Showing posts with label Joe Lobenstein. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Joe Lobenstein. Show all posts

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.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

School fights

A silent battle has been raging in Stamford Hill for the last few weeks or even months and possibly years though you would know little about it if you merely followed the local press. The noticeboards have been of some assistance though they also only tell part of the tale. I do not pretend to know all the details so I will present what I do know and leave it to others to fill in the missing bits.

objects

Poised on one side is The Association of Orthodox Jewish Schools and Organisations Ltd (AOJSO). Quite a mouth full, I know, but we do like grand sounding names and acronyms round here so let's not dwell on peripheral matters. The AOJSO has made it its task to represent local Jewish schools and yeshivas to government bodies. A notice which popped up on the noticeboards for a short while underlined the object of 'encouraging the fullest co-operation’ between schools and the authorities.

Massed on the other extreme is Satmar of the 86 Cazenove chapter and some anonymous activists who may or may not be associated with them. To them any dialogue with 'outside' authorities is anathema as things are best when left untouched because, let's face it, Judaism has been untouched for 2000 odd years and we're doing rather well thank you very much.

And in the middle are those who are neither modernisers, for want of a better word, nor loonies who will oppose if only for the sake of opposition. These will gladly follow almost anything so long that it is led by someone bearded in a shtreimel though even then it should not carry too much of a 'modern' whiff about it.

The issue of primary concern to the AOJSO is the Bermuda Triangle of Stamford Hill where numerous boys between the ages of 13-16 disappear from the system into a black hole. That might be something of an misnomer as in fact they are being groomed to be grooms for one thing but also to a life of spiritual ecstasy while being entrusted with the passcode to the world to come. So rather than a dark pit perhaps we should call it a bright skylight.

Anyway, the law demands that children in this country up to the age of 16 are taught a broad and balanced curriculum. For those getting itchy and minded to jump up and down and flailing their arms about because our curriculum is as broad and balanced as anyone else’s and we whose ancestors were worshipping a golden calf long before theirs had even dreamt of Stonehenge will not be taking any lessons on what to teach our kids, please calm down and do let me finish. You see the 'broad and balanced curriculum' also includes spoken and written English. Yup, I realise that can be something of a problem so get your cheeks in your palms and time to do some thinking.

So an Association was formed to meet the authorities and see what can be done. Not that bad, is it? We meet government ministers to discuss clocks going back and request that they be turned back 1000 years rather than tinker with the odd hour. We campaign for a more lax planning regime unless it's for an eiruv in which case we want the death penalty for violation of a mere by-law on Hampstead Heath. We pop up on the radio to campaign for housing benefit rather than sort out our education and get more people into work. So why not campaign on that very issue of education? It is becoming ever more difficult for our Pied Pipers to have the increasing number of boys 'vanish’ and some saner minds have decided that it may be a good idea to regularise these yeshivas.

And it came to pass that last month Stamford Hill and Golders Green put their ties on and went to Westminster for some shtadlonus in the good old fashioned way. For reasons unknown, a notable absence was our photogenic 'leader', 'rabbi' and 'spokesman' who 'runs several schools.' Perhaps he was not invited or he may have made himself scarce. I suppose when one runs a communal school as if it's the family corner shop one does tend to be suspicious of a grand sounding Association which may get the wrong idea of poking its nose into areas outside its concern, especially when the husband, wife and kids are doing such a marvellous job.

But what about the English, I hear you cry. Well, to some, if it means that the boys have to study some 'English', which is the local all-encompassing word for secular studies, then so be it. I suspect that those behind the project find it convenient to be able to point a finger at the authorities and that it’s not, God forbid, of their own initiative. But therein lies the point because once you have some schools regularised it becomes easier for the authorities to clamp down on the dissenters.

Well, all hell did break loose in some circles and in one speech in Satmar '86' a US speaker, Menashe Fillip, accused the 'AOGSO' (sic) and those behind it of heresy and much worse and of inciting the 'goyim' to make demands of the yeshivas on their study programs because the 'goyim' if left alone would allow us to do what we like 'until the coming of the Messiah'. Strong words although he may have something of a point.

DfE briefing notes

Apparently the meeting last month was not the first. The document above is from the Department for Education's website of the briefing notes for previous meetings where the issues are set out in some detail. (Further details are available here, and the JC article referred to is here.) Particularly intriguing is the note on page 2 that the DfE requested assistance on this matter from local authorities but 'most authorities were reluctant to assist.'

This must have included Hackney where many if not most of these yeshivas are located and betrays a remarkable blind-eye attitude especially when compared to say enforcement of planning breaches. It amounts to a policy which effectively says, do with yourselves as and what you like and we shall stand back so long that you don't bother us. You wish to ruin your kids' employment prospects and deny them a half-decent education? No problem. You want to operate your schools in ramshackle buildings with little regard to the safety and welfare of the children? Please feel free to do so. Your family kindly seeks to commandeer an entire school from admissions to a private 6th form on the school premises and balance the books with the school hall? Our pleasure. But please just one small request: whatever you choose to do do it in your own backyard. Add as much as a slate to your roof, however, and we'll be down on you like a ton of bricks. Political correctness in action, some might say. Or second class citizens, perhaps.

email

This being Stamford Hill, the gravity of the situation was immediately sensed and our special forces sprung into action. The email above appears to indicate that there may have been rival attempts to bend ministerial ears organised by Rabbi Herschel Gluck (famously savaged by Geoffrey Alderman) but which were roundly rebuffed. Gluck did however get to meet some mandarin with ‘Grand Rabbi’ Schlesinger which must count for some achievement. Apparently, there has also been a letter from school heads to Rabbi Padwa that they do not wish to be represented by the AOJSO though it may have been later withdrawn.

Finally, our dear vice president’s presence cannot be overlooked. The DfE notes provide biographical information for each of the attendees. For His Grace, the coucillorship and mayoralship are duly noted as is the vice presidency of the UOHC. Omitted, however, is his Chairmanship of the Board of Governors of YH Senior Girls School. Even if he may only be a nominee it surely should be worthy of mention when meeting a minister on the very subject of secondary education. One must attribute this coyness to the great man's trade mark humility and reserve and we are proud to have the opportunity to fill in the record.

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?

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!