Thursday, October 27, 2005

Chewing the Cud with Cloven Tongues

A guy whom I knew well when he was younger
has developed into something of a personality. If I am not always proud of him I try at least to be proud for him because he did once really mean well. Now of course he has power and that does corrupt a man hard and fast. He has many powers vested in his hands, a heavy burden indeed for one who has little experience in the dealings with other men. He must make decisions on the spot, I reason, and sometimes overlooks the potential pitfalls of any seemingly minor mistake. If it is true that there is divine guidance, I ask him in my thoughts, and our Rabbi's decisions are therefore infallible that should make it even easier to have an appeals system because then what can there be to hide?

I believe that honesty and openness are the foundation and the cornerstones of justice and that no truly God fearing society can operate in secret and maintain its honour. In Stamford Hill there is a tendency towards ayatollaism that has to be stopped. None of us want Iran-style councils of bearded religiousists arbitrarily dictating standards by the reactions of their netherregional antennae.

In a modern society and having absorbed all the good of the culture surrounding us, we know we cannot have women persecuted and their children ejected from our school system just for having appealing shapes. We have watched our middle-eastern cousins as they chased each other to see who can glorify God the best. If we don’t want to wake up one morning and found ourselves the proud parents of our own criers ‘havoc’ we have to act now to maintain the balance.

Extremism is dangerous in all its forms and while everybody is free to be as holy as they wish it is incumbent upon a society to maintain the centre ground. Public funds that were not earmarked for special groups should be spent on the moderate and time-honoured true traditionalists and all groups should be encouraged to acknowledge that the centre ground is a legitimate Jewish area. All forms of segregation are dangerous and the tendency of individual groups to draw within and close ranks is unhealthy at best.

Stamford Hill does not need the imported boerism and insularism that that is becoming popular. Responsible leadership must encourage a healthy worldview and a positive attitude towards other religious streams. The positive parts of the Stamford Hill of yore were manifest. We spoke English and we got on with our neighbours. Some were more religious than us and some were far less but we still treated them as neighbours. In the YHS we had children of all different types; Gerrers Yekkes and Belzers and Sephardis and we got on with all of them too. We went to camp and we went to siyums and we met the other kids and we came out enrichened by the experience.

The climate being what it is I think anybody with half a brain must realise that the authorities will not tolerate religious councils of any sort that are completely outside their control. If we are to survive we will have to do what we Jews have been so adept at for so many generations and adapt. I don't beileve anybody is against having a responsible rabbinic council working in a transparent and justified manner. I think most of us would be happy having certain rules and regulations built in to the sytem. Nobody wants to see Stamford Hill losing what makes it special. I am however soundly against a system of trials-and-errors leadership where only the frummest one wins and where individuals are arbitrarily imposing their own irrational standards upon an unwilling public.

Now here is the odd part: He has agreed with me on every single one of these points when speaking to me (if maybe not in these specific words) yet I don't believe I have ever heard such sentiments uttered by any of our personalities. What am I to think?

Friday, October 14, 2005

Us Limeys

We did what was expected, we smiled and begged forgiveness. Of course none of us asked for forgiveness from our enemies; what could be more crass than putting someone on the spot like that? But we did politely beg all our best friends’ pardon and added at least one ‘surprising’ choice just to prove how very good we're being. So when we stepped up to Kol Nidre, feeling almost proud of our humility, we shed our genuine tears with saintly servility.

No matter that some family of sods sitting further back near the door happen to be watching their lives go down the toilet. “Who knew better than me how they had it coming to them? After all if they had listened to me in the first place they would never have been in this ‘shtuch’. If they would have asked my advice they would have done the right thing in the beginning and none of all this would have happened. But they had to be clever. They have to do things their own way. Nu! They did it their own way, so now we ordinary folks can shrug our shoulder and say “Sorry Mate, yer own bleedin fault!” and then turn back to our humble haughteur.

“Oh and just look at those Plimsolls on that child. If my children went out in shoes like that I’d… Something really should be done about that father. He seems to have a child every year and he doesn’t earn enough to buy shoes for them. Actually I should speak to Whatshisname about that. We should be thinking about paying him more. He will leave him Ch”V and it will cost us a whole lot more. Anyway, the kids need to have shoes.

Hey, what am I doing? Thinking business again, I am supposed to be thinking of tshuve”. The mind shifts back into its puritan pride.

It’s true that we don’t all have management positions or the power enough to hurt others directly. Those of us who don’t, often don’t have the ability to help those who got hurt either. But we, all of us, know we are ignoring something. We all know there is a little something that really should be done… Kol Nidre does not absolve us of that. You cannot be sitting in the same building as another whom you know to be crying out for help and ignore their call while you beg for yourself.
“Still, I do believe I did rather a lot of good this year and though I will, of course, show just the right amount of genuine remorse over the course of the coming day I don’t really feel He has any reason to show anything more than a token resistance before awarding me the full set of social benefits as befits a person of my rank.” You consider to yourself in your reasonable righteousness.

“Anyway, it’s good that that I managed to avoid ‘him there’ when he was doing the rounds of his forgiveness. Imagine if we had suddenly met face to face? Actually I am a bit surprised he feels happy going to Kol Nidre without having my forgiveness. Some people have a nerve! In his place I would never contemplate going towards Yom Kippur without having even tried to get my forgiveness. I wouldn’t give it of course. How could I? It would be like saying he was right all along. I couldn’t even! It would be like stabbing my own family in the back. I don’t even think He would want such forgiveness. But he should have asked. Shoyn, we can’t all be menschen. I have to continue with my complacent complaint."

And to think they say we have to learn to integrate!