**See update below**
Yesterday was the 61st yortseit of the founder, or main founder, of Yesodey Hatorah Schools, Rabbi Avrohom Shmuel Pardes. You wouldn't however be aware of it if you are fortunate enough to have your children admitted to one of its schools because the powers that be do not deem it worthy to mention to the children. True it is noted in the YHS calendar but with no explanation of his connection to the school.
It isn't as if the school doesn't trouble itself with its history, real or re-written. When the anniversary of the death of Rabbi Shmelke Pinter comes along the schools go into overdrive. Siyums and assemblies where the children are told ad nauseum about his greatness and that many years after his death they still owe him a debt of gratitude, write-ups in the papers the week before, photos in the papers the week after. There is even a fawning song for the girls to sing at the anniversary commemorations including the words 'Reb Shmelke our founder'. A straight and simple lie it may be but that's a small price to pay to perpetuate the myth now that his 3rd generation are filtering through to management and teaching positions while some interim caretakers are elbowed out in the process.
Let us though return to Rabbi Pardes. Although London remains indebted to him for the schools he established, and indeed the Pardes House Schools in Finchley proudly carry his name, the poor man died childless and therein lies the point. For insofar as YHS is concerned, he who took over sired several sons who in turn took over from him and they don't want to know. Across the road from the YHS Boys’ school some discreet lobbying landed us with the awkwardly named Rav Pinter Close, letterheads of the school trumpet its 'Past Principal' besides the eponymous current principal and current headteacher and nothing is done to correct the oft repeated canard of Pinter père being the founder.
Some principles indeed. Is it usual for schools to list past principals on their letterhead? I don't think so. Listed on its letterhead is also a past president. Ever heard of a school president? Me neither. And if they had a president in the past, when and why did they cease appointing one? Surely the Chair of Board of Governors who has gone AWOL since the day he was appointed would be happy to take the title. He hogged the Hackney mayoral chair like an Adath rosh hakohol so a presidency shouldn't cause him indigestion.
The thinking on the stationery must go something like this. To justify the proliferation of Pinters on the letterhead and give themselves an air of invincibility include the founder of the dynasty as 'Past Principal', and to justify mentioning historic positions while making a pretence of objectivity include a respected ghost from the past who neither dispels the myth nor challenges the incumbents.
But as for the founder himself who could do with some children keeping his memory alight, his candle is not worth the cake and lechaim even amongst the children and schools that remain his legacy irrespective of those who would rather not acknowledge this very awkward fact.
**Update: Someone wrote to say that Rabbi Pardes was mentioned yesterday at least in the girls’ school. It would have been a day late but still better than nothing, I suppose.
In the meantime I came across this letterhead of the boys’ school. Note the two principals but no headteacher. It could be that da’as torah mandates that headteachers need be listed only for a girls’ school. Or it might just be be that a headteacher does not merit a mention unless he or she shares a surname with the ‘past principal’. Who knows, though it does suggest the following variation on the light bulb joke.
Q: How many Pinters does it take to run a school?
A: As many as will fit onto the letterhead.