Thursday, 28 February 2013
Step forward the real “Angel Gabriel” Ost. Arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice, he had the good sense and decency to step down in the interim from his position as CEO of Shomrim North West while he fights to clear his name.
You may think that is not particularly remarkable and is exactly what any sensible person in his position would do. Alas, you would not have been living in Jewish London for the last half year if you harboured such thoughts.
If only the main protagonist would have mustered the same dignity and courage and acted in a likewise manner, he would have saved the broader community, the UOHC, his own shul and followers, his family including his elderly father and, above all, himself the shame and disgrace that has justifiably been heaped upon them all. He could then have tried to clear his name away from the limelight and without dragging everyone along with him.
And if he was not capable of such a momentous decision there should have been someone at the UOHC to tell him what was obvious to everyone but to the Dear Leaders. But as we have learned to our cost, not only do these people have no vestige of self respect they do not even possess the modicum of sense to act in their own good and simply for their self preservation.
They will undoubtedly claim that Ost has acted in a Catholic manner and that true Da’as Torah mandates holding on by the skin of their teeth and the more intense the battle the greater the Kiddush Hashem. And let them delude themselves for never will they recognise the unpalatable truth that they are way beyond hope and redemption and there is nowhere for them to go but walk the plank.
Gavriel may be under suspicion but it is this lot who are truly doomed.
Friday, 22 February 2013
We are where we are and a chap, who until recently was a senior member of the most senior rabbinical body of our community, has been arrested on suspicion of sexual assault. So what does the body do? Forget about the rabbis. They're not trained in crises handling and the best one can expect from them is to stroke their beards and call on their flock to repent. After all, our leaders are only under suspicion while we're a bunch of hoary sinners at the best of times, or at least so we're told. You would also not expect our Chief to do anything but keep his counsel this time round given what happened when he was last consulted on such delicate issues. Silence after all doesn't make particularly good TV viewing.
But what of our lay leaders? What do they do at a time like this? You know like the robin-round Rosh Hakohol. Or the chairman of the external affairs committee who week in week out pontificates on neither here nor there. Or the spokesman and occasional 'QC' who graces the airwaves on everything from the decadence of universities to the equality of women (and more recently has been manning the child line protecting kids from cops). Or the worm hunters, the stocking weavers, the skirt measurers, the grave diggers and all the other heavenly enforcers making their abode in our square mile.
Do they have nothing to say? No concern, no guidance, no comment? Perhaps the executive committee has gone into plenary session to determine whether this is a matter for the external affairs or the internal affairs or whether it's an affair at all. But still they could let off some smoke to tell the masses that "we are dealing with this". We've had some chizuk from the boys in blue so why not them?
But wait it's Purim too so surely that must merit something. And so it did with the result above for all to see. Because as they say, "It was recently come to light" and not a minute too soon.
Didn't we know that this is all just a bad dream? A silly prank by some chevre dressed up with a flashing light on their car. The joke of course could only go so far and what really matters are those filthy perverted photographers. How dare they breach our mechitze fortifications to perv on our womenfolk dancing? What do they think? That they cholilo pole dance at the Decorium, do a Harlem Shake at the 'communal' wedding hall hired at preferential rates (not clear whose preference, though) or prance Gangnam Style at the Prince
And so at this delicate time, when the world is examining what them rabbis get up to, trust our Union to speak up for the man in the street. Or in this case the photographer in the hall.
You've just got to love them. The timing, the perspicacity, the sagaciousness, the sheer brilliance of coming out with a notice like this at the end of a week we've just had and 2 days before Purim. Don't you just want to go up to each and every one of our Dear Leaders and give them a big hug. This is the crowning glory to their most successful winter on record and still they could outdo themselves even further.
As I said, it is Purim when no joke is too corny and no wit too flat so let me share just another one with you.
Q: Why does the Union provide a mother and baby home?
A: Because they're always in the breach position.
Cha cha cha, s'iz git, vos?
Wednesday, 20 February 2013
Please read carefully before you comment. Editing comments is horribly time consuming and if there is any doubt the comment will not be published.
If there is a media lawyer reading this and is able to assist please can you make yourself known by email.
There is however no reason why there cannot be a sensible discussion on how we got to where we are and the many repercussions to the community of the current situation. So please do not give in to those who would like to silence us and do contribute to this very important debate.
Be heard not herded.
Monday, 18 February 2013
There is a court order for Google Inc to disclose the IP address of the owner of this blog as well as of certain 'named' commenters which are based in the EU. The pseudonyms of the affected comments are listed below and those concerned should urgently seek legal advice.
"The official FISHEL"
"Betrayed Former Supporter"
"Playing with fire"
"Ger - (woman with brain)"
"Be a Mentch!"
"DSM IV 302.89"
"The Curtain Falls"
"r"l strikes again"
"now I understand"
In addition there are the following "Anonymous" posts which are also subject to the Order:
Those affected can write to email@example.com for some assistance.
A number of those affected by the order have already obtained legal advice and as a result of that advice all comments have been removed from the posts dealing with the Halpern saga, to protect those that have commented. While only a fraction of the comments could potentially be defamatory, the numbers are such that it would be too time consuming to sift through them and delete just those that could be problematic. Hopefully with time and crowd sourcing the questionable comments can be removed and the remaining comments restored.
Make no mistake however: this blog is not going away. This debate has always been primarily about the scandalous failure and hypocrisy of the UOHC's entire rabbinical and lay leadership from the very top down and for which no one has to date taken any responsibility. No libel law in the world will stop this blog from saying that. Comments on this and related matters will continue to be published though due to legal constraints there will be heavier editing which will result in comments taking longer to get through.
Finally we would like to thank the very many people who have offered support in every form, including financial, legal, technological, moral and spiritual. It is heartening to know that we have the backing of a sizeable community willing to stand up for the truth. We may appeal to you in the near future for contributions to a legal fighting fund and information will be posted accordingly.
This has never been a case of Golders Green against Stamford Hill, Chasidim against Litvaks, LBD against Kedassia or Modern Orthodox versus Ultra Orthodox. This is a campaign of decency against thuggery, justice against injustice and truth against obfuscation, deceit and outright lies. It may take long and it will be tough but the people behind this campaign will see it through to the end and will fight for what is just and right.
Our motto to this campaign is:
והדרך צלח ורכב על דבר אמת וענוה צדק ותורך נוראות ימינך - תהילים מה, ד
And in thy majesty prosper, ride on in the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness; and let thy right hand teach thee awesome things. (Psalms 45,4)
Sunday, 3 February 2013
[1 February 2013]So it appears we have a serious machloikes haposkim (dispute of the authorities). Rav Padwa is of the view that reporting abuse to the police is mesira and anyway “the police is not the solution,” while Rabbi Cohn thinks it is actually haloche that requires one to report all criminal activity to the authorities which includes the police.
ClarificationI wish to make it clear that the Haloche requires that cases involving criminal activity must be reported to the authorities (social services or police) without delay. Victims of crime who do so, will of course be given all appropriate support. Where criminal activity is only suspected, the above also applies, however care must then be taken to ascertain that these concerns do indeed have a reasonable basis.May God grant all of us the protection necessary to ensure that the situation never occurs in practice.Good ShabbosRabbi Cohn
Rabbi Cohn as we know is also an ‘honest broker’ in the UOHC convened Beis Din investigating the Towelgate affair and it was he who put out a call for witnesses to come forward. One therefore wonders what his advice will be to complainants who allege criminal activity.
Saturday, 2 February 2013
Original Scarfe Cartoon…
…and Hamodia’s take on it
For goodness sake, they’re wearing a tichel
Methinks that the JAA (Jewish Acronym Alliance) ought to demand an immediate retraction of this notorious distortion of this notorious ad, Rupert Murdoch’s counterpart at Hamodia Newspaper Ltd must issue an unreserved apology and the Hamodia’s editor should be seriously considering his position.
And as for Gerald Scarfe’s chareidi counterpart, if only we had one…
Tuesday, 29 January 2013
Subject: NHAYS: Beis Din Tsedek
From: NHAYS Webmaster <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent on behalf of the Executive:
This is a statement to confirm that the Executive and Board of Management are most surprised that our Rov has been appointed to represent a 'Beis Din Tsedek' in the local case (see here).
This has been done without our knowledge and is therefore totally independent of our shul.
The Executive of NHAYS
The so-called “unfortunate” Channel 4 Dispatches programme is about to hit the airwaves, and the UOHC has done it again. It has laid bare its wares and showcased its blatant disregard for anything but the safeguarding of its own precarious existence. Nothing is more indicative of this than Rav Padwa’s characteristically myopic and blinkered response which is bound to spread further the rot decaying the UOHC’s rickety construction.
Rav Padwa: if it is indeed so important to you that our children are protected from harm, where on God’s earth have you been hitherto? Why have you to date cared so little for the pain and suffering of children and of victims of child abuse? Why have you shown them the door on numerous occasions citing their inadmissibility as witnesses owing to your own dark-age interpretation of Halacha? If child protection is indeed so important to you, why do you still allow school teachers to beat their charges black and blue at the schools on your patch? This is what is most unfortunate.
It is unfortunate that you address this letter neither to victims nor their families, but to your cronies - rabbis and educators. It is unfortunate that you imply that there is, and that there has been for quite a while, a ‘special committee’ that actively pursues and investigates cases of child abuse. Yet your UOHC calendar which markets your products and services has never seen fit to publish the existence, let alone the number, of this so-called ‘special committee’. This mysterious ‘special committee’ of yours has somehow evaded the attention of the multitude of victims and their families.
It is unfortunate is that you have sought to silence victims, as will become evident in the Dispatches programme. Is it not the case that you have acted in the same fashion on several other occasions, as some have had the misfortune to witness? And now your letter has the stated aim of silencing them once more. Just not only victims this time, but also those questioning your abysmal record in dealing with child protection.
You acknowledge that there are certain instances in which it would be permissible to contact law enforcement. So let me challenge you to cite a single case where this has actually happened during your time at the helm of this sinking ship.
It is most unfortunate that, through your spokesman, you have instead compounded the pain of one alleged victim by casting doubt on his credibility. Is it not true that a number of other victims at the hands of this alleged perpetrator have been brought before you? And is it not the case that you have done nothing substantial to assist these people who are suffering indescribable pain?
It is unfortunate that in contrast to the London Beth Din, you have not mentioned any advisor - or ‘experts’, as you prefer to call them - by name. We know nothing of those who will be manning this helpline and what regard they have for our well-being rather than yours. Yet you ask that we abide by your request that those with concerns about child abuse contact this anonymous, hitherto unknown ‘special committee’. Let me tell you this: after the ineptitude we have seen from your office over the last few months do not expect us to fall for this hook, helpline and sinker.
What is most certainly not unfortunate is that there is an attempt by Channel 4 to bring this grave problem to the fore.
It is in fact extremely fortunate, that you are now forced to consider these issues. It is fortunate that unlike the UOHC, the London Beth Din have issued a halachic ruling advising not just rabbis and educators but all of us, including those you hold in contempt, to contact the police in the very first instance of abuse and to inform their named Child Protection Officer.
It is fortunate, that your membership have been using the London Beth Din for litigation and arbitration for years and are now flocking to them for their foodstuffs too. We are no longer dependent upon your dinosaurian attitude towards such serious matters and, thankfully, we now have elsewhere to turn.
You may hope, Rav Padwa, that this UOHC Child Protection Line of yours receives not a single call. You may hope that your letter is seen by your membership for the mere lip-service which it really is. Frankly, so do I.
Friday, 25 January 2013
13 Shvat 5773 [24 January 2013]
To Rabbis, Educators and Heads of Educational Institutions here [in London]
The committee will endeavour to assist with the advice and support of experts to support children or families that have suffered abuse, God forbid.
There has unfortunately been produced a programme that is about to be broadcast on TV on the subject of abuse in our community where they allege that even after the actions of abusers have been known they are still able to carry out with their deeds, God forbid. The committee for the protection of children and instituting an appropriate policy for the protection of children in our community will, please God, assist to silence the critics who complain that the UOHC does not fulfil its duties in this matter.
Each case that is referred to one of the rabbis, educators or headteachers [where there is a] risk to the safeguard of a child, they are requested to bring the matter to the attention of the committee who will deal with it in accordance with the advice of Beth Din and the law.
The telephone number of the committee of the UOHC is below.
On behalf of the Rabbinate
Moshe Chaim Ephraim Padwa
Head of the Beis Din
Sunday, 20 January 2013
It was the caring and feeling Adath that took charge of the cadaver and interred it out of sight hoping it would remain out of mind. Along comes mum several years later asking the outlandish question of where the dead body is bestowed. Trust our Adath to come up with a humane answer to this apparently insoluble query which may have taxed even the brains of Solomon. And true to character they did not disappoint. According to the news report their reply to the mother's enquiry was "say some Tehillim, light a candle and forget about it". Presumably what they have been telling the fiddled women over the years so they've had a fair amount of time to practise the line.
With wisdom like this being bandied about it makes King Solomon look positively daft. Why bother slicing up a child when all he had to do was hand it to the Adath, whose fees he could well afford, and Houdini like the baby would have vanished forever. King Solomon was the one who, Go- forbid, instituted the eiruv so that could have posed a dilemma but I'm sure Solomon's gold and the £2.6m filling the Adath's coffers would have found common cause. And as to the warring mums, serves them right for reading the JC in the first place. Had they heeded Dovid Frand they would have known that the JC is for Chaim not meisim.
But we're up to Tehilim and let us not digress. Let's face it, since God is omniscient and omnipresent He can hear the Tehilim wherever it is recited and He surely knows where to apply it. So why exactly must parents know the precise burial spot of their child? The Torah itself concealed the grave of Moshe Rabeinu and with the greatest respect to mum and her feelings she cannot in her right mind believe her baby is more important than our greatest prophet. Knowledge is power and we like to keep power to ourselves, thank you very much. If not for the fees generated by the location of different plots none of us would have been told where our loved ones lie and so when the foxes came no one would know whose bones had been carried away. Foxily clever, you must admit.
And as for the argument raised by mum that the US has been more forthcoming to parents of children in their cemeteries, our Grim Reapers had the perfect parry. 'The JC have been making a fuss.' Touché. If the JC were to tell us to eat breakfast we'd starve ourselves and when they dare make allegations against our saintly leaders we flock to them in ever greater numbers. What is worst in Bridge Lane is still far better than the best in Furnival Street and they will not be the ones to dictate to us what decency, compassion and humanity is about.
Never mind haloche which has little to say on the matter. If following our hallowed traditions causes suffering to the odd sensitive mum, it is a price well worth paying. Rachmonus is not what liberal lefties think it to be but rather that which nestles within our minhogim, outmoded and outdated as they may seem to those who lack a toiredike viewpoint. They are the light to our feet and, come to think of it, what lies under our feet too. And this applies whether it is kids buried in a cemetery or kids buried in a school system that decomposes them 110 years early.
In case you think this was just a gratuitous swipe at the school I love to hate do please read on for with a little digging there is a far closer connection between that burial society and that school than initially meets the shovel. I do not mean that the school is a burial ground of sorts, though that too. It does constrain its charges like a grave and clothes conforming to its tznius edicts are not a million miles from shrouds. But I'll accept that that is rather convoluted and forced.
Consider however this . Of the mere three trustees in charge of the Adath Yisroel Burial Society, two of them, when not tending to cemeteries, function in their free time respectively as Chair and Deputy Chair of Governors of, you guessed it, Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls School. I have not made this up because try as I may it would be beyond me.
This may well explain why Joe only pops up now and then on his Neither Here Nor There soapbox to dispense his wit and wisdom since he is otherwise diligently engaged in the coveted governorship of the school. It is difficult though to be certain on this last point because as far as parents and children can observe he might as well be interred in one of his bogs and we would hardly know the difference. And as for the Deputy Governor, that goes to a Mr Bibelman. His credentials for the position are unknown though, as I said, having a cemetery or two on your CV may well prepare you for some types of schools.
You just must give it to Pinter. Challenge him on 'his' schools and when he tells you to drop dead those supposedly running the school may even stand to benefit. Not personally of course, but you get my gist. During daytime it’s teens tutoring teens while in the evening they waltz a danse macabre in the revenue-raising wedding hall to the grave-digging tune of burial society apparatchiks.
One can truly say that YHS is where they hatch 'em, match 'em and dispatch 'em. Let others call it what they like, round here we call it a school.
Saturday, 19 January 2013
Dear "still not in the no"
I have hesitated to respond to your inquisitive comments for I am fearful of incurring the displeasure of my Divrei Chaim brethren, and hope I shall not be banished from the DC magic circle for disclosing the clandestine mysticism oft-practiced in our cult.
As you must have heard, we entrusted our entire life including our womenfolk and children to our Rebbe. Some even accorded to him the ancient right of droit du seigneur but it is said that our Rebbe, renown for his asceticism and self-abnegation, would exhort that the bride merely have him in mind during the Great Act rather than participate in it in person.
We would pose to him all queries concerning our businesses and families for we knew Him to be the source of all knowledge. We would include even such esoteric topics as psychotherapy, tax avoidance and gynaecology and never would he fail us.
Our Rebbe is a practitioner too of the ancient art of Feng Shui, and when he requested that we renovate the premises and his place of lodging to enhance the channelling of His life-force and the potency of his energy we questioned him not. We obeyed him blindly, for we could not understand the recondite subjects in which he dabbled. But what would take place around the period of the autumnal equinox is something of a different order altogether.
On Simchas Torah, our guru, our leader, of whom we are not fit to kiss the the hem of his shiny robe, would shut his holy eyes and reach out with his mighty hand, the one containing the DNA of the Holy Amshinov Seer, into a crate of apples and erratically hurl them to all corners of our DC sanctum. What was the purpose of this seemingly demented act?
Aah, I cannot reveal all and there is much you will not understand, but I shall allow you this. Our Rebbe would transcend the trappings of our physical form and seize hold of the elusive spiritual sparks that flit across the Universe's stratosphere, left over since the Great Day of Creation. He would force them into apples, retrieved from the Garden of the Hesperides itself, and then bestow these hallowed fruit upon the laps of our initiated fellowship.
In due course, the recipients would encounter untold blessings and richness as our great Soothsayer had averred in the practice known as ‘vintshn’ in our internal vernacular. Verily, he would promise miraculous recoveries to those suffering ailments of mind and body, sustenance to the impoverished and even offspring to the infertile who were privileged to belong to our brotherhood. Salvation to these last mentioned would require further isolation with the Great Man who would wrestle out all impurity from the afflicted and transpose it to mere swaddling cloths. “Swaddle me so you may swaddle your own,” he would make them chant endlessly. It was only a most unfortunate set of circumstances and the intervention of Satan himself that could thwart the Great Man's designs.
Of course, as is the way of the Occult, such acts require immense preparation and a mastery of the Unseen. Our Rebbe would convene for months beforehand with his order of priestesses at the witching hour of the night. What rites they performed at this propitious time, we know not, but we would observe the women depart his chamber displaying a dreamy and satisfied look. Then our Rabbi would immerse himself in the Holy Well that we had installed within the boundaries of our Temple. Finally, we would assemble in the tenebrous Great Hall, illuminated by flickering havdalah candles and with elaborate pentagrams drawn upon the floor, and He would perform the sacred rite of the Yud-Kay-Vov-Kay dance, summoning all the Forces of Good to accompany him on his forthcoming Mission.
I apologise if I have confounded your incredulous senses, and have failed to accurately recount the esoterica that I observed. I was a lay member and can only describe what I perceived with my unschooled eyes. The ordained priests such as Grand Master Matok may be able to offer a much more intimate and authentic account of what transpired.
I must stop writing for my inkwell has almost run dry and I can hear the Dark Riders circling outside, and Porky tinkering with the wheels of my wagon.
Brother Nathaniel - 8th of Sh'vat, 5773
Strange that the ‘signature given’ to the notice proclaiming that, despite myriad allegations, Chaim Halpern may continue in all public positions was in Hebrew, while the above retraction is in English.
Is this playing to different audiences or is it revealing of the signatory’s attitude to our collective mother tongue? To me at least it suggests that Hebrew is for zealotry while common sense comes in English.
Wednesday, 16 January 2013
So where were we before we were rudely interrupted by a Beis Din that will/will not take place? A (no) Show Trial where the judges are brought kicking and screaming, the witnesses are nowhere to be seen and the guy in the dock is smirking like a combatant after a prize-winning wrestle. Stalin couldn’t even have thought this one up but they call it justice round here. They even had me fool standing at the door with a hand on the mezuzah returning thinking it was a final curtain call, but which turned out to be a fly-by-night Beis Din stuck on the runway.
Firstly, thanks for all the kind words and sentiments expressed. 'Mertshem by you,' you can see me nodding in all directions. 'Not at all, it was mamesh our pleasure. Ach don't be silly,' I say to those who insist on helping take home the half bottles of cherryade and unopened plonk because the waiters were under orders to hide the corkscrew openers. 'Loz, the goyim will look after it. Mach zich nisht narish.'
And now please excuse me for turning to my little baby, this precious blog of mine. Many of you who have been lapping it up for the last couple of months may not necessarily enjoy my wares once the blog reverts to type. Like the school 'principal' about town prancing around at every other mixed affair while his charges are made to add inches to their skirts and encouraged to form a habit of standing aside for men. Or the Buffoon who frets over the sight of women in a United Synagogue boardroom but will overhear nothing when one of his own is alleged to host them in his bedroom. Or the Chief who's happy to summon us to the stadium but keeps us out of the boudoir. And of course our institutions that are more interested in keeping face than losing clothes.
So turning to these newcomers, I am sorry to disappoint you but it ain't me you're looking for, babes. I am not a crusader and definitely not of the leshem shomayim variety. The only time I have had a positive experience with leshem shomayim was when I dined at a restaurant of that name in Nice in the South of France and that too was rather grubby with bird droppings from overhead trees. I'm afraid this blog adheres to the precepts of Mr JS Mill rather than the teaching of Rabbi YM Kagan/Poupko with no plans to switch sides in the foreseeable future. Truly shocking and I appreciate that, but I'd rather be upfront than fool you with a pile of Shmiras Haloshons stacked high at the entrance and then dish the dirt anyway.
A commenter wrote that apparently according to some rabbinical authorities martyrdom is preferable to a visit to this blog. I'd like to add that this is a view which I wholeheartedly endorse. May I even suggest that you set up a support group called Tickle Anonymous and arrange to meet at that famous bridge on Hornsey Road, conveniently located approximately half-way between Stamford Hill and Golders Green. There you can hold hands, of course each gender on either side of the bridge, and after a voluble Shema Yisroel surpassing even the one at the Royal Festival Hall in August, you can all go for a massive jump. Cheshunt should inter you and may even be willing to drown you for an extra fee but at least you'll be saved from transgressing the Sacred Articles of the Leyton Orient Convention.
I say this because we have reached a situation where on some days the entire Leyton Orient sell out crowd has been exceeded on this blog by 10am, and there they had the kiddies too. This would undoubtedly make it high up in the top 10 Chilul Hashems of all times and I simply cannot take this kind of achrayus on my narrow shoulders.
So to all you out there offended by satire, allergic to mirth or with ulcers that may rupture by an overdose of acerbity I have a simple message: Please abandon me, your Rav don't live here any more, assuming he ever did. (This, by the way, is a paraphrase of a kol isha which once again goes to show the terrible things that can happen by straying even accidentally onto this blog.)
I write for fun and maintain no standards other than my own. My moral compass contains only a south point and the moral high ground I occupy is on an altitude roughly parallel to the Dead Sea. I say this because the reaction to some posts and comments suggests that people may have got the wrong end of the towel. As its very name suggests, this blog is first and foremost about having a laugh and as it is written in the possuk הכי קרא שמו טיקל ויטקלני זה פעמים . (Is not he rightly named Tickle? for he hath tickled me these two times).
I also have an inkling that it is down the hill from Jack's Castle that most offence was taken and so let me make one further point: this is a Stamford Hill blog where we know how to laugh. I covered this story not because I am your Aslan but because besides an innate weakness for mischief making, I was interested in the local angle and not in the happy clappies on Bridge Lane. Of course, being in Stamford Hill I cannot not partake in the schadenfreude felt on this side of Nags Head at seeing your deity come crashing down. It's not nice and not at all kosher, I know, but nor is arm wrestling women with a towel and yet the Amshinovers engage in it with alacrity.
I simply could not have guessed at the contents of the Pandora's box about to be prised open. I did not and still do not understand all the dynamics of this saga. My experience of Golders Greeners is limited to the Normandie Hotel where like Germans on a Spanish resort spreading their towels early, you too grab all the seats and then bury your noses in your sidurim when we turn up after a mikve and coffee. Even shoving aside for us your, oh, so well behaved kinderlech, becomes too much. And now rabbis I'd barely heard of a few short months ago have turned into household names and individuals whose egos had hitherto not reached our retarded shores are suddenly all the rage.
Least of all did I understand the scores being settled and the accounts being balanced in this affair. I too was therefore taken aback at the sight of friend turning on friend and neighbour on neighbour in scenes not experienced since the Spanish Civil War. Though, happily, it wasn't Franco who succeeded this time. And so whether you have benefitted or lost out from all of this it's collateral as far as I'm concerned since Golders Green is not my forte and Hendon is outside my tchum.
So returning to the blog, yes I intend to continue but it's time to move on from this saga. In the last 3 months or so I have touched on no other story. Allowing others off the hook would be a terrible injustice to the scoundrel of the moment and therefore move on I must. I hope to return to the subject as it should be fascinating to examine how a hallowed institution like the UOHC turned itself into a variety show and how its head topped the bill. But to paraphrase those infamous words uttered by Tony Hayward: I just want my blog back.
But before I move on I have a very important message and disclaimer to those out there who've been coming here for their daily fix of Hashkofe. THIS BLOG is not endorsed by gedoilim. It is not checked for worms. It is (or aims to be) 100% chodosh and yoshon is instantly rejected. (Followers of the Chasam Sofer, in particular, you have been warned.) Visiting this site for 40 consecutive days will not cure your dandruff and nor will it clear your acne (and if you are of that age you should watch it because you may come face to face with your Rosh.) We have no facilities for standing orders - though they can be arranged upon request. We cannot check you for genetic diseases unless laughter is your affliction. Leaving a comment with your and your mother's name will not resolve your halitosis but flossing still remains an option. Moreover, publicising your visits may leave you and your spouse unshuled and your kids unschooled and unmatched if not mismatched.
However, if despite the above you still wish to stay on then please mach zich heimish as we stay in Stamford Hill where we do not employ nannies to keep the unwashed on the doorstep.
A note on housekeeping
I will keep on placing source documents and translations as and when they are published and/or leaked. If the UOHC has more acts up its sleeve expect to read about it here. I will also publish comments though without new developments there is not much left to say.
Contrary to what some believe, I do not ‘censor’ comments but nor am I going to turn this into a gladiatorial arena. I like cogent commentary, honest analysis and, more than anything, good writing. Facts, less so. If your comment has not been published please send me an email as otherwise I cannot communicate with you. If you’re still unhappy feel free to set up on your own and I wish you the very best.
Thursday, 10 January 2013
Wednesday, 9 January 2013
Note on translation: Since the text waffles on in places I have omitted the less relevant passages. The letter refers to Rav Padwa in the 3rd person which has been changed to direct speech.
Committee of Rabbis of NW LondonIf Chaim Halpern, as heir presumptive to his father's presidency of the UOHC, was Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and if we are currently witnessing a world war on the streets of frum London, then surely this letter is the opening shot that started it all off. Our Sarajevo moment, if you like.
Days of Selichos Elul 5772 [September 2012]
To the Gaavad of the UOHC Rabbi M.C.E Padwa shlita
We have become aware that one of the Dayanim, a member of the Union Rabbinate, is involved in obscene acts with married women. By ‘obscene’ we mean deeds that according to all [halachic] opinions are within the category of an obligation of martyrdom rather than commit the acts. Many women have testified that he speaks freely in the most licentious of manners. To our great consternation, his actions too are of an extremely grave nature. Those close to the matter have said that even if he has yet to transgress the prohibition against adultery, there is considerable concern that he may commit such acts too in the near future, God forbid.
We know that you are well aware of these matters, as you have already been informed about them from several sources.
You are certainly aware, just as we are, that several years ago, three of London's senior rabbis rebuked this individual regarding his obscene conduct, in terms of physical contact with women and such like, and he gave his word to desist in future.
The undertaking of this individual is, however, entirely worthless, as he is renown as a compulsive liar. You are well aware of this too given that you have also been informed of his lying habits.
Undoubtedly the preparation for the rally prevented you from dealing with other matters, but does not the ‘rescue of our generation’ take precedence over “the Rescue of all Generations”?
It appears that you were surprised that R. Chaim Kanievsky refused to write a letter of support for the "rally". We, however, were not surprised. How could someone smeared with this filth be accorded pride of place, exhorting the masses not to use the internet, when he himself is deeply immersed in precisely these things, Heaven help us? This is akin to one who immerses himself whilst still grabbing the rodent [i.e. the very cause of his impurity]…
You then added insult to injury when all the dayanim of the Union Rabbinate, including this individual, signed a proclamation [headed], "Let us search and examine our ways", which summoned everyone on the first day of Selichos "to cry out and beseech one hour before Mincha", to withdraw (God's) fury. [This was] in light of the recent tragedies that have occurred here in London, may God save us, that we have been afflicted with the deaths of seven young scholars, "the pride and glory of our town".
How could you ignore the explicit statement of our Sages, that "[because of sexual immorality] young men of Israel perish".
The rabbis here in Golders Green will not rest until this evil is removed from out midst. All of us want to avoid the profanation of God’s name, God forbid. [Some of] the women have said that if the rabbis do not act to remove this individual from our town they will report the matter to the police. We have no doubt that if this were to happen he will be imprisoned, as we have been advised by professionals on these subjects.
Needless to say that it would be desirable for the Rabbinate to avoid any delay so that the matter is not publicised, as it would lead to a horrendous desecration of God’s name.
We accordingly request that the Rabbinate order this individual to leave town, without any delay, in order to minimise the horrendous desecration of God’s name should the matter be publicised.
N.B. This letter was shown to R. Chaim Kanievsky and he remarked that it is ‘well in order’.
A copy of this letter is being made available to all parties concerned in this matter.
The letter, which is addressed to Rav Ephraim Padwa, was first referred to in the Jewish Chronicle and the original now sees light for the first time. According to the JC, it was sent unsigned on behalf of a group calling itself “The Committee of North-West London rabbis” and “more than one rabbi agreed to it being sent.” The letter is dated by reference only to the month of Elul and according to the JC it was sent a few days before Rosh Hashana, which fell on 16 September 2012.
This letter is most important because it belies any claim that the UOHC were willing to act but were outmanoeuvred by the Gilui Da’as. It shows that for at least a month Rav Padwa knew of the allegations and strength of feeling and he did nothing until the story hit the street. Even then it took him about another month or so to react in any meaningful way. I have a recording of a phone conversation in November with Rav Padwa, in which he is asked whether it is in order to ask Halpern more serious shales and he replies in the affirmative.
The hypocrisy is even more breathtaking when you consider that at the start of September, the UOHC convened a massive rally at the Leyton Orient stadium to warn against the ‘dangers’ of the internet and technology where Halpern graced the podium. At an earlier, smaller, meeting in North West London, Halpern also spoke about the same ‘dangers’.
It is clear from the letter that Padwa had been briefed on the issue shortly before the LO rally whose theme was ‘The Rescue of the Generations.’ The letter refers to the rally somewhat sarcastically when it says, “Undoubtedly the preparation for the rally prevented [you] from dealing with other matters,” and goes on to ask barbedly, “but does not the ‘rescue of our generation’ take precedence over “the Rescue of all Generations”?
Thanks to senders of letter and for assistance with translation.
Sunday, 6 January 2013
2. They find him innocent.
3. They find him somewhere in between.
Friday, 4 January 2013
It's a propitious time of year for reckoning so as we move on from the winter of discontent that has rocked our community it wouldn't be a bad idea to stand back and reflect. The basic facts hardly need repeating and the outcome is still far from certain. The reverberations will be felt for some time to come and there will be ample opportunity to analyse the causes and effects, exposures and cover ups, successes and setbacks, and winners and losers. On balance, however, I think we as a community have plenty to be proud of.
We have shown that rabbis too can be responsive when the weight of public anger is brought to bear down on them. Despite a hesitant start, those rabbis who acted showed resolve and courage in taking a stand to stamp out abuse in our midst. This was then followed by a dignified silence despite many provocations. One rabbi went even further by targeting those harbouring abusers and covering up for them. They were all in unchartered territory in respect of a scandal of this magnitude, concerning allegations this heinous, regarding a rabbi this senior in a community this frum. Yet act they did. While it is legitimate to criticise the manner they went about it, their fortitude in what they did must never be forgotten.
And seeing how such scandals have been dealt with in other parts of the world we can hold our heads even higher. What has transpired is truly unprecedented in a chareidi community where cover ups and denials are the order of the day. It has unfortunately been shown time and again that the more frum the community the more tolerant it tends to be of its sexual deviants and the more unable and unwilling it is to make difficult decisions. Perversely, this apparent inability turns to complete paralysis when the victims are themselves members of these same communities.
It is inconceivable that in Israel a group of chareidi rabbis would take on one of their own in this manner over sexual allegations. Over the excavating of non-existent graves, possibly. Over wig lengths and lycra content in women's tops, probably. Over political affiliations and fratricidal succession battles, definitely. But over touching up some women? We don't do such things and certainly not our rabbis, and anyway they're only women. Over there they call hospital heads 'Mengele' for the crime of rescuing a child from its deranged mother and burn rubbish on the streets when a father is arrested on suspicion (subsequently convicted) of murdering his own son.
Even in the USA where the civil authorities are less indulgent, no rabbi publicly condemned the convert specialist who sold Judaism for a song, or, to be more precise, a blow. Nor have I heard a single, sane voice from a senior chareidi figure in the furore following the conviction of Weberman on 59 charges relating to molestation. Here in London by contrast, a group of rabbis, some as chareidi as they come, condemned one of their own as unfit for purpose. This, my friends, is progress. It will no doubt in the course of time be pointed to as a turning point in the treatment of these issues in our communities and for this they deserve our unreserved gratitude.
Make no mistake, however. There are still plenty of dark forces out there desperate to turn the clock back. To them the corollary of the accused being innocent until proven guilty and permitted to retain his public role despite the relentless rumours and numerous allegations is that the victims are guilty until proven innocent. And if they're not guilty, they're mad, which indeed they must be to take on this dangerous lot.
Yet even this camp was relatively restrained. The letter from the Stamford Hill rabbis was moderate by their usual standards. They did not resort to ad-hominem attacks on the opposing side as is their wont and they condescended to provide reasons for their dissention which is rather gracious. This too is progress.
It has often appeared in recent times that rabbis have forgotten how to disagree on substantive issues. Whereas in days bygone disputes would be conducted by exchanges of responsa where the authors set out their respective positions, in recent years almost everything is sorted by a phone call to this or that godol following which all dissent is silenced. And on those occasions when differences do arise it is usually related to territorial or succession battles which often turn to violence. There has been little or no violence in this dispute and while ordinarily that is hardly something to be proud of, the reality of dispute handling in the chareidi world is such that this is also a form of progress. Even the invective unleashed in the comments is tame compared to what passes for a low key affair in Brooklyn or Bnei Brak.
Turning now to us Joe public, something this affair has revealed is the absence of a forum for UK, particularly London, frum Jews to talk and debate. I am an accidental askan in all of this and I was happy to host it only because no alternative existed.
Setting up a forum does not require a large initial outlay but simply a format that people take to and some TLC from the moderators. Many of the sites like vosizneias and YWN Coffee Room in the US or JDN, Ladaat and that unsavoury site, Behadrei Hareidim in Israel arose from humble beginnings but evolved to become primary news sites and talking shops for their respective communities. Less than a year ago there was established a Yiddish forums site, Kave Shtiebel, and it has already clocked up 10s of thousands of comments.
So I say to anyone out there who wishes to continue the conversation: go for it. It is not difficult to set up a site for forums and the demand is there. We have shown ourselves to possess far more intelligence, articulacy and maturity than our leaders and press credit us with and it would be a shame not to capitalise on the momentum.
To be continued…
Wednesday, 2 January 2013
Much of the confusion in the recent case has been due to the fact that there is so little by way of precedent in terms of how to deal with rabbis who are alleged to have acted 'improperly'. Within the Charedi world, although such issues have surely arisen, they have been dealt with (if at all) so furtively as to leave barely a smidgen of record in the halachic literature. Precedents from the Modern Orthodox community are easier to find, but, well, they're modern anyway so what do you expect?
The one recent case that does spring to mind is that of Rabbi Mordechai Tendler of Monsey. Without going into details, the rabbi concerned was expelled from the American RCA on account of his alleged misbehaviour with women in a counselling context (ring any bells?) and a group of his local colleagues took it upon themselves to examine the evidence against him and proceeded to publicise their verdict.
Whilst the parallels are far from exact, many of the technical issues that have been raised in our case, such as the admissibility of women's testimony and the propriety of local rabbis taking a public stand, were dealt with in a responsum by Rabbi Benzion Wosner, also of Monsey.
The full text of the responsum is reproduced above, with relevant quotes highlighted. (Due to Scribd’s rendering of Hebrew it may be necessary to download the document first.)
See here for an English summary: http://rabbinicintegrity.blogspot.co.uk/2005_12_01_archive.html
Tuesday, 1 January 2013
Leil Yud Tes Teves 5763 [1 January 2013]
As a result we have been put in an impossible position where our Shul has fallen victim to the situation just by virtue of our official association with the Union.
We must do all that we can to protect the Shul and its membership from this. The internal equilibrium and stability of our kehilla is far more important than with whom our Shul is affiliated.
I am therefore fully behind the Executives decision to call this meeting, in order to examine and explore our options. We must take into account all the ramifications of any decision we make.
We need to enlist Hakodosh Boruch Hu’s help to make the correct decision, and many more tefillos to invoke His rachamim that this terribly destructive geziroh Ro’oh is quickly brought to an end.
Please note: My North West London Union Colleagues & I retain full confidence in the activities and supervision of Kedassia to include food production, The Mikvoos, Shaatnez etc. . The kehilla need have no doubts in this matter.
Many thank to several readers who typed it up.