Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Winds of Change

Stamford Hill is changing. That may be stating the obvious though it would sound like news to many of those who descend upon us from time to time to describe us like some Amazonian tribe that talks in whistles and performs a ritual dance each time an aeroplane crosses overhead. They cannot be entirely at fault when some people who purport to speak for us like to present us as quaint delicate artefacts that are irreparably harmed when exposed to sunlight and require an army of representatives, carers, talkers to take care of our every unique need if not whim.

Yet despite their best efforts we are not what we used to be. We are more confident, more extravagant, less sarcastic and cynical, not so suspicious and secretive, less prudish and conservative, less hierarchical and respectful of authority but also brash and flash. Not all the change is for the better and there is much that I like about the old like paying for one’s way and not expecting life to be handed on a plate. I personally will never get used to the hysterical, sensational, shallow sentimentality that has been imported largely from Israel and to a lesser extent from the US.

However, I don't get to choose these things but nor can I ignore them. It would be impossible to try and lay a finger on the pulse of the up and coming and even less would I like to think what it means for our future because if one thing is certain whatever the future holds it ain't gonna be rosy. This is also a holiday week when people are extremely busy arranging outings and figuring out how to make a sandwich without the centre ingredients coming into contact with the outer layers. It is a feat that Hillel managed nicely some 2000 years ago but which appears to have been lost over time.

So rather than bore you with analysis and prognosis I present a list of old vs. new. This is not a value judgement and the old is far from dead while the new has yet to galvanise but it still tell us something. Like all lists it is likely to be invidious and undoubtedly reflects my bias but it should be fun nonetheless.

Old

New

Shops

 

Breuer & Spitzer

Carmel

Berger & Twersky

Berrys

Kleins

Firers

Hoffmans

Taam Hayam

Satmar, Oldhill

Satmar Fleisch Gescheft

Woodberry Down

Grodzinski

Shuls

 

Satmar 86

Satmar 26

Belz 99

Belz 98

Pinters

Kalish

Adath

Oireiso

Prominent families

 

Berger

Padwa

Schlesinger

None

Rabbis

 

Dayan Dunner

Reb Sholem Freidman

Rav Padwa

Herschel Schneck

Shmuel Ludmir
Reb Yossel Padwa

Boruch Leib Rabinowitz

Meilech Schwartz

Newspapers

 

Jewish Tribune

Hamodia

Der Yid

Der Blat

Kol Ho'oilom Kilo

Mishpacha

Ami

Charities/Organisations

 

Tzorchei Shabbos v’Yomtov

Tomchei Shabbos

Chevra Kadisha

Hatzole, Shomrim, Chaveirim...

Beis Broche Bikur Choilim

Reb Meir Bal Hanes

Japanese drug mules

Kashruth

 

Kedassia

Westheim

Anything with Hebrew letters?

Areas

 

West of Dunsmure Rd

North of Ravensdale Road

Machers

 

Joe Lobenstein

Avrumi Pinter

Sholem Ber Stern

Oshi Schapiro

Ita Simons

Simcha Steinberger

To watch

 

No one

Refoel Grosskopf

Aron Klein

Benzion Papier

Cars

 

Volvo

Previa

Chrysler

SUV

Schools

 

Beis Chinuch

Getters

YHS

Beis Yaakov Girls

Side by Side

Family size

 

Double digits

Shrinking

Chroniclers

 

Dudy Braun

The Shaigetz (z"l)

Eiruv

 

Fanatically against

Madly for

Benefits

 

Generally self sufficient

Heavily dependent

Lifestyle

 

Frugal and prudish

Outings to the zoo

Tsholent fress-up receptions

Quick Fit

Sport

 
Cricket, if at all

Arsenal

Tottenham

What to say

 

‘Shreklich the price of eggs’

‘What do you think of Gaby (or The Apprentice, Britain's Got Talent etc.)?’

What not to say

 
‘The beat at last night’s chasuno was gevaldik’ ‘Has your child been accepted?’

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.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Rabbi Yehoshua (Szyjer) Szpetman z”l

Rabbi Szpetman

Last Friday (7 Nisan) was the Hebrew yortzeit of Rabbi Yehosua Szpetman about whom I wrote in this post.

Born in Lublin, Poland in 1887/8 he was the rabbi for 35 years at the Nelson Street Synagogue which was one of the larger shuls in the East End. (According to the link above there were two Nelson Street Synagogues.) A reader has helpfully pointed me to A World Apart by Harry Rabinowicz for biographical details.

According to Rabinowicz the rabbi "was not afraid to criticise spiritual or lay leaders. He hated untruths, dishonesty and hypocrisy. He frowned on displays of pretentiousness and was unique in tolerance and sympathy. He spoke more like a prophet than a preacher. He enlivened any gathering with his wit, eccentricity and his healthy irreverence. He befriended the Chasidic rebbes in London and graced most of their functions. He was popularly called the 'Red Rabbi', the Jewish counterpart of his contemporary the Dean of Canterbury, Dr Hewlett Johnson."

It’s a shame they don’t make rabbis like that any more and I hereby declare him patron saint of this blog.

Nelson St Synagogue - CopyHis views on the Chief Rabbinate are as relevant today as there were in 1947 when he wrote in a letter to the JC "…I suggest now that Anglo-Jewry is about to elect its spiritual head, would it not be appropriate earnestly to consider dispensing with the so-called title 'Chief Rabbi…"

Rabbi Szpetman was naturalised as a British citizen in May 1952 and it is interesting to read the list of new citizens for that month and the large proportion of Jewish names.

Rabbi Szpetman's grave - Copy

Rabbi Szpetman died on 20 March 1964 (7 Nisan 5724) and is buried beside his wife at the Federation Cemetery on Montague Road in Edmonton (down the road from the Prince and Princess hall). That plot contains quite a few East End rabbis from that era who are unfortunately largely forgotten.

He wrote several books in Yiddish and I’ve listed a few below. The first three can be downloaded and one is topical for Pesach. The first is a collection of speeches where you get more than a flavour of his fiery oratory and his warm humanity. A fuller bibliography is available here.

חבלי הנשמה ומוסר היהדות; לכבוד ראש השנה יום כפור שמחת תורה; פסח, ל”ג בעומר, שבועות; בגילופין, פארגאנגענע וועלטן

תנצב”ה

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Gaby and Tikwah: The sequel

Gaby and his better half, or lonely half, were again on the telly and here I am again writing a review albeit a bit late. If this is to become a biannual event I should perhaps produce a template to adapt to the theme of their appearance. Served up last time was a discussion on the alliterative topic of farting with phylacteries while this time we got the rhyming Two Jews on a Cruise, though at times it felt more like Jews on some Booze.

Thankfully we were spared Gaby's lectures on Judaism and instead we got Gaby the hoarder, Gaby the curious, Gaby the Tehilim reciter, though only with a crowd round him, which is probably how most rabbis operate, and even Gaby the husher but at a towel origami course rather than in shul during shomne esre when Gaby is not particularly renown for his silence. As unlikely as it may sound, we even got Gaby the conciliator faithfully 'mirroring' his wife as if it's the new 614th commandment but then bolting as soon as the session was over and his figurative therapy harness unbuckled.

Overall the impression we got was of a somewhat mismatched couple who despite the odds had found a spark of some kind to keep them together. He curious, energetic, boisterous and cantankerous while all she wants is a partner to care for her and remain quite literally at her side. I dare say she is not the first wife to make such complains though probably only few have to deal with husbands who rip hangers out of suitcases and lie on the bed because 'it's her job' while his presumably is to put his feet up and watch. And yet they did hold hands which is not something we in Stamford Hill often get to do (kissing, however, was reserved for the mezuza and cuddles, according to Gaby, ‘are nothing’) and he also bought her a vase though judging by her reaction this was not a common occurrence.

There were some genuine jaw-dropping moments too. You just couldn't make up Tikwah's 'Zeus? Juice? What's Zeus? Ich ken im nisht'. And while 'shkoiech farn endikn' is regularly heard round here where we must endure bores who cannot shut up in front of a mic they barely know how to hold, as 'Thank you for stopping' it came across fresh and sharp especially when uttered towards a coach guide not en route to a simche or chasidic graveside .

There were plenty of other snippets which gave us an insight not only into the life of Gaby and his missus but also into the world they, or we, come from and which went beyond the clichés of wigs, the 'beauty' of Shabbos, side locks and prams and kids, kids and more kids. Gaby's pre-departure obsessive checking of doors and windows followed by what seemed like dozens of kisses blown at the mezuza was revealing of the security we attach to our homes and our fear of infiltration by outsiders which in turn explains our obsession if not fascination with burglaries and geneives, discussions of which one hardly gets out of earshot.

Like many a yeshive bochur settling into his airplane seat or yungerman arriving at his hotel room or holiday cottage, Gaby too made a beeline for the TV on walking into the rather shabby cabin, though let's face it few of us would have stayed on at a cabaret while the cameras were rolling. Gaby's preference for a concrete city over the tour guide's love of olive trees was as good an explanation as any for the planning problems we have round here. Following Tikwah on her own into bed with a turban while her husband went off exploring (‘for a new girlfriend?’ Tikwah quipped at one point) may have highlighted her loneliness but it also gave a good idea what our womenfolk look like when the wigs come off, and it wasn't terribly appealing.

It was moving to hear them both discuss the loss of his mother when he was born but what was missing and would have been of keen interest was how this match was brought about. Was it a case of a hyperactive, orphaned bochur being told by the matchmakers that his only solution was to go for a girl from non-heimish Holland called Tikwah? It would certainly have shed more light than a dozen light bulbs stuck in Gaby's fridge on frum Jews, their couplings, marriage and dare I say love, or the lack of it. It would have also contrasted with some of the better matched couples on the cruise who were no less Jewish than Gaby, one even left his rabbi an answerphone message with a shale, yet the women didn't walk the boat purring like lost cats in search of their husbands.

Like it or not while Gaby may be something of a caricature his domestic arrangements are not at all as atypical as some would like to make out. In fact their setup is probably a lot better than many couples round here locked into far worse arrangements which for a multitude of reasons did not unravel at a younger age and which they are now helpless to get out of. As to Gaby himself, his child-like curiosity is not too dissimilar to the gawking adults and kids that assemble round here at the slightest commotion. The price we pay for an education denied in childhood is precisely this curiosity that a lifetime of staring cannot sate.

Gaby's conviction that anyone not enjoying the spectacular Balkan mountain scenery 'must be lying' also betrays a worldview in which 'normal' opinions must be universally held. Indeed his critics who accuse him of attention seeking, one of the most heinous crimes in our 'don't stand out' society, adhere to that very same school of thought in which being of a view is not good enough unless you have persuaded yourself that others 'really' think likewise but  simply have their own reasons for pretending to disagree.

At which point it is useful to deal with the local critique which says more about the reviewers than the reviewed and how deeply uncomfortable we are in our own skins. For the most part it was the predictable trashing of TV culture and how the joke is on them rather than on us. 'Shows you the standard of the BBC that they air this rubbish,' was how one put it. Many wondered why this programme would be of interest to the wider public as if it's everyday we come across a couple like this and were at the same time uncomfortable at the specimen they chose to exhibit our way of life. This was closely followed by how meshuge Gaby is, 'And she? Just ask Chaim...' which in turn leads to, 'They only show this kind of yid because they know that deep down this is what people want to see about us.' And from there it's only a short route to the most juicy discussion of the lot.

'You know what he got for it? Over £50,000.'

'So he's not even so mad, after all.'

'Nah, it was £25,000.'

'Yes, but what about the price of the cruise?'

This particular debate ended with, 'Are you really telling me he hasn't been on a holiday for 40 years?'

'This I believe. I tell you, you don't know Gaby.'

PFI – YHS style

pfi - Copy

The last letter is worth a mention too and I still cannot decide if it was written tongue in cheek.

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.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

A Yeshivish Schtick

Purim may be behind us but it’s never too late to laugh.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Kosher jodhpurs–Purim style

Who said we can’t be original…?

Kosher Jodhpurs - Copy

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

PURIM EXCLUSIVE! Letter (not) from Jonathan Ar**-Kush to the Jewish miLlionaires’ Club

According to Minhag Anglia this epistle is read immediately after the Megillah and the entire congregation should stand. Some opinions hold that it is sung to the tune of Gilbert and Sullivanovich's 'I Am the Very Model of a British Jewish Deputy.'

Dear President, five dozen Vice Presidents, Esteemed and Exalted, Good Looking, Alpha Males, Machers, Knakers, Oligarchs, Door Openers to Power, Door Closers to Oiks, Elected, Accountable and Acceptable Members of the Jewish miLlionaires' Club

Following last week's JewC coverage, I felt it important that I clarify my recent remarks and I now come before you in my sack and ash coloured tie.

The Jewish miLlionaires' Club plays a vital role in the infrastructure of the money men of our community. It provides a much-needed vehicle to supplement your 5-jag, 2-maybach, 7-roller fleets to transport you to your giddying heights. It has done much to enhance the reputation of its members who otherwise might have been machers with nothing to mach on. The Jewish miLlionaires' Club has undoubtedly added immense value to the figurative six-packs of its members.

With regard to the democratic surplus of the Club I accept that its legitimacy stems from you having attended the Putin School of Democracy and passed with flying colours. You have opened doors even to the Old Bobe of Threadneedle Street who has pledged quantitative easing of further tranches of democracy in the unlikely event that a shortfall should arise. I sincerely apologise for the insinuation that you lack accountability which I entirely withdraw. There is no doubt that you are accountable to offshore celestial authorities and safe havens in heaven where your just and untaxed rewards await you.

I accept there were threats to withhold funding unless I stick out my tongue for the duration of this letter and then swallow it for good and that this is perfectly acceptable behaviour for oligarchs who must lead from their wallets. It was scurrilous of me to suggest that you do not have the right to do with your hard earned cash as and what you like which is why I am in my current horizontal position in front of your positively ogreish average of 5ft 3.75 inches (minus the heels).

I also accept that my remarks were outrageously blasphemous. Our greatest leaders and prophets from Moses to Isaiah through Maimonides and Spinoza were famously loaded and there is no reason why you, our Dear Leaders, should shed a few pounds to ease yourself into position. As we were taught at Sunday Cheder, Mount Sinai was chosen because of the size of its helipad so our leaders need not arrive by easyJet.

I further acknowledge that standing by one's principles to the point of resignation is for woolly lefties and cheek turning Christians like Canon Fraser or our accursed enemies such as Baroness Tonge, tfu tfu. It is not what is expected of Yiddishe leaders who have turned the practice of stepping backwards for ose shalom into a hallowed and much cherished tradition.

I am truly sorry and contrite that in a poll 62% of respondents agreed with me. It was never my intention to set the proles against our Dear Leaders or to suggest that cab drivers from Ilford and tsholent fressers from Salford should have the chutzpah to dictate who should be their leaders. The role of the Board is to deputise to your supreme, uncontested leadership and to twist the arms of demurring representatives until their pupiks squeak.

I ought not to have overrun my allotted speaking slot timed to .69 of a millisecond on the Hublots above your exalted fists. It is measure for measure that I should have to write an entire megillah for each fraction of my infraction. It has been the rule ever since I was in school that you must lift your finger before being excused and speaking out of turn gets you detention and attached to this letter is my sheet of 150 lines 'I promise never to wet myself again.'

I can confirm that I was not suffering from a bout of bipolar, schizophrenic, psychotic, delusional paranoia brought on by my double barrelled surname and I only had a sore nose caused by too much rubbing. I am particularly proud to support the punishment banning me from the Aipac outing since I could not be trusted to sing in tune on the tour coach.

Finally I am not writing this on the rack nor am I dunked in a mikve of hydrochloric acid and there is also no electrode attached to my beitzim as there was difficulty finding a connection. I am signing this letter free of my free and unimpeded will.

I beg to remain eternally, Sirs (and 1.5 Madams), your most humble, obedient and t*ches licking servant

Jonathan Ar**-Kush

PS May I get up now?

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, 28 February 2012

The Tribune’s dodgy dossier

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In the run-up to and aftermath of the Iraq war we got to hear a lot about the dodgy dossier in which it was claimed that Iraq could deploy biological weapons within 45 minutes. A journalist said it was sexed up and got himself into deep trouble, a scientist doubted its veracity and ended up taking his own life while those who commissioned and tailored the report to suit their needs were whitewashed courtesy of Lord Hutton.

Well, the 45 minutes that forms the subject of this piece fortunately did not lead to war nor cost any lives though it is hardly less of a bombshell for that. In its report of the recent Hatzola fundraising evening, last week's Jewish Tribune causally dropped a supposed fact that 'the average waiting time for a London ambulance is 45 minutes.' No one in their right mind would accuse the Tribune of sexing anything whether up, down, diagonally or whichever position one can think of. Yet this 'statistic' appears in a box telling the story of a man whose life was apparently saved by the quick appearance of Hatzola on the scene. The implication is clearly that if not for Hatzola's swift action the man might well have been dead long before the average time of 45 minutes had elapsed.

45mins - CopyI don't know much about ambulance response times but a simple search on Google led me to this page according to which last year's (April 2010 - March 2011) response times were for Category A (immediately life-threatening) calls, 75.14% within 8 minutes and 99 per cent within 19 minutes. For category B (serious) calls, response times were 87.2% within 19 minutes. The latest response times available also show that on average about 77% of category A calls are responded to within 8 minutes.

So will the Tribune now tell us where they got their 45 minutes from? They can't blame MI6 or the CIA like Blair did so who on earth gave them this bit of information? I would have thought that Hatzola's stellar work in life saving and its team of dedicated volunteers on constant duty at all times of day and night is praiseworthy enough without needing to denigrate other first aid services. But then I am not the Tribune for whom our good deeds are never quite enough of a kiddush hashem. Others must also be crap for otherwise how are they to prove the supremacy of a ‘Torah-true lifestyle’?

Then again it could just be that newspapers that work by the maxim, Comment is sacred; facts are free, don't bother employing fact checkers. Perhaps too they're not wired up to the web and google is one of those words excised by kosher lexicographers.

But there is something else at play too. To people of the Tribune's mindset, the yellow jackets and klaxons of our own cops, medics, chaveirim and shomrim are far more than the sum total of their parts. They create a myth of our self sufficiency, dispel the notion that our insularity might in any way be an obstacle and enforce the belief that despite the superior training and abundant resources available to others we can measure up and beat the best. To those tempted to stray it acts further as a warning that the police won't be there to protect you once the ghetto walls are behind you and you may well drop dead by doing something as stupid as relying on 999.

And for that a 45 minute response time perfectly fits the bill.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Prince or Princess: On the making of a kosher transgendered ad

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A show's coming to town. Not quite to our part of town but targeted for our womenfolk though the performances will actually be held in the Camden Town Hall.

Prince or Pauper, it's called with the subtitle 'Judge not what thou sees'. That should be 'seest' but let's not get too pernickety over some archaic usage. No cultural event round here can do without its share of controversy though it has been relatively mild in this instance. The rabbis have so far steered clear but with a week to go there is still ample time to pull a rabbit in the last minute so keep your fingers crossed, if that's the right phrase. The Prince will be played by a princess which come to think of it is no worse than Lady Macbeth being played by a man. Yet despite this overstepping of modesty some schools have played safe and banned their charges from attending while others have left it to parental discretion.

Since there've so far been no rabbinical interdictions the opinion-free ad sheets are free to carry ads for the event. They never lose. Either it's ads for the event or it's ads for the bans and if they're lucky it's one followed by the other. The ads however are not without problems of their own: how do you advertise a female only production without a photo of the actors?

Actors should hold up a mirror to nature, we're told, but since there are as yet no kosher mirrors that pixelate the fairer sex mirroring actresses' faces is no mean feat. You can advertise ‘ladies’ and ‘girls’ since even the kosher dictionary has not excised them, yet. But publishing a photo of them, well that’s an altogether different dimension.

Trust however a yiddisher kop to come up with a solution and what you see above is the result. An androgynous looking boy standing in for a girl. Yentl in reverse if you like but it does the trick. Boys ogling the ad see only a boy which is permitted by even the most stringent of authorities while the girls get a heimisher version of Justin Bieber to develop a crush on. The rabbis too are happy since it is written that transgendering is no transgression and as the subtitle says, 'judge not what thou sees[t].

There is still however one slight problem. What of the boy who thinks it's a girl? Or to borrow that famous hypothesis proffered by our famed thinker, Ben Yitzchok, apropos Shloime Gertner's malkele song, what of the boy struggling on a difficult passage in the Talmud humming to himself a girl's name, Go- forbid? And what of the zealots who might call for the public burning of the ad unless concrete proof is provided that the 'girl' is actually a boy? Far more serious than some driving licence ingenuity, this really called for the thinking shtreimel so as to come up with a talmudic wheeze.

You won't be surprised that after much throwing around of brains our optimum minds did it again. It was decreed that every advert should carry a health warning in the shape of 'Thanks to Yisroel for posing for the photos.

Now that's what you call seichel. Girl acting as boy, named boy posing as girl, boys get a boy to fill their minds during the drearier bits of 'Two grabbing a garment' and 'The heifer that gored a cow' and the girls will pay anything to see their latest kosher heartthrob. And as for homoerotic thoughts and worse that could be engendered by photos of a she-boy in drag, only a filthy mind could suggest that images of young kids could do that to our pure neshomelech.

And so we get our own kosher culture in the shape of thespians who will ‘show virtue her own feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure.’

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Spot the difference: Safran-Foer and Englander running for cover

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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.

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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.

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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.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

My school taught me nothing.....

Below is a blog from The Times website. There is little to add other than to disagree with the writer’s statement that the religious education at many of our schools is ‘as high as you might expect.’ The sad truth is that despite more than half a century of phenomenal growth in Torah institutions and tens of thousands of children and teens who have studied little else but Torah and related subjects, the general ignorance of the laity and even of some of the cloth is breath-taking.

Fed on an almost exclusive diet of Hebrew texts from the age of 5 and Talmud from 11 and yet some of the most popular books for adults are basic and often crude linear translations of rudimentary texts in the prayers books and the Talmud. There is barely any study or even knowledge of the Bible beyond Deuteronomy. Psalms are chanted endlessly with few comprehending the meaning of the words let alone appreciating the beauty of the poetry. Hebrew poetry, even by ‘kosher’ authors, is simply not available in frum bookshops nor taught in schools. Those compositions that have found their way into the liturgy are chanted once a year and promptly restored to the bookshelf. Jewish thought is not so much frowned upon as ignored altogether and the very idea that there may be doubts about some of our ‘certainties’ is simply denied.

Such is the standard that very few of these graduates outside Israel can compose a simple letter in Hebrew despite studying it, in Yiddish despite speaking it or in English despite being born and bred here. But then I suppose that’s what wives are for.

So, so much for our ‘high’ standard of religious education.

My school taught me nothing.....
Sarah Ebner Yesterday, 2:15PM

I have two fascinating new guest posts to share with you, both from Joe Miller. He's 23, and currently working as a freelance journalist and copywriter, but his journey from school to university, and then into the workplace, has not been a straightforward one.

Religion is back in the headlines, especially with Richard Dawkins comments about Christianity and the news that the applicants for the next set of free schools include an evangelical Christian group. This seems a good time to run Joe's first piece.

"The primary school I attended had not one female member of staff. Not even in the nursery. None of the teachers had any form of training, and many of them were unable to speak English properly. A total of two hours per day was set aside for the combined study of English, Maths and Science. Physical punishment was commonplace and the atmosphere was one of perpetual fear. Religious studies were the core focus, and any form of dissent, even something as slight as not concentrating during daily prayers, was harshly penalized. You may by now be assuming that I was educated many decades ago, or under some fundamentalist regime. But this was in London. In the 1990s.

This was an ultra-Orthodox Jewish boys school; one of many similar institutions in the area. I was sent there in good faith (pun not intended) by my religious, but by no means extremist parents, who wanted their son to gain a Jewish education alongside a secular one, and to do so within an acceptable distance from home. What they were unaware of was that behind closed doors this institution was run in manner more akin to Dickens' Dotheboys Hall than a modern school under John Major's government.

I emerged relatively unscathed from this experience (I was naturally compliant), but I know of several others who were not as fortunate. Contemporaries of mine suffered extreme physical abuse at the hands of some of the teaching staff, with one boy getting his finger broken for speaking out of turn, and consequently requiring medical care. Others suffered severe beatings, and some even had soap or chalk put in their mouths for uttering so-called profanities. Some of this wasn't even illegal for most of my time at the school. Corporal punishment in private schools was only banned in 1998.

Yet, horrendous as these incidents were, the school's real crime was providing its pupils with an abysmally poor education. I was lucky enough to supplement my inadequate lessons by devouring our home library and by learning from my parents, both of whom had received a regular education. Had I not been able to do this, my literacy and numeracy skills would be of a debilitating standard. The school's mission was to prepare its pupils for a life of religious study - all other considerations were ignored. Conversation and teaching outside of the two-hours of secular study took place exclusively in Yiddish.

You may be wondering why Ofsted did nothing to prevent this. Well for a start, the inspections were scheduled well in advance, giving the school enough time to clean up its act and instruct the pupils on how to respond if questioned. Students were warned to be wary of giving the school a bad name, as this would in turn desecrate God's name. Additionally, the inspectors were often practising ultra-Orthodox Jews themselves, and thus perhaps sympathetic towards the school's ethos.

Ultimately, even if the school had been given a damning report, Ofsted has little power to enact any changes. The most recent report was dreadful, yet I doubt much will be done to improve the school, and it will remain oversubscribed due to the burgeoning community which it serves.

I don't wish to paint a wholly condemnatory portrait, as there were some good teachers in the mix, and the standard of religious education was as high as you might expect. But this was a school (and there are many like it), which crippled its students by denying them the education which they had a right to receive and preventing them from flourishing into active members of society. If only for the sake of those who continue, by all accounts, to be held-back by institutions such as this one, some form of housecleaning is well overdue."

Friday, 3 February 2012

Queue on the right for refunds only

Letter

An exhortation not to read or sell this week’s issue of the chareidi magazine, Olam Hachareidi. It is not clear what they have done to offend our dear Rov’s sensitivities and if anyone can provide a copy it would be helpful so that we know what we must avoid. In the meantime we can only speculate that it may be they forgot to blur a two-year old’s face or possibly there was a photo of a bus where the sexes are permitted to mix without hindrance or perhaps even a skirt that exceeded the mandatory length turning it into something almost as bad as a mini skirt. Or could it be they forgot to crop out a bride in a photograph of someone dancing a mitzvah tantz with her?

Whatever it is we have been told we can get a refund so it’s time for the women folk to start queuing. You know the rules: if it’s with a receipt it’s a refund, without it’s a credit note, 14 days in T.K. Maxx, 28 days in M&S unless you have a letter from your rov and with some ingenuity you might get away with a refund even if you bought it elsewhere, though pleading and a few tears never go amiss.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Immaculate conception?

Bonei - CopyBonei Olam (Builders of the Universe) is a charity that provides financial assistance to infertile couples. It is an international charity headquartered in New York with all the fundraising gimmickry we have become accustomed to in these types of chareidi organisations. Garish brochures, hair-raising stories, hysterical calls by the ‘gedoilim’ accompanied by every sentimental cliché decency and common sense should have prevented them from including. Intended to tug at potential donors’ heart, and purse, strings they usually induce severe bouts of nausea if not outright disgust.

The organisations tend to tell you everything there is to know about themselves except for that delicate thing called money. Generally, funds are raised to be spent immediately as we don’t really do long term. Featuring a supposed orphan with mock tears crying for the bread your money will supposedly buy is far more effective than telling you how your donation might cure malaria or cancer ten years hence.Giving people fish rather than teaching them how to fish is our preferred route to salvation and even then knowing how many fish have been raised and how much is syphoned off for commission is classified information.

In this case, due to the ‘sensitive’ nature of infertility –I mean we chareidim don’t quite do that, do we?- discreet meetings are arranged at private homes for men of means with leaflets tailored to whoever their godel happens to be. At the meeting a well laid ambush is set up with high-pressure tactics to get you to sign up for a direct debit. Those who pledged £1000 will tonight be wined and dined at a specially laid on dinner for the larger donors.

The leaflet heading is marked ‘London’ and the impression is that money raised locally is used for couples in this country. The footnote on the leaflet contains an exhortation not to discuss the matter in public so I shan’t say anything other than ask how necessary financial assistance for infertility is in this country where we’re blessed with the NHS? True, there may be a wait but with couples marrying in their teens what exactly is the hurry? Surely it’s not written in the scriptures that morning sickness is part of a couple’s bonding ritual during their first months while getting to know each other.

We also have a home grown charity Chana which although it carries out its work with less fanfare it is no less effective for that. It hosts public information events with professionals and also provides counselling. It is run on the whole by women though there are male support workers too and counselling is also provided in Yiddish. It relies less on the gedoilim nonsense which is a good idea as when it comes to reproduction gedoilim can be something of a turn off.

My point however is Bonei Olam’s logo of a single person, which looks male though it could possibly be a female with trousers, conjuring out of thin air an entire chareidi family albeit slightly on the small side. Difficult to tell how they do it. Perhaps the gedoilim can manage even miracles unknown hitherto since the days of Joseph and Mary or maybe they provide a cloning facility. If we can have Dolly the sheep why not Tuli, or Chaim, the kid?