Friday, 24 January 2014

Horrible Histories

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 5 January 2014

The iRov

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Greetings

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

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

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

Your friend who seeks your peace

Moshe Chaim Ephraim Padwa

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 15 November 2013

Rejoice! Rejoice!

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

For the silence and shame of the victims

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the intimidated witnesses and knobbled Beth Din

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

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

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

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

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

L'Chaim!

Friday, 8 November 2013

Wall of Separation

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28 Marcheshvan 5774 [1 November 2013]

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

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

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

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

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

On behalf of the Beth Din Tzedek

Moshe Chaim Ephraim Padwa

Head of the Beth Din

Monday, 14 October 2013

YESODEY HATORAH SENIOR GIRLS SCHOOL - ADMISSIONS

Yesodey Hatorah Admissions Information Pack

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

on admissions to

Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls School

“In drawing up their admission arrangements, admission authorities must ensure that the practices and the criteria used to decide the allocation of school places are fair, clear and objective. Parents should be able to look at a set of arrangements and understand easily how places for that school will be allocated” (Introduction to the School Admission Code, February 2012)

1. Q. I would like to apply for my daughter to join Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls School (the School) but she does not attend Yesodey Hatorah Primary School. Can the School refuse my daughter a place because of the primary school she currently or has previously attended?

A. No. It is against the law for the School to favour applicants who attended an independent fee-paying primary school. Yesodey Hatorah Primary School is an independent fee-paying school and girls from that school may not be given any advantage in the admissions process.

2. Q. How old must my daughter be when I apply to the School?

A. For admission in September 2014 your child must have been born between 01/09/2002-31/08/2003.

3. Q. What are the main advantages of my daughter attending the School?

A. The School has a heimishe yiddishe atmosphere with a very strong frum ethos. The School was rated Outstanding by Ofsted in its most recent report; the School consistently achieves some of the highest grades in Hackney and in the country as a whole; there are no compulsory school fees payable and the School does not currently seek a voluntary contribution for kodesh studies.

4. Q. How can I obtain more information about the School?

A. Information about the School is contained at the School’s webpages here and in the Hackney Learning Trust secondary school admissions brochure (the admissions brochure). For up-to-date admission arrangements rely only on the admissions brochure.

5. Q. How can I find out about the grades achieved by the School in recent years?

A. The exam results of the School and lots of other information can be found on the School’s page on the Department for Education website.

6. Q. Has the School been inspected by Ofsted and where can I see its reports?

A. The School last had a full inspection in 2006 and an interim inspection in 2010. The full reports can be found on the Ofsted website here.

7. Q. Does the School hold an open day?

A. No.

8. Q. Am I able to visit the School prior to making an application?

A. Yes. The School’s page in the admissions brochure* states that to arrange a visit you should contact the School. The School’s telephone no. is 020 8826 5500.

9. Q. Must the parents or our daughter meet the Head Teacher, the Principal or anyone else from the School before or during any stage of the application process?

A. No. It is against the law for the School to require an interview with either prospective pupils or their parents in the course of the admissions process.

10. Q. May the School refuse my daughter a place because she did not achieve good grades in primary school?

A. No. The School does not select according to ability.

11. Q. My daughter is disabled/has special needs. Is that a valid reason for refusing her a place?

A. No. It is against the law for the School to discriminate on grounds of disability or special needs. There is a separate process for children with a Statement of Special Educational Needs. This is set out at page 14 of the admissions brochure.

12. Q. What are the criteria for being accepted to the School?

A. The School stipulates that all pupils must abide “by the principles and ethics of the Charedi community.” The School’s definition of “Charedi” and its general admissions policy can be found here.

13. Q. I am of chasidish / litvish / sefardi / yekish origin. Is this a reason for the School to refuse my daughter a place?

A. It is against the law for the school to discriminate on grounds of race, religion or belief (subject to the school’s religious ethos). Decisions on admissions must also be fair and objective.

14. Q. How do I apply to the School?

A. Parents can complete the application form online at www.eadmissions.org. See below for a Step by Step Guide to Making an Application for further details on how and where to make an application and for important deadlines. You should also consult the admissions brochure on page 15.

15. Q. I do not have internet access. Can I make an application on a paper form?

A. Yes. Hackney residents can download a paper form here. Residents of other boroughs should contact their home local authority for a form. See contact details below. (If applying online it is the same procedure wherever you live.)

16. Q. Must I provide any proof of identity?

A. Yes. You must include with your application a council tax bill of this year or a housing benefit letter and a gas, water, electricity or telephone land line bill not more than 2 months old. You must submit original documents.

17. Q. What is the deadline for applying to the School?

A. Friday 25 October 2013 is the date when Hackney Learning Trust prefers all application to have been submitted either online or by a paper application. (The on-line admissions website will accept applications until 31 October 2013.) See page 9 of the admissions brochure for all important dates.

18. Q. The admissions brochure mentions a Supplementary Information Form that must be submitted as part of my application. What is this?

A. The Supplementary Information Form contains the ‘Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations (UOHC) Chareidi Ethos and Rules’. This is an important form to satisfy the religious requirements for admission to the School. The form also contains a ‘Confirmation of Chareidi Status’ which must be signed by a member of the UOHC Rabbinate.

19. Q. Where can I obtain the Supplementary Information Form?

A. A Supplementary Information Form can be downloaded here.

20. Q. How do I arrange for a member of the UOHC Rabbinate to sign the Supplementary Information Form?

A. You should contact the offices of the UOHC on 020 8802 6226 (020 8458 2326 for NW London) for advice on how to obtain a signature of confirmation.

21. Q. I have read the form and I do not conform to some points on the School’s ethos. However, I think this is unfair because there are people I know who have daughters at the school and who also do not fully conform. What can I do about it?

A. Faith based criteria (which is what the Supplementary Information Form seeks to apply) must be fair, easy to understand and fairly applied. If your daughter is refused a place and you feel you have been unfairly treated you can appeal.

22. Q. I have recently moved to London and no one really knows me here / my family does not live in the Stamford Hill area and I do not know members of the Rabbinate. Can I still apply?

A. The law requires admission procedures to be fair. You should contact a rov or dayan who knows your family and ask them to write a letter for you or to contact a member of the Rabbinate to provide a reference on your behalf.

23. Q. Where do I send the completed Supplementary Information Form?

A. The completed Supplementary Information Form should be sent to the School, details below NOTE: ONLY THE SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION FORM IS SENT TO THE SCHOOL. IF THE PAPER APPLICATION FORM IS USED IT MUST BE SENT TO YOUR HOME LOCAL AUTHORITY’S SCHOOL ADMISSION TEAM. (For Hackney residents this is Hackney Learning Trust.)

24. Q. What is the deadline for returning the Supplementary Information Form to the School?

A. 31 October 2013. It is very important that you contact the UOHC about the Supplementary Information Form as soon as possible.

25. Q. I do not live in Hackney. Does that put me at a disadvantage?

A. The School may not discriminate because you live in another borough. You must apply through your home local authority who will forward your application to Hackney Learning Trust. See the contact sheet for details of some neighbouring local authorities.

26. Q. Is the distance that I live from the School relevant to the admissions process?

A. Generally no. However, if the School is oversubscribed (see below) and after having prioritised applicants under the oversubscription criteria there still remain insufficient places then priority will be given to the applicant living closest to the School.

27. Q. I applied just before the deadline. Will parents who applied before me have priority?

A. No. A child may not be given priority because their application was later than others so long that the application was submitted before the deadline.

28. Q. Once I have made an application by when can I expect a reply?

A. On or shortly after 3 March 2014 you will receive a letter or email from Hackney Learning Trust. If you do not receive a reply by that time you should contact your home local authority.

29. Q. My daughter has been offered a place at the School. Must I do anything further to accept the place?

A. The acceptance letter will have a reply form attached. You must complete and return the reply form by 17 March 2014 to confirm that you are accepting the offer. You can also accept the offer online at www.eadmissions.org.uk. If you don’t do this, the offer of a place at the School may be withdrawn.

30. Q. My daughter has been refused a place. Must the School give me a reason?

A. A refusal to offer you a place must state the reasons why admission has been refused. The refusal letter must also give you information about the right to appeal, the deadline for lodging an appeal and the contact details for making an appeal.

31. Q. The School has told me that they had more applications than places available, (oversubscribed), and they have no place for my daughter. Is this a legitimate reason for refusal?

A. It may be in some circumstances. The school publishes oversubscription criteria as part of the admissions information which can be found here. The oversubscription criteria themselves must be fair and objective and must also be fairly and objectively applied. Parents must be able to understand easily how the religious requirements in the oversubscription criteria can be reasonably satisfied.

32. Q. Do pupils of Yesodey Hatorah Primary School have priority if the School is oversubscribed?

A. No. See the reply to Q.1 above.

33. Q. Is the School generally oversubscribed?

A. Last year there were 59 applications for 80 available places at the School. All applicants were successful.

34. Q. My daughter has been refused a place and I’m not sure what else I can do about it. Can I appeal?

A. Yes. You have a right to appeal to an independent school admissions appeal panel which the school must set up to hear your appeal. It is beyond the scope of this FAQ to cover appeals and a separate appeals FAQ may be published should the need arise. For useful information on appeals see this link here.

35. Q. What is the deadline to appeal?

A. 24 March 2014. This is a very important deadline and you must lodge your appeal before this date. If an appeal is lodged after this date relating to a late application the School will still have to make arrangements for your appeal to be heard.

36. Q. My daughter has been refused a place and I would like to know who made the decision. How can I find out?

A. You should ask the School which should provide you with that information. It is against the law for a single person to decide on admissions.

37. Q. I am concerned that the reasons given to me for a refusal may not be the true reasons and I would like to know what information the School or the UOHC hold on me. How can I obtain this information?

A. Under the Data Protection Act you may make a subject access request to the School and/or the UOHC to provide you with all the personal information they hold on you. Further information how to make such a request can be found here.

38. Q. My daughter is already at a secondary school and we would like to transfer her to the School for the coming school year or during the current year (In-year Admissions). Are we able to do this?

A. Yes, provided there are vacancies in the class. According to the most recent information provided by the School there are vacancies in Year 7 and in Year 11. You can apply even where there are no vacancies and you will be placed on a waiting list.

39. Q. What is the procedure for In-year Admissions and is there a deadline?

A. An application form can be requested from Hackney Learning Trust. This form should be returned directly to Hackney Learning Trust irrespective of the borough in which you live. You will also have to complete a Supplementary Information Form which should be returned to the School. There is no deadline and you can apply at any time.

40. Q. Where can I find further information?

A. Please refer to the admissions brochure for all further information or call Hackney Learning Trust on 020 8820 7501

If you have additional questions please leave them in the comments or write to yhsforum@gmail.com

The YHS Forum is independent from Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls School and is not associated with the School.