Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Sod‘em-on-Sea

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In normal societies and communities, when planning a new settlement, you might design colourful posters to attract young families, you might include some photographs or an artist's impression to entice the curious, you might hold a public meeting to gauge the interest and answer questions, you might invite people to nominate themselves to form a steering committee and you could even hold elections for this committee. In due course you would inform people who have expressed an interest on how the settlement is progressing, the range of available housing, the public facilities, educational institutions and so on.

If this is how it would operate in normal circumstances amongst normal people then say what you like about us but normal we are not. Perhaps I should rephrase that for though we are no less or more normal than anyone else that is not the conclusion you would reach reading the above notice.

This notice announces a 'new' settlement in Westcliff for "general-chasidim". This could be defined as moderately enlightened chasidim who can stomach living next door to someone with a different hat or coat so long as the hat's furry and the coat shiny and if an overcoat then shiny too but alos hooded, shapeless and reflectors on the upper arm. Should the neighbour, however, be a jacketed type with a downward titling hat or, Go- forbid, a hatless, coatless specimen then let them head north to Hemel Hempstead or in fact anywhere but east of the M25.

Anyhow, back to the notice. We can debate if it was written for the normal or less so but what shines through from every line is the contempt it has for those it is supposed to be serving. This of course comes as no surprise to us locals and is exactly what we expect round here from anyone in charge of anything .

Just consider the dry facts. A junta of four unelected individuals announces to the general public in as uninspiring language as it could muster that they have set up communal institutions in Westcliff with the 'guidance and blessing' of the gedoilim. Don't bother asking who the gedoilim might be because there are far more important things for which you will have to take them on trust. Such as the roof over your head.

For to gain even a foot in this Stamford Hill-on-Sea you may deal only with this 'non-profit' lot. On green and pleasant land this New Jerusalem may indeed be built but for dark satanic mills it shall not want either. Look not at the writing and consider only the look of the notice. No topography will compensate for the colourless and harsh typography of the notice and even this is no match for the sheer contempt of its content.

You need not take my word for it. Here is a translation of the last paragraph of the notice, the sting in the tail if you like:

"Understandably, for the [settlement] to succeed we require the public's assistance not to buy or hire houses without the committee and, therefore, to enforce the above, we hereby announce that it will not be at all possible for anyone who buys or rents a house not through the committeeto to make use of the communal institutions." (emphasis in the original)

Were this a notice from the Homerton Hospital in respect of the Shabbos room or the Cohanim sidewalks you'd have 5 extra supplements in our newspapers to cover the 'scandal'. If El Al spoke like that to an idiot holding up a flight they'd be bringing down the Israeli government. And if that was Ofsted writing, Interlink would produce another set of bogus statistics with its self-proclaimed Mrs "Intelligent" referring to our 'traditions' of buying up real estate on the cheap.

But since it's some newly arrived apparatchiks laying claim to Westcliff it's all in order.  Don't bother asking how many properties were bought on the cheap on someone else's turf to create the fortunes of the undersigned, and don't ask why what may be done with impunity in Stamford Hill or anywhere else becomes a capital crime if done in Westcliff. All you need to know is that someone somewhere has put himself in charge and by definition is wielding a big fat stick.

Because when they talk about 'communal institutions' they have in mind nothing other than our dear precious neshomelech. Dare to buy a home through anyone other than our 'non-profit' agents and your kids can sit at home or wander the streets but don’t bring them to us. This is the initiation rite for askonim the world over and there's no reason why Westcliff should be any different. Treat the kids like pawns and you'll earn your place in the chareidi hall of fame.

Benefits cheats will get their shishi and landlords letting sub-standard property to heimishe tenants will get their top-table but buy your own 2-up 2-down without it passing through the askonim's grubby fingers and you've had it. No rov or dayan is required for this edict because there's nothing revolutionary or novel about it. That four individuals can on their own accord hold a community to ransom simply because this is what they have decided is what counts as normal round here. Nothing illegal, of course, and they'll quote you scriptures in support as only the devil can.

But as a window to how we're treated by our own there are few better. No sense of fairness. No politeness. No kinds words. No explanation. No accountability. No transparency. Just raw brute force. Because so we said, so we can and so we will.

Welcome to Sod 'em on Sea.

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Hey, Ofsted, leave them kids alone

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Note to Hamodia:

1. If you’re going to run an article on Ofsted it might be an idea not to use pictures of kids with longer hairstyles, shorter peyos and blue and patterned yarmulkes. Their schools are hardly affected and since you’re so proud of our tradition why not use the more traditional look.

2. It’s really useful being told the Latin etymology of words but perhaps also a few words on English and how it’s taught, or rather not taught, in our local chadorim would come in handy.

3. The absence of chareidi Ofsted inspectors – chareidim make up about 0.03% of the UK population – is indeed a scandal of biblical magnitude but may we also know why past chareidi inspectors could never find fault with chareidi schools. Even you’ll admit that they’re perfect only 99.9% of the time.

4. If you want your informed readers to truly believe in your campaign it would be useful to have a quote from a named person. Surely you can do better than a quote from some Interlink spinsheet, though I can understand if the spokespeople are concerned about some uncomfortable questions on their own schools.

5. Talking of Interlink, rather than setting up yet another project with a wonderful name LinkEd to compliment NAJOS, AOJOS, UOHC education committee and probably more acronyms lurking in the background, might it not be an idea for them to defend what is actually going on within the local schools? Or is this project simply to fill a gap in the grants?

6. Grouping yourself with the Board of Deputies and quoting MPs does indeed give your cause immense credibility. But don’t you think that since the issues facing local chadorim are of an entire different nature to those facing the other Jewish schools it might be useful to address those issues? Just asking, of course.

7. I’m afraid the trumpeting of tradition, though it did wonders in the past, has somewhat run out of steam. If this story is kosher you may have heard of the boy who cried wolf a few times too many. I’ve also been searching for a tradition of not teaching kids to read and write and other basic skills and perhaps you can send me some mareh mekoimes. And while you’re searching maybe you’ll also find a source for barely being able to write in Hebrew and Yiddish either.

8. I know your pages have to accommodate the many pictures of engagements, weddings and funerals of the gedoilim and their innumerable grandchildren but perhaps can you also find some time for school admissions, not the national rules you so wonderfully elucidated upon this week, but the ad hoc ‘rules’ and outright lies concocted by schools when they don’t like the length of your wife’s wig or skirt.

9. Please take the above as constructive criticism which is usually allowed. And notwithstanding the above it was really comforting to read your article after coming from the Tribune where Reb Michoel Posen had a half page on how to work the benefits system which was rather upsetting. At least on your pages I could read how the next generation is being prepared to stand on its own feet and for that we really do need Rachamei Shamayim.

(10. I really must apologise for this last one, but since I’m writing I hope you’ll forgive me this minor point. When you next bump in to your ‘consultant’ Pinter can you please have a word with him on ‘his’ school hall. The DfE have just published the 2014/2015 school performance tables showing the self-generated income for Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls School to be £70 per pupil. At 334 pupils this works out at a total of £23,380. However, the school has said that it hired the school hall out 118 times in 1 year at £750 per hire. That makes it £88,500. I know sums don’t come easy to everyone and I wouldn’t want to trouble him on the fact that the community actually pays more like £2,500 per hire because it is after all Stamford Hill. It would however be nice if you could please get from him a short comment, which he is usually so generous with, on this slightly taxing subject.)

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Bridge over Troubled Waters

We're in the eye of a storm once again and it's now happening with such frequency that storm is almost the new balmy. Laugh at us if you must but if excitement means x had a baby girl after 6.9 boys followed by "Wow!that'sjustsomoiredik", and pushing at the boundaries of knowledge is discovering from the reverse phone search at the back of the Shomer Shabbos the name behind the mobile number advertising second hand tin foil dishes and glatt kosher slippers which will cover you toe to ankle so that when in a floor-length housecoat if you stretch your hand to fix that net curtain after an extra-long peep it still won't show even a hint of varicose veins, if that is how excitement is defined then you should appreciate why a tornado once in a while gives us the frisson of cold water to a weary soul.

But let's not run away with this one despite the whiff of Salem and McCarthy about it and not to mention Tehran and Raqqa. As this blog has said time and again, storm or no storm the winds of change are blowing all around us and to which, thank the Lord, Stamford Hill is no exception. We can't have it both ways: either we're a backwater and we end up with the problems of Gateshead or we're a 21st century metropolis to match the greatest out there like Bnei Berak and Borough Park and for that we must also share some of their blight.

And so here goes. A few years ago a woman with roots in Stamford Hill left the community. Not so rare these day but this one was an exception. Because rather than skulk away as is expected of those who discover that there's more to life than Oldhill Street and Dunsmure Road have to offer she left firmly on her own terms. Not only has she given press interviews and spoken publicly of what heaven on earth means in practice, she also set up an organisation called Gesher (bridge, in Hebrew) to assist others hitting the ground as they make the extra-terrestrial landing from that heaven.

Many will undoubtedly disagree but I regard her efforts as laudable. So as to justify the cradle-to-shive gravy train and the multitude of chesed to fatten the few and give the rest target practice for their hakoras hatov, we rear our offspring to be as unself-sufficient as possible and to leave the rest to the askonim.

Dare to snip your lifelong umbilical cord, or leash for short, and you will be forced to fend for yourself in a very scary place. Hatzole won't rescue you after the inevitable drugs overdose and shomrim won't be there to apprehend your attacker after being glassed on a Saturday night. For whether you admit it or choose to live in denial that is the lamentable lot of those not reared on Torah Tzivo from 3 years old. And so those who make the choice to leave often do quite literally sink because round here even being taught how to swim is a monopolistic racket of its own.

You can see what Gesher is up to on its website, with support groups and practical assistance for those drifting away. More importantly though to our story are the fair number who may not be interested to leave but are nonetheless keen on meeting up with likeminded people -men and women together no less- for a chat or whatever else they do at these gatherings. I have never attended but reports suggest that scions of nice and even choshuv local families pop up from time to time. ('Nice' in this context meaning 2 or 3 buy to lets, some chesed on the side and never having put as much as a sheitel hair out of place; whereas 'choshuv' can mean anything from a top-table seat at a sholem zocher to running one's own shul.)

It is possible, and those of a sensitive disposition please turn away, that even Darwin is mentioned at such meetings. I can't say for sure but I really wouldn't be surprised if it gets as bad as that rachmone litzlon.

So as far as Salem goes this is a rather easy one. It will come as no surprise how this pioneering young woman is viewed round here but since she makes no effort to conceal herself there's not much of a hunt for this particular 'witch'. For their part, however, the turnips who've made it their business to regulate almost every aspect of our lives have not yet figured out how to deal with her. Their arsenal of exposure, expulsion, boycott and dismissal with the WMD of excluding kids from local schools proves ineffective with someone who's put her neck out and leads from the front. It is in the face of this that the system is as lost as a rabbi on a witness stand.

The McCarthyism at work, however, is an entirely different story. The search is on for commies in our midst: the viper's nest, the fifth column, the snakes in the grass, the epicureans in the temple. In addition to the Gesher meetings which have been simmering for some time there recently emerged reports of youngsters (and perhaps oldsters too) who slip away on a Friday night beyond the non-existent eiruv boundaries to the greener pastures of Dalston and Shoreditch and beyond. The reports said they merely went bowling which is local shorthand for the very pinnacle of La Dolce Vita. Ko Riboin and Ko Echsoif are wonderfully uplifting tunes which send goose pimples up many a spine but apparently some find greater solace in will.i.am and Adele (pronounced, incidentally, Ahdell and NOT Eideleh). There is no accounting for people's tastes and unfortunately this is just how it is.

These murmurs gradually grew into a roar when more credible reports surfaced of individuals tucking in at McDonalds and caught on camera as Big Burger was watching. Marital splits, rabbinical summons and communal disgust quickly followed and the search for potential red, blue and green shirts in our black and white midst took on a new degree of urgency. Which neatly leads us to the crisis as it reached fever pitch.

Facts may be blurred but this hardly matters when you get a stampede of the Modesty Squad's 3 rabbis and 14 volunteers, Satmar 26 and its rabbinical loose cannon if not loose screw, Satmar 86 and its nasty contingent and the rest of the town baying for kedushe. Let the facts look after themselves so long that the intention is Godly and the effect deadly.

And so word reached town that a Gesher cell had been busted and that a rebbe had been caught attending the meets. A rebbe is the name we give to a primary school teacher in a cheder teaching everything bar secular studies which in most cases means teaching 95% of whatever it is that a cheder teaches, and this new angle to the story really did shock the town.

The 'suspect' had violated every stereotype and mental image we have both of rebbes and of the supposed transgressors. We're constantly being told of the havoc caused by the internet but it is supposed to infect only those who are predisposed to some straying. And when it does find a target there are usually outward signs such as shrinkage in the yarmulke and a northward direction for the beard and peyos.

But here was a rebbe who by all accounts is the cream of the crop and to whom an entire community not just entrusted its kids but fought to get their precious neshomolech into his class. A rebbe who could straddle the formidable 26/86 divide of Satmar and teach at both places, who dresses like our forefathers prior to the first partition of Poland, with glasses are from the 1950s and not for a vintage look and a beard that would put any Maharishi to shame. Even if he had not actually crossed the 'Bridge' he was supposedly caught loitering upon it wich is very troubled waters indeed.

Cynics like me might suggest that once in a blue moon we find that rare specimen of a good 'melamed' and he turns out to be a covert apostate. Others queried who would want him in his current state as if desire in its crudest sense is the only motivation for wanting to see what's on the other side. The rest, though, did not simply feel betrayed but shocked and frightened too. The rot has reached the beams holding up our entire edifice and who can tell how far it still has to travel.

It is one thing dealing with rumours of rebbes fiddling kids or giving them an occasional hiding. The latter can be excused if the rebbe is going through a tough a spot of domestic or financial bother and anyway a hiding from time to time won't do the kids any harm. True a broken limb is not ideal but no one has ever died from it and it does the kids a world of good to have the fear of God spelled out on their backsides. And as for the former, that's just rumours and once you get into the fiddling sphere it's lawyer's wigs we reach for. Our unshakeable belief in innocence until never proven because the police are not the solution, social services are out to get us and at the bottom of the pile lurk the self-hating apostates who have no other ambition but to smear us with the worst allegations which are all made up.

But this of course is different. Having an apostate for a rebbe of our dear kinderlech is shaking at the very core of our foundations and so sack him first and then ask questions. Which is exactly what they did. 26 and 86 put aside their differences in a manner not seen since they jointly defended Chaim Halpern from allegations in the UK and Weberman even after a conviction in the US. A single boot will do nicely and if P45s is something they handle at those places then it was two of them that landed on the poor chap's plate. He might be the breadwinner of a large family but where God's honour is at stake we will eradicate the evil in our midst no matter the personal cost. It is only when a woman or child cry foul that the rules of the game allow for some tenderness, towards the suspect of course.

And from here things get really murky. Within about 24 hours of the deed being done came the backlash. The 'suspect' had just returned from the US having married off a son and when his daughter also got engaged and now his family’s been left without means of support. Who saw him, who said he was there, was surveillance used to nab him and if so who is watching the watchmen, and if he did attend the meeting is that reason for summary dismissal without being allowed a word in his defence? Then came the spinners with a whatsapp audio recording that it's all a setup and that in fact it's the work of another known apostate. This was then followed closely by pious outbursts lamenting malicious gossip which has laid a family to ruin.

You can bet that as soon as the kugel hit the fan the Modesty Squad was nowhere to be seen. The UOHC invertebrates instantly pointed the finger at Satmar who in turn started blaming each other. It is not for this blog to attempt a reconciliation between the warring sides other than to say that it is the UOHC nasties with their 'advice' and 'assistance' who have created the environment within which this has all taken place. Just consider the Orwellian name of The Committee for the Purity of the Camp that those hosiery fetishists and skirt sniffers have titled themselves.

It was only a few weeks ago that they pasted the town with notices calling a drifter who'd advertised his services as a private tutor a 'serious danger' to kids. And this while the UOHC's Childline is left dangling in the hands of their senior member who's given a dispensation to prance about at any number of mixed parties. It is in this malevolent and malicicous atmosphere that the new story broke and for which those scoundrels with their unmatched batallion of volunteers must take the primary blame.

I'll leave the finer details to the rumour mill but in the meantime the culprit or victim, depending on your point of view, was first said to have gone into hiding, then was spotted in Uman and latterly is said to be in Israel. To some he is repenting and being re-radicalised while to others he has always been innocent and is simply waiting for the storm to pass. As to his job, in a twist of irony the gentler souls at Satmar 26 have a cranked up rov who is refusing to take him back while the recently appointed rov at 86 is said to be a finer and more compassionate fellow and not only are they taking him back but are also offering him the hours vacated by 26. The Lord does truly move in mysterious ways round here.

And so a Stamford Hill storm passes into the night. No deluge and flooded homes. Our impregnable fortress has not quite been invaded but it is not intact either. A wall has been breached and who knows what might come blowing in next. For as I write the chill of a new storm with a different name is already being felt.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Yishuv turf wars – UOHC v Gratt

Canvey1  Canvey2 

Canvey3Think what you like of Osher Gratt and his dreams but you cannot deny that he leads from the front, he has put his name on the line and, by way of interviews in the popular Kol Mevaser telephone newsline, he tends to address the public directly. He has also invited the public to subscribe and join his New Jerusalem.

True he seems to have a weakness for officialdom, doesn’t appear to be the best team player and falls headfirst for anything with a grand name to it. From the country’s ‘top managing agents’, to titled architects through to the Bank of England and a major property company all have been enlisted for you know what though not where. And this for a community whose idea of great architecture is the maximum extension you can get into your back garden while avoiding encroaching on your neighbour’s land. But never mind, he is a dreamer and you must take them as they come. It’s a shame that the whole world may be told of the location of this utopia except for those who are supposed to be living there one day but then it’s his project and if you don’t like it don’t join it.

If there is however one thing for which I’d cheer Gratt to the rafters it’s for steering a tchum shabbos away from the rabbonim and the local grubby institutions. Like the immigrants to the New World he does not want to be ruled by the Old and who can blame him.

But now the empire is striking back with a spoiler of its own in the shape of a settlement in Canvey Island backed by UOHC. Its involvement is rather strange given that when Eliezer Schneebalg moved to Edgware he was told that Edgware is not London. Competition though does wonderful things and the thought of Gratt taking dozens of young families from UOHC’s heartland seems to have sent shivers up its bekitshes.

Since it’s UOHC backed it naturally carries all its hallmarks such as a committe to which no one will put their name. The committee will operate under the supervision of the rabbonim and so a bum deal is all but guaranteed. I’m not making this up and it’s there in the initial notice:

“all the communcal facilities and the the educational institutions etc… are expressly to be used only by those who assist and not by those who hinder and we needn’t say more”

Indeed they don’t and if you still feel like moving there then you’re probably not reading this. But just in case you’re still in doubt do remember that this is a UOHC project and so unlike Gratt there is no mention of an eiruv.

But let’s finish on a lighter note and which is bound to cause much mirth amongst the locals. Here is how the UOHC committee views the Canvey Islanders:

“The local population is on the whole white English citizens, friendly and peaceful with a normal family lifestyle, not of the cheap sort but on the other hand neither are they people who look down (snobs).”

I might be showing my age that I remember when Essex girl jokes were all the rage but with this new yishuv the term may well acquire a whole new meaning.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

The Prodigal Son (and Daughter)

Scribblers the world over, just like rabbis, utilise the intersection of the outgoing and incoming year to provide a stock-take of where we are and some analysis on where we may be heading and so let me not shirk in my duty and I'll get straight to the point.

The greatest issue facing our communities is not housing benefit cuts or Ofsted school inspections in the UK, education challenges to yeshives and metzitze be'peh in the US or coalition shenanigans and the compulsory draft in Israel. The greatest challenge is our youth that has given up any hope on our intractable and blinkered system and is voting with its feet in increasing and confident numbers. Technology is neither the symptom nor its cause though it suits our leaders to blame everyone but themselves for the state we are in.

The world around us is changing and rapidly so. Our model of bringing up boys in total ignorance to be supported by a mixture of state beneficence for the majority and inherited wealth for the lucky few is broke. Bringing up girls as breeders and feeders, with or without some perfunctory grades, is no longer viable either. And our superglue of bringing the ignorant and the fertile together in blissful marital union while in their clueless teens is also coming rapidly unstuck and horribly so.

I know the clever ripostes and well-rehearsed responses to these charges because they once formed the stuff of my weltanschauung. We've been doing it for 2000 years, we will say, people like me have been predicting our downfall over and over again and we've survived them and we'll survive this too. One columnist even enlightened his readers by opining that having a child 'go off' is the comeuppance  for denigrating da'as torah, which is the best example, should any be needed, of our total oblivion to the world orbiting right in front of our collective blindfold.

This comfort food may fool the gullible and trick the ignorant who know of little beyond our ghetto walls but I'm awfully afraid to disabuse you. The evidence is there in your family, your neighbours and wherever your care to look.

Let me spell out clearly what I am on about. We, that is Chareidi Jewry, are facing a brain drain. We can breed as much as our 3'3" beds will permit us, we can retain as many of our offspring that care to stay and we can flex all the political muscle that our numbers can muster but we can no longer prevent our brightest and most intelligent from leaving and it is they who are scrambling for the exit.

Once again some will retort and highlight the druggies and alcoholics and a variety of life's detritus amongst the leavers to try and prove the point that a life outside benefits' dependency is bound to fail. Torah equals life, we will gloat, and so it must follow like gemore follows mishnyayos that if you leave Torah you simultaneously forfeit any vestige of a civilised life.

But there is another side to it and one which is developing before our eyes. Those brave individuals who are unable to face a closeted life where intelligence is measured by the disingenuity employed to defeat reason and where Torah has become a means to stifle rather than excite intellectual curiosity. These young men and women have been brought up in the same world as ours and face the same challenges in adapting to a world that has been shunned on their behalf from birth. Yet despite these obstacles, which are indeed insurmountable to some, and in the relatively short period that the OTD movement has been gathering momentum, they have been making an enormous mark.

Chareidi Jews are still a small minority of Jews as a whole and of them the OTD community, if one can call it that, is still very small in number. Yet this tiny statistical nonentity and many of who had no secular primary or secondary education to speak of has gone on to produce in its relatively short lifespan Cambridge and Harvard graduates, many more Ivy League and red-brick alumni, a BBC journalist, published authors, artists, cartoonists, bloggers, a Fulbright Scholar and these are only the ones I know of.  Round the globe chareidim generally and chasidim in particular of all ages are waking up to a world of opportunity and are fascinated by what they find. Some unfortunately turn inwards with bitterness and spite at the life they were denied and are being prevented from offering to their children but many are able to shake off their shackles and grab the many opportunities life has to offer. You may not enjoy reading this but they are lapping up every minute of it.

And our response to this? Bemoan the brutality of the callous teens towards their grieving and shamed parents and tsk tsk for the spouses some of them spurn and the children they abandon. None of this supposed concern for the 'poor kids' is on show when rampant child abuse is covered up, nor is it there when boys are sent daily to decrepit buildings to sit for hours in front of decrepit rebbes chanting senselessly by rote texts which most of them will never master if even understand. For the bright ones who stay behind and are intrigued by words and ideas rather than by mammon there awaits a fascinating life of exploring bugs in lettuce, measuring the length of skirts and the density of hosiery and determining the appropriate pixelation of a 3 year old's face if it has the misfortune to be born into the wrong gender. Because such are the wonders of the Torah that it is the women who are less exposed to it who end up running most of the institutions round here that actually matter.

Our scaremongering is totally at odds with the world these young people encounter. They enter schools, universities, places of employment and entertainment and meet people who are welcoming, open to new ideas and alternative lifestyles and willing to share the fun and freedoms which they take for granted. Not your closeted stale world of saturated fats and sealed minds but one thriving with ideas, where difference is cherished and openness embraced.

Our idle threats and finger pointing at those unfortunates who fail to survive in the wider world also has no effect. In order to maintain our rotten edifices we set up our youth for failure. Should they then try and and scale those high walls we have constructed for them we dare them to jump and wish them to fall. And when our prayers are answered and they do exactly as we prescribed for them we wring our hands in despair and blame the web, the phone, the text, the street and practically anything but ourselves.

But that too is failing. Those who can will ask the questions and if our supposedly brilliant leaders cannot provide the answers they will seek them elsewhere. They will leave us to wallow and kvetch to our heart's delight while they migrate to places where questions are encouraged and replies carefully probed. And for every leaver there are numerous left behind who feel unable or unwilling to make the transition. They look and dress like the rest of us but that is where the similarity ends. We can expect little of children brought up by parents whose Yiddishkeit is forced, faked and resented.

Save for yourselves those pitying glances you waste on the latest parents to feel bereaved because a child has left their phantom citadel. Ask yourselves why Yeshivas are no longer a place for an inquisitive mind and curious soul. Why those with brains leave us to discover the frontiers of a world heaving with innovation while those left behind are growing ever more dense. Boredom has spurred us on to create a multitude of chesed organisations for every conceivable misfortune but we are incapable of seeing the calamity of our own making unfolding before our eyes. A rotten and corrupt leadership with a total disconnect from those it purports to lead having hemmed itself in almost literally in their sown up slits and buttoned up blouses.

Feed your kids the best of the junk food the kosher market has to offer and your benefits fuelled economy will afford you, marry your kids off and dance away in the hall supporting another of our communal scams and put them on the housing ladder where from the very first rung they will descend into a life of dependency if not outright crime and then kid yourself how wonderful it all is. But do not be surprised when it will no longer fool those with minds to think.

But I know us lot. We will not listen. We will go searching our mezuzos for a typo resulting in a bad pun, engage in pop psychology on how better to brainwash our young, visit charlatans for holy rings and blessed water and try even conventional medicine for supposed 'ailments' which know no name. The ailment is in our body politic and the cure lies with those who dare to question and refuse to accept stock answers. But none of this will occur to us while the House of the Lord functions as the house of the sick and that's when it's not the house of the bent and perverted.

Try your hand at prayer, by all means, but remember what Hashem said to Moshe, ma titzak eiloi dabeir el benei yisroel v'yisou. There comes a time when yelling our heads off in prayer will make not the slightest difference and it is time to move on. And what followed from there was the miracle of krias yam suf and the revelation at kabolath hatorah.

A Gemar Chasime Toivo to all of you!