They couldn’t be more daft than we thought, could they? I mean, after a year like this we must by now know the wildest frontiers of their insanity and how could it be otherwise. Well, think again.
As the UOHC publishes its annual edict to segregate the public highway and introduces a Challa Burning service which, come on, admit it, it’s what’s really been missing from our lives and something we’ve all been begging for, and as one of their mikves which has now been a building site for about 10 years enters another year still as a building site, and as the police keep digging away at one of their loftiest, those in charge have had some other ideas on their mind.
While we’ve been rising early and begging forgiveness, unbeknown to us its entire lay and rabbinic leadership has committed mass hara-kiri. The rabbis got laid and now the lay leadership has joined them in taking a jump. And all for the sake of protecting the modesty of the one who least needs protection and harbouring he who ought to be handed over.
Let me explain. Each year the UOHC publishes a wall calendar which is displayed in its affiliated shuls. Besides the calendar bits, it lists the various services the UOHC deigns to provide to its minions. Like the Beth Din which disputatious parties prefer to avoid, the mikvo’oth of which some are little more than cesspits, the wedding-hall extortion racket which masquerades as a service to the needy at their most vulnerable hour, the fox-feeding yard in Enfield, the sodden marshes in Chesunt and, needless to say, the granddaddy of all rackets, Kedassia, which is accompanied by a dire warning of the consequences of forging the royal seal.
The format of the calendar has not changed in decades just as the dinosaurs who run that show are an annual cut and paste job. As far back as I can remember the layout has always been that in the top right corner were listed the members of the Rabbinate followed by the trustees you wouldn’t trust, the executive committee that gets little done and finally the whatever committee members who are as static as the dust on the windows of their Stamford Hill HQ.
Then to the left of the calendar appears a list of the names and addresses of affiliated shuls and shtieblech each with its rov or dayan. Despite the succession battles bedevilling almost every chasidic court with each side claiming to carry the authentic banner while accusing the other of usurping the crown, the UOHC has done a rather good job of keeping the peace. The calendar maintains an impartiality and each shtiebel is accorded the name it accords itself. And if the uninitiated are confounded by several shuls of the same name with no apparent means to identify to which faction each belongs then that is a small price to pay for communal harmony.
This year, however, the tightrope walkers must be nursing sore backsides for if they are good at keeping out of the troubles of others they are disastrous at managing their own. As we know, the last year in the annals of the UOHC has been like no other. An unprecedented resignation of one of its rabbinic star performers, a police investigation into the same star, denunciations by rivals, countless meetings of ditherers and dunces, letters, expulsions, retractions, international courts adjourned indefinitely. In short an Annus Horribilis of which the net affect is the diminution of the stature of the entire body, the decline of the moral authority of its clerics and the loss of confidence in its lay leaders.
In typical ostrich fashion at which they so excel their reaction has been not introspection, not even damage limitation but simply trying to pretend that life carries on as normal. Normal in this context meaning, that those who have done little more in their lives than warm their seats continuing in their good old ways. It’s the tried and tested method inherited on the whole from their fathers and if there’s been a hitch or two during the last year that is still no reason to chuck out the rebbe with the mikve water.
And so with the wisdom and sagacity we have become accustomed to they decided that the best policy for the calendar is to add a worm-free sandpit in the middle to bury their collective heads in and all the better to exhibit their kosher version of the horrible annus. And so the space that in the past was reserved for the Rabbinate (see top photo) this year contains nothing (see bottom photo). No lists, no names, no rabbinate and no committee. Just as it ought to be, some might think. If the rabbis must go then the lay leaders of whom not a single one took any responsibility for the mess they dragged us into should fare no better. And if their names being dropped from the calendar is the start then let’s help them finish it off.
That was still not enough to protect the modesty of the randy one and they had to go one further. On the timetable of the Beis Horo’o they also dropped the names of the rabbis on duty because, once again, if all the functioning rabbis were on display the dysfunctional one would stand out by this omission and so all had to go. Like the joke of the editor caught in flagrante with his secretary on the office desk. If the personnel were too valuable to be fired then at least the desk had to go. In our case it’s the poor calendar.
But hang on there, did I not say that there is one other list. As mentioned above, the left hand lists all the affiliated shuls. Those with long memories may recall that but for a brief 24 hour period when the Divrei Chaim shul was unaffiliated and which was followed by a hostage taking drama nothing has changed on that front. So with the shul intact the list too could remain intact and so published in full it is (see above). Goodness gracious for that since the UOHC do not provide enough services to fill the blank space that would have resulted from omitting that list.
And this, my dear readers, is the story of our community.
We’ve been leaderless for almost a year but now, thank God, just in time for the New Year, they’ve had the grace to admit it and finally go. What a decent lot they must have been and how we shall miss them dearly. May God bless ‘em all. Amen.