Showing posts with label Abraham Pinter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Abraham Pinter. Show all posts

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.

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.

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.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Diary of a Scandal

The conventional view is that Pinter made it big time and on the whole it is difficult to argue with that. The fact of the matter is that Livingstone's article in last week's JC mentions just one person by name whom Ken tells us he likes and respects in equal measure. Tell me who your friends are... comes to mind which is perhaps why it was not quite the local topic of conversation last Shabbos. There is however no principle that the represented must know what is being said and done in their name and so let's get back on topic.

Rather than blow Pinter's trumpet which he is more than capable of doing on his own perhaps we should examine his role in all of this and once again ask what's in it for him. Let us take a closer look at the events of the last weeks and see how our liked and respected hero carried out his public duties as representative of the downtrodden of Stamford Hill.

12 February 2012: Ken Livingstone attends Side-by-Side dinner at the behest of Pinter. Ken's presence was not pre-announced on the invitations and begging letters for the brochure. Had it been it may have made a significant difference to the amount raised.

15 March 2012: The JC reports on a dinner attended by Ken and Jewish Labour supporters. 'Sources' briefed the paper and though I don't know who those sources are of the 25 people reportedly present only Pinter is at this stage mentioned by name. Although we were told that the discussions were off the record the report did tell us what Pinter asked for and what he didn't get. Pinter also gave a statement to the paper that he was ‘disappointed’ that Ken was given an opportunity to make amends but didn't take it. Hamodia, a large part of whose readership Pinter purportedly represents and where he is the resident spinner, is silent on the issue.

23 March 2012: The JC reports on Ken's 'rich Jews' comment that since the Jewish community was rich they were unlikely to vote for him. The 'sources' who briefed the JC the week earlier had seen fit to provide quite a bit of detail of what went between Pinter and Ken but not this. The comments were made towards the end and it's possible that Pinter was at that stage bentshing from a siddur (did they serve beer and sandwiches?). The same issue of the JC also reported on a letter to Ed Miliband by some of the attendees complaining of Ken's comments. Pinter did not sign the letter. Notably, the letter is signed by Rabbi Danny Rich who is the chief executive of Liberal Judaism in the UK and who also attended. It appears 'sharing a platform' is not quite the cardinal sin we've always been told it is.

Dan Rickman, another attendee, writes an article that Ken 'is part of the problem not part of the solution.' Jonathan Freedland, who was also at the dinner, wrote in the Guardian that he can't bring himself to back Ken. Nothing from Pinter, mind you, and nothing in Hamodia either.

29 March 2012: We finally get Ken's recantation mentioning three times the man who seems to have been least offended but who perhaps has most to offer. The JC also reports that Ken said at the start of the dinner that he is happy for it to be on the record and so whoever was briefing the paper on week 1 was either misinformed or misleading. Hamodia has finally woken up with a headline on page 5 about Ken having been 'misinterpreted' followed by a report on his 'alleged' comments. Can't they ask what was actually said?

Now that's out of the way let's get back to the Ken and Pinter lie-in. Ken is a seasoned politician and while he may have felt that he went too far this time and perhaps genuinely regretted some of his more juicy expressions he also chose his words carefully in his apology. Both for what he apologised for and to whom he apologised.

To Ken and Pinter we Stamford Hillers are fodder as the poor and not particularly zionist Jews. Ken may not give much of a monkey for them richies up north west but we paupers are different. If there are votes to be garnered here and Pinter is our saviour and protector then appeasing him must have been high on his agenda. Ken also has no need to offend our types in order to appeal to some of his other constituencies. Ken even tells us that Labour is the preferred party in North London, note the lack of 'West', though nobody's bothered telling him that it really depends whether it happens to be a Chareidi candidate.

Compare however the following: To the Jews it is "If I am elected my policy will not be to promote one faith or community over another… but to promote interfaith and inter-community dialogue." Whereas at the Finsbury Park mosque it was a pledge to make London a beacon for the Prophet's message and "make your life a bit easier financially.” Not so much a promotion of one faith as an abandonment of all others. As Philip Collins wrote in The Times, 'I don't want a mayor who pits 1m Muslims against 200,000 Jews.'

Enough of Ken though and let's now turn to Pinter. The dinner was by all accounts a meeting of Labour party supporters and Pinter did start his political life in Hackney Council when the hard left were in control and Ken was running London in his first incarnation at the GLC.

Like the best socialists he stands for the poor and downtrodden by ensuring they remain that way and don't dare rise above their station. He is the liberal who has elevated school exclusions into an art form and admissions into a misnomer. He is the progressive at whose school girls are handed fliers requesting them to undertake to stand aside and let men pass. From him you get not equal opportunities but equal opportunism where one family just happens to be more equal than others. The socialists may believe in nationalisation but he is one who has privatised in all but name a publicly funded school.

He is the school principal who prefers to leave 14% of the school budget unspent. The advocate of the poor who won't feed their offspring school dinners. The protector of the impoverished who makes the mere 4% of free school meal claimants queue demeaningly at the local bakery to exchange their vouchers. The anti-poverty campaigner who charges the unwashed £250 to retrieve helium balloons from the ceiling. He is so slippery he cannot even decide what his name ought to be switching from Abraham to Avrohom according to its ethnic political value. We have heard how Ken funnels his earnings and it's time we get some information on the school hall income and how much that generates.

Ken and Pinter are birds of a feather shockling together. Ken needs the votes Pinter can supposedly provide and Pinter needs the cover of people like Ken to continue the hegemony of himself, the missus, kids, brother, nephews, nieces and shortly no doubt grandsons and daughters too. They are next of kin and deserve no less. True to Labour's ideals he will tell us plebs what is best for us and we'll bloody well accept it on pain of having our sons and daughters walk the streets. Ken is loyal to his comrades and if it means looking aside over some tiny local school it’s only a small price to pay.

But as another Abraham said, You can't fool all the people all the time.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Ken’s fig leaf

streaker-crop

I must apologise in advance for another Pinter blog but I really can't be blamed if the Great Man makes it a point of popping up in the paper every other week or indeed every single week. The man is undoubtedly a bow of many strings meeting anyone who matters and sounding off on all and sundry and surely I cannot be faulted for trying to play every note.

This time it's a meeting with Ken, or actually two. The first time was when Ken appeared as guest of honour at a dinner for the Side-by-Side children's charity. According to Geoffrey Alderman the invitation was at the instigation of Pinter who is a trustee of the charity. Our own Yaakov Shi’e Rosner also wrote a letter to the Chronicle denouncing Pinter for orchestrating the invitation.

It should be said that Pinter and Side-by-Side are not natural bed fellows. For several years prior to 2003 Side-by-Side had its premises on the grounds in Egerton Road now occupied by Yesodey Hatorah school and adjunct seminary. Side-by-Side had to be evicted by Hackney before handing the site to the school and the case ended up in the High Court where Side-by-Side lost. At that time Side-by-Side was still run by the redoubtable Mrs Rumpler, a truly inspiring woman who singlehandedly set up the school in the face of much communal derision if not outright opposition.

The charity later hit financial difficulties and was taken over by Yossel Margulies. At which point enter our good friend. Nothing to raise an eyebrow as he and Margulies happen to be first cousins and the intermingling of familial and organisational appointments is a particular feature of that clan’s DNA. The only surprise is that while Pinter pops up on this and that board of trustees ‘his own’ organisations are ring-fenced from communal bigwigs other than for ceremonious rollouts on official visits for the cameras.

As we well know, where there's Pinter there's brass which this time came in the shape of a visit from Ken providing yet another photo-op. Not content with the Side-by-Side event the 'rabbi' went one further meeting Ken with a group of Jewish labour councillors. We know only of a single name that attended and, yes, you've guessed it. We also know that the attendees were not the 'usual suspects' which would make Pinter an unusual suspect. Difficult to argue with that one.

Ken's embrace of extremists is no secret and despite Pinter's pleadings he gave no ground at the meeting. Lest Ken is dismissed as just an anti-Zionist but with nothing against Jews per se here is the full transcript of his verbal abuse when comparing a Jewish journalist to a concentration camp guard. It now turns out that at the meeting Ken also suggested that he did not expect Jews to vote for him because votes for the left usually come from the poor and Jews are rich. By contrast at a speech last Friday at the Finsbury Park Mosque Ken said he wished London to be a "beacon that demonstrates the word of the prophet, peace be upon him.” He also pledged to his audience to “make your life easier, financially.” Milking the rich Jews might be a good place to start.

Wonderful bedfellow Pinter has found himself but then what don't some people do in the name of askonus. It is said that Pinter left Hackney politics at the instigation of his father who was concerned at his cosiness with the system and one wonders what his pa would have made of this.

Ken may have a fetish for beards though it could quite simply be that while embracing extremists like Qaradawi it is convenient to have cover provided by a capacious hat. One can't be accused of having an issue with Jews while simultaneously cavorting with Judaism's smiling spokesman. Let us however disabuse Ken of any notion that Pinter can deliver votes in addition to his head gear and beard. Besides the fact that this community is overwhelmingly Tory and that Boris is a firm favourite round here, Ken is detested for many more reasons than his perceived anti-semitism and actual anti-zionism. Ken's cockiness doesn't go down well in a community where parking tickets are one of the hottest topics of conversation and bus lanes something even Pinter campaigned against.

Pinter too is one of the last people capable of bringing votes for anyone other than for his preferred choice of parent governor. He is rarely seen in the flesh round here and virtually never heard other than in the safety of his own school telling parents about the generation gap that apparently exists outside the chareidi community. He may yet turn up on a soap box outside Sainsbury's alongside loonies yelling for the day of judgement but don't hold your breath.

If there is little in it for Ken the question must be asked what's in it for Pinter. He has taken a flutter on the outcome of the mayoral elections and pawned us in the process but whom exactly is he representing and for what purpose? Besides 'his' collection of schools and trusteeships he is also one of three ne'emanim (treasurers) of the UOHC. So was he representing the UOHC at the meeting? If not, would they care to disassociate themselves because he was definitely not representing the bulk of the UOHC's members who would have nothing to do with Ken even if he turned up in a streimel waving a blue and white flag.

Perhaps Pinter is hoping for an honour should Ken win. He may even have been offered a role in a future Ken administration. If the black community can have Lee Jasper why shouldn't we have our own version in the shape of a 'rabbi' and all the other titles he has amassed?

If that is indeed the case let Ken win and let the fun begin.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Pinter on Governance

I know it's only two days to Purim and you may think that what I'm about to tell you is a seasonal spoof. Trust me that this is not the case as even if I tried I could not have made it up.

In the Hamodia of two weeks ago we were given yet another photo of the great man, this time not in the company of other great men but in front of a lectern. This is a relatively rare occurrence and indeed it was not in the N16 area where we must make do with his beneficence on our behalf but where we rarely get to hear the great man himself. Of course he pops up in Edgware for fostering in Hackney and Haringey and the ripple effects instantly reach the boundaries of Waltham Forest. He was investing in our future with a Ken photo op which he also did with Jeffrey Archer so who said he lacks political nous? And now he's done it again by popping up at no less a place than the Rabbinical Council of the United Synagogue.

Actually this may have been one of the better matched engagements on his very busy schedule since a 'rabbi' and rabbis ordinarily go well together. Never mind that many of these rabbis would get nowhere close to any of 'his' schools but it was pay back time. The Chief was hosted at YHS and despite the news blackout that was imposed even at the newspaper he graciously advises a reciprocal visit was in order and the invitation duly arrived.

So what did the great man choose to talk about? Liberty and Freedom? Nah, that's for Guardian readers only and not something to bestow upon his co-religionists. Tznius, perhaps? That would have been easy and he could have made a visual presentation aided by the graphic sheets handed out at ‘his’ school. But no, that too was given a miss. How about the evils of nepotism? Now, that's getting personal and we ought to set that one aside.

Let me not keep you in suspense any longer. According to the Hamodia the speech included 'his many years of experience dealing with local authorities and government departments in his roles in school governance…'

How could I have missed it? Since governance has always been in the remit of the 'principal' and little to do with the chair of board of governors there are few who can speak on the subject with such authority. Topics would surely have included transparency of the frosted window type, communicating with parents and how not to do it, raising revenue through the school hall, tips from the missus on menus for school dinners, creating a budget surplus and the black hole to keep it safe and, as a final topic, being in control without being in the chair. Fascinating topics each and every one and let us hope the questions, if any, that followed were of the planted variety as one does when VIPs come knocking.

I should also suggest that in light of this year's enlightened choice of speaker the Rabbinical Council might wish to consider for their next bash inviting Boris to talk on sholem bayis followed by Murdoch on privacy. Should they be otherwise engaged they can always opt for Chris Hune to discuss the Highway Code.

Or if all else fails, how about the Sun editor on Tznius?

Thursday, 1 March 2012

The Meisterspinner of Chareidiberg

As you may already know Pinter gave a comprehensive interview to the Blood and Property blog. And if you don't, sign up to my Twitter feed. There. On the right. Nu, what are you waiting for?

The interview spans a wide range of subjects, from local planning issues and land grabs to gender segregation, the position of women in chareidi society, chareidi politics in Israel through to the kosher dictionary and local demographics. Even contraception is covered on which there is, unfortunately, no comment. Yours truly gets a mention too though before you pass out at the thought of a 'principal' of a chareidi school perusing the blogosphere he 'can't say' that he actually reads this blog. Who would have thought otherwise?

It would be churlish in the extreme to pick holes in some of the things he said and there will be plenty of opportunities for that on other occasions. For now however I doff my streimel to the man.

Unlike most of the chareidi pygmies we are used to hearing from here is someone who knows how to answer a question without sounding either hollow or defensive. He accepts that planning is an issue but that it is not as black and white as it is often presented. Rather than deny the obvious as others often do, he explains the background to the issues that have arisen. Not from him anything as asinine as Clever Joe's intervention linking the apparent lack of chareidi crime to planning breaches.

Although Pinter too is capable of going into classic chareidi mode such as when covering Israeli politics and how they don’t seek to impose themselves on others, as if, he also knows how to use humour to deflect a question. When the dictionary is raised rather than try and defend the indefensible he wonders how there were any words left to include.

Fortunately for him, though not quite for us, there were no questions on schools which may have given us our own Paxo v Michael Howard moment. Great men need luck on their side too and so far he hasn’t run out of it.

As for my favourite quote: 'The perceived leaders are only in their positions by consent, rather then by authority.'

If only, Rabbi, if only.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Yesodey Hatorah Senior School: holding its figures to account – Part II

See Part I below

Rather than quibble with Ofsted's grading I have run a simple comparison exercise on the Department of Education website comparing YHS to other Hackney secondary schools for which figures are available. The results, which are for 2009-2010, are produced below.

I will let the figures speak for themselves and merely say that either the individuals/family/board or whoever runs the school has developed a miraculous formula by which they can achieve an 'Outstanding' grade yet spend overall only 86% of their allocated budget, and less than 50% of it on actual teaching, employ less than a handful of FTE (full time equivalent) qualified teachers, maintain a teacher to pupil ratio that would barely fit the school hall though with a back office budget that exceeds each of the other schools.

Or these figures are crying out for some other explanation.

Attainment

These show YHS to be well above the national average and very high across the board.

Attainment 6 Dec - Copy

Who is teaching the children?

The number of qualified teachers is astoundingly low and the pupil to teacher ratio relates to qualified teachers only.

Teachers 6 Dec - Copy

How is the budget divided?

Since the income per pupil differs for each school the figures below are based on percentages of the income/spend per pupil. Note the relatively low percentage spent on teaching, the relatively high back office costs and the high unspent budget. It would be interesting to know why these funds aren’t being spent and what happens to this apparent surplus. The amount spent on building and energy is also high especially as it is a relatively new building.

budget 6 Dec 3 - Copy

Free School Meals

This is a particularly curious statistic as the 'principal' appeared on the BBC in relation to proposed housing benefit reforms to complain about the disproportionate effect it will have on this community. Yet here is a benefit administered through the school but the take up is incredibly low.

fsm 6 Dec

Data for individual schools is from the Department of Education's website for comparing schools and the national data is from this DoE page.

(Thanks to those who assisted with the charts)

Monday, 1 August 2011

School lessons

Some weeks ago in his column Ben Yitzchok referred to a number of schools and praised them for not relying on 'Government finance and educational control'. As to some new state-aided Jewish school in Golders Green he had this to say: '...So why go with a begging bowl to the Government for new schools where the admission policies involve uncertainties, to put it mildly.' He then cited the examples of Dr Schonfeld and Rabbi S Pinter and the schools they started and led respectively -Pinter didn't start any schools- for which they did not rely on outside help. He ends, 'Emulating their example is bound to pay dividends.'

This is a perfectly legitimate stance and not so long ago Menorah in North West London was offered voluntary aided status and turned it down, reportedly because they did not want government interference in the running of their school. Indeed Ben Yitzchok expressed similar reservations some 7 years ago when YHS became voluntary aided.
There is however just one slight problem. Ben Yitzchok is the pseudonym of non other than Joe Lobenstein who happens to be (or was until recently - it's impossible to know what's going on in that place) the Chairman of the Board of Governors of Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls School. YH Seniors is of course a voluntary aided school. Irrespective of the fact that as far as parents are aware Joe does not carry out any of the functions of a Chairman and makes no effort to communicate with them, he still carries that title.

So why did Joe accept the most senior formal position of responsibility in a school relying on 'Government finance and educational control' while exhorting others to avoid this very same path? Why does he not follow at the school that he is notionally in charge of the lessons he gives to others? If Rabbi S. Pinter’s refusal of outside help is so praiseworthy why is it not followed at the school where his son and heir has titled himself ‘principal’?

Or does the word hypocrisy simply not appear in Joe’s lexicon?

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Sacks on the Hill

Chief on Hill

Lord of the Ringlets

With no prior announcement and none of the PR fanfare the 'rabbi' is so adroit at, Yesodey Hatorah Secondary School for Girls, to give it its full name, last week welcomed Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks to its hallowed corridors. You read it here first as it appears to have been too late for last week's Hamodia where the 'rabbi' acts as an unpaid advisor, which must mean that a front page photo every other week is of no value or payment in kind doesn't count.

The girls themselves were told only the day before thus denying more right wing elements the chance to galvanise and arrange some form of protest. Some parents may even have withheld their dear neshomolech from school for the day. Since the 'rabbi' respected his girls when they refused to take an exam paper on Shakespeare he would undoubtedly have respected them on this point of principle too. But it is a moot point since the Chief's visit passed off without incident and one must now wait for the weekend papers to see Sacks beaming on an N16 platform he so covets and Pinter with an equally broad smile in the company of yet another semi-Jew as far as we in Stamford Hill are concerned.

You may wonder why the 'rabbi' had to turn so far west, and so far left, and to such high altitudes for a speaker for his girls. Isn't bringing a rabbi to Stamford Hill a bit like taking coal to that suburb of Gateshead? Before even our own chief Padwa has addressed the girls along comes a Lord from a different manor to shepherd our sacred sheep.And it's not as if the lesser local rabbis have been exhausted since rabbis rarely step foot into that place lest anyone suspect that history is not as it's been rewritten. That what has been turned into the sole domain of a single extended family was actually established by rabbis and individuals with different family names.

Inviting dignitaries from foreign shores whose sheep would never be welcome in our greener meadows comes with its own reciprocal kickbacks. And if in this instance it provided a photo opportunity with an ermine backdrop then all the better. As to the addressees, those precious neshomelech, they too provide a pretty setting for opportunistic photo shoots. And supine too, for his Lordship was not taken to the boys’ school where a different reception may have awaited him assuming he was received at all.

So it was left to the acting head who actually runs the school (bar admissions and external relations which by convention are the domain of the ‘principal’), and who by remarkable and as yet unexplained coincidence happens to be none other than the 'principal's dear wife, to advise the children the day before of their noble guest and then give way to her husband to officiate on the day. I mean he is the 'principal' after all though mind you his appearance in front of his flock is almost as rare as that of the Chief himself. It may even have been his debut address to 'his' school had not the former prime minister but one popped round some years ago which forced the 'principal' to bring forward his maiden speech to the maidens.

In line with the school's mission of developing the girls' thinking, initiative, creativity and leadership skills, questions to the Chief would be allowed. Questions however are a dangerous tool in the wrong hands for one cannot predict the answers from the Chief. Worse still once cannot foretell questions some of the girls may be harbouring in their delicate brains. Questions such as which we are told are never posed in our postal areas.

For instance, why do we celebrate our freedom by subjecting our womenfolk to slavery in the weeks running up to the festival? Which may have prompted, why do girls break up 2 weeks early to 'help their mothers' while boys study on blissfully for an extra week to keep them from under their mother's feet? Questions also have a horrible habit of veering from their course. A question may have been popped to our own paragon of inclusivism and bridge-building: should not a publicly funded school with a mission to 'understand the world we live in' have a day off for the national holiday of the royal wedding especially when an honour from those quarters is so hankered after?

But trust the 'rabbi' to come up with a solution. Yes, question will be asked but only by the highest class. Yes, questions will be asked but we will decide who will ask them. Yes, question will be asked and we'll even set the questions for the questioners. The mission does after all also include moral understanding and we cannot afford to allow morals to fly out of the window for the sake of satisfying a guest as exalted as he may be. So a question on anti-Semitism will do very nicely thank you but as for more pressing issues, girls, that's not for our sort yidn.

As for Rebbetzin Sacks, well that's a bit of a touchy matter. It is after all a girls' school so perhaps it would be fitting for the Chief's wife to come along. But then there are rebbetzins and rebbetzins. In our environs we like them plump with 15 layers of clothing, skirts till the Maginot line to repel would be invaders, shrapnel proof hosiery and sheitels if not evocative of a mop then hidden away altogether under some contraption of a kerchief. If you are a chief rebbetzin like, say, Padwa you must also instigate campaigns of tznius (and more on that shortly). But rebbetzins of the Sack's variety, well how shall we put it, she may just give the girls some wrong ideas. You know, that rabbis' wives too may look presentable and even attractive, and that, we're afraid, is not quite part of the school's mission. It is just possible that the rebbetzin too didn’t particularly cherish pre-Pesach meetings of the haggard-eyed sisterhood in turbans with one hand on their hips and another cupping their chin, 'and where are you up to with Pesach?'

Truth said, since her photo would not appear in the papers and definitely not in the company of the ever so photogenic 'rabbi' she was hardly missed. The meeting of the two titans, nos. 1 and 8 respectively in the Power List (of which more here) served its purpose very well without her. Each can go back to his respective constituency enhanced by the visit. No. 1 can demonstrate how his clout reaches even in darkest N16. It might even earn him a rare photo in the Hamodia or Tribune as part of the bargain notwithstanding that to all intents and purposes he was brought in through the tradesman's entrance to address as softie an audience as could be mustered.

And no. 8? Well, he can yet again parade his Cheshire cat grin showing off the extent of his reach to parts others can’t even touch with the ever so subtle subtext that from a perch so high nothing can be toppled.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Democracy is coming to Stamford Hill

Shock. Horror. Disgust. Dismay. These are just some of the sentiments expressed by our Dear Leaders among the panoply of emotions generated by the news that elections are to be held in Stamford Hill. Not in our, or their, wildest fantasies did they, or we, imagine that there exists a power to compel anyone in the holy square mile to hold elections. We have been brought up that power is theirs by right, and just occasionally, when a contingency arises, by might, and now we are led to question our most basic and fundamental assumptions. How are we to contend with this, is the question on all lips.

Admittedly, local and national elections are held at polling booths within shockling distance of our great institutions, and these are passed by the Rabbonim as permissible so long, of course, that votes are cast in favour of the right candidates. But as with all non-Torah-true influences great care is taken to ensure that alien concepts such as democracy, accountability and transparency do not infiltrate our hallowed, kosher, bug-free-lettuce homes. For democracy, plebiscites, suffrage, enfranchisement and similar obscenities make no appearance from In the Beginning of Genesis to the last word of Chronicles and so are as treif as strawberries.

And as we are constantly reminded our shoulders are too narrow and the space between our ears too confined to bear the responsibility of introducing such ideas of our own accord. Of the heimishe, for the heimishe, by the heimishe, is simply not a heimishe concept.

For this reason we are fortunate that our chief rabbinate is run by one dynasty, our dayanim by secret appointment and our lay leaders by the size of their dislodgeable posteriors and just occasionally by the depth of their pocket. This last one being the exception rather than the rule as rules round here are, as a rule, there to be flouted. However, we should not complain. It is this system that has allowed our exalted and lofty way of life to be handed down through generations and the secrets methods of our distillation to be perfected over centuries. And when it comes to ‘our’ schools, well they are a story of their own. There has never been any doubt that we are in the good and able hands of a unique dynasty that has guided us hither and will continue to do so yonder.

Or so we thought. For news reaches me that to the consternation of those who dictate our way of life Yesodey Hatorah Secondary School will be holding elections for a Parent Governor. And if that isn’t enough, apparently a species of the fairer sex has had the temerity to stand for the position. I mean, what is the world coming to if a woman can try and elicit votes from parents which include men (though one wouldn’t think so when attending open days, parent evenings, graduation ceremonies or any other school activity except if it includes a visit by the PM or a few police officers when the men all miraculously appear)?

How, we all ask, has it come to this? Where have we gone wrong? Is this the result of a (non-existent) fair admissions policy? Is it the influence of having, G-d forbid, parents with tops which indicate a shape beneath and skirts which hint at legs ambulating within? Let us not mince our words. This is the greatest threat to our collective existential survival since the advent of 24mbps broadband and SMS messaging. Nothing short of a national day of tznius observance and tehilim recital is called for to eradicate this democratic cancer from our midst. We should be tearing down the mezuzed doors of our Dear Leaders and demand answers. If we can have kosher mobiles and kosher internet surely it is not beyond the innovative minds who are so adept at constantly moving the bimah posts to keep undesirables from sending their urchins to ‘our’ schools and bringing with them these dangerous, unheard of concepts.

But please do not be rash. We ask that you pay heed to the Rabbonim who have decreed that we bear this news with equanimity and dignified silence. Now is not the time for public protest, letter writing and faxing campaigns and a further announcement will be made if and when the situation changes. Buses will of course be put on for any demo. And whatever you do do not by any means approach the media for that is the exclusive domain of better and abler hands, if not necessarily brains.

We end with a prayer that the right candidate is elected, that once elected he (for he it shall no doubt be) votes as he is told, assuming anything is ever put to vote, and that our enemies who are trying to bring about these dangerous alien changes are put to flight. Amen!

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

The Board’s birthday bash

We in Stamford Hill have always known the very many reasons to be grateful to our askonim. Whether they are in the hatzole sounding their klaxons to save our lives, in the kosher business to fill our stomachs, in schooling to babysit our kids or in the fundraising industry to improve our souls by diminishing the contents of our wallets there is a common thread running through them. Selfless men and a few women too who give their all to save us from looking after ourselves. Wagging tongues don't deflect them and nay sayers don't deter them. They are on a mission assigned to them from heaven and if they happen to benefit indirectly from their good deeds not only do we not begrudge them their sidekick but we open our pockets to line theirs. We know that for the exalted few our needs are theirs and so it is only right that we should let them treat us as as they see fit.

I am of course referring to those altruistic individuals who give from their time, their money, their jobs (if they are lucky to have one) and their family for their niche askonus. A much rarer commodity however are those individuals who will sacrifice even from their ruchnius, from their religious values and duties, for the sake of the general good. Men and women who will desecrate the shabbos, skip a minyen, speak loshen hore, refuse kids places in schools, converse with goyim and even strike up friendships with them and all for the sake of avoiding us opening our mouths and saying the wrong thing. Altruistic utilitarianism you might like to call it though such individuals are so rare a breed that their DNA is still being pored upon by askenologists. The Chofets Chaim it is said skipped a minche when at a meeting in Warsaw to discuss the terrible decree that would have obliged Jewish kids to get some secular education. And for that he is the Chofets Chaim. Yet we in our generation, in our country, in our city and in our very community have merited not one but indeed two such individuals.

This may sound incredible and indeed it is but true nonetheless. Gracing the pages of last week's papers were our own esteemed 'Rabbi' and Buffoon partying away for the sake of all of us. Cynics amongst you may be thinking, big deal, he went to a party, where for Christ's sake is the mesiras nefesh in that? Haven't we all been to a party? Of course, with a wall-to-wall mechitze, a glatt kosher kedassia menu of roast potatoes and schnitzel, or fish if that be your preferred choice, tznuesdike attired females on the female side and a bearded holy fool mumbling in the mic held too close to his moustache begging the ladies to be quiet. I mean you're not trying to tell me that they went to some goyishe or 'Jew-ish' G-d forsaken fest where men mingle freely rachmone litzlon with noshim, Reformists masquerade as Jews and the food is, well, dodgy at best considering the meat has a hechsher your dog wouldn't rely on and side dishes and dessert containing innocent looking broccoli or even those notoriously treacherous strawberries.

Dear reader it is just such a party I am referring to and this is what I mean by the mesiras nefesh of our unique and once-in-3-generations askonim. No less than the exalted 'Rabbi' and the esteemed Buffoon sacrificed all that is dear and holy to their precious souls and all for the sake of representing you and I. We know they give away their time to mingle with entire units of Scotland Yard's finest to prevent them rounding up all of us for the crime of being Jewish and for that we genuflect and kiss the concrete they walk on. We are fully aware of the dedication of being a councillor and mayor for decades for measly pay and sleepless nights so that our bins should be collected on the eve of Pesach. We will never forget the angst they endure when saying no to kids being admitted to their schools so as not to pollute the more delicate neshomes of our charges.

But this? Just take look at the pain in their eyes, their forced smile, the discomfort so evident in their body language, beard unkempt and tie askew and you will come to understand why there is virtually nothing they will not do for us. And then to read the Buffoon a week later and to marvel at him having the grace and mentshlichkeit he is so renown for in wishing the Board a happy birthday and with his hallmark modesty made no mention of his own attendance. Mi keamkho yisoreil? And who is like thou askonim, O Israel?

And imagine the sight when the envelope dropped through their toiredike letter box undefiled by the shmutz that is the common lot of non-heimishe letterboxes and their shock when they discovered its contents. How they referred their predicament whether to attend to daas torah. The 'Rabbi' explaining how he simply could not attend a party where women wore no sheitels and the tznius standard was lower than the reach of his beard. And the Buffoon shedding excruciating tears setting out how he would excoriate anyone seen at an affair where 'they' are represented as yidn. And the Rabbonim after consulting their oracle invoking eith la'sos lashem, 'if not for you who is for us' and decreeing that in the merit of representing their brethren they will see no evil and taste no evil.
They say a photo speaks a thousand words but photos like these make us lost for words. How do we begin to show hakoras hatov for people who are the personification of askonus. It is why Stamford Hill is the envy of the world and we more than anyone else feel safe in the knowledge that however few our abilities and however many our shortcomings we will always be able to rely on our askonim to walk, talk, smile, think and even sin for us.
 
Yasher Kochachem!