A Passover Story

March 31, 2010

Eventually the Pharaoh relented when he saw the lifeless body of his first-born son.  “Go.” he ordered Moses, tears streaming down his face, “Take your people and leave this land”.

“Right,” said Moses, somewhat lost for words.  “Thanks.  Come on Aaron, we’d better tell them before the bugger changes his mind”.

The news spread around the Jewish areas like it was on the Edgware K email list.  The people knew they had to prepare as quickly as possible, and that they needed a packed lunch.  Moses had been very clear about this.  “Bake bread for the journey”, he told them, “but you’ve only got 18 minutes to do it in.  Pretend you’re on Ready, Steady, Cook.”

“How long must this 18-minute bread last?” one slightly difficult chap asked.  “Yes,” said another, “where are we going, how long will it take us to get there, and how much of this dreadful stuff are we going to need?  I’m feeling constipated just thinking about it.”

“Shut up.” Moses replied shortly.

Now some of the unleavened bread had been made from wheat that had been watched over from the moment the seed was sown to the time it was ground and made into flour and then cooked.  Only perfect ears of corn were used for this flour.  All this farting around sorely vexed Aaron and Moses.

“I don’t believe you people,” moaned Aaron.  “Don’t you realise we’re in a hurry and all you can think about is having posher matzah than your neighbour.  Are you all nuts?”

“Nuts? Nuts?  Is it OK to take nuts? Are all nuts kosher for this journey?” came the anxious reaction from one housewife.

“It depends” replied another without looking up from her sweeping.  Are you Sephardi?  If so, you’re OK, but if not you can’t take peanuts.  I’m Ashkenazi so I’m throwing my peanuts out.”

“Shut up!” Moses bellowed.  “You guys just don’t get it do you? And what’s with the cleaning already?  We’ve got to get out of here in a hurry, and we’re not coming back.”

“I’m not going away without leaving the place spotless.  What if someone should see it?”

“Who?”

“I don’t know.  Anyone.  A burglar.”

“So what?  What do you care? You’ll be gone forever.”

“People will talk.  I don’t want anyone saying ‘Mrs Koblinski goes away without tidying up’”.

“Mrs Koblinski?  How did you end up in this story?  We have Cohens, Levis and Israels here.  No Koblinskis.”

“Do you want to see my parents’ ketubah?”

“No!” Moses screamed as he rushed away.

“Just as well,” called Mrs Koblinski after him, it’s already packed.  I don’t want any hassle for my children from the Beit Din when we arrive in the promised land.

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Fame at last, without the fame.

March 25, 2010

I received one of those annoying joke emails today.  They’re usually more of an irritating distraction than an amusing diversion.  This one had come from a very close friend and, unusually, I enjoyed reading it immensely.  It looked as if it had come from America but it hadn’t.

It was one of my own articles and it had been picked up somewhere, probably the JC website, and was now floating around in the internet ocean like a great big oil slick.   No wonder I enjoyed reading it, I later mused.

I decided to do a Google search for the article and found that it had made its way, without acknowledgement, onto several websites in America and Canada, with ever such slight changes in the wording for those audiences.

Flattered, and yet feeling a sense of injustice, I contacted those website owners asking them to add my nom de plume.  Some did immediately, others have still not.  Ach, so what?

The friend who sent it to me has no idea that I am the original author.  The only people who know my true identity are one or two people at the JC and my wife.  Not my parents, not my children, not my doctor, not even my rabbi, boruch Hashem.

And so here I sit, the originator of one of those stupid viral emails, and nobody, except my wife, to be famous for.

Perhaps that’s how it should be.


The shameful divisions within our community.

March 23, 2010

Today I’d like to talk about what is without doubt the most bitter conflict to have arisen within our community in living memory. I refer of course to the case of Tottenham v Arsenal.  This fundamental division has existed for almost as long as there have been Jews living in London although for much of that time the two managed to co-exist in an uneasy but stable truce.

This all changed recently, and I can reveal that my very own synagogue was in the eye of the storm.

Let me give you the background.  About two years ago a young lad known as child P (because his name is Pinchas, Pinchas Tucker to be precise), attempted to come into shul wearing a kippah emblazoned with the Tottenham badge.  The wardens, being Arsenal supporters to a man, objected and refused the boy admission.  I felt strongly about the case as I am someone who married out; I support Arsenal while my wife is from a Tottenham family. In subsequent discussions, therefore,  I have supported the boy and his family as an “interested party”.

Over several months the child appealed first to the Services Management Team, then to the synagogue governors.  Each time it was decided that the wardens, being the guardians of the 3,500 year old unchanged tradition of “how we do things when it comes to football”, should not be overturned.

All the while congregants became more and more outspoken. Graffiti exclaiming “Child P (Pinchas) is innocent” started appearing in the local streets; lifelong friends fell out as their allegiances were painfully tested; and letters debating the controversy were even published in the synagogue magazine.  Before long there was an Arsenal section on one side of the synagogue and a Spurs section on the other.  Seas of blue and red-badged kippot marked this unholy division with various members of the CST positioning themselves carefully in order to maintain the segregation.

The anger and frustration eventually had to blow and it did that one Shabbat morning.  An elderly gentleman wearing his Arsenal kippah, returning to his seat having being called to the Torah, was smote down by the outstretched leg of a rival supporter.

This led to a complete breakdown in relations.  Both sides refused to attend any further CCC (Campaign against Chelsea Cupples) meetings and the shul board was damned as a toothless and irrelevant body.

Eventually the issue was taken to the highest possible authority  – the Rabbi.  As if a Chabadnik from Minnesota is going to have the slightest understanding of such a problem.  His ruling was that anyone should be allowed a shul honour based on regularity of attendance. This has delighted the Gunners because Spurs have a lunchtime kick-off tomorrow.