Hasmo Legends VI: Rabbi “Sid” Cooper – the Pinching Preacher

Ex-Brampton Grove boy, 'Enry

Ex-Brampton Grove boy, "Our 'Enry"

When people talk about “Cooper, the greatest British fighter never to win a world title”, they are usually referring to Sir Henry (right), the former British, European and Commonwealth heavyweight boxing champion. There is, however, another “Cooper”, Rabbi Dovid – Emeritus minister at North Hendon Adass Yisroel Synagogue, and former Jewish Studies teacher at Hasmonean – whose supreme, if unorthodox, fighting skills also went sadly unrewarded on the world stage (coincidentally, for many years, the two Coopers lived in close proximity to one other, in Hendon).

The Punching Preacher

The Punching Preacher

And while the two-time world heavyweight boxing champion, and ordained Christian minister, George Foreman (left) – “The Punching Preacher” – achieved international fame and riches, the pinching ability of Rabbi Cooper left its mark only on the cheeks and memories of ex-Hasmo boys . . . but what a mark!

Indeed, so ferocious was Rabbi Cooper’s pinching that he is thought to have earned his nickname, “Sid”, after the late Sex Pistol, Sid Vicious. On each and every rendition of the school song, Ner Le’Ragli (A Light unto my Feet), the word tzidkecha (Your righteousness) would, instead, be sung – with a hugely exaggerated first syllable – sidkecha, to the clear displeasure of Hasmo’s religious ‘elite’.

The Pinching Preacher

The Pinching Preacher

Rabbi Cooper (right) was as resourceful and versatile a pincher as the very best of punchers (who can switch between southpaw and orthodox stances, as circumstances and opponent dictate). He would employ the traditional “Yiddishe great-uncle” nuckle approach on cheeks, whilst reverting to thumb-and-index-finger tactics to extract maximum grip on upper arms (often protected by thick school blazers and jumpers). If only pinching were a recognised world sport, he surely “coulda been a contender”.

Rabbi Cooper enjoys a similar place to Cyril in the consciousness of ex-Hasmo boys fortunate enough to have sat ‘ringside’. And his classes were no less eagerly anticipated than the legendary Welshman’s. If the prevailing spirit in Cyril’s lessons, however, was one of the early stages of revolution, that in Rabbi Cooper’s was of all-out anarchy. Whenever a boy was on the receiving end of a pinch, the rest of the class would scream “De pinch! De pinch!” – Rabbi Cooper couldn’t pronounce his th‘s – as if the studio audience at North Hendon’s very own Jerry Springer Show. It was pure pandemonium.

At the point of terminating “de pinch” – which could last for as long as 12 seconds for serial and/or more serious offenders, and often with a final twist for good measure – Rabbi Cooper would let out a “humph”, reminiscent of the sound of exasperation Oliver Hardy would emit when Stan Laurel had landed him in “another fine mess”. And, in his intense concentration, to extract maximum remorse from his young victims, he would bite his lower lip.

We eventually devised an ingenious method of softening the effects of “de pinch”, blowing up our cheeks with air just before impact. But, as Rabbi Cooper always reminded us (and we never stopped to question why), “It’s got to hurt”. When we informed him how much it did hurt (usually exaggerated . . . though it did), he would retort “Yup, dat’s de idea!”

Rabbi Cooper’s corporal punishments – unlike those of so many of his (especially Jewish Studies) colleagues – were the product of an “old school” puritanism rather than a sadistic malevolence. A friend of mine, who used to attend North Hendon Adass, once quoted him as lamenting, in his Shabbos droshoh (sermon), that “We are not six miles from Soho; and I know, because I have measured it in my own car” (though I suspect the second part may have been the product of said friend’s overripe imagination). 

Indeed, so naive and unworldly was Rabbi Cooper, that he took it for granted that even young Hasmo upstarts would revere all things Holy in the same way that he did. At one stage, he held his lessons in his Synagogue, adjacent to the school – there was probably a shortage of classrooms and/or chairs in the latter – and, when our behaviour would get out of control (as it inevitably would), Rabbi Cooper would point up at the inscription above the Aron HaKodesh (Holy Ark, containing the Torah scrolls) and scream “Dah lifnei mi ata omed” (Know before Whom you stand).

When that didn’t work (as it never did), he would declare “Rrright [Rabbi Cooper also rolled his r‘s], I am now going to open the Aron HaKodesh.”  After all, how could that not fill us with the requisite awe? But after he had done so, and we had all started wildly cheering, Rabbi Cooper had reached the point of no return – he then had to remove a Sefer Torah from the Ark, and even open it on the Bimah (prayer desk). Needless to say, his noble efforts were in vain, and he was always left asking (rhetorically), “Is dare nothing sacred?”

As far as we were concerned, the rowed Synagogue seating was ideal, as it enabled us to stay out of reach of “de  pinch”. Chases up and down rows and aisles would often ensue, with only one winner.

In spite of his essential goodness, Rabbi Cooper was prone to the same small-minded intolerance – or, at least, lack of respect for private/family life – as his Jewish Studies colleagues. On overhearing Danny Reiss discuss with Henri Berest where they would be watching the following Saturday’s FA Cup Final – as so many, even relatively observant, households once did, “on the Shabbos clock” – he denounced Danny, in front of both headmaster Rabbi Roberg and his classmates, as “de roshoh [evil] Reiss” (it does alliterate nicely). Henri, on the other hand, avoided censure, no doubt because his family were members of the Adass rather than the United Synagogue.

My favourite Rabbi Cooper (and perhaps even Hasmo) story goes back to our first year at the school, and involves his – or, rather, the cheeks of his – legendary sparring partner, Max Gittelmon. We had just embarked on a new mesechta (tractate) of Mishna (the oral Talmud), in the form of those thin, crisp new paperbacks. Rabbi Cooper was extremely keen for us to preserve their spines, and instructed us, in no uncertain terms, not to fold back the covers. Gittelmon, however, having entered the classroom late, missed the instruction. Perfect! (Hasmonean was all about cruelty to classmates.)

After Gittelmon had taken his seat, Laurence Maslin and I – “Shekoyach [well done], Isaacson and Maslin, for ruining another shiur [lesson]!” – pretending to fold back the covers of our Mishnayes, informed him that Rabbi Cooper “wants  us to fold them back”. And, gullible to a fault, Gittelmon duly complied. When Rabbi Cooper spotted this, a few minutes later, Gittelmon’s cheeks received such a fearsome pummelling that he cried out a Golders Green version of “No más, no más” (no more, no more – the infamous words used by Roberto Duran, in 1980, to bring an end to his punishment at the hands of Sugar Ray Leonard).

Johnny Rotten & Sid Vicious

Johnny Rotten & Sid Vicious

Perhaps playing along with the Sex Pistols (right) origins of his nickname (not!), Rabbi Cooper would regularly call us “rrrotters”, “a rrrotten lot”, and “rrrotten to the core”. He would continue the metaphor with his view that “there is always one rrrotten apple” (often yours truly). Another favoured reproach was “You are low.” He would simply despair at our chutzpah, commiserating with “de poor parents” (an expression that my father absolutely loved . . . and, no doubt, understood).

In spite of being extremely well-respected by his congregants – as a kind, learned, and God-fearing leader – Rabbi Cooper was simply not cut out to teach teenage delinquents. That he was allowed to do so is further proof (should any be required) of the complete lack of thought, not to say incompetence, so characteristic of Hasmonean (in those days, at least).

Rabbi Cooper was charged with invigilating our mathematics O-level examination and expected, quite ludicrously, to collect the papers of around a hundred examinees on his own. When he gave the order for “pens down”, seeing that he was unassisted, we took it as a ‘green light’ to steal extra time. When the head of maths, Jack Ordman, stormed into the examination hall some twenty minutes later, fuming, and claiming that he would be notifying the University of London Examination Board, we all knew that he was talking a lot of bollocks, as it would have reflected awfully both on the school and on him personally.

If Hasmonean’s decision makers had as much respect for a talmid chacham (learned man) as they expected us Hasmo boys to have, they would never have exposed Rabbi Cooper to such “rrrotters”. That said, our school days and memories would have been much the poorer for it.

De roshoh Isaacson . . . aka melchett mike

[To listen to a recording of the Hasmo School Choir from Speech Day 1983 – singing Baruch Habah, Ma TovuNer Le’Ragli (featuring a just audible sidkecha), God Save the Queen, and HaTikvah (preceded by Mitch Taylor’s idiotic, and fluffed, request for a substitution of words) – click here. Thanks to Steve Graniewitz for supplying the recording, Eli Perl for uploading it . . . and Shimon Soester-Soreq for trying to! ;-)]

Next on Hasmo Legends, Part VII: “Woody” Woodthorpe Harrison


62 responses to “Hasmo Legends VI: Rabbi “Sid” Cooper – the Pinching Preacher

  1. Qvolity!! Only last week Laurence was telling me the ark story and asking what ‘Da lifnei mi omed’ meant!

    “they would be watching the following Saturday’s FA Cup Final – as so many, even relatively observant, households once did, ”on the shabbos clock”

    Really? I thought that was outside Radio Rentals in Sentinel Square!

  2. Two points wasnt the 1983 Speech/prize day at some big hall in Euston? and second Rabbi Cooper , one of the most decent men I have ever met. (yes i was a member of NH Adas).

  3. Howard Fertleman

    I remember that “De Rebbe Cooper’s” lessons being the most boring JS lessons of all my years at Hasmo. Does anyone remember “the silent majority that want to learn ..and its just one or two rotten apples…”
    Or , “when I find the culprit, I’ll send him along to Mr Stanton and I’ll demand a vicious punishment”.
    Does anyone remember that out of all the teachers who gave drosha’s at the school assemblies, his were the most rambling and the most boring. But he was totally oblivious as to how boring and incomprehensable he actually was.
    I remember him going on about the “de one eyed monster in the corner of the room” only to realise later, that he was talking about a television

  4. John Fishman told me about your blog yesterday. I was up till 3am this morning reading every word. PML over and over, it was so good that I read much of it again today. Melchett Mike you’re creating a piece of history.

    Does anyone remember the time Jo Payley had his breakdown, Mr Badiel (the hippy art teacher) doing his Mars bar trick that looked like a dog turd coming out of his mouth, Mr Walters resemblence to Basil Fawlty when he was angry and Flop (we need a posting on this man) who kept bits of his lunch stored in his beard for days.

    Who was that bad tempered English teacher who was a lion tamer before he joined Hasmo?

    What about Johnny Boker who resembled the jester Claypole from Rent a Ghost?

    The stench coming out of the computer room, at lunch time and how you could only use one if you were frum.

    What about the teachers cars: DJ – White Morris Minor, Cyril – Blue Fiesta, Walters – Red Citroen 2CV. I heard a rumour once that some 6th form pushed DJ’s car into the the school entrance, is this true?

  5. As one who was discharged from the Holders Hill Road asylum in 1975, I can assure you that the “Sid” in the the word Tzidkecha in the said asylum’s song originated from Sidney Balin, former French teacher and gourmet. After all, who had heard of Sid Vicious by ’75?

    Sid Balin was famous for his paunch, busting shirt and jacket buttons, allusions to food at every possible opportunity (“you’ve got faces like plates of meat”, let’s illustrate a verb – manger!, etc.), as well as his malapropisms, such as “My great grandmother, zecher letzias Mitzrayim, was a great Eishes Ish!”

    There was also the Hasmo version of “Frere Jacques” which went “Sidney Balin, Sidney Balin mangez-vous, mangez-vous….”.

    Also, I seem to remember Cyril driving a silver Escort at no more than 5mph – I used to overtake him walking up Parson St. on the way home!

    I believe that Sid Balin retired a year or two after my discharge and passed on not long afterwards.

  6. Steve Graniewitz

    Paul Keene – It was Mr. Beddle the hippy art teacher. He used to smoke weed in the art room at lunchtime and did a mean trick with a Mars bar or Marathon which basically involved stuffing the whole thing in his mouth, chewing it for about a minute, making farty noises and then pushing it out of his mouth looking like a turd. The Marathon worked better. Mainly it was a scam to get us to buy him Mars bars and Marathons.

    By the way, the bad tempered lion tamer was Mr. Messem.

    Finally, I’d just like to add my favourite Sid Cooper quotation:

    “The torah was given 3000 years ago and now you’re messing about”.

    I’m still not sure what it means to this day.

  7. Daniel Marks

    1978, the week of Parshat Pinhas, North Hendon Adas, Mincha. The shortest Dvar Torah ever by Rabbi Cooper:

    “This week’s sedrah, Pinhas….I’m sorry, I can’t carry on.”

    I’m still not sure what it meant to this day.

  8. Steve Graniewitz mentioned Mr Bedall who, to his credit, wasn’t your average Hasmo teacher.

    I have just one memory of the man and that was the time I overheard him telling an older boy about a sordid menage a trois he’d once had which involved him and his friend smearing boot polish over a woman’s backside, probably whilst under the influence of some substance or other. The fact that at the time I would have been a repressed adolescent from an orthodox Jewish home meant that I had some difficulty in comprehending this scenario – you could say it was a little bit of a culture shock. I am sure though,that Mr Bedall’s fellow Art teacher Rabbi Angel would have been most interested to have learned of his colleague’s exploits and most likely would have used the opportunity to impart some of his famous Kabbalistic wisdom.

  9. Hillel Davis

    Must say, just love this blog, well done Mike. Spent hours reading all the backposts and comments, it brought back so many memories. I’m truly converted and tell anyone I can about the blog I even found two new ex-hasmos in Shul today (Baka Jerusalem) who will thank me no doubt for keeping them up all hours reading this stuff.

    To get to the point, I was also under the impression that the “sid” in “SIDkecha” was in honour of the late Mr Balin, the amazing thing being that the tradition lasted long after he left. Sid’s influence was such that telling my American born and very religious 21 year old nephew about the blog he promptly responded with “Sidney Balin, Sidney Balin Mangez vous mangez vous” to the tune of Frere Jacque. That was followed by “Nice one Cyril…” Well done brother Yossie on giving his son such a good education.

    As for Rabbi Cooper, he was just a very frustrated teacher whose intentions were indeed to teach as much as he could. He tried to persuade us that a double period of JS (Jewish Studies) would go faster if we didn’t look at our watches – it didn’t work.

  10. Maybe sidkecha did originate with Mr. Balin, “zecher letzias Mitzrayim”, but it was still being sung in 1983, when no pupils had even heard of him. Maybe a le’havdil had been drawn between sidkecha (Balin) and seedkecha (which the Cooper one actually sounded more like).

  11. I attended Menorah Primary and was taught by the good Rabbi’s wife, Mrs Cooper who was a very fine teacher.

    I don’t remember much of Rabbi Cooper’s lessons, except for being a recipient of da pinch (which once administered was never forgotten). I would say that having that red mark on my cheek made me feel as though I’d passed the true Hasmo initiation ceremony.

  12. Henri Berest


    Been laughing at the memories again.

    Of all the teachers, Rebbe Cooper was on par with Rabbi Lewis being by far the most innocent and gullible. He was utterly clueless, and this was an open mandate to let loose.

    Some memerable Cooperism’s:-

    Vait a minute…..vait a minute

    da evil hooligans (all the while wagging his finger and shaking his head in cadence to his words)

    Berest – I’m going to have to ask you to leave the class. I know it’s not your fault, but your loud coughing is disturbing da silent majority
    (strangely, my cough lasted a full year)

    Dat Rotten Evil Muzik Reiss ……….Piiiiinch!!!

    We had our shiur in the beis hamedrash upstairs in the NH Addass. We sat on benches around the table – the benches collapsed daily with piles of boys feigning injury and yelling in pain. It alwayd took at least 10 minutes to get re-set, before the opposite bench ‘collapsed’.

    In the beis hamedrash their was an old style BT payphone on the wall. There was a prefix number that engineers called that made the phone ring. For 2 years, Sid didn’t make the connection that every time he left the room for even a few seconds, the number would be dialed, and the phone would ring 30 seconds later.
    I can still see him holding the phone to his ear, waggling his finger and shouting ‘Hello..Hello’ down the empty Line.
    ‘Der’s an evil muzik trying to disrupt da class’
    Of course when we were at home ill, we would use the opportunity to give him some more ghost calls.

    Roberg came to the class one day and Sid asked Danny Reiss to read a piece of the gemoroh. Of course Danny didn’t have a clue which bit we had been studying and asked Jonny Koschland where the place was. Jonny being a good mate, showed him the place about 20 pages ahead of where we were learning. Daany started to read, and suddenly Cooper launched himself across the room at him and pinched him and twisted as hard as he could. We were all shaking our heads at such shocking delinquent behaviour, whilst Roberg just looked disgusted. Sometime you could have almost caused a rupture trying to hold back the hysterical laughter.

    Always good for a laugh was Sid!

  13. Great blog Mike – keep up the good work! – I was up to 3:30am splitting my sides reading all this stuff, thanks to Hillel Davis.

    I have several stories about Cyril, Noddy (Lever), Steven Posen, Woodthorpe Jude Harrison et al. I’ll post them when I have a spare half day!

    If Jonny Landau and any other ex Hasmo inmates who were discharged in ’75 (or ’73 if they escaped after their ‘Oy’ Levels) are reading this, do contact me at weitzd@gmail.com – it would be great to hear from you after all these years.

    David Weitz (“Hillery Willery”) – now in Baka, Jerusalem

  14. I have to concur that the SID emphasis in Ner Laragli in my day was certainly for Mr Balin’s benefit.

    He was great – I never learned any French in his lessons, but he had a system: those who wanted to learn he kept down the front and those whom he couldn’t be bothered to teach because it required some effort, he’d stick at the back.

    So long as we weren’t disruptive, we could chat, play Battleships and stare off into space and Sid left us alone. I did enjoy his lessons.

    I think it was Rabbi Cooper who in one lesson asked us to study a particular piece of Mishna in the lesson after which he would ask us questions.

    He also started to study the text and was so immersed in his mishna that he didn’t realise that various boys were creeping out of the class, the door of which was right next to his desk.

    I stayed in class to see his response when he realised. By the time he looked up, half the class had disappeared and he had no idea how they had got out. The look on his face was priceless.

    If anyone reading this can remember this lesson, please post to confirm if it was Rabbi Cooper.

  15. maurice ernst

    David weitz is correct.
    We used to take the piss out of Sid by shouting sidkecha

    But the picture is from before 1972.
    Willy left in 1972 – to the best of my memory. I think the speech day is also around then. When did Mitch Taylor leave – before 1975?

  16. Henri Berest

    Sorry Maurice,
    Willy didn’t leave until around1977/8.
    Mitch was around at least until then.

  17. I think Maurice is getting his 70s and 80s mixed up . . . must be all that “waccy baccy” those 70s boys were smoking!

    Maurice, if you are talking about the staff photo in Hasmo Legends I, it has a “circa” date (1979) on it! I don’t think Willy left much after 1980. Mitch was still there in 1985. Now leave that weed alone!

    And Henri . . . spoke to my “muzik” (perhaps I should have rather named this blog Muzik Mike?!) cousin, this morning, to alert him of your post (above) . . . after I found myself laughing in the car, thinking about the Gemorah story! He confirmed its truth. He is now far from a “roshoh” or a “muzik” – a role model father, son, nephew, etc – but I am still trying to persuade him to sacrifice his melchett mike ‘virginity’ . . . by supplying us with some hard-core Hasmo stories!

  18. I think I can shed some light on the ‘Sid’ question.

    It was my year that bestowed that appellation on Rabbi Cooper, after a particular incident where he went on and on about “De vicious VICIOUS boys”.

    This also had the effect of re-introducing the earlier tradition of of the over-pronounced SID in the school song.

    Absolutely fantastic recording of the school choir, I can almost pick myself out singing the bass part of El Heichal Kodshecho, not entirely in tune.

    As I recall, that Speech Day was held at Friends House in Euston, and as the coach from school stopped at the traffic lights in Golders Green Road, an apoplectic David Jacobson spotted three Hasmo blazers emerging from McDonalds.

    The guest speaker at the Speech Day was Education Minister Rhodes Boyson, and, trying to curry favour with the lower elements in the school, he declared that “people tell you that school days are the best days of your life, well, they’re not”. He got a few cheers from the younger classes, but was roundly jeered by those around me who instinctively knew that it couldn’t possibly get any better.

  19. Ah yes, four words guaranteed to bring a wry grin: ‘An apoplectic David Jacobson.’

    As I’ve mentioned elsewhere in Mike’s excellent blog, the sight of DJ in full flow was something to behold. If he only knew that the more he tried to be Mr Angry, the funnier he looked…

  20. Sorry Maurice – Willy Stanton retired some time after we left – I think around 1980. I remember going to see him a year or 2 after we left – something to do with an UCCA form as I had to retake my Vey levels and re-apply to university. I seem to remember that he was sick for most of our upper 6th year (74-5) and Rabbi Roberg, then deputy head, took over. Everyone thought he would make a disastrous head – seems our prediction turned out to have been prophetic! Mitch Taylor was definitely around when we were in the 6th form – in fact I think he was our form master in the lower 6th.

  21. I letf Hasmo in ’74 and Willy was still head, with Roberg as deputy. Willy was never in the best of health and he did have a couple of extended periods way from school during my time there.

    I remember attending a farewell dinner in Willy’s honour in 1980. He was standing at the door greeting everyone and I asked him if he remembered me.

    ‘Mr Perl’, he said. ‘And you still need a haircut.’

  22. Jeremy Cardash

    I was sadly disappointed that the Hasmo 83 recoding didn’t highlight the Sid in Tzidkecha however on a good note and despite Osher the Rasha, Lihyot Am Kodshi couldn’t be heard and hopefully will be resigned to the cesspit of Jewish Anti Zionism of which Osher and his cronies were and are chief ‘rakers’.

  23. ‘Get a haircut’ was a permanent theme of my time at Hasmo.

    One time I had been suspended by Roberg and told not return untill I had got my haircut.

    On my return, my first lesson back was JS with Osher, who kicked me out of his class because he thought my hair was too long. I explainded that I had just got it cut and that Willy had approved of the new-look me.

    This cut no ice with Osher and he insisted on chucking me out. I went straight to Willy and told him what had happened.

    ‘Leave it with me.’ said Willy and told me to spend the lesson reading in the library. I don’t know what happened, but I went to Osher’s next lesson and he said nothing.

    I remember another lesson when Osher declared that someone’s answer to a question was, ‘A load of crap.’

    ‘You just swore, sir’ we cried.

    ‘It comes from the name of Thomas Crapper who invented the flushing toilet and is therefore permitted’ said Osher. And who can argue with that?

  24. Romie Schurder

    My first memory of Rabbi Cooper is from my first JS lesson in the first form. Rabbi Cooper went round the whole class trying to find out each boys “yichus” – background etc. When he came to me I proudly declaimed my “yekke” heritage, whereupon he promptly explained “do ya know vy the yekkes are like potatoes – because the best part are under the ground!”. My parents and grandparents were not amused.

    His requests for silence were always accompanied by his showing off his mathematical versatility- “i’m going to count to three – one ta tree!”

  25. Shimon Soester-Soreq

    “Talking in my Shiur is like walking on a sefer toirah with muddy boots on” – unforgettable!
    I have tried saying that in lessons I have taught but it doesn’t sound the same in Hebrew or in non-Eastern-European English.

  26. In the 1960’s Rabbi Cooper taught the JS “C” group , otherwise known as the the legions of the damned, in the small Bet Hamidrash. Sensibly, he cottoned on fairly early that there was no point in making us actually learn and read dry texts for which we had no interest, and , instead, almost every lesson comprised of him relating to us : “AH MOSHUL”. I must say, we enjoyed his Kosherbury Tales thoroughly, and his fundamental decency , generosity of spirit tinged with not a little gentle humour did much to generate a modicum of respect among we non observant jews towards the world of Torah learning. A very kind and learned man.

  27. I do not recall Rabbi Cooper using the word vicious at all. Though he did frequently use the word ‘Rishus’ (wickedness) to describe us. My favourite quote. “It’s all the fault of the parents!”

  28. Who remembers the 60’s when the most ferocious Hasmo master of all time,the Pedagogical Pugilist, Elman the ‘Orrible reigned supreme? His teaching methods consisted of terrorising the knowledge into us.He actually managed thrash calculus into me . Some years after I left Hasmo I met him in the waiting room of the doctor’s surgery. Such was the effect of his pitiless gaze that by the time I saw the doctor, for what had been a sore knee, I was having palpitations, cold sweats , dry heaves and the shakes. I left with a prescription for high blood pressure ,prozac and a referral to a post traumatic disorder specialist. It took a couple of trips to Amsterdam to cure me of sudden onset impotence. Viagra hadn’t been invented yet.

  29. Is that Alan Rubin of the same vintage as me? Do you remember we had to do a presentation on the merits of different types of music for English? You did Classical and I did Rock. Was it for Mr Marks? I’m afraid the old memory is playing tricks on me.

    Joe, I never had Elman. Only Parnell, Woody’s drinking buddy, followed by Jack for 3 years. (I will post my favourite Parnell story when I get a mo).

    I owe Jack a huge debt of gratitude. Maths was a foreign tongue for me untill I was in his group. It’s soley down to him that I got Maths ‘O’ Level.

  30. Steve Graniewitz

    Allan Engel – If I’m not mistaken, the guest speaker at Speech Day 1983 was the late Keith Joseph. For some reason, I find it a bit worrying that I remember that.

  31. You may well be correct, I have another memory of surreptitiously listening to the radio commentary of an Arsenal v Sheffield Wednesday FA cup game at a speech day, which Google tells me was in 1979, so that could have been the year of the Boyson.

  32. Yes Eli, also the same Alan Rubin that you occasionally bump into round the Yeshurin. I remember our music presentations in Mr Marks’ lesson. I also remember your confrontations with DJ, many of which concerned the length of your hair. He would be very pleased to see the state of it now 😉

  33. David Prager

    My personal best memory of Rabbi Cooper shlita concerns the use of my nickname “Puggy” as I was, and still am known by, by all my friends. In my school report he wrote: “Puggiel (as mentioned in one of the parshiot in Bamidbar) has done a good term’s work”. To which my parents’ astonished response was “Who the hell is Puggiel?”.
    By the way he was a wonderful leg-spin bowler, as evidenced in Ezra camps which he hosted and, I think, in Boys V. Masters cricket matches.
    He is unfortunately in very poor health these days, so let us wish this very decent man a refuah sheleimah.

  34. Good to hear from you Mr Rubin, thought I might see you in our shul on Purim.

    Are there any other Hasmo inmates from the late 60’s to mid 70’s lurking out there?

  35. Daniel Lange

    It may have been an extreme splinter group of rotters at Speech Day, but I clearly remember being part of a chorus line that wholeheartedly belted out the words “SIIID COOOOPER” rather than just SID-KECHA. Perhaps audio verification is lacking, but are there any other dirty rotters than can back me up?

    BTW – we were also deemed “rotten mobsters” which arguably was the highest level of rottenness, even higher than the “lowest of the low”

  36. Maurice Hinden

    I was beginning to think that I was the sole Hasmo grad of circa 1973/4 when I saw David Weitz (who I don’t recall) and David “Puggy” Prager’s entries. Puggy, like myself, has despite the anti-zionist tradition made Aliya to Israel.

    Regarding Sid Balin: “Teaching” French using Whitmarsh’s text book is responsible for countless experts on French farmingterminology – totally useless to most of us. He was well known for his taunting of pupils who would make the mistake of asking “Can I be excused?” to which his reply was “Yes, SIT DOWN”. You only got ot leave the classroom for a desperately needed “Putting Percy to Porcelain” if you used the approprite modal i.e “MAY I be excused”. Another famous adage was “In the staff room the teachers said that you -boy- didn’t have the manners of a pig. I stuck up for you and said you did!”. The latter following a burp or other gaseous exhaust.

    Talking of the bogs particularly those opposite the staff room. Once, in assembly, Willy Stanton was rebuking the pupils for using them innappropriately. By this he meant our aims were unlikely to qualify for Olympic sharpshooter events. I got sent straight to his office after bursting out into raucous laughter following Aron Cohen’s comment “What does he expect us to do? Cane our willies?”. Aron went on to become a chosid of some ultra orthodox sect.

    The Sidkecha emphasised in Ner L’Ragli originated in Sid’s “honour”.

    Great blog and a bundle of laughs – Hasmo – lousy teachers – great memories!

  37. Jonny "Kiri" Kitsberg

    The boy Lange is 100% right – the amended version of Ner Leragli definitely was Sid Cooper.
    We had Harav Sid Shlit”a for Gemara in the third year . We were learning Baba Metziya and we were not overly inspired by all the different shomerim. We tried various ingenious methods to leave the class room. The old favourite was the coughing fit which invariably led Sid sending us for a glass of water as he was genuinely concerned we were going to choke. We obviously did not want to disturb the class so we waited outside for at least 10 minutes to ensure the cough had fully passed.
    Another favourite exit strategy was to claim that we had touched our shoes and therefore needed to wash our hands before continuing learning (what Tzadikim!) . This strategy worked for a while and I think he was well impressed . However, Sid eventually caught on to this scam and erring on the side of caution told us to wipe our hands against the wooden table.
    David Yousefzardeh used to read the Gemara whilst impersonating Rabbi Cooper and Sid always used to remark how wonderfully David read the Gemara.
    The truth is he was genuinely a lovely man and a big Talmid Chacham but as Mike correctly said his place was not teaching Hasmo boys. I wish him a Refuah Shlema.

  38. I concur with the opinions above that the word “Tzidkecha” from the school anthem was replaced with the full girsah of “Sid Cooper” – sung, ironically, on one occasion when we were instructed to replace the words of HaTikva from ‘Lihyot Am Hofshi’ to ‘Lihyot Am Kadosh’…

    I remember Rabbi Cooper as an extraordinary Talmid Hacham, who would recite Shas by heart as he would walk to and from school. I think conventional wisdom is that privately, he was a humble and warm individual who probably harboured a genuine if misguided belief that he should teach religious studies to Jewish children. Unfortunately for him he ended up at Hasmonean and is remembered for his pinching rather than his wisdom. His lessons were indeed chaotic and unstructured but on the very rare occasions when his questions were answered correctly he would compliment boys and would express his satisfaction to the class. Starkly different behaviour to the perpetual sneering and sarcasm of one other JS teacher – the manipulative Gerry Gerber.

    My favourite Siddisms are; “You talk too much we need eh fett boy to sit on you to shut you up!” or “If you don’t be qviet I’ll stick eh hot potato in your mouth”. Needless to say these expressions were immediately modified to ‘sticking a hot potato up a fet boy’ and ‘getting ah fet boy to sit on your face’. Limudei Kodesh indeed…

  39. Daniel Lange

    On the subject of Speech Day, there was such a ridiculous fuss made when it was reintroduced after a gap of some years (c.’81 or ’82), to the extent that in that first “comeback” year, the powers that be decided that we spend half a day practicing for the “big night”. This consisted taking a half day practicing sitting in a coach for an hour through traffic to get to Friends House in Euston, practicing getting off the coach and entering the building, and then most taxing of all, practicing the fine art of finding one’s chosen seat, and placing bum thereupon. All in the name of smooth execution later that evening.

    Of course the coordinated insertion of “Sid Cooper” and “Lihiyot Am Hofshi”, plus other assorted methods of disruption and frivolity – all essential parts to make the evening worthwhile, needed no practice at all.

  40. Philip Jerichower

    Of course the older ones amongst us will remember Balin as Sid – not R Cooper.

    My favourite Syd Balin remark was : If all your brains were dynamite – there wouldn’t be enough to blow your silly little kapul off!

    This was delivered quite regularly in our class leaving me worrying about either the size of the brains in our year or the small-sized kipot.

    Balin was always food as this final comment shows: Un oeuf (‘enough’) is as good as a feast!

    Great blog – very addictive!

  41. Yes, dear old Sid definitely liked his grub! He was, as you say, the only teacher of his day to be called Sid. In fact, I don’t remember Rabbi Cooper having any nickname at all in the time I was at Hasmo – I ‘graduated’ in ’74.

  42. David Silver

    I like to blame R. Cooper for my not being a virtuoso violinist – he thought too many boys were in violin class instead of his JS class so he insisted that the violin teacher chose a few to dismiss from violin, me included. But to be honest I was totally crap and the world was saved by this saintly man from a fate we can only try not to imagine. refuah shlaymoh

    It was indeed Sid Bailey

  43. David Silver

    I think it was rabbi Lewis who asked one Stephen Gilbert which shul he went to on Shabbes to which he replied:
    “White Hart Lane shul, Sir” (Spurs home ground)
    It appeared that the good rabbi had not heard of that temple of faith.

  44. Simon Berest

    Henri, why dont I remember this cough from at home?

  45. Ellis Feigenbaum

    Rabbi Cooper as i seem to remember had a prostate problem, not that any of us knew back in the early 70`s what a prostate problem was or entailed.
    However he would leave most lessons once or twice to relieve himself, hence the Pinchas drasha “I am sorry I cannot carry on.”

  46. moshe shatzkes

    josh haruni is right when he says we were instructed to say “lihiyos am kodosh” at the end of the hatikvah and if you listen to that marvellous recording of speech day (above) mitch taylor (obm) clearly issues that ridiculous instruction. that speech day was at Friends House in Euston and to my recollection was the last one there. (there may have been one the next year at Watford Town Hall but i am not 100% sure). most of us paid no attention to proceedings because as allan engel rightly points out there was football to be listened to and various other forms of entertainment available to the less serious boy. the last Friends House speech day was particularly enjoyable however, because one boy who i won’t mention (sorry) who was known as a major grass was given an award for something or other and as he went up to get his prize 600 boys booed and hissed merrily, (violators of the hasmo code were never popular) i remember roberg (by then known as “ith” due to his pronounced lisp) going nuts.

    A quick note on Rabbi Cooper. He is very much old school, an enormous talmid chacham and revered in the jewish community as one of, if not the, biggest talmidei chachamim. He is still alive although quite weak and I believe living in Sage in golders green. His wife (a digression is know so skip this bit) taught in my kids school, Menorah Foundation, until the end of last year and taught Hebrew reading to at least 3 generations of children (she taught my mother in Hasmonean primary school, my friends who were there in the 70’s and my kids how to read Hebrew). As has been mentioned above, the fact the sid was ever exposed to us is a sad reflection on the school, because he came from a world where any moment you had you learnt torah and we just didn’t get it.

  47. Moshe, you raise a very interesting point in your posting: Rabbi Cooper is indeed a very learned man. As were Rabbi Roberg, Dr Gerber and some of the other teachers. However, being brilliant in your subject and being able to teach it to boisterous teenagers, is a different matter. I’m not criticising Rabbi Cooper, I think he was a decent man who was possibly a bit naive when dealing with a class of teenagers.

    Currently running on British Television is an advert aimed at attracting more people to the teaching profession. The ad features shots of a lesson in progress with a young teacher engaging very well with a group of teenagers with obvious smiles all round. Running over this footage is a narrator saying the following:

    “Think your subject is interesting?”
    “It’s up to you to prove it.”
    How very true…

    When I joined Hasmo we had a motley crew of mainly elderly gentlemen; some of whom were brilliant; some probably had been brilliant, but were now past it; some were plain crazy and some gave the impression that the only reason they were at the school was because they were frum. There was also a smaller group of younger teachers who were all of the above and also enthusiastic, but in some cases possibly a little too enthusiastic when it came to maintaining discipline. (Who said Steve Posen?)

  48. Eli (Richard) Gross

    Having tasted the joy of posting here (Cyril), my memory has started to jog (or at least beep).

    Rabbi Cooper, we called him ‘Enry occasionally, but usually just ‘Coopa’.

    Rabbi Cooper had a boy of the week…… and on a Friday he would keep us in suspense. It was a great honour to be named boy of the week by the learned Rabbi, but we were a modest lot and we each begged not to be elected. We would each nominate others, often conspiring to provide a single name. Once Judge Cooper pronounced his election, the boy of the week was ‘congratulated’ with ‘pats’ on the back, the head, bollocks etc. and a terrific bundle was guaranteed, with the smiling Rabbi ambling off to the staff-room.

    One pupil (can any of you remember who?), in a crafty effort to avoid election, asked the Rabbi if ‘boys of the week’ would have a ‘chelek in Olam Haba’? The Rabbi replied: “Of course”.

    The pupil then asked if the great Talmudei Chachamim would be there, and received the same reply.

    Then he asked: “And will the great footballers and pop stars be there too?” To which the irritated retort was: “No, they’re all destined for Ghinom.”

    The pupil looked at the Rabbi and said quietly: “Then that’s where I want to go too, I am sure it will be much less boring.”

    He felt the hand of the Rav Cooper but avoided his election for a good few weeks. Sound investment!

  49. Robert Rader

    Eli Gross, where have you been all of my life? I also remember the “boy of the week” ceremony, that used to start half way through Rabbi Cooper’s Parshat HaShavuah shiur every friday morning. Certain members of the class would gently remind Rabbi Cooper (putting the class’s modesty aside) how interested we were that he chose the boy of the week, and of course he didn’t want to disappoint. Boys that answered questions correctly were automatically applauded by muffled cries of “BOY OF THE WEEK, BOY OF THE WEEK!!!” which inhibited those of us that wanted to go home that day without any major bodily bruising. However, Rabbi Cooper was the judge, and as the final bell was rung, he, with a cheeky grin, would declare that “the boy of the week is……….” and he would then leave the classroom. Following Rabbi Cooper’s departure would erupt blood-curdling cries of “BUNDLE!!!!” to which the rest of the boys would show their utter appreciation to the “chosen victim” and would congratulate him as Eli so wonderfully described with “pats on the back, the head, the bol…….etc”
    What a joy, to remember those days. I have only just discovered this Hasmo Legends in melchett mike’s blog and I must say that I have been in tears and splitting my sides with laughter at some of your contributions…

  50. David Prager

    I sadly advise all ex-Hasmos of the petira on Shabbat of Rabbi Cooper. For those in Israel who wish to make a Shiva visit, the shiva is sitting today, Thursday and Friday at the home of Eli Cooper, 8 Lochamei Hagetto, Petach Tikva. On Tuesday and Wednesday the Shiva will be at the home of Pinchas Cooper, 13 Hama’pilim Street, Jerusalem. May his zechut protect Am Israel. Besorot Tovot.

  51. Daniel Marks

    In 1973 at the outbreak of war the school was called together for an assembly. I paraphrase:

    “The Arabs think they have caught us off guard.” Rabbi Cooper told us, “They think that they have surprised us because of Yom Kippur, Because we were all in shul, What they don’t know is that after Yom Kippur we are a nation whose sins have been forgotten. How could Hashem let us lose today, on a day when we are pure and innocent?”

    He was right too.

    יהי זכרו ברוך

  52. I was very sorry to hear the sad news.

    I must confess to having been informed that Rabbi Cooper was not a well man as I was preparing my post on him. Indeed, I was keen to publish it as swiftly as possible, as I didn’t consider that I would be able to do so after his passing.

    Rabbi Cooper was clearly an extremely good and learned man. And his exposure to the “rrrotten apples” of our Yeshiva Stream remedial class – rather than to the more studious group above us – was yet another example of the startling lack of judgment of the powers that were at Hasmonean.


  53. One final mention of Rabbi Cooper is that in 1967 either before or during the 6 Day war, he instituted the saying of Tehillim in his congregation for the welfare and safety of the State of Israel, which are still said to this day. Although he never moved to Israel his heart was firmly connected to it.

  54. I am reliably informed that the fellow “openly using both irony and sarcasm at a major public event within yards of a cathedral” yesterday – see from 2:16 in the following clip – attended both Hasmonean and North Hendon Adass (where, allegedly, he was also once seen talking during Chazoras HaShatz) . . .


    Can anyone identify him?

  55. marc@pineonline.co.uk

    danny shine I believe, also to be seen at westfield shopping centre, Camden lock and other places where i think he thinks/says “people buy things they don’t need with money they don’t have”

  56. Moshe Abelesz

    I once heard the words of the prophet myself, saying: “Don’t believe a word I say”, and so I didn’t

  57. As an alumnus of North Hendon all I can say is that he obviously got the idea of using a foghorn from his father who, for 30 years from circa 1973 was the Cantor of the Shul. Brought it all back. Very nostalgic. Thank-you Channel 4.

  58. Danny Shine? It can’t be the same one. That Danny Shine was a right fascist! He tried to dispose of all the “mags” I inherited “under the mattress” from a bloke – from Whitefield I seem to recall, a Man City fan – who lived in my room the year before me, in our Singleton Road student digs.

  59. I find him rather amusing actually. It was kind of fun to see one familiar face amongst all the celebrities….BTW you can find in at Piccadily, Convent Gardens, Brighton, The Western Wall, Israel…

  60. “find him” did u mean?

  61. thank you thank you all – I have just spent the last 3 hours going through all these posts bringing back so many memories of what obviously was the st trinions of North West london – I have no more tears left with my gut aching – each teacher in that school deserves a page of honour for giving us some unforgetable memories – I learnt nothing at that school – in fact I dont even know if it qualified as a school in the first place!!

  62. Well done Gary for sending me this link. We were class of 77 leaving 6th form.

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