Showing posts with label chareidim. Show all posts
Showing posts with label chareidim. Show all posts

Friday, 26 January 2018

Panning the PANs – Afterword

In the lengthy posts setting out the backdrop to Yesodey Hatorah's proposals for a Middle School and dissecting the consultation document itself It may be difficult to see the wood of killing off a school for the trees of technicalities on PANs, SLTs, SENs and all the other jargon used to dress up a fundamentally mendacious plan to discard an entire primary school on to the streets.

It is not difficult to rant about Pinter and his poodle governors when at almost every move they display their ability to turn anything they touch into slippery slime. When admissions are turned into exclusion, when overcapacity one day becomes undercapactiy on another, when a supposedly charitable wedding hall scheme is turned into a massive black hole for millions of pounds, when an advocate for education on the public stage abuses his power and when public funds are used to try and kill off a school not to his liking the problem is knowing where to start in calling out this thoroughly dishonest lot.

There at the head of the table sits gravedigger Bibelman, with decades-long experience at the helm of the communal Burial Society to fleece both living and dead without accounting to anyone on where and how the vast sums are distributed, if at all. There besides him sits Posen of Agudath Yisroel fame, expert at penning letters to the local press on how to extract the last penny in benefits but now conniving to deny kids a school. Further down sits that most upright of men Grussgot with his gracious posterior adorning the Governing Body of both YHS and Beis Yaakov without seeming to bat a manicured eyelid at juggling the two warring sides. He was never on any of the boards for his brains and so why now give up one for the other? Yet further down sits a Rabbi no less as an 'elected parent governor' when no one can recall when the elections were held or who the rival candidates were. While alongside them is a Hackney Learning Trust appointee to keep a blind eye on proceedings.

YHS Governors

And then to finish off this unconscionable lot is a host of governors appointed 'as a parent' giving the wonderfully nice impression of parental involvement but concealing that the school's founding document has the bare minimum of a single elected parent governor. 'Appointed' is the key word here. Of course, there are the requisite staff appointments but with a gaggle of teenage teachers themselves brought up in this repressive environment how many are going to put themselves up for election? And don't be misled by the appointment date either. Many of them keep on being reappointed time and again for the merits of being as ineffective as required and often far beyond their call of duty.

But what you will not find anywhere is a Pinter, neither the Principal himself nor anyone carrying that surname. He may feature in the minutes on everything from admissions to resources to finances but like Macavity's Cat he is nowhere to be seen. His resigned daughter is still there despite her been gone for some time but the elephant in the room driving all of this keeps himself off the paper trail and lets his puppets do his bidding.

The YHS's admissions information talks about an 'ethos' and 'moral and ethical values' and how 'every aspect of their lives is governed by the codes of Torah observance, and is based on the three tenets of Judaism “Torah, Prayer and Acts of loving kindness”'. 'Every aspect' that is except the actual running of the school that is supposed to instil those values in the children. Where is the ethos in a pack of lies masquerading as a 'consultation'? Where are the 'ethical values' in manipulating admission numbers in all directions to keep deserving students away from the school? Where is the 'loving kindness' in locking themselves behind metal barriers and sticking a finger up at their own family, friends, and neighbours who for whatever reason are 'undesirables' when it comes to school admissions? And where exactly is the Torah in all of this? When you bump into one of those governors this Shabbos don't ask them when they fed the birds but rather why they are killing off a school and dumping the kids.

As I said ranting about this lot is not difficult when they act so blatantly in broad daylight but where is the rest of the community as an attempt is made to ethnically cleanse Stamford Hill of Sephardim, Yekes and anyone who does not fit into the Streimel/Tichel crowd? Does Rav Padwa represent only his cronies in '86' or does he represent all the shuls in the area? Reb Yossel Padwa, his brother, is the rov of Beis Yaakov and Pinter also uses him when he needs some rabbinical cover. Why is he silent while a malevolent plan is being hatched to deny scores of girls a secondary school and potentially a primary school too? Where is the entire Rabbinate ensconced in their citadel in Stamford Hill pontificating on sheitels, skirts and fibre optics but with nothing to say on an admissions system with a definition supposedly in their name to keep as many kids at bay as possible? Is Beis Yaakov not a chareidi school? So why can Pinter use their cover to close it down? Let them use some of the time dedicated to campaigning for the dead and set it aside for our living future and some of the more vulnerable in our midst.

But let's put Rabbonim to the side. They're part of the vested interests and as nepotistic as Pinter himself. Where are all our spokesmen and women who constantly pop up in the press at the first sign of trouble? Does the self-certified 'intelligent' Chaya Spitz of Interlink fame not have a say on the matter? We're fine for grants of millions, lots of talking shops and seminars and symposiums but when it comes to a real immediate risk, not from Ofsted or the DfE or whoever is designated enemy-of-the-day, but from within there is complete silence. And where is Judith Nemeth of NAJOS? And Baumgarten of UOHC's education committee? And Rabbi Meyer of PaJeS? These people at the helm of acronyms piled up like an alphabet soup all share a table with Pinter, ply the same circuit, laugh at Pinter's bottomless pit of quips but when it comes to the role for which they have been appointed, or appointed themselves, there is only ear-piercing silence.

Where are our elected councillors to speak up for their constituents? You find your mouths to oppose speed humps to endanger kids but hide when it comes to provide them with schooling. And where is Hackney Learning Trust as vast sums of public money are squandered to entrench a single family in the stewardship of a publicly funded school? To whom does Yesodey Hatorah belong, to the community or to Pinter, that is the question

Let it be known that this is being carried out under your polished noses. You know what is going on, you know what Pinter stands for and how he goes about it and you choose to do nothing about it. You don't even turn a blind eye because it is all done fully within your eyesight. When those kids end up without schools because of some concocted Middle School no one ever asked for or even knows what it is, it will be at you they will rightly point their finger.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men (and women) do nothing.

Panning the PANs–Part 4: The Consultation

And so with the background aside it is time to move on to the actual Consultation with a paragraph by paragraph analysis of the proposals.

This consultation sets out and explains the reasons why Yesodey Hatorah Girls School wishes to annex a Year 5 and Year 6 in September 2019 to its existing Secondary school and create a cross-phase school which would cater for students from Year 5 to Year 11.

This consultation sets out nothing of the sort. The true reason for expanding the school to year 5 and 6 is to exclude Beis Yakov primary school pupils and the 'reasons' set out in the document are at best disingenuous and at worst outright lies.

The primary reason behind this move would be to increase the number of students who attend the school in order to reach our Published Admission Number (PAN) of 455.

If this was indeed the ‘primary reason’ the most logical step would would be to set up a 6th form, especially as Be'er Miriam is already on the premises. Indeed, as the extract of the minutes below shows, Be’er Miriam was created to solve the problem of overcapacity’ in the first place.

Seminary minutes

But as was explained above, 6th form is when many girls in the community change schools and so were it to become state-aided the competition for places would be such that places would have to be allocated on an objective set of criteria. This is something YH and Pinter have shown themselves incapable of doing.

The only plausible ‘primary reason’ is to exclude Beis Yaakov primary school and to entrench Pinter power at YHS. These girls were mostly rejected when they applied to YH primary school and YHS cannot face the prospect of them joining 'his' secondary school. Although the 7 BY girls from year 6 who applied for admission in the next school year may be accepted (offers of places go out only in March) this consultation is to avoid a repeat next year and the year after and so on.

Context and Intent

Yesodey Hatorah was set up for the education of chareidi girls in years 7 to 11. The aim is to provide these girls with a robust and well-balanced education while maintaining the ethos and values that are central to their way of life. We now wish to give some of the younger students the same opportunity that their older sisters to receive a quality education building on the foundations set in the primary school.

This does not make sense at all unless it is suggesting that YH primary is not providing a satisfactory education. What it may mean is that the younger girls should receive the benefit of a free state-funded education just like their older sisters, though this is not what it says. If that is the meaning, why not apply for the primary school to join the state system as a primary school, especially as the same people are at the helm of both schools? That way the entire Yesodey Hatorah, primary and secondary, would be state aided and which would indeed be a huge benefit for the community.

When the school was built and received Voluntary Aid Status in 2005 the PAN was set at 450.

This figure was set by the 'Trustees' of the school and advertised (below) by Pinter himself in 2001.

YHS, founding advert

Why the PAN was set at this number is not clear. In the advert Pinter states ‘It is anticipated that the school will operate at its full capacity from September 2005.’ Yet we are now 17 years later and despite the community's high birth rate those numbers can still not be filled. Was it to justify being given the large site they now occupy and which others within the community were competing for? Would they have not been granted a £5m Government grant to build the school had the numbers been smaller? I do not know and I can only speculate.

The present PAN is 400 with an expected 80 students per year group. The governors’ admission policy agrees with this PAN namely of 80 students per year.

PAN, minutes

The PAN fluctuates according to the whims of the 'governors’ admissions policy'. As the minutes of 27 October 2010 show the ‘Governors’ considered reducing the PAN from 80 to 70 or 60. The then Headteacher Mrs Pinter complained about the ‘strain on resources’ and the PAN was reduced to 60! Yet now they have set the PAN at 80 and must open a Middle School to deal with this supposed overcapacity. There is no explanation as to why it was lower in the past and why it has now been raised which leads one to suspect that they have artificially increased the PAN to justify the creation of a Middle School.

At present there are just over 305 students or roll, and the school is therefore operating at well below the PAN that was originally set. This puts the school in a vulnerable position both vis a vis funding and with regard to mid-year admissions.

This so called 'risk' of funding has not materialised in the last decade and no explanation is given as to why action is suddenly necessary. YHS itself on its school information pages states: “In 2016-17 the grant was £6610. It is expected that both grants will remain the same for next few years”

School funding is determined by  complicated formula and some information can be found here. However, the basic funding is based on a per-pupil basis and the size of the school plays no relevance in this. As to 'vulnerability' on mid-year admissions, this is non-existent. If there are places then admit the pupils. Besides, the admission numbers have been well below the PAN and the PAN has been well below capacity since the school was established and none of these supposed ‘vulnerabilities’ have materialised.

It is therefore the governors and trustees intention to increase the numbers through adding two additional year groups to the existing infrastructure and the creation of a cross-phase school which would comprise of two distinct element’s: A middle school for Y5 - Y7 and an upper school for Y8 – Y11.

This does not follow. As stated above, a far more reasonable solution to the 'problem' is bringing the 'sem' in as a 6th form. They are already on the premises and most secondary schools have linked to them a 6th form. As to this 'middle school' of 2 years it would be a huge waste of resources essentially creating a primary school for just two-year groups. In addition, it would deprive those years of the leadership skills that are often fostered in the older years at primary school because these pupils will be the ‘babies’ of the secondary school rather than the grown-ups of the primary school. As to Middle Schools generally, see Wikipedia on the subject how they are a rare type of schools and that 90% of such schools have closed in recent years.

Current and Potential Admissions

At the moment the vast intake at YHSGS, but not the sole intake, is from the Yesodey Hatorah Primary Girls School.

This is true though it is YHS that is to blame for this. Admittedly, as was explained above, there is generally a low transfer rate in the area from primary schools to secondary schools and so the demand was never likely to be overwhelming. However, YHS has done absolutely nothing to try and reverse this effect. To the contrary, it makes great efforts to keep non-YH primary girls away:

  • YHS NEVER advertises. Repeat NEVER. The YH nursery advertises its admissions as does the primary school for boys and for girls but not the secondary school.

YHS Open Day appointments

  • YHS holds NO OPEN DAY. The Hackney Learning Trust prospectus (see above) simply states that viewing can be arranged by appointment. By contrast, YH Primary pupils are provided with an open day when only they are invited and which is not otherwise publicised.
  • YHS publishes NO PROSPECTUS for local distribution. An application pack in English, Yiddish and Hebrew has been published by this site rather than by the school itself.

YHS contact

  • YHS doesn’t even publish a contact email address on the admissions pages (see above). Those that know the trepidation with which local parents take the step of moving their children’s schools will understand why arranging an appointment or even making a phone call may be a step too far for many of them.
  • Only recently and after a complaint did YHS publish admission procedures online but the web address is not publicised anywhere, not even on its stationery, and so no one would know to visit the site.
  • No assistance is offered to the wider community with applications whereas Yesodey Hatorah primary school parents are told to return the applications to YHS who deal with the application on their behalf

The Admissions Code expressly prohibits schools in the public sector from naming a fee-paying school as a feeder school yet this is exactly what YHS does in practice by restricting publicity and skewering the admission criteria to frighten away potential applicants.

Based on existing students numbers in the Primary school the expected intake from this source indicates that the Secondary school can expect to remain well below the expected PAN for the foreseeable future.

This is not simply disingenuous but positively deceptive. The expectation they speak of is non-existent and there is nothing to suggest that the numbers will remain 'well below' the expected PAN. Firstly, as stated above, the PAN itself keeps on changing and so it may fall in the future and no explanation is given as why it is now 80 when it has been 60 in the past.

More to the point, YHS full well knows that there is a primary school on their doorstep called Beis Yaakov whose students must apply to YHS since that is the only school where, subject to availability, they are entitled to be admitted. It is also in YHS’s hands to increase the numbers by simply advertising the school to the local community, holding an open day, making potential applicants feel welcome and assisting in the application process. All of this is non-existent at the moment and instead stories abound of potential applicants being lied to when making initial enquiries.

While potentially we could get additional applications from students from other local chareidi primary schools this has mainly not been the case in the past, and this is unlikely to change.

How do they know this if they have never tired? Rather than taking the highly unusual step of a two-year Middle School situated within a secondary school, they should do what most schools do and try and increase the number of applicants.

Even if the school was to experience an unprecedented 20% increase in applications from other schools we would still be below PAN.

A 20% increase would be 'unprecedented' only because of the active measures currently being taken to suppress applicant numbers and restrict them to YH Primary. By publicising the school and with the addition of Beis Yakov the numbers could easily be filled.

Yesodey Hatorah Primary Girls Schools and its Relationship to the Secondary School

Currently most of our students come from the Yesodey Hatorah Primary Girls School all considerations on what is required to create a cross-phase school has been based on information provided by this entity, and in consultation with the SLT at the school. This is to ensure a smooth transition and to enable the Secondary School to best meet the needs of the students.

This is unlawful because YHS is treating YH Primary as a feeder school in all but name. Again, no mention is made of the likelihood of an entire class of Beis Yakov joining YHS every year from now onwards. This is not mere conjecture as the current Year 6 of Beis Yaakov has already applied and so they can see the likelihood of Beis Yakov applications being made in future years. The idea of 'consultation with the [Seniors Leadership Team]' at the primary school is a joke. It is Pinter talking to himself or to his brother at best.

It is important to note that the Yesodey Hatorah Primary School (YHPS) part of the Yesodey Hatorah School is a totally distinct organisation to the secondary school, and is in the independent sector. The school is housed in a totally separate campus, has its own governance structure and independent staffing and leadership teams. They also maintain completely independent finances and admission procedures. In common, both schools have a shared ethos with a common goal to provide a well-rounded and comprehensive education to charedi girls in and cater to the same target audience.

To call YH Primary a 'totally distinct organisation' is as blatant a lie as you’ll get. They are joined at the hip, at the head and everywhere in between. The entire Yesodey Hatorah Schools network is run by the Pinter family who divide the positions between them, name buildings after their own and adorn the walls with pictures of their illustrious forebears.

YHS Trust is the charity which runs YHS and its contact address is at Pinter’s home. Pinter is also the Principal of YHS. Yet the same Rabbi A Pinter was until recently the registered Headteacher of Yesodey Hatorah School, which is the formal name of Yesodey Hatorah Primary (see below).

YH primary head, A Pinter

The primary boys’ and girls’ schools are legally a single school (of which more later on) but in fact each school is separately run and occupies an entirely separate buildings some distance from the other(though the grounds at the rear of each school are connected). The boys school is run by the Chaim Pinter (A's brother) branch of the family while the girls’ schools, primary and secondary, are run by Abraham and daughters.

As anyone who has had the misfortune to have a rejection from YH Primary will know, all communications and decisions are then with and by Abraham Pinter and no one else. In 2000 at the Din Torah referred to in Part 2 when admissions to the primary school was the issue it was Abraham who represented the primary school. Similarly when there was an appeal on admissions at YHS the same A Pinter turned up (see below).

Pinter, appeal, minutes

As to the 'independent finances and admission procedures', this is about admissions so I'll leave finances alone for now. But as was explained earlier, by restricting admissions to YH Primary the admissions procedure at YHS is almost just a formality as the primary school acts as a de facto feeder to the secondary school.

As a consequence of the recent ruling in the appeals court, YHPS is currently undertaking a major overhaul to meet Government legislation for schools that provide an education for both girls and boys. In order to ensure full compliance the process of registering the school into two distinct entities, each to provide a single sex education, is currently underway and aims to be completed in the near future. This makes it an opportune time for them to consider changes to which Year groups they cater for. We have consulted the trustees at the primary school, and they are willing to seriously consider reducing their age limit, and providing an education only for the lower school, namely students from Y1-Y4. Transferring their Y5 and Y6 classes to the secondary school would free up valuable classroom space in that building.

This is the devil quoting law for his purposes. The consultation, legislation, registration and consideration is just a smoke screen and padding for something that is no more than a paper exercise if that and with no implications for the day-to-day running of the schools.

As explained above, the boys’ and girls’ schools already occupy separate buildings and are to all intents and purposes completely separate schools with different curricula, teachers, head teachers, admin offices and admission procedures. Anyone who knows anything about Chareidim will know that a boys and girls school of any age could not be differently run. Therefore, to talk of 'that building' in the singular is misleading since they are already two separate buildings. The 'valuable classroom space' is also a red herring since no classroom space will be gained or lost by the supposed 'two distinct entities' as they are already entirely distinct in all but name and have been so for many years.

The Government legislation' they talk about is not any new law but the recent Court of Appeal judgement that segregated schools breach the Equalities Act. The case related to a publicly funded school whereas YH Primary, boys and girls, are independent fee-paying schools. The effects of that ruling are still being worked out and this is just hiding behind jargon and laws to conceal their true intentions.

As was revealed by a senior member of YH Primary girls, the reason for splitting the boys and girls schools is the recent Ofsted report of YH Primary when it was found to be overall ‘Inadequate’. Apparently, it was the boys' school, to which journalists and politicians are never invited, that dragged down the girls' school. It is to ensure that in future inspections the primary girls school is judged on its own merits rather than lumped together with the ‘Inadequate’ boys' school that the boys and girls primary school is being split. However, for the purpose of this consultation they have an interest in talking down the primary school with no distinction between boys and girls so as to make the case for a new supposedly improved Middle School.

With this cooperation, creating a cross-phase school would not negatively impact the primary school. This will allow for a smooth transition and benefit the students currently in Years 5 and 6.

Losing Year 5 and 6 could have a negative impact as the younger classes will be deprived of being in the company of older girls. Moreover, they are not entitled to consider the the impact on YH primary only and the impact on Beis Yakov and other secondary school age children in the entire community must also be considered.

Staffing and School Timetable

The school will be divided into two distinct divisions with Years 5, 6 and 7 being a Middle School and Years 8 through 11 an Upper School. We envisage that the both the Middle and Upper School will be one entity, with one Headteacher responsible for both elements of the school. This alleviates the expense of employing an additional head teacher which will lead to economies of scale and will also ensure that there is one person who has a strategic overview of the full school.

As a Headteacher has been mentioned, it is worth noting that YH Secondary had until recently both a Principal and Headteacher occupied by Abraham Pinter and his late wife respectively. Within months of the passing of his wife their daughter relocated from Israel with her family to be appointed Headteacher despite her lack of qualifications and experience. Unsurprisingly, this did not work out and she left the school within a couple of years. The Principal however has remained in place throughout and the above does not state what role the Principal will play in the proposed new set up.

There have been no advertisements for a new Headteacher since and the post of Headteacher is currently occupied by an Acting Headteacher. There is then a separate 'Menaheles' which is a Headteacher for religious studies.

The question is whether a school which is incapable of hiring a truly independent Headteacher should be allowed an entirely new and unusual 'Middle School' and whether it will be capable of meeting the challenges. The price for the so called 'economies of scale', assuming they exist, may well be borne by the students who are being used as pawns in the rearranging of the Pinter decks.

Deputy Headteachers will be focussed and responsible for a specific division. They will also be the lead person on safeguarding issues with their designated division.

The Middle School will require a Key Stage Lead who has experience of primary schools, younger children, their curriculum etc. The Key Stage Leader will serve as the line manager for the class teachers, of which there will be one per class. It is anticipated that most of the Y5 and Y6 teachers will apply to the Secondary School for teaching positions and in most cases be offered positions in the Middle School. The staffing structure for the Upper School will remain much the same as the existing infrastructure, including different teachers for different subject.

The Middle School will have a different daily infrastructure to the Upper School, with the day split up into fewer lessons, and a different start and finish time for the school day. This will be more in line with the needs of Primary aged students, and the school day will end at 4.00pm. Break time and Lunch will take place at different times to the Upper School. The daily infrastructure in the Upper School will remain similar to the existing system.

Assemblies for each division will be held independently, although on occasion there will be whole school activities.

SLT will be expected to undertake continuous professional development (CPD) training in how to deal with primary aged students, with a specific emphasis on safeguarding and social and emotional development of younger pupils. In addition it will widen the career prospects for the staff and create more opportunities for areas of responsibility etc. The main advantage of this will be to the aid in retention of staff.

This would suggest that the 'economies of scale' they mention earlier is just a mirage as all of the above will need to be created from scratch and for which there is no current need in the existing YH Secondary school.

Meeting the Educational Needs of All Students

We are conscious that we do not have the existing provision to provide an education for Primary Students, and we have carefully researched how we will be able to deliver an excellent education to these students as well as maintaining excellent standards in the existing Secondary classes.

The Key Stage 2 Lead will be expected to attend LA Primary School meetings and CPD training on how to meet the Primary School national curriculum so that they can ensure that students are receiving an excellent education in their subject. The KS2 lead will also liaise with Heads of Department to ensure that students are able to transition smoothly from the Middle to Upper School.

Currently we maintain an excellent working relationship with the Primary School and have a good understanding of their curriculum and how it affects students’ learning once they transition to the Secondary School. In addition, our current Acting Headteacher was previously a Headteacher in a Primary School and she is well placed to assist on overseeing quality in education and to ensure that students at KS2 receive an appropriate and well-rounded education which is age appropriate.

Over the years we have been concerned that students are entering Secondary School without the necessary skills needed to achieve as well as we would expect.

Once again they resort to the trick of talking down their own primary school. If it is the case that YH Primary school girls are below par it would make a strong case for seeking students from other schools which may have better prepared them for secondary school.

The Secondary School has very high expectations of all its students. This is borne out by the standards reached at GCSE. This year analysis of our results gave us a P8 0.75 and A8 5.6 well above national averages of 0 and 4.5 respectively. These values put us in the top 5% according to progress and top 9% for attainment in the country.

The primary school’s SAT results show that the school is clearly underachieving in English. This is not unusual for independent schools in the borough, particularly when taking into consideration the fact that many students speak English as a second language. As the Primary School is privately funded there is little room for specialised teaching.

And yet more talking down of the primary school. They conveniently point to the primary school’s SAT’s result without disclosing the results for the distinct boys and girls schools within the primary school. The girls have good results and it is the boys who drag down the primary school’s results overall.

In the Secondary School most staff within the English department are either qualified with degrees in English or are working toward gaining the relevant qualifications.

A large number if not most of the teachers at YHS are teenagers who have no more qualifications than a few A-levels, if that. They leave school, attend sem for 2 years and are back teaching the girls with whom they shared a playground 2 years earlier. What are the ‘relevant qualifications’ they talk about? Finding a shidduch?

We therefore feel confident that should pupils transfer from the Primary School to the new Middle School they would receive specialist teaching in English which would result in better grades at KS2. Research has shown that how well students achieve at KS2 has an impact on their future grades and eventually career prospects.

Overall we are confident that that we can provide the same standard of education for the Middle School that we are currently providing for all of our students at YHSGHS.

‘Career prospects’ is a nice word for a school whose Principal has said on “Our experience is that the better educated girls turn out to be the most successful mothers. For us, that’s the most important role a woman plays”. But then they will say anything to suit any particular moment.

SEN & Safeguarding Provision

We have excellent SEN department that works closely with our middle leaders and senior staff to ensure that all students regardless of their ability are able to achieve. The earlier any interventions take place the more likely students will be able to achieve at KS2 and at GCSE.

The SEN department will be responsible for both the Middle and Upper Schools and will expand their number of staff. They will employ those with experience in primary education to meet the needs of a Middle School and the increased number of children on roll.

Staff that will be working with the younger children will be given dedicated training on meeting the differing social and emotional needs of younger students.

Yet more employment further bellying their claim to ‘economy of scale’.

Recreational Space, Building Capacity

The school has large play areas, and students in both divisions will have suitable access to recreational areas both indoors and outdoors.

Our current building is considered suitable for use by 450 students, and we do not expect to exceed this number. This means that we will not have to undertake any building works to absorb the additional students.

As any visitor to YHS will tell you, despite being granted a site free of charge and receiving a £5m grant for the impressive modern building they currently occupy, the grounds have been defaced almost from the start and continue to be with portacabins, extensions and huts. This is despite the school running at significant under capacity which is the supposed reason for the proposals in this consultation. Since the grounds have been reduced and in view of the additional grounds required for the younger pupils it is questionable whether the grounds are indeed suited for the proposed numbers and for the younger ages particularly with some of the building being occupied by Be’er Miriam.

Effect on other Schools

It is not anticipated that the merger would have any effect on any of the local schools, aside from Yesodey Hatorah Primary School. Yesodey Hatorah Girls Primary School will no longer have a Year 5 and Year 6. Discharging the school of two year groups will allow YHPS release value space and possibly give the school the opportunity to re-furbish some of their accommodation.

This is the most disgraceful and shameful lie of the lot. This will have an ENORMOUS EFFECT on Beis Yaakov as those girls will not have a secondary school to accept them at the end of their primary school because by then YH Middle/Secondary will be full. Even if it is argued that there will still be an admissions process to YHS, they could easily declare the Middle School as a feeder school thus giving the Middle School students priority. Alternatively, it could hold another ‘consultation’ in the future to convert into one large school.

The practical effect on Beis Yaakov is that their girls may be forced to apply to be admitted for Year 5 of the new YH Middle School as otherwise they stand no chance of a place at YHS at all. Beis Yakov will therefore have to close Years 5 and 6 as all the girls will by then have left. This in turn may lead to the school with only 4 years not being viable and closing. It will suit Pinter as he will have knocked out a competitor and an indirect challenger to his state-funded hegemony. But where does it leave the growing number of families without schools for their children because the community has decided to wash their hands of them? That this should be done with public funds is scandalous and shameful.

Quite separately, YH Primary is a private school and there is no reason why public funds should be used to cater for a handpicked number of families which have been hand-selected by Pinter to be admitted to the primary school. If the primary school requires space and refurbishment let them apply to become state-aided and raise their standards to the level this consultation is so eager for them to achieve.

Budget

Current data from Hackney would give an income of £5000 per primary student. With an intake of 130 students minimum this would generate an income of £650 000. The major costs will be staffing namely for six teachers, a Key Stage Leader, admin and SEN staff.

Note how this is the first times we are given actual numbers. Nowhere have we been told how many applicants they are actually receiving on average over the years, the likely numbers from the YH primary school in future years, the average number of applicants from other schools or the implications of the Beis Yaakov applicants. But now to show the numbers they will be drawing to the Middle School we are told 130 students.

They also appear to accept that the 'economies of scale' they mention earlier is non-existent as a whole new staff must be hired.

The other main outlay would be set-up costs, however it is expected that much of the furniture and resources would come from the primary school.

They have accidentally let their mask slip here. Earlier we were told “Yesodey Hatorah Primary School (YHPS) part of the Yesodey Hatorah School is a totally distinct organisation to the secondary school.” If that was true, on what basis is YHPS giving away furniture for 130 students to YHS? As they themselves shoe it is all one big pot and the entire consultation exercise and proposal are quite literally just rearranging the furniture.

An allowance has also been given for SEN as it is highly likely that there will be some pupils who will need extra support and that we will have to employ somebody with primary experience.

Yet more so called 'economies of scale'.

As the main infrastructure is well established there will be little additional costs to the day to day running of the school as the additional numbers will not impact the maintenance or administrative costs.

Any capital funds which the school may incur will be funded by the trustees.

Presumably to mean diverting money from the big black hole called the 'wedding hall'.

Alternative Proposals

The Governors and Trustees appreciate that they have to work with the PAN that has been set by Hackney.

No. It was set by the Trustees and advertised by Abraham Pinter himself as shown above and has fluctuated between 60 and 90. At that time it suited them to hike the numbers up and now it suits them to hike the numbers down to create space for a ‘Middle School’.

Consideration has been given to increasing the PAN through extending the age range at the upper end of the school through creating a sixth form with a Y12 and Y13. This option was not pursued as there appears to be little demand for such a 6th form within the community. There are already sufficient seminaries that presently meet the community’s needs for this age group.

Yet another blatant and shameful lie. There is a seminary in the very YHS building under the trusteeship of Abraham Pinter himself where of course he wields absolute indiscriminate power on admissions. As shown in the minutes above it was created for the very reason of over-capacity so why not turn that into a voluntary-aided 6th form? The answer is because Y12 is a key transfer stage between school and sem and the competition for admission from other schools would be such that he would not hold the keys. It would also not resolve the lurking 'danger' of Beis Yakov hordes trampling through 'his' school as of right rather than by his grace. To ‘remedy’ this an unheard of Middle School must be created to maintain his powerbase and exclude an entire school in the process.

Admission Arrangements 2019/20

A separate consultation is being conducted by Hackney Learning Trust in regards to admission arrangements for 2019-20. Details available on the following link https://www.learningtrust.co.uk/admissions/Pages/AdmissionsConsultation.aspx and also from the school office at 6 Egerton Road N16 6UA.

This will reflect the proposed age and PAN changes and the different entry points into the school.

Consultation Timetable Consultation period starts

Wednesday 20th December 2017

Consultation period ends

Wednesday 31st January 2018

NOTE THE DEADLINE!!!

Governors’ review of responses

Wednesday 14th February 2018

Governors final decision

Tuesday 13th March 2018

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Panning the PANs: On Yesodey Hatorah’s proposed ‘Middle School’ – Part 1


As first reported on the linked Twitter account, the state funded Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls School (YHS) is consulting on 'annexing' a Year 5 and Year 6 to its existing school and creating a Middle School for those classes.

As it currently stands YHS consists of Years 7-11 which is the norm for secondary schools. It also has a notional 6th form (known locally as a 'sem') on its premises called Be'er Miriam Seminary with two years which are the equivalent of Years 12-13. This is a private fee-paying institution of which Abraham Pinter is a trustee. Its charitable income in its last financial report was £362,052. It pays no rent to YHS for its use of the school premises.

YHS has now published a consultation document on this annexation but to understand the issues and the possible motives for YHS's proposals it is important to set out the background of girls' schools in Stamford Hill's Chareidi community.

Just one disclaimer before I proceed. I must apologise in advance for using terms, in inverted comas where I remember, that are often judgemental in origin and intent and particularly cringe-inducing when used for self-serving purposes. As unpleasant as they are, I did not coin them and nor have I formed the community and sub-communities that often define themselves within by those terms. This, however, is the reality of the situation and which I cannot escape try as I may. So irrespective of my own views I have to resort to such terms if I am to provide a frank summary of the situation.

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The Stamford Hill community has a number of girls’ schools ranging from Lubavitch on the 'left' and which draws its intake from beyond the broader community to B'nos Yerushalayim on the 'right' which serves the extreme right of Satmar and similarly minded fringes. In the middle is a range of schools generally controlled by the Chasidic powerhouses like Satmar and Belz and more recently joined by Vizhnitz and Bobov. There is then an unaffiliated sector which consists of Beis Chinuch for the frummer end, Beis Yaakov for the moderate end and Yesodey Hatorah somewhere in the middle.

All the local girls schools, with one exception, run from nursery through to the end of secondary school. Round here nursery is often referred to as reception or infants, primary school is predominantly known as juniors and secondary school as seniors. In most cases nursery, primary and secondary schools are not separate schools and often not even different departments but simply a single school where you are enrolled at one end and emerge at the other at 16 years old and almost ready for a shidduch after a year or two in 'sem'. Sem, short for seminary, is our equivalent of 6th form and when a new round of applications and selections take place.

The single exception to this is Beis Yaakov (BY), which has only a primary school. BY was founded 6 years ago and its first cohort will graduate in the summer of this year. This class, as well as the classes below them every year henceforth, will need to find a new school to continue their secondary school education. And it is in light of the 'problem' of BY girls joining YHS that the current proposals and consultation must be considered.

Before moving on to the consultation itself it is also important to understand how parents round here generally choose a school for their children. Since most schools are affiliated to a Chasidic movement most parents belonging to the movement will enrol their children in that movement's schools. Where a movement does not have its own schools parents will typically choose (or 'send' as it’s referred to here) the movement closest to their affiliation. 'Close' in this sense may mean in origin and custom to wherever they are affiliated or with historical ties between the different movements. Another factor is also the parents' own level of observance and piety and so they might choose a school that is closest to their own worldview. Or shtetl-view if you like.

But overall, the selection of a school before primary school and then secondary school does not exist here in most cases because most parents 'belong' to this or that movement and so their choice is made up for them. And not only is the child likely to remain at that school for the entire duration of her school but it’s also where her siblings are likely to attend (and it may well influence where these children enrol their own children in generations to come). This is not only due to the way the schools are structured but also because of the manner and the reasoning behind the 'choice' in the first place. Similarly, there is relatively little movement between the schools of the different Chasidic sects as whatever motivated the parents to select a particular school in the first place it likely to remain in place for them for the rest of their lives.

That said, there is still a fair number of transfers between schools either between years or from primary to secondary. This is for a variety of reasons whether because a child does not settle well in to a school or issues arise whether from the school, the pupil or the parents' end and a transfer becomes necessary. In other cases parents may become disappointed with a school and they decide they want something different. It could be they consider the school too strict, too lax, too frum, too much homework or whatever. These parents may still belong to the movement but yet want something different for their child. This is more common amongst girls as affiliation is predominantly a patriarchal issue and so fathers will typically be more particular about their boys' affiliation and upbringing than mothers about their daughters.

Of this last lot there are then the parents who become 'enlightened', or 'modern' as it would be phrased here. Meaning, that as new parents when they were barely out of their teens they may have opted for a certain school because that is where they 'belonged', that is where his and her parents dictated, whether expressly or implicitly, the child must attend and that is the school where it was as natural to send their child as it was natural for him to attend the shul to which the school is affiliated. In most cases it probably did not even occur to the parents that they had a choice and even if they did give it some though they may well have believed the propaganda pumped out by each movement on the superiority of their schools and the 'dangers' of venturing elsewhere.

However, as they mature and acquire their own identities they may realise that they want something more 'loose' or unaffiliated for their children and for themselves. In other cases it may be the pupil herself who has moved on and either wants to move to a new school or, in more 'extreme' cases, the school where she was first enrolled no longer wishes to keep her. When we say 'extreme' we're not talking anything as radical as an ear-helix piercing or a thumb ring but merely her hairstyle, her dress style, having the misfortune of being more assertive, prettier or more feminine than her classmates or any other nuance that brings her to the attention of the powers that be.

The above all rests on the premise that the child actually has a school to go to in the first place. Unfortunately, this is not always the case as many parents have come to learn to their anguish when they struggle to find a school for their nursery or primary school age child. There is a difference in this between the Chasidic schools and the unaffiliated. In general, each Chasidic movement will provide a place for the children of its adherents and so Chasidic parents will usually not struggle for a place provided they wish to enrol their child in the movement's schools. This is because 'belonging' to a Chasidus generally involves to a greater or lesser degree conforming to their mores and adhering to their rules and so those within are usually 'kosher' enough to get their kids in to the school. Chasidim also tend to look after their own and so even parents of a slightly more 'liberal' bent will still be well aware of the limits and the price they must pay to 'belong'. By contrast, those who are unaffiliated or whose movements do not run schools must live by different rules. So long that the parents are conformist, don't ruffle any feathers and don't stand out from the crowd they too will find a place with either one of the Chasidic or unaffiliated schools.

Where the problems arise is when parents of a Chasidic background veer too far from their own movement or where they decide that their movement's schools are not suitable for them. In the case of the unaffiliated it is a similar picture though the threshold tends to be higher as they have no movement they can turn to as of 'right' (provided they conform to some degree) that may choose to overlook their relatively minor indiscretions. The Chasidic schools outside their movement will say you don't 'belong' to us and we don't want other people's 'garbage' (yes, it's often put as crudely as that) while unaffiliated schools like Beis Chinuch or YHS also turn them down on similar grounds, that if they are not 'kosher' for their own they’re definitely not kosher enough for these unaffiliated schools. The unaffiliated schools have the added excuse with Chasidic parents, that these parents have schools ready to accept them and if the parents are unwilling to conform to their own movement’s schools, well then that is their problem.

Such parents are thus left without a school and the kids must languish at home because no school will accept them. True, Lubavitch remains open to such parents and many children do indeed end up there as a very last resort. But for a multitude of reasons, and rightly or wrongly, Lubavitch is not considered locally as a core communal school despite its location in the area. Lubavitch pupil base is also from a far wider spectrum and these parents still feel very much part of the community where their family and friends are and want their children reared within the same community.

As mentioned above, children round here generally stick with the school where they started their school life and so the aforementioned problems with admissions are more common in nursery or primary school because once accepted the child will tend to remain there and if they do decide to change it is more often than not difficult to do so with without a fight. Problems do arise where a child is 'kicked out' of a school or where the parents are desperate to change schools but these are relatively few and far between.

In considering the above it is easy to forget that this is only how things are and not how they ought to be. However, since all the local schools but one (Lubavitch aside) are private schools they do not have to account to anyone for their decisions on admissions and on how they run their schools. It is futile arguing on how things could and should be different since they raise their own budgets and set their own rules.

The one exception to this is Yesodey Hatorah Seniors which is the first and at the moment only Chareidi voluntary-aided school in Stamford Hill. (There used to be Avigdor primary school but that was even further away to the 'left' than Lubavitch.) Since YH Seniors is, notionally at least, subject to the laws on school admissions it might have been expexted that things would be run rather differently there but then that would be without taking into account that the Yesodey Hatorah Schools are run as the personal fiefdom of the Pinter family with the girls schools 'belonging' to the Abraham Pinter branch.

True, they publish a prospectus and admissions criteria, as they must, applications are submitted to the local authority, decisions are taken (again, notionally) by a sub-committee of school governors and rejections can be appealed. But then Russia also has a constitution and courts but we still know how the place is run. And it is in how YH Seniors is run in practice that we come to the crux of the 'problem' as YHS sees it and to the 'consultation' it is now holding.

In case it needs to be stated, this series of posts takes it as a given that Pinter is Yesodey Hatorah and Yesodey Hatorah is Pinter, in particular relating to the girls' schools and even more so in reference to admissions, and that the two are virtually interchangeable no matter how many boards, governors and trustees he hides behind.

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 clichés 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.'

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.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

School fights

A silent battle has been raging in Stamford Hill for the last few weeks or even months and possibly years though you would know little about it if you merely followed the local press. The noticeboards have been of some assistance though they also only tell part of the tale. I do not pretend to know all the details so I will present what I do know and leave it to others to fill in the missing bits.

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Poised on one side is The Association of Orthodox Jewish Schools and Organisations Ltd (AOJSO). Quite a mouth full, I know, but we do like grand sounding names and acronyms round here so let's not dwell on peripheral matters. The AOJSO has made it its task to represent local Jewish schools and yeshivas to government bodies. A notice which popped up on the noticeboards for a short while underlined the object of 'encouraging the fullest co-operation’ between schools and the authorities.

Massed on the other extreme is Satmar of the 86 Cazenove chapter and some anonymous activists who may or may not be associated with them. To them any dialogue with 'outside' authorities is anathema as things are best when left untouched because, let's face it, Judaism has been untouched for 2000 odd years and we're doing rather well thank you very much.

And in the middle are those who are neither modernisers, for want of a better word, nor loonies who will oppose if only for the sake of opposition. These will gladly follow almost anything so long that it is led by someone bearded in a shtreimel though even then it should not carry too much of a 'modern' whiff about it.

The issue of primary concern to the AOJSO is the Bermuda Triangle of Stamford Hill where numerous boys between the ages of 13-16 disappear from the system into a black hole. That might be something of an misnomer as in fact they are being groomed to be grooms for one thing but also to a life of spiritual ecstasy while being entrusted with the passcode to the world to come. So rather than a dark pit perhaps we should call it a bright skylight.

Anyway, the law demands that children in this country up to the age of 16 are taught a broad and balanced curriculum. For those getting itchy and minded to jump up and down and flailing their arms about because our curriculum is as broad and balanced as anyone else’s and we whose ancestors were worshipping a golden calf long before theirs had even dreamt of Stonehenge will not be taking any lessons on what to teach our kids, please calm down and do let me finish. You see the 'broad and balanced curriculum' also includes spoken and written English. Yup, I realise that can be something of a problem so get your cheeks in your palms and time to do some thinking.

So an Association was formed to meet the authorities and see what can be done. Not that bad, is it? We meet government ministers to discuss clocks going back and request that they be turned back 1000 years rather than tinker with the odd hour. We campaign for a more lax planning regime unless it's for an eiruv in which case we want the death penalty for violation of a mere by-law on Hampstead Heath. We pop up on the radio to campaign for housing benefit rather than sort out our education and get more people into work. So why not campaign on that very issue of education? It is becoming ever more difficult for our Pied Pipers to have the increasing number of boys 'vanish’ and some saner minds have decided that it may be a good idea to regularise these yeshivas.

And it came to pass that last month Stamford Hill and Golders Green put their ties on and went to Westminster for some shtadlonus in the good old fashioned way. For reasons unknown, a notable absence was our photogenic 'leader', 'rabbi' and 'spokesman' who 'runs several schools.' Perhaps he was not invited or he may have made himself scarce. I suppose when one runs a communal school as if it's the family corner shop one does tend to be suspicious of a grand sounding Association which may get the wrong idea of poking its nose into areas outside its concern, especially when the husband, wife and kids are doing such a marvellous job.

But what about the English, I hear you cry. Well, to some, if it means that the boys have to study some 'English', which is the local all-encompassing word for secular studies, then so be it. I suspect that those behind the project find it convenient to be able to point a finger at the authorities and that it’s not, God forbid, of their own initiative. But therein lies the point because once you have some schools regularised it becomes easier for the authorities to clamp down on the dissenters.

Well, all hell did break loose in some circles and in one speech in Satmar '86' a US speaker, Menashe Fillip, accused the 'AOGSO' (sic) and those behind it of heresy and much worse and of inciting the 'goyim' to make demands of the yeshivas on their study programs because the 'goyim' if left alone would allow us to do what we like 'until the coming of the Messiah'. Strong words although he may have something of a point.

DfE briefing notes

Apparently the meeting last month was not the first. The document above is from the Department for Education's website of the briefing notes for previous meetings where the issues are set out in some detail. (Further details are available here, and the JC article referred to is here.) Particularly intriguing is the note on page 2 that the DfE requested assistance on this matter from local authorities but 'most authorities were reluctant to assist.'

This must have included Hackney where many if not most of these yeshivas are located and betrays a remarkable blind-eye attitude especially when compared to say enforcement of planning breaches. It amounts to a policy which effectively says, do with yourselves as and what you like and we shall stand back so long that you don't bother us. You wish to ruin your kids' employment prospects and deny them a half-decent education? No problem. You want to operate your schools in ramshackle buildings with little regard to the safety and welfare of the children? Please feel free to do so. Your family kindly seeks to commandeer an entire school from admissions to a private 6th form on the school premises and balance the books with the school hall? Our pleasure. But please just one small request: whatever you choose to do do it in your own backyard. Add as much as a slate to your roof, however, and we'll be down on you like a ton of bricks. Political correctness in action, some might say. Or second class citizens, perhaps.

email

This being Stamford Hill, the gravity of the situation was immediately sensed and our special forces sprung into action. The email above appears to indicate that there may have been rival attempts to bend ministerial ears organised by Rabbi Herschel Gluck (famously savaged by Geoffrey Alderman) but which were roundly rebuffed. Gluck did however get to meet some mandarin with ‘Grand Rabbi’ Schlesinger which must count for some achievement. Apparently, there has also been a letter from school heads to Rabbi Padwa that they do not wish to be represented by the AOJSO though it may have been later withdrawn.

Finally, our dear vice president’s presence cannot be overlooked. The DfE notes provide biographical information for each of the attendees. For His Grace, the coucillorship and mayoralship are duly noted as is the vice presidency of the UOHC. Omitted, however, is his Chairmanship of the Board of Governors of YH Senior Girls School. Even if he may only be a nominee it surely should be worthy of mention when meeting a minister on the very subject of secondary education. One must attribute this coyness to the great man's trade mark humility and reserve and we are proud to have the opportunity to fill in the record.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Queue on the right for refunds only

Letter

An exhortation not to read or sell this week’s issue of the chareidi magazine, Olam Hachareidi. It is not clear what they have done to offend our dear Rov’s sensitivities and if anyone can provide a copy it would be helpful so that we know what we must avoid. In the meantime we can only speculate that it may be they forgot to blur a two-year old’s face or possibly there was a photo of a bus where the sexes are permitted to mix without hindrance or perhaps even a skirt that exceeded the mandatory length turning it into something almost as bad as a mini skirt. Or could it be they forgot to crop out a bride in a photograph of someone dancing a mitzvah tantz with her?

Whatever it is we have been told we can get a refund so it’s time for the women folk to start queuing. You know the rules: if it’s with a receipt it’s a refund, without it’s a credit note, 14 days in T.K. Maxx, 28 days in M&S unless you have a letter from your rov and with some ingenuity you might get away with a refund even if you bought it elsewhere, though pleading and a few tears never go amiss.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Immaculate conception?

Bonei - CopyBonei Olam (Builders of the Universe) is a charity that provides financial assistance to infertile couples. It is an international charity headquartered in New York with all the fundraising gimmickry we have become accustomed to in these types of chareidi organisations. Garish brochures, hair-raising stories, hysterical calls by the ‘gedoilim’ accompanied by every sentimental cliché decency and common sense should have prevented them from including. Intended to tug at potential donors’ heart, and purse, strings they usually induce severe bouts of nausea if not outright disgust.

The organisations tend to tell you everything there is to know about themselves except for that delicate thing called money. Generally, funds are raised to be spent immediately as we don’t really do long term. Featuring a supposed orphan with mock tears crying for the bread your money will supposedly buy is far more effective than telling you how your donation might cure malaria or cancer ten years hence.Giving people fish rather than teaching them how to fish is our preferred route to salvation and even then knowing how many fish have been raised and how much is syphoned off for commission is classified information.

In this case, due to the ‘sensitive’ nature of infertility –I mean we chareidim don’t quite do that, do we?- discreet meetings are arranged at private homes for men of means with leaflets tailored to whoever their godel happens to be. At the meeting a well laid ambush is set up with high-pressure tactics to get you to sign up for a direct debit. Those who pledged £1000 will tonight be wined and dined at a specially laid on dinner for the larger donors.

The leaflet heading is marked ‘London’ and the impression is that money raised locally is used for couples in this country. The footnote on the leaflet contains an exhortation not to discuss the matter in public so I shan’t say anything other than ask how necessary financial assistance for infertility is in this country where we’re blessed with the NHS? True, there may be a wait but with couples marrying in their teens what exactly is the hurry? Surely it’s not written in the scriptures that morning sickness is part of a couple’s bonding ritual during their first months while getting to know each other.

We also have a home grown charity Chana which although it carries out its work with less fanfare it is no less effective for that. It hosts public information events with professionals and also provides counselling. It is run on the whole by women though there are male support workers too and counselling is also provided in Yiddish. It relies less on the gedoilim nonsense which is a good idea as when it comes to reproduction gedoilim can be something of a turn off.

My point however is Bonei Olam’s logo of a single person, which looks male though it could possibly be a female with trousers, conjuring out of thin air an entire chareidi family albeit slightly on the small side. Difficult to tell how they do it. Perhaps the gedoilim can manage even miracles unknown hitherto since the days of Joseph and Mary or maybe they provide a cloning facility. If we can have Dolly the sheep why not Tuli, or Chaim, the kid?

Monday, 28 November 2011

Words words (kosher) words

Letters (not) published in The Write Lines, the famous letters page that arrives from parts other publications won't acknowledge to exist

CCI27112011_0000 - Copy

Dear Editor

Like all heimishe yieden everywhere I was overwhelmed by hakoras hatov for the dedicated chosheve askonim who have made available the kosher dictionary. I immediately went out to the Hill to get one so that my children ke"h should no longer cholilo come across posule words when doing their homework. (Mentioning homework reminds me of the letter I wrote last year about the geferleche load of homework the girls are given so that they can't help their mothers in the evening, but now I am writing about something else.)

I had barely sat down to browse the new dictionary when I landed on my behind after noticing the word 'bum'. I didn't chas v'sholem go looking for such words but it literally stuck itself in my face. Luckily my children were not yet home so I could stick the pages together because oi lorosho v'oi lishcheino and I can't bear my children knowing other words that are tome from sitting so close to that disgusting word. But it made me realise that, like lettuce, how important it is to check even something with a hechsher. If rachmone litzlon that word crept in who knows what else might chas v'cholilo have been overlooked.

I am mamesh trembling with shock after searching a bit deeper at some of the words the Rabbonim didn't get to notice. I know I must be careful at the words I use in your publication which spreads yiros shomayim and ruchniyes to our kehille but it is equally important that parents are not chas vesholem nichshel. I ask those with heilige oigen to please look away but how can we tolerate our teiere neshomelech looking up words like 'butt', 'buttock', 'bottom' and 'breast'? I am ashamed to say this but even the word 's-x' was not taken out. What kind of chinuch are we giving to our precious kinderlech by including such miese verter? My father olev hasholem would wash our mouths with soap if we mentioned much more eidele words and here we have the worst possible words noch with a hechsher!

I immediately called my husband who told me not to do anything until he comes home from koilel because it's a sha'le if you must put it in sheimos as it has a hechsher or whether you are allowed to burn it because of those words. He agreed absolutely that such a book has no place in a yiddishe shtib and we must be so careful not to fall into the hechsher trap. I can now understand how meat from the same hechsher came to be transported with dovor acher after seeing those chazerishe words in a book certified by a lemehadrin authority.

What I think is even more shameful is that I saw in the Tribune by my friend's house (we don't buy beshite any papers) that Rabbonim who are fluent in English went over this dictionary before giving it a hechsher. First of all are such Rabbonim really suitable for us erliche yieden? And second of all how can we now trust a rov if we know he has sifted through all this shmutz? Maybe that's why there is no haskome because even the Rabbonim were ashamed that they had to read such treifene books. And third of all maybe that’s why they left in all those words and it's a simen they can't even talk such good English. They for sure can't talk French because they left 'lingerie' lying about in full view of the boys and rachmone litzlon even 'thong' was stuck in. Do they know the achrayus of publishing such a book? No wonder so many children are going off the derech if their precious neshomolech get to see such tomene words.

But I don't want to be nichshel with loshen hore and rechilus and also we must be dan lekaf zechus. The Rabbonim did include ‘spank’, beat', 'pinch', 'smack' and 'hit'. Boruch Hashem the Scrooges shlito also remembered to leave out 'Christmas' and even had the seichel to cut out 'fossil'. But couldn't they also remove 'evolution'? Isn't there enough kfiro that we need some more with the best hechsher in the world?

I also hoped at least they would include some heimishe English words like cheder, yeshive and shiduch. No wonder those chachomim from Oxford were so nispoel of the request for such a dictionary (besides that they required the cost of 2000 copies to be underwritten). The Rabbonim allowed them to teach our children narishe words like 'lugubrious' and 'rumbustious' which no one will anyway ever use but were ashamed to allow Hashem and mezuze? The Tribune thinks it was a kidush Hashem but it's really a huge chilul Hashem if you can't include 'God' and not even 'G-d'!

May we be zoiche to kedushe and to be nitzel from all the nisyoines that today's dor produces even with a hechsher.

A Dedicated Yiddishe Mame

***

Dear Editor

I heard rachmone litzlon that some children have developed a new game where they have to guess words and then look it up in the kosher dictionary. If the word’s in they lose a point and if it's out they gain a point. My eyes are filled with tears writing this that such a michshoil could come out from a koshere dictionary and the musar haskeil is to avoid using Rabbonim who can speak English which boruch hashem is not so bad by us.

An Experienced Mechanech

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Touchy feely chareidim

Occasionally one comes across a statement so audaciously outrageous, so leap-from-your-seat politically incorrect, so preposterously preposterous that you simply freeze on your first encounter. You then go back to the beginning of the sentence to make sure you actually read those words. Still reeling from incredulity that such sentiments could be uttered in our prejudice-free era you reread the paragraph, restart the article and even check the cover of the book or masthead of the paper to ensure that the context, the tone, key and pitch of the words which so profane all our sancrosanctities are not only there and carry their usual meaning but were actually intended to mean as they do.

Such were the words in Geoffrey Alderman's article in last week's JC which I reproduce here in their full glory.

It is, however, well known that charedi men are notorious harassers of the opposite sex.

And then when you finally thaw and are sitting comfortably again you are at a loss at how to respond? What does one do and say in such instances? Pitch tents outside the JC's offices or Mr Alderman's home with banners reading 'members of the opposite sex welcome?' They'll just use it as further proof of our roving fingers. Initiate a chesed campaign of holding doors open for the fairer sex to show what a gallant and chivalrous lot we are? For goodness sake we don't even look at them so how are to we know when they're coming and going. Perhaps get the Neturei Karta involved to walk to Trafalgar Square on Shabbos with banners pinned to their bekitshes, 'Chareidi and not Harraser'. Or, preferably, 'WE FRESS NOT HARASS'.

Alderman is a man of many talents but impartiality is unfortunately not one of them. Let us not forget that Alderman is also the columnist who publicly rejoiced at the brutal murder of a peace activist because he happened to favour the Palestinian cause. There appears to be nothing the Israeli government can do that will condemn them in Alderman's eyes and nothing chareidim can do to win them his praise. Heaven help us were a similar sweeping statement to have been made against Israelis. You'd have Melanie Phillips squalling in the shrillest tone she has yet to muster and Alderman himself collapsing apoplectically from his perch smothering Jonathan Freedland below him. Yet when it comes to the frummers you can malign, slander and impugn us with impunity and none of the Jewish anti-bigotry campaigners on the left and media obsessives on the right will take up cudgels on our behalf.

But before the unnaturally gifted columnists of the Hamodia and Tribune indignantly dip their quivering quills in their seething inkpots it is worth considering what leads a commentator to make such a sweeping statement. As outrageous as it may be the fact of the matter is that tales of harassment, child abuse, violence, fraud and a whole panoply of crimes are reported against chareidim with increasing frequency such that they are hardly news items any longer. Yet they are met with total silence from chareidi leaders and press.

When a London couple were arrested in Israel last year for allegedly abusing and trying to abduct their daughter, Tehilim was recited for the suspects and the victim was instantly declared mad and wayward. In Israel violent demonstration have been held in defence of murderers and abusers often with the tacit if not express support of some leaders. Yet these leaders are not shy of heaping a curse or two for anything from the misdemeanour of too short a skirt to the cardinal sin of possessing a blackberry.

Besides, without getting too talmudical about it, Alderman didn't say sexual harassers but merely harassers. In my shul on simchas torah small kids were slamming doors and knotting curtains in front of adult women to block their view of the men's dancing. In other shuls women were yelled at and threatened for not clearing the exit. From young girls to adult women, the opposite sex are constantly made to feel that there isn't a malady in the world that hasn't been caused by their lapses in tznius and which won't be cured by an inch on the skirt and off the sheitel respectively. One would indeed require a heavy dose of talmudic ingenuity to argue that these are not forms of harassment.

So before our apologists and 'spokesmen' get onto their soapboxes and cry wolf yet again they may wish to reflect how their whitewashing over the years has led to criminals feeling safe in the knowledge that they can always rely on support from the home side, while those on the outside will not believe a word uttered in our defence. We revere the leaders who lead us astray and by our reverence and blind obedience we come to be tarred with the crimes they condone by their silence and inaction when not by their express approval and encouragement.