Thursday, January 29, 2004

Peyos and Qs

I took the bus to work this morning. I do not usually do that but today my wife insisted on taking the kids to school by car and I, being the model husband I am, got up too late to strenuously object. Incidentally the issue of women not really being allowed to drive cars in our society is one that I am going to come back to in one of my rants, but today I have something else on my mind.

As I was sitting on the bus a group of Chassidic kids got on. It must have been a boy taking his siblings to school. The time was 9.15 so they were obviously going to be late. As it was a big boy with at least five smaller ones I have no doubt that this was not the first time and the reason was just as obvious. However the fact that their mother obviously has more children than she can cope with is again not what this post is about. What bothered me was the obvious lack of manners they displayed.

The group of them were led by the oldest child who must have been just past Bar Mitzva, he was wearing a long coat and a hat and he had a Godawful pair of earmuffs on, that looked like they came out of the Neo Nazi Fashion Collection Autumn and Winter. I think that some well-meaning nerd imports them from Canada or somewhere specially to make these kids look camp.

The boy was a frummer so he stayed purposefully staring at the floor and did not raise his eyes once all the time I was watching him, obviously so he would not see any women. He got on the bus, paid his fair and then went to stand next to the first pole and stayed put. Next to him was a free bench and two of the smaller ones went to sit on that. The rest of the kids with him all stuck close, obviously too scared to go ‘alone’ to look for somewhere to sit. Apart from the fact that these boy stayed blocking the gangway of the bus for the entire ride, their behaviour caused nasty looks from all sides that they remained oblivious to, but the worst was when an elderly lady, who was unable to pass, had to stay standing there precariously balanced on the swaying bus, eying those two seats that were taken by the children but she was too polite to ask them to stand up and they did not even bother to notice.

I am not sure whether the parents are the ones that carry the ultimate blame for a badly brought up child or whether the society has to share the blame for allowing that to happen without pointing it out. I have no doubt that had these children been taught to look out, when out on a bus, for someone weak or elderly and offer them their seat they would have done it. These were no bad kids. These were simply kids who had never been taught any manners. I suspect if their mother had had 4 children instead of fifteen she would have had time to do it. On the other hand it is not practical now to ask the mother to return the other eleven. At the end of the day these children spend the best part of their childhood in cheder (religious boys school), if they are not being taught basic human decency then the rest of what they are being taught is well nigh useless. Admittedly the kids from JFS are no better. But the kids from JFS were never supposed to be our kids’ role models.

The great Maggie Thatcher, when she was still minister of education, came to visit our school. The YHS. She came to see for herself what the religious schools look like. The then principle Rabbi Pinter, after showing her the school and seeing she was basically unimpressed, explained to her that in our school in the previous fifteen years there had not been one single incidence of drug abuse. There was not one single student or ex-student with a criminal record and there were no recorded incidences of violence against teachers. Maggie remained silent for moment and then she said. Rabbi Pinter, I would be happier if there were a couple of criminal records and your school was just like all the other schools. In some respects her wish is being granted.

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