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 clich├ęs 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.