Friday, 4 April 2014

A Tale of Two Hatzoles (and two venues)…

… but one singer

What I'm going to write about is so secret and so highly classified that not even all who regularly pop up for photo ops with the old bill and other epauletted worthies are in on this one. But in my mission to keep my readers informed I will nevertheless share it all with you despite the fact that I may be breaching the Official Secrets Act. But please lmaan hashem don't say you heard it from me because I'm in enough hot water as it is and this is one I can do well to avoid.

You must have all heard of last night's kumzitz, between you and me little more than a fancy word for a concert especially when held on leil shishi, which took place at the Walthamstow Town Hall in aid of Hatzole North West. Its star performer was none other than Abraham Fried.

Since the Walthamstow Town Hall is kind of on our turf the rabbis banned it. I mean, what use would rabbis be if they allowed concerts? All you have to do is allow one concert and next they'll be twerking in Yesodey Hatorah at £500 a booty shake. I said our turf with 'our' meaning Stamford Hill, because if you were to measure the distance between the Walthamstow Town Hall and Golders Green Road and the Walthamstow and Stamford Hill we work out closer. In addition, the Walthamstow was once the hall of choice before Yesodey Hatorah came onto the map at £2,500+ a pop and since our crowd hired it more than theirs it further enforces our rabbis’ jurisdiction over events taking place there. This being the case it puts the Walthamstow firmly into our orbit which translated locally means, our rabbis’ sphere of bans.

We haven't invented any of this and Russia nowadays also operates a similar policy in its 'near abroad' and given the commitment of Russia to freedom of expression, democracy and rule of law we have quite a bit in common with Reb Vlad. But let's leave that for another day.

Anyhow, two local rabbis competed with each other over the quality of their handwriting and each wrote a note denouncing the event. To one it was mere frivolity while to the other the concert organisers were no less than emissaries of Satan. This last one then went on to hint darkly at what might befall those daring to attend.

The event went ahead anyway especially as its purpose was not even a local cause and none other than Dayan Abraham gave a talk. So much for the power of bans. To be fair though, those same rabbonim might have preferred a ban to frequent certain establishments in St James or more recently in Stratford. However, as I explained earlier this is a turf war and their writ does not run to those distances. It's tishn they manage not tables.

And so we come to the classified stuff. This coming motzei shabbos Hatzole Stamford Hill will be holding its own fundraising event at £360 a head and with the very same Avraham Fried as its star performer. Yet not a word, handwritten or otherwise, from those who've made it their business to ban all in their sight and a lot more beyond.

It may well be that word of this event has simply not reached the rabbis since the organisers have made a concerted (excuse the pun) effort to keep the local riffraff in the dark. There were no adverts or announcements on ticket sales and only the local refined lot were solicited via a discreet text message. The riffraff is of course good enough for the annual Reich's fress up and lots of photo ops for VIPs so long as they fill up the hall and turn out their wallets, but when it comes to a seated dinner with fine wines please take a haircut before we’ll consider you lot. Of course Hatzole belongs to all of us as we're constantly told and no one would dream of doubting that, but still there are times when the little people and big beards are best kept at a safe distance. Fressing is for the masses, entertainment for the few, appears to be the message.

And not just the people but the rabbis too. Apparently the line up of speakers does not include any Stamford Hill rabbonim despite that it is for the supreme local charity and that truckloads of rabbonim are commandeered annually for the local event when we’re all invited, nay, marched at the end of a barrel but with no wine in sight.

To explain this apparent inconsistency let us return to the turf war we mentioned earlier. You see, Hatzole has thought it wise to hold this melave malke in Kinloss and there lies the answer for it works roughly like this: when Hatzole NW comes onto our territory then they're spat in their face, figuratively of course, because they tend to bring their dirty habits and promiscuous crowds with them and try to corrupt our pure youths by offering some entertainment for all. But when Hatzole Stamford Hill want to let their hair down they climb Archway in the other direction where they're as far as can be from the hoi polloi who know not how to hold a knife and fork and never mind dine in the company of £360-a-headers and for whom fun is a filthy word. And that they are also safe from the interdicting killjoy rabbonim cannot do any harm either.

The two events do however share another feature besides the common singer. Both the NW and SH events was and is for men only. This is undoubtedly to do with the time of year when men face the challenging task of deciding which matzo and wine vintage to opt for and it was felt they deserved a respite from their arduous toils and be afforded the opportunity to wind down with some music and dance. Women on the other hand are already in throes of ecstasy while scrubbing the grouting between the tiles behind the cooker and coaxing out that recalcitrant crumb from under the freezer and with life-affirming mitzvos like that it would be a total waste to indulge them any further.

And so if you're one of the recipients of the cherished text do enjoy your meal and ban-free song especially as it's for a good cause. But do please have in zin to be moitze all us lot who've been left behind.

Labels: , ,

Friday, 24 January 2014

Horrible Histories

Yesodey Hatorah is holding a fundraising evening and good luck to them for that. They don’t have to pay for the use of the ‘voluntary aided’ wedding hall that is extorted from the rest of us so that’s already £2,500 gained. As they say, every little helps.

As part of the build-up to this annual event, Hamodia has been running a 4-part series, "Yesodey Hatorah - Past and Present",  which is supposed to be a "short historical review of its history". Several photos accompanied the articles with Reb Shmelke Pinter appearing in many of them but not a single photo of that minor inconvenience, Rabbi Pardes, who by chance just happened to found the school.

Hamodia correctionTo be fair to them, they apologised in advance for "unintentional inaccuracies, of which we would be pleased to be informed" and by week 3 some corrections duly appeared. The corrections included a number of local names who had given 'substantial support' to the school and also noted that Reb Dovid Berkowitz was a 'menahel' prior to Pinter senior. I suppose we ought to deduce that other than those few corrections the remainder was accurate to a tee.

 

I hate to rain on their parade but I can't resist pointing out what appears to be a little invention that inexplicably made its way through the army of scholars and highly qualified history teachers who must have fact checked every syllable to ensure that nothing slipped through the barbarians at the gate safeguarding their family’s honour, prestige and not a small fortune. I will leave it for readers to decide whether what follows forms part of the 'unintentional' or whether it has mens rea scribbled all over it. To assist you along with this little brain teaser here is just a small clue: the current 'Principal' of the voluntary aided senior girls' school happens to function as an 'unpaid advisor' to the Hamodia. Could be a red herring or may possibly hold the clue to the puzzle. We may never know.

IMG_00001318Anyhow, back to the 'history'. According to the second instalment of the series (above) the genesis of Yesodey Hatorah school was at a meeting called by Rabbi Pardes in 1942 in war-torn London. Of that meeting the Hamodia has this to say: "Rav Pardes called a meeting attended by Rav Rabinow, Rav Shmelke Pinter" and which included Pinchos Landau, Getzel Berger, Shaul Bodner, Wolf Schiff, Efrayim Nussbaum, Yechiel Schwimmer, Sholom Hanstater and Avrohom and Mendel Getter.

So no mistake there. Pinter the Elder was firmly in attendance at the school's founding meeting and which would make him a co-founder of the school.

Now for some facts. I am told that in 1943 Pinter was a melamed (Hebrew teacher) at the school of 6 year olds. One former pupil told me that Pinter Senior taught him mishanyos. Another former pupil told me that in 1948 Pinter was teaching 8 year olds and that he taught him gemore. Knowing the status of melamdim in general even these days and all the more so then, one can reasonably question whether a future melamed would be invited to a meeting attended by the Great and the Good. But let's leave assumptions and, you might say, prejudices aside and concentrate on the more concrete evidence.

1957, Dec 20 - Part 3The above (click to enlarge) is a JC article from 1957 under Reb Shmelke Pinter's byline who by then was well enough established at the school to be titled Prinicpal. The JC had published an entire supplement that week dedicated to the school and also in aid of a forthcoming fundraising dinner. (Note the Guest of Honour!) . Pinter starts the article with this same epic 1942 meeting and lists all the attendees save for one significant omission. Himself. This begs the question: are we to believe that at a time when he had yet to establish himself as the sole principal operator, his title notwithstanding, he failed to place himself at the centre of the action? Or is it the case that he was simply not there?

A World Apart, 120-121If you are still following me, there is even more to it. This meeting is also mention in A World Apart, The Story of the Chasidim in Britain (London, 1997) by Harry Rabinowicz, and it gives as its source the above JC article. But note how by then myth is surreptitiously replacing fact. In the JC article, Reb Shmelke quotes Rav Pardes addressing the meeting, "We are in serious danger." But in Rabinowicz, published when Reb Shmelke was no longer with us, these epic words are uttered by Rabbi Pardes "clad in tallit and kittel " before Kol Nidrei when he "extracted a solemn pledge from Rabbi Shmelke to establish a Jewish day-school." If this is to be believed, it is remarkable that Reb Shmelke himself mentions none of it in his article back in 1957. But then stranger things have happened in that place.

The myth making does not end there either. A page further Rabinowicz has Pinter acquiring a disused nursing home at 2/4 Amhurst Park in 1948 , which is still the site of the nursery and boys' school. Besides the fact that it was the Getter brothers and Getzel Berger who donated the Amhurst Park buildings, as mentioned above in 1948 Pinter was still a melamed and at that time was acquiring little else but his meagre salary.

Let's leave it to another day to fill in on some of the true history of the school, a lot of which is well worth repeating but unfortunately cannot be spotted by the current ‘owners’ who care for little more than some name dropping. For now, significant omissions in the Hamodia series include the first head of the school Myer Dominitz, the Lieger Rov who was head of Kodesh at the school during some time in the '50s, those who chaired the building fund during the school’s early years, the trustees of the Great Garden Street Talmud Torah of the East End who made substantial donations to the school, the Chief Rabbis and London Beth Din Dayonim who helped it along and many others. Athough Hamodia did mention Wolf Schiff as having attended the founding meeting no mention was made of his running of the school during those difficult early years and without whom the entire project may have folded. (Oh, and shhh don’t mention the boxing match.)

Instead we were fed Pinter ad nauseum and given a roster of gedoilim who stepped in from time to time when paying one of their flying visits but who contributed little to the school. It fits the zeitgeist perfectly, I guess, and so big deal if the historical record is ever so slightly distorted. There are no qualified teachers to check, so who really cares. As we say, there are lies, damn lies and Yesodey Hatorah history.

Labels: ,

Sunday, 5 January 2014

The iRov

IMG-20140105-WA000

Greetings

I received your letter concerning the intention to install an eiruv in your city [Manchester] and you have explained numerous serious doubts about [the validity of] the eiruv. The rabbonim of here [London] who specialise in the rules of eiruv have also commented to me likewise and told me that there are grave doubts about the eiruv. Besides, supervising an eiruv is a very difficult task and involves large costs and certainly over time it will lead, God forbid, to the desecration of the Shabbos. It has been agreed by the gedoilim of the generation that one should not make an eiruv in large cities like yours and this was also the opinion of my father of blessed memory.

It is therefore your duty to do whatever you can that the [eiruv] should not come to fruition.

In the merit of observing the Shabbos may you be blessed with all good and God will be in your help and may you succeed in all your endeavours.

Your friend who seeks your peace

Moshe Chaim Ephraim Padwa

(Chief Rov of the London based Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations)

What’s worse than having a rov on your Rabbinate in your city allegedly molesting women who come to him for counselling? An eiruv in a city some 200 miles away of course and how silly of me to ask. This is the most pressing issue and requires meddling even in another community’s affairs especially when affairs in your own town are a wee bit complicated, to put it politely.

As a wise man quipped, rather wrestle female arms than wrestle with your own conscience. And if that means knotting yourself up in someone else’s rope it’s still preferable to being the only major Jewish community anywhere in the world that says no to an eiruv. It was after all King Solomon the Wise who instituted the eiruv so you should be able to figure out what it takes to annul it.

But let’s try to understand the murky politics behind this. An eiruv in Manchester will set a very dangerous precedent for us mugs without one and so two wrongs will make one right as they’re wont to do in these parts. The loonies in London and in Manchester have joined a common cause and before not too long they may even institute arm wrestling sessions north of the M1. At Brackmans, the Ladies-who-Lunch must be sick in anticipation. Not to worry lasses, without an eiruv it’s no strings attached.

What however is most interesting is Rabbi Padwa’s newfound concern for matters financial. The apparently astronomical cost of supervising an eiruv is of course unique to the UK and against which hiring a stadium to prevent you reading this very blog post is a mere pittance. This penny pinching may well be connected to the dependency of his community on a whole range of benefits which, unless the powers that march on Westminster on our behalf get their way, may be drastically cut if they haven’t been already.

So let us applaud our dear Rov for his immense bravery and courage and let us hope others will follow his lead and give him and his ilk a taste of their own medicine. Let us get rabbis from Bnei Berak to Brooklyn, from Jerusalem to Johannesburg to proclaim loud and clear why London, Manchester and any other city are not just fit for an eiruv but that it is a mitzvah to install one and the sooner we get one the better. And while they’re at it, they may also wish, as a footnote, to voice an opinion on posing for a photo-op with suspects while under police investigation.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, 15 November 2013

Rejoice! Rejoice!

For the unprecedented denouncement by five rabbis of a former colleague not being 'fit and proper to act in any Rabbinic capacity'.

For the silence and shame of the victims

For the rabbi who acted more like a clown than a town rov

For the Rabbinate that allowed women to continue visiting an alleged molester despite first hand knowledge of the allegations

For our rotten and corrupt lay leaders, not a single one of whom has taken any responsibility

For the organisation that calls for the boycott of a local black tailor but remains silent on far worse allegations against a white-socked rabbi

For the numerous notices by the UOHC modesty squad but none for its barely publicised child ‘protection’ line

For the rabbi who is concerned with women kissing a Sefer Torah but covers up allegations of a rabbi doing far worse to women

For the rabbis summonsing the town to anti-internet offensives while doing nothing on allegations of lewd rabbinical emails and texts

For the rabbi who bans sharing a platform with reform but readily turns up for photo-ops with a rabbi under police investigation for alleged sexual crimes

For the intimidated witnesses and knobbled Beth Din

For a shul split in two with more than a majority forming a breakaway

For a community torn asunder by allegations of the most heinous nature

Rejoice! Celebrate! Jubilate! Lift your glasses in cheer. Hold up your hands to heaven. Raise your feet in dance. Let your kiddush drams overflow.

The prayers have worked, the Psalms have performed, the victims have been silenced, the police have backed off, the Beth Din is forgotten and life can resume. For victims 'the police is not the solution' but for the alleged perps the police is a fount of justice and the source of truth. Forget about Torah and tznius and all that nonsense for the masses, if the cops say no law was broken then the rabbi must be as innocent as his leg wear. And if there was consent then let him re-ascend the pulpit.

But for now the investigation is over, the suspect released without charge and the victims will just have to stew.

L'Chaim!

Friday, 8 November 2013

Wall of Separation

image

28 Marcheshvan 5774 [1 November 2013]

It is now several generations that Chareidi Jewry in all their dwelling places under the leadership of our great rabbis of yore proclaimed a war against the reformers who uproot the religion. Here too in London Chareidi rabbis have unanimously agreed that we have no connection, association or dealings with them in any form.

And so how astounded have we been that of late this wall of separation has been breached, for there are rabbis who permit themselves to appear on a platform called "Limmud" where the reformers also preach. The pain is great for who can foretell the outcome. It will appear in the eyes of the masses that it is permitted to hear sermons also from the reformers, God forbid.

There are also tidings that there are places of worship/frivolity (pun of tfila/tifla) that when the Sefer Torah is brought out they offer the Sefer Torah to the women's section so that they too can kiss the Sefer Torah. There are other places where on Simchas Torah the women dance on their own with a Sefer Torah and there are other such breaches that are pervaded by the whiff of reform. If we do not strengthen the wall of separation between us and them the decline will continue and who knows how far things will go, God forbid.

It is therefore greatly incumbent on every rabbi to stand on the watch and rule on an absolute prohibition to participate in any forum that is attended by the reform and to strengthen the wall of Judaism that is loyal to God and His Torah.

May God help that we should merit to withstand the breach and build fences and sanctify the Name of Heaven until we merit that speedily may You shine a new light over Zion and may we merit speedily to His light.

On behalf of the Beth Din Tzedek

Moshe Chaim Ephraim Padwa

Head of the Beth Din

Labels: , ,