But in Rabinowicz, published when Reb Shmelke was no longer with us, these epic words are uttered by Rabbi Pardes "clad in tallit and kittel " before Kol Nidrei when he "extracted a solemn pledge from Rabbi Shmelke to establish a Jewish day-school." If this is to be believed, it is remarkable that Reb Shmelke himself mentions none of it in his article back in 1957. But then stranger things have happened in that place.

The myth making does not end there either. A page further Rabinowicz has Pinter acquiring a disused nursing home at 2/4 Amhurst Park in 1948 , which is still the site of the nursery and boys' school. Besides the fact that it was the Getter brothers and Getzel Berger who donated the Amhurst Park buildings, as mentioned above in 1948 Pinter was still a melamed and at that time was acquiring little else but his meagre salary.

Let's leave it to another day to fill in on some of the true history of the school, a lot of which is well worth repeating but unfortunately cannot be spotted by the current ‘owners’ who care for little more than some name dropping. For now, significant omissions in the Hamodia series include the first head of the school Myer Dominitz, the Lieger Rov who was head of Kodesh at the school during some time in the '50s, those who chaired the building fund during the school’s early years, the trustees of the Great Garden Street Talmud Torah of the East End who made substantial donations to the school, the Chief Rabbis and London Beth Din Dayonim who helped it along and many others. Athough Hamodia did mention Wolf Schiff as having attended the founding meeting no mention was made of his running of the school during those difficult early years and without whom the entire project may have folded. (Oh, and shhh don’t mention the boxing match.)

Instead we were fed Pinter ad nauseum and given a roster of gedoilim who stepped in from time to time when paying one of their flying visits but who contributed little to the school. It fits the zeitgeist perfectly, I guess, and so big deal if the historical record is ever so slightly distorted. There are no qualified teachers to check, so who really cares. As we say, there are lies, damn lies and Yesodey Hatorah history.

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Sunday, 5 January 2014

The iRov

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Greetings

I received your letter concerning the intention to install an eiruv in your city [Manchester] and you have explained numerous serious doubts about [the validity of] the eiruv. The rabbonim of here [London] who specialise in the rules of eiruv have also commented to me likewise and told me that there are grave doubts about the eiruv. Besides, supervising an eiruv is a very difficult task and involves large costs and certainly over time it will lead, God forbid, to the desecration of the Shabbos. It has been agreed by the gedoilim of the generation that one should not make an eiruv in large cities like yours and this was also the opinion of my father of blessed memory.

It is therefore your duty to do whatever you can that the [eiruv] should not come to fruition.

In the merit of observing the Shabbos may you be blessed with all good and God will be in your help and may you succeed in all your endeavours.

Your friend who seeks your peace

Moshe Chaim Ephraim Padwa

(Chief Rov of the London based Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations)

What’s worse than having a rov on your Rabbinate in your city allegedly molesting women who come to him for counselling? An eiruv in a city some 200 miles away of course and how silly of me to ask. This is the most pressing issue and requires meddling even in another community’s affairs especially when affairs in your own town are a wee bit complicated, to put it politely.

As a wise man quipped, rather wrestle female arms than wrestle with your own conscience. And if that means knotting yourself up in someone else’s rope it’s still preferable to being the only major Jewish community anywhere in the world that says no to an eiruv. It was after all King Solomon the Wise who instituted the eiruv so you should be able to figure out what it takes to annul it.

But let’s try to understand the murky politics behind this. An eiruv in Manchester will set a very dangerous precedent for us mugs without one and so two wrongs will make one right as they’re wont to do in these parts. The loonies in London and in Manchester have joined a common cause and before not too long they may even institute arm wrestling sessions north of the M1. At Brackmans, the Ladies-who-Lunch must be sick in anticipation. Not to worry lasses, without an eiruv it’s no strings attached.

What however is most interesting is Rabbi Padwa’s newfound concern for matters financial. The apparently astronomical cost of supervising an eiruv is of course unique to the UK and against which hiring a stadium to prevent you reading this very blog post is a mere pittance. This penny pinching may well be connected to the dependency of his community on a whole range of benefits which, unless the powers that march on Westminster on our behalf get their way, may be drastically cut if they haven’t been already.

So let us applaud our dear Rov for his immense bravery and courage and let us hope others will follow his lead and give him and his ilk a taste of their own medicine. Let us get rabbis from Bnei Berak to Brooklyn, from Jerusalem to Johannesburg to proclaim loud and clear why London, Manchester and any other city are not just fit for an eiruv but that it is a mitzvah to install one and the sooner we get one the better. And while they’re at it, they may also wish, as a footnote, to voice an opinion on posing for a photo-op with suspects while under police investigation.

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