Wednesday, 8 September 2010

On the Right Side of the Road

I should be wishing my handful of readers a Happy New Year and joking about the honey and how the chasidim go for the golden runny variety at the cost of £4 a jar and not the thick sliceable goyishe type that can be picked up on the cheap. And I should also be in bed so I can get up early for some pre-dawn penitence, followed by voiding promises and all the other traditions which make up Rosh Hashone Eve.

I’ll however write something brief on the creeping extremism into Stamford Hill and how by stealth ever more stringencies and madnesses are being imposed on us. While it is the big stories that make the news it is the little stories that matter. They creep in unnoticed and in no time become the norm so that when the next madness turn up it seems only reasonable to let it pass. Of course a contrarian will say ‘a meshugass!’, some woman will say ‘and what’s wrong with that?’ and the rest of the world will shrug and do as they’re told.

So here I shall keep a little flame of protest alight simply by noting what others would prefer to go unchecked. I’ll tag them each Fundamentalism-Watch and see how quickly they pile up. How’s that for a new year’s resolution?

In today’s Heimishe Newsheet, the ad-only, intellect-free weekly which is distributed round here (while the newspapers that teach you how, what and not to think are on the brink of closure) the central spread is a call for women to walk on one side of the pavement and men on the other when walking to the river for Tashlich to dump our sins on Rosh Hashone.

According to the centre spread it is to avoid ‘the possibility of men and women mingling’ and ‘it has therefore been decided, with the agreement of the Rabbonim, that men should walk on the left side of the roads leading to Tashlich and women on the right side of the roads.’

Feminists of Hackney where are you when we need you most?

Now if only one of those dear Rabbonim would care to put his name to the edict at least I’d respect him for his convictions. But they too are victims of some nut and are as gutless as the rest of us. And so we will all follow like zombies and be grateful we weren’t told to jump in the river once we get there.

On a serious note though, I would add a postscript to the notice that to avoid a wasted trip for those of a holy disposition they should please mingle on the way there only so that upon arrival they don’t look odd with no sins to dump. To those however of a more green inclination, admittedly not many amongst God’s Chosen, I’d say Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

As Van Morrison might have said walking towards the river with a sack load of sins:

Little baby take my hand
You can help me share this load
From the right side of the road
To the dark end of the street

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