Sunday, 15 March 2015

“The best challos and cakes in London”

Grodz2

The above Grodzinski advert by Harris Grodzinsky actually comes in the form of a ‘Warning’. It seems that the ad is from 1897 or thereabout and the story behind it is told on the English side.

It is written in a wonderfully archaic Hebrew with a strong haskallic flavour but definitiely pre Modern Hebrew. There seems no doubt that ‘Harris’ was frum as he advertises his punctillious challoh taking and that he keeps Shabbos. Yet the fact that he is writing in Hebrew rather than in Yiddish, the style of the Hebrew itself and his English first name, written in Hebrew letters, (even the ‘Co.’ of the company name is rendered in Hebrew) all suggest that he was influence by the zeitgeist and was no traditional eastender holding on to the old world against all odds.

It seems that in those days it was enough for a baker to self-certify his products and rely on his good name. Nowadays of course it is the kashrus authority that provides the seal and mints a fortune in the process. As for the deception, well let’s leave that for another time.

I couldn’t resist having a go at a translation. It may sound stitled in places and that is becasue I have tried to retain the quanitness of the original.

So here goes:

Warning from Harris Grodzinski

The baker who is praised and famed for his good challos and cakes that excel in their wonderful taste and are the best in the city of London requests from every man who knows him to beware of those who compete with him, not with the quality of the merchandise, but they deceive the customers by minting [Grodzinski's] seal on their merchandise so as to attract to themselves the customers. Therefore whoever wants to acquire for his money good bread of fine-meal free from any combined impurities should turn to me. Also, all my acquaintances know that with me the baking is the ultimate of kashrus, I separate challoh according to the rules and I do not bake my bread on Shabbos, God forbid. My shops are open to all seekers 1) 20 Bedford St 2) 31 Fieldgate St

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!

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!

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.