Friday, 22 May 2015

“A Victim’s Perspective”

The following is a letter from one of Todros Grynhaus’s victims who testified at the trial when Grynhaus was convicted. The letter is addressed to 3 named so called ‘askonim’ who were involved in Grynhaus’s defence. The letter was written during the first trial when the jury were unable to reach a verdict. Grynhaus was convicted this week after a second trial.

This letter is published with the written consent of its author.

[Name and address]


8th March 2015


Dear Mr [], Mr [] & Mr []


I am addressing this letter to you, as part of the leading askonim looking to protect, defend and ultimately exonerate the notorious criminal in regards his current court case; I am aware that there are many other askonim involved and I am happy that they all take note of the points I put forward. Of course we are all mindful of that fact, that now that case has started, there is little your team can actually do, aside sitting and fidgeting in the public gallery each day, encouraging and inspiring your hero, giving him as much moral support as you can, whilst simultaneously absorbing the level of depravity your hero accomplished.

I don’t want to waste your time (though clearly you have lots of it) arguing the spuriousness of your belief. If the Leaders of our Community, those that are able to see the big picture, those that have access to so much detail, and who have been privy to so much material and information,  have been unable to convince you of the colossal miscalculation in your warped thinking, what hope do I, a layman of the community have?

So the purpose of this letter is not to attempt to convince you to ‘change sides’; it is very apparent that none of you have any experience in dealing with victims of abuse so it impossible for you to empathise with them. More worryingly by your misguided actions you have helped build a scenario where the abuser has become the victim and the abused have become the perpetrators.

So the purpose of this letter is simply to try and explain to you how the last few weeks have been from a victim’s perspective.

Let’s recap: A person I trusted, a person in a position of authority betrayed and abused me. The fact that this was committed over thirty years ago is mostly irrelevant. The fact that the crime took place in his family home; a mere few feet from his parents bedroom is perhaps slightly more related. The fact that it was not an isolated incident, not for me or for my fellow victims is central to this case.

For years I lived with self blame – I blamed myself for being friendly with his brother, I blamed myself for visiting their home every Shabbos and blamed myself for bring so weak and timid to fight back.  I blamed myself for the sexual abuse that occurred. I believed the abuse was somehow my fault. In some way, I felt my involvement became a significant factor leading to the abuse. I failed to see that victims are victims. My abuser started, maintained and pursued the abusive relationship from its conception until its ending.

Over time, I learnt the next step, that of acceptance. Accepting the fact, the fact that I was, and always will be, a victim of sexual abuse. For decades I didn’t want to admit it and so suppressed the memories. But I learnt that when a victim does not truly accept their traumatic past, it is pretty much impossible to reach the next step in the healing process. I learnt to move forward with life. I learnt that we can never change what happened in the past, yet we needed to deal with this current reality and start to live the rest of our lives.  And I learnt to be patient.

Can I ever forgive him? Up until two weeks ago I thought I could. I know he is (allegedly) human and humans make mistakes. I know that we all can make serious judgement errors and I also know that sometimes it the abused that themselves turn into abusers. Retribution and revenge in the form of many years behind bars will not take away the pain he caused, though if there is a concept of ‘closure’ then it is possible that a jail term would facilitate this.

But a fortnight into the trial I can now never forgive him. And I can never forgive you. For him to stand up in court, having been [] by one of the top QC’s in the United Kingdom, financed by money raised by your team and deny any wrongdoing is almost as sickening as the crime itself. To hear him stand up and emotionally declare himself candidate as ‘Dad-of-the-century’, to belittle his sickening deeds and to be the catalyst that may send out the message to our community that not only can you commit these heinous crimes, but that a group of Askonim will always be there to defend it, whatever and however, is in my opinion such a tragic error of judgement that it can only be explained by accommodating your complete and total ignorance to the subject. Or perhaps you do understand the severity of the crime, perhaps even if TG had been a member of ISIS and had chopped off the heads of twenty children in MH Car Park you would still have defended him as a ‘member of Family Klal Yisroel’ (end of quote).

I understand that the trial may end this week. Do I want him to be locked away for a long time? I have to be honest and say yes. Was this always my desire? Definitely not. Your collective sense of responsibility to defend a flawed member of Klal Yisroel in the manner that you have, has caused more damage than your limited intelligence will ever appreciate.

I can only hope that once this case is over, you hang up your ‘askonus’ boots and move back to eternal hibernation. The world in general and the Yiddishe world in particular will be a far safer place.

Yours sincerely

[Victim’s name]

Sunday, 15 March 2015

“The best challos and cakes in London”

Grodz2

The above Grodzinski advert by Harris Grodzinsky actually comes in the form of a ‘Warning’. It seems that the ad is from 1897 or thereabout and the story behind it is told on the English side.

It is written in a wonderfully archaic Hebrew with a strong haskallic flavour but definitiely pre Modern Hebrew. There seems no doubt that ‘Harris’ was frum as he advertises his punctillious challoh taking and that he keeps Shabbos. Yet the fact that he is writing in Hebrew rather than in Yiddish, the style of the Hebrew itself and his English first name, written in Hebrew letters, (even the ‘Co.’ of the company name is rendered in Hebrew) all suggest that he was influence by the zeitgeist and was no traditional eastender holding on to the old world against all odds.

It seems that in those days it was enough for a baker to self-certify his products and rely on his good name. Nowadays of course it is the kashrus authority that provides the seal and mints a fortune in the process. As for the deception, well let’s leave that for another time.

I couldn’t resist having a go at a translation. It may sound stitled in places and that is becasue I have tried to retain the quanitness of the original.

So here goes:

Warning from Harris Grodzinski

The baker who is praised and famed for his good challos and cakes that excel in their wonderful taste and are the best in the city of London requests from every man who knows him to beware of those who compete with him, not with the quality of the merchandise, but they deceive the customers by minting [Grodzinski's] seal on their merchandise so as to attract to themselves the customers. Therefore whoever wants to acquire for his money good bread of fine-meal free from any combined impurities should turn to me. Also, all my acquaintances know that with me the baking is the ultimate of kashrus, I separate challoh according to the rules and I do not bake my bread on Shabbos, God forbid. My shops are open to all seekers 1) 20 Bedford St 2) 31 Fieldgate St

Thursday, 23 October 2014

ושמרו בני ישראל את השבת – ShabbatUK Special

I know that ShabbatUK (or ShabbosUK as we don’t call it) has hardly registered round here but I for one can’t help being inspired by it. Shabbos is truly a gift that all can partake in. From the chosid who brings it in early on Thursday night with multiple helpings of tsholent and kugel and barely draws it to a close Sunday morning at 3am while seeing off the Shabbos Queen with the leftovers (some households serve it for Sunday supper too), to obsessed halachists fretting with the opening of fridge doors and unscrewing bottles, to the less observant who might celebrate Shabbos with a Friday night dinner and leave it at that.

One thing is certain: from the hushed elegance of the candlelighting by the woman of the house before sunset on Friday to the more raucous extinguishing of the fire by the man of the house after nightfall on Shabbos, Shabbos is a uniquely Jewish experience. In an age of slavery it introduced the concept of a universal day of rest for everyone from the master to the animals, and it remains no less relevant in our non-stop, 24/7 era. For as long as Shabbos lasts there is little but Shabbos and what surrounds it. Time to reflect, time to enjoy, time to reap the fruits of the week that was and time to rejuvenate for the week to come.

Let us not pretend that it is always easy and the long summer Shabbos afternoons can be a challenge even for the most faithful. But then this is after all religion and not the product of focus groups; one size fits all is in the nature of the beast. Yet nevertheless at its heart is a day of rest, a day of spiritual enhancement and physical enjoyment, a time for parents to enjoy their children and a time for children to get the attention of their parents. As the zmiros goes, Hashomer shabbos habein im habas, Shabbos is observed with the son and the daughter.

So how welcoming to see the new Chief Rabbi’s initiative in organising and promoting ShabbatUK when thousands will partake in the joy of Shabbos, and for many of who it may well be their first such experience. It is often humbling to see how others react to Shabbos when for us who were brought up with it it can sometimes come across as stale and boring. Unfortunately, I will not be hosting anyone or doing anything towards this special Shabbos and yet it is impossible to see and read the excitement about it and not get carried along. So here, dear readers, is my vort lekoved Shabbos Kodesh, ShabbatUK.

On Friday night we recite 3 times the words of Vayechilu hashomayim v’horoetz, which are the psukim for the 7th day of the Story of the Creation in Sefer Breishis. We say it once privately in the shmone esre, once publicly immediately after and a 3rd time over wine with our family at the start of Kiddush.

The words are:

ויכולו השמים והארץ וכל צבאם
ויכל אלקים ביום השביעי מלאכתו אשר עשה וישבות ביום השביעי מכל מלאכתו אשר עשה
ויברך אלקים את יום השביעי ויקדש אותו כי בו שבת מכל מלאכתו אשר ברא אלקים לעשות

And the heaven and earth were completed with all their hosts
And on the seventh day God completed all the work which He had made, and He rested on the seventh day from all the work that He had made
And God blessed the seventh day and He sanctified it for He rested in it from all the work which He created.

These psukim teach us the specialness of Shabbos. Completing a job doesn’t always bring with it rest. One can complete a job and still be troubled by aspects of it, wanting to go back and change something, regretting at not having done things differently and altogether being stressed about the job despite the fact that it is complete. This is why completing a job is not quite the same as resting from it.

Rest, however, on its own is also not enough. Even when you put your feet up from a task completed other anxieties may arise. What now, what next, are often the prevailing thoughts after having laboured on a project even if it was successfully completed, and holiday blues is a recognised mood that some people experience when taking a break. A blessing is required to introduce peace and harmony to rest and the absence of work in itself is not enough. And when spirituality is introduced to that blessing only then do we have a true day of rest and respite from the rough and tumble of life.

This is what these puskim teach us: Not only did Hashem complete the Creation on the day of Shabbos but He also rested on that day. That too was not enough and In addition Hashem endowed this special day with His blessing and then sanctified the day on top of it all.

It is this blessing that we feel at our Shabbos table surrounded by our families and enjoying the Shabbos food and it is this spirituality and kedusha that we aspire to in the uplifting Shabbos prayers and zmiros.

It must be a privilege and a duty for us who were born into it to be able to share it with others.

Gut Shabbos!

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

פתחו שערים – Open the Gates

Yesodey Hatorah Application Pack - Year Beginning Sep 2015

This website is proud to present for the 2nd year running a tri-lingual Information Pack which includes a step-by-step guide and FAQs on applying for admission to Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls School.

For once I should and will shut up about my pet peeve. I wouldn’t really be doing my cause a favour if I slagged off the school while trying to promote it. So for today I will do no more than remind you that this is a school that has recently been judged by Ofsted to be Good and which comes after a rating of Outstanding that lasted for over 8 years.

If you have decided that this is the school you want for your daughter then follow the instructions and she should be offered a place. Don’t believe whatever you’re told about getting your child in and don’t be deterred by whatever obstacles are put in your way.

The School has 80 places to offer and year after year is heavily undersubscribed. So if you are frum and live in the Stamford Hill area and you want your daughter to attend Yesodey Hatorah then you should almost certainly be able to get her in. It is your right and so long that you go about it correctly you will find that despite their formidable appearance those gates are actually scaled quite easily.

The deadline is very soon, 31 October, so don’t delay and get your application in at once.

Best of Luck!