Hasmo Legends XII: Flops, Greater and Lesser

It is something of a truism that Hasmo boys fared far better in maths and sciences than in the arts and humanities.

This owed rather more, however, to factors extrinsic to Hasmonean – such as the greater emphasis placed on the former in most (especially more traditional) Jewish households – than to the pedagogical skills and talents of the school’s maths and science teachers.

In fact, Hasmonean should have churned out ambitious would-be physicians, scientists and mathematicians “for fun”. But, for all the geniuses that we all knew from our Hasmo days – the four and five As maths and science A-Level students – how many went onto careers (never mind distinguished ones) in those fields? With the raw talent at their disposal, Jack, DJ, Steve, Flop and crew should have produced numerous top academics and professionals, but these ‘educators’ did not foster love of their subjects, merely high levels of competence in them.

HopelessIn spite of my late father having been a brilliant mathematician and physician, I was hopeless at both maths and the sciences. Indeed, Hasmo’s science labs were as uninviting to me as its gym was for some of the more pasty NW11 and N16 frummers (the sensitively-named, by Chich, “spastics”). I hated the places (my only enjoyment being to poke a sharpened pencil through the inviting – what other purpose did it serve? – slit  in my neighbour’s high stool).

So, if you have been eagerly anticipating a warm melchett mike reminiscence about Hasmo’s maths and science teachers, stop reading now – revisit, instead, my posts on Cyril, Chich, Sid, and Big Al – because, with the exception of DJ, I was utterly indifferent to nearly all of them. (As always on melchett mike, however, if you have warmer recollections of these individuals – or tales of those I have failed to mention in detail, or at all – please post them as comments below.)

As well as the absence of truly unforgettable characters (such as the aforementioned), my indifference was also due to the attitude and/or incompetence of Hasmo’s teaching staff in those, my weaker, subjects. Like the advice on how to make a million dollars in Israel – make Aliyah with ten – it is oft said about Hasmonean (correctly in my view) that, if you came with ability, you did well; if not, they would let you rot.

I have received more “When are you going to do Flop?” queries, since my first Hasmo Legends post, than I can recall. I have been rather reticent to write about Lionel Finkelstein (middle row, extreme right [ignoring the little fella], in the staff photograph in Hasmo Legends I), not out of any sense of loyalty to him, but because he is still apparently squawking and spluttering his way through the physics syllabus on Holders Hill Road. I was even contacted by someone senior at today’s Hasmonean, specifically requesting that I let him off the hook for that very reason. And the truth is that I originally agreed . . . though I am no longer quite sure “Whyyyyy”.

No Nobel Prizes in Physics for guessing how Dr Flop earned his nickname. I vividly recall even the (what should be) perfectly straightforward Ticker Tape Timer experiment – for measuring velocity – going horribly and repeatedly wrong. And it was often Hasmo’s poor, meek lab assistants, Mrs. Kadoo, though more usually the hapless Michael (I don’t think he had a surname) – neither of whom were ever heard to utter a word – who would have to shoulder the blame for this incompetence. Indeed the oft-heard bellow, from the physics laboratory, of “Miiii-ccchael” usually bore all the reasonableness of Stalin’s scolding of his mistress, Getya Keksov, for the relative failure of his Second (1933-1937) Five-Year Plan.

BissliFlop, in appearance a kind of Semitic Brian Blessed, was a strange bloke to say the least. His behaviour could vacillate between the genial and the almost cruel (sideburn yanking being his punishment of choice), and his fondness for Bissli snacks (barbecue flavour) usually resulted in more finding their way into his unkempt beard – nestling there for the remainder of the school day – than into his not insubstantial stomach. And those squawking noises – “Urrrggh, Isaacson . . .” – have not been heard outside the Star Wars movies or Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds.

Inadvertent followers of Nachum of Golders

Inadvertent followers of Reb Nachum of Golders

Hasmo’s other physics teacher was the unassuming Nachum Ordman (middle row, seventh from left, in the aforementioned staff photograph), the younger, more reserved sibling of Jack, head of maths. It is a little known fact that the ubiquitous Na Nach mantra and stickers, visible all over Israel, relate to Nachum’s slight stutter rather than – as believed by those loony, pogoing Chassidim – Rabbi Nachman of Breslov. Nachum always seemed the most gentle of men, so it would be a shame to waste any more melchett mike inches on him.

Another oddity of Flop-like proportions was Hasmo’s biology teacher, Steve Posen (middle row, third from left). Apparently, Steve can still be seen belting along Bell Lane (Hendon), destination unknown (even to him), sporting his bright red shirt on Rosh Chodesh. Steve’s behaviour also spanned the full gamut, one minute warm and approachable, the next wielding his favourite slipper as if he had shares in Dunlop. Even his attitude towards the biology lab’s living creatures – and I don’t mean Hasmo boys – could suddenly swing, with no apparent warning, from the gentle to the brutal.

Steve’s straight-man sidekick in Hasmo’s biology department, Liam Joughin (back row, fourth from right), would observe his colleague’s oddball performances with a deadpan expression, never betraying the absolute incredulity he must have experienced on a near daily basis. A man neither loved nor loathed, Joughin was best known for his dry sense of humour and expressions such as “leave it a-lone” (despairing at Hasmo boys’ insistence on fiddling with apparatus before experiments had even begun) and “minkerisation” (Joughin for mincha, the afternoon prayer).

In fact, so remarkably normal, by Hasmo standards, was Joughin – and a good teacher to boot – that one had to wonder what he was doing at the nuthouse, when he could so easily have been enjoying a position amongst “his own” at a decent English grammar school.

At one stage, Joughin shared the role of Deputy Headmaster of Hasmonean with chemistry teacher, David Jacobson (front row, third from left), known to all merely as DJ. My opinion of this man is well known to readers of melchett mike, and I don’t intend to darken my summer mood by expanding on it here (though, again, readers’ comments and stories will be gratefully received).

Whilst Hasmo’s other chemistry teacher, Kevin O’Connor, seemed a genuinely nice bloke, even the Dalai Lama could not have tempted me to spend a second more in DJ’s classroom than I absolutely had to, and I “dropped” the subject as soon as I could.

Find x.For five long, unforgiving years, I sat in the maths B group of Simon Lesser (back row, fifth from left). If he had explained his algebra and geometry in some obscure dialect of Urdu, I would have had no less idea of what he was on about. And, for half a decade, my end of year maths results always hovered around 30 to 35 percent.

Less than six months before the O-Level examination, one of my mother’s bridge four, Wendy Lederman, who taught maths at Hasmonean Girls’, offered to “have a go”. I got an A. What that says about Mr. Lesser’s teaching (as well as Mrs. Lederman’s) I leave to you, the reader.

At some point, we stopped being deterred by the lines Lesser would dish out like an overzealous Nigerian traffic warden slapping out parking tickets in Central London,  and – unsentimental teenagers that we were (how sentimental could we be about a man who would make us write “Homework must be done and submitted on time” two hundred times and more?) – started taking advantage of his failing eyesight and hearing. Our class even formed an instrument-less jazz rhythm section, employing mouths, hands, heels and desks to perform improvised compositions, as Lesser – in an attempt to decipher figures – pressed his nose against textbook or whiteboard.

In cricketing terms, Jack Ordman (front row, second from left) was Hasmonean’s Geoffrey Boycott or Graeme Hick: one of the finest maths teachers of his generation, but – like Boycott and Hick, batsmen who didn’t quite fancy it against the very toughest of bowlers – Ordman only took on the ‘challenge’ of the A group. This was the kind of perverse arrangement typical of Hasmonean, allowing Ordman to preserve a very fine, but somewhat misleading, average.

“Uncle” Jack did, however, teach Gemara to our delinquent Yeshiva Stream group after school, displaying that very same caution and/or fear that prevents him from going down as a true great: for the last fifteen minutes of every class – in an attempt to wake us up with some actual interaction before our journeys home – he would conduct a question and answer session on halacha; but, whenever we would pose even the most slightly problematic of questions, he would proclaim “Boys, I am not a rabbi. The school has got a very good one. Ask Rabbi Cooper.”

This seemed to defeat the very purpose of the session . . . though, couldn’t that be said of nearly everything that went on at Hasmonean Grammar School for Boys?!

[REMINDER: In keeping with Hasmo Legends ‘rules’, comments must be truthful, with true identity of commenter provided.]

Next on Hasmo Legends, Part XIII: A Legend (Osher) Strikes Back [followed by The Background]


89 responses to “Hasmo Legends XII: Flops, Greater and Lesser

  1. Daniel Tarlow

    Hi Mike,

    Another great chapter to add to the annuls of our combined cultural religious history.

    You did not mention the great story of Kevin blowing up the chemistry labs. I had already left the school but maybe some of the people in the class at the time could manage to recall the events of that most explosive lesson. All I do know is that some time afterwards when telling us ‘alumni’ about the event he did say that he wasnt going to repeat that experiment!!!!

    In all fairness to Jack Ordman he definitely DID take the lower groups for maths. When I was doing GCSE’s he took the C group. I met him the other day here in Bayit Vegan in Jerusalem and he also bemoaned the fact that people had this opinion of him.

    I also saw Mr Lesser a few months ago on a Friday night after Shul and mentioned the blog. In a joking response he said ‘I hope they dont write too many bad things about me’. I think he has done fairly well, had this been written a few months ago I dare say that there would have been far more stories of incompetence than there were!!

    Well done again Mike.

    All the best.


  2. Reuven Back

    Mike, let me first say that I was never taught by Lionel Finkelstein, and therefore I cant comment on his teaching prowess.
    But I lived in Bushey until I made aliyah, and saw Lionel Finkelstein every week in Shul.
    And I felt it only fair to add that he was (and I presume still is, although I havent seen him for 25 years:) a very decent bloke with a good heart.

  3. You had me sitting back in the classroom, though I left nearly 20 years ago.

    I see DJ fairly regularly and he has aged, what we must have done to him.

    Posen – yes still in traditional Rosh Chodesh clothes belting down Bell Lane off though to teach at Bais Yaakov now.

    Did Kevin O’Connor used to play for Scunthorpe as the rumours went.

    Rabbi N Ordman – got the Physics teacher of the year award recently on a national basis and with his brother Jack are sons of the Gaon and former Etz Chaim Roshe Yeshiva Reb Nosson.

  4. Daniel Greenspan

    Avoiding the temptation to roll out any Flop stories… I’ll mention one other “Maths teacher”.

    Rabbi Osher Baddiel’s opening words, as maths teacher, to his maths pupils, when embarking on the O and AO maths syllabus:

    “Hands up any boys who are not -yet- in Yeshiva Stream”

    Rudyard Kipling anyone?

  5. david bright

    My understanding is that Joughin is now at KS.

  6. Daniel Hass

    Can someone confirm/deny the existence of a telephone in Jack’s classroom, the purpose of which I was told was for him to stay in constant contact with his stockbroker.

  7. Josh Haruni

    I didn’t have Flop for physics or as a form teacher but I do have one abiding memory of him from the only time I spoke with him at school. Aside from his dribbling, Flop had the unnerving habit of putting his hands down the front of his trousers. Whether this was done in order to warm his hands on a cold London morning or as some superstitious ritual prior to his infamous experiments, we will never know.

    In any event, when a mate of mine heard that I was to share some quality time with Flop discussing whether I should do physics O-level he warned me of this. Needless to say I assumed that my mate was winding me up. Until of course I actually met with Flop. Our meeting began with him screeching, “Stoooppp touching the compuuuuteeeehhhrrsss!!” to his computer studies class. He then emptied the dregs of a bag of crisps into his beard, turned to me, shifted himself back on his chair, threw one arm around the back of his neck and shoved his other hand down his trousers and started, for all I knew, looking for ferrets. Only once he was completely comfortable did he then ask, “Right Mr.Haruni what can I do for you…?”

    I was actually lost for words but made a very quick decision not to pursue physics O-level.

    Thankfully we didn’t shake hands.

  8. Dovid Maslin

    In this life there seem to be scores of ill-informed teachers and guardians alike who put it into lots of kids heads, either intentionally or inadvertently that they are not cut out for maths and/or music.

    All healthy humans beings are capable of being good at these two subjects simply because all human beings are born with an instinctive passion for the two. Babies are pacified by music; some say it reminds them of the spirit world from where they have come. Every body has aural skills and everybody loves to remember rhythms, and melodies. How many numbers are there to learn? 0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9. Yes 10 numbers, all others are just different combinations of those 10. It follows that any healthy human who can count to 10 CAN DO MATHS! Where is the passion for maths? Well does every human not love to ask the simple question, how much? And then work out how much things are for themselves, just to be sure!

    To every teacher who doesn’t encourage and inspire his or her pupils to develop and thrive in the subjects that they love, I say J’accuse!



  9. Daniel Lange

    Great stuff Mike….light relief or really relief of another kind, reading this after your blog went a bit heavy for a few weeks.

    Great memories from 5th form O-level Maths, B-Group with Mr. Lesser. I dont recall now much of what we learned, but do fondly remember sitting at the back with Grant Morgan for most of those lessons singing The Who’s “Pinball Wizard” (perhaps a tad heartless looking back with 26 years of hindsight) and setting off several strateigically placed alarm clocks. Mmmmmmmmmm?

  10. Wrrrite out 100 liiiiines: “Mr Lesser is just about strict enough to mean it when he says no talking in class”

  11. – Sir, please can you explain the difference between “Centripetal force” and “Centrifugal force”?

    – GENTLEME-E-E-E-E-N……..in physiiiics, there’s no such thing as centriph-pahal force……only CENTRI…PHRRRRHL FOOOOOORCE!!!

    – Sir, you mean “no such thing as centriFUGAL force”?

    – N-O-O-O-O-O!! No such thing as centriPVERHERL foooorce!!!

  12. Raffy Wreschner

    Get Flop to say Cellulose Acetate (and take cover).

  13. benjy broder

    One summer day, Adam Taub, a pupil NOT from Hasmonean had the day off, and Jonny Kirsh decided to invite him to spend the day at Hasmonean pretending that he was Jonny’s cousin. Sure enough he spent the whole day in Hasmonean, including a physics lesson with Flop. During the middle of the lesson we decided that Adam’s birthday was that day (of course it wasn’t really) and we pulled up an enormous water melon which we decided to give out to everybody in the class to celebrate his “birthday”. Half way through the dishing out of large chunks of water melon, Flop caught wind of the operation in progress and proceeded to grab the remaining rather large chunk of water melon, which in his rage he threw outside hitting a wall and totally covering it from top to bottom with melon. This caused the rest of the class to collapse with uncontrollable laughter and caused Flop to throw out Adam.

    As you can imagine we never had a dull second with Dr Flop, as mentioned several times above he really did care about his pupils, which made it all the harder for us to mess up, but we did it anyway!
    So here are 2 more stories:
    We used to have in the sixth form, Physics lessons during lunch breaks, because there was no other time slot available during the week. This was the first big mistake. Flop of course fell straight into our trap when we complained that we had to be able to eat and drink during the lesson as it just wasn’t fair. So we did….. of course as one lesson was about to begin, we took a can of coke and shook it vigorously and left it on the table next to Ronald Aziz, the most serious student in the class. As soon as we started the lesson we started eating and drinking and encouraged Ron to open his can. Of course it exploded all over the lab, and I mean all over the lab the walls ceiling teacher pupils equipment and the room stank of coke. Of course Flop went completely loopy and banned food and drink (this only lasted for a couple of weeks as we were all chazerim anyway, and there was no way we could last without any food or drink).

  14. Martin Sykes-Haas

    As has been mentioned, in contrast to many at Hasmo and regardless of teaching abilities, Flop is a very decent sort. I had missed much of the third year through illness, and as my form teacher in the fourth year, going into GCSE’s and all that he made sure that I got the extra assistance I needed, was placed in the groups according to my ability rather than my 3rd year ‘achievements’ and so on.

    I don’t remember learning much Physics though.

    In one lesson we arrived outside his lab to find the door had been removed from it’s hinges. Instead of waiting outside as required we decided to all go inside and prop up the door in the frame and wait for Flop’s arrival. Flop arrived though, before Johnny Hamilton had finished balancing the door, he furiously shoved the door open which flew into the room crushing the poor innocent Hamilton. I hear he’s now a Rabbi.

    Posen taught me for many years, and although I remember enjoying his classes, certainly more than most others, I was way behind when I started Biology A level at JFS. Not least because the sections of our GCSE textbook concerning reproduction had been excised. Typical Osher-led Hasmonean fuckwittery.

    The year after I left for JFS, Posen was due to teach my brother’s class but slipped on the way and broke his leg. He hopped passed the lined up boys explaining in his booming voice “Boys, no class today. I’ve broken my tibia and must drive myself to the hospital.”

    Great blog Mike, although I fear that often the amusing Hasmo stories distract from the real damage the school did to the Jewish life of so many.

  15. Yitzchak Landau

    Does anyone else recall Mr Lesser’s bizarre habit of always leaving his briefcase open on his table and, at some point in the lesson, closing it by pulling its hinge inwards, as if playing a game of dare with his finger to see if he could get it out of the way in time!

    Two other memories spring to mind; one was in the 2nd year give or take, when after one of his interminable inspections of a pupil’s lines (Andrew Cohen as I recall), he accused the boy of using carbon paper. Not quite knowing whether to admit his sin but faced with incontrovertible proof, Andrew said “I dunno sir, I suppose I must have done!”

    The other memory is of another interminable inspection – that of the new desks in his classroom which he inspected before every single lesson to see if they had been vandalised in any way. If he thought you were guilty of writing on it, despite the fact that it could have been done in a previous lesson when he was not there, you would have to come back at lunchtime and sand the desk down, notwithstanding the fact that this meant the surface now had an awful grainy finish to it.

  16. Richard Simmonds

    Flop. Flop. Flop. Yes he hit us, but then all the teachers did in those days. It simply went with the edyookashun. The thing that always set him apart was the pre-punishment ritual which he enacted time and time again. It was unnerving to say the least and despite others recalling what a lovely chap he may have been in synagogue – this is a Hasmo blog after all, not a Bushey shul blog – I would never send my children to that school now, knowing he is still on the loose.

    Of course we were louts in his class – we would spend half our lessons talking or laughing at him whilst he stood there dribbling, spitting or screaming. When he flew into one of his tempers he always reminded me of a rabid dog tied to a post and being poked at with a stick – screaming, frothing and not knowing where the next taunt was coming from. I don’t think he was ever given sufficient credit for his gift of giving us hysterics, second only to our Swansean friend with a pencil-thin moustache.

    Be that as it may, on any number of occasions we may have been misbehaving, but when it came to our punishment it was always the same. He would call us to the front of the physics lab before the whole class whereupon he would tell us to bend over his knee. He would tell us that we had been naughty and that he was going to have to slipper us. His trusty white plimsoll (Green Flash?) would emerge and boy did he unleash some force with it. Certainly, when I used to go home and tell my parents what had happened, they must have thought that it was a ridiculous exaggeration and that such behaviour simply could not have taken place at a supposed ‘grammar’ school.

    To think that the same conversation likely happened in living rooms across North West London in the 70s and 80s…

    Incidentally, I was in the car with my wife and kids a couple of months ago when we saw him walking home from shul. Although the windows were open, I found myself spontaneously shouting out “ERGH! FLOP!” The weird thing was that it was subconscious and I didn’t stop to think how odd it must be for a 43 year old man with his family to be shouting out such a puerile comment.

    No doubt he has heard it a fair few times over the years.

  17. hadassahsabo

    Wendy Lederman taught me maths in Hasmo Girls – she was a great teacher. Glad she helped you out Mike.

    I heard so many Flop stories growing up – our teachers were never quite as colourful!!

  18. It’s only been a day, but there’s been no mention of the Flop half-cough/splutter . . .

    Left hand down trousers (thank you Josh), fully extended (in his chair I mean), head tilted back, half-cough/splutter into side of right fist, swivelled with perfect timing to prevent unchewed barbecue Bissli twirl – eaten in too much haste, but now dislodged from throat – being projected towards two boys on front bench.

  19. Alan Kenley

    Before I start, I apologise that my comment is so long but I have refrained from joining in with the banter since the blog started (for no apparent reason) and Mike has continously asked me “when are you going to write” so I have been saving it up for months.

    Thank you Richard Simmonds for being the first person to speak out “truthfully” about Lionel Finkledinkle AKA Flop. He seemed to take great enjoyment in physically punishing us and didnt think twice about putting us over his knee and slippering us as hard as he could. I know many of you will say that I deserved it and I admit that I wasnt the best pupil either at academic or behaviour level but he used to dish out floggings to Danny Israel, Max Gittelmon and I on a more than regular basis. I remember one time in a fit of rage, he picked up Danny and hurled him across the room and he smashed into the wall.

    As Richard also said, it was strangely acceptable in those days and there were others who vented their fury on me and our crew. Abie, or Papa Smurf as we used to call him, once slapped me so hard that my glasses (wore them to read the blackboard) flew across the room and smashed into pieces. Another time he stood on a chair and pulled my hair soo hard that he fell off.

    Steve Posen who I had a lot of respect for (well his father and my grandfather were army buddies) once slapped me across the face with a fish that we were dissecting.

    Chich was another who used to try and treat me fairly whenever I was sent to him for punishment because I used to run the hurdles for him at Barneeet (with a silent “t”). He would say “Kenley, I am supposed to give you 6 slippers but because I like you I only give you 3.” “Thank you Sir, thank you very much” I used to say. Apart from one time when a whole load of us were reprimanded for climbing out of the Computer room window, last period on a Friday. We were all sent to Chich for a slippering and I was the last one in. As I bent over in his office for my customary 3, he saw through the window hiding behind the gym and about to light a cigarette a pal of mine, but not his, Eric Elbaz. He raced outside grabbed Elbaz by the ear and pulled him into the office whilst shouting “Kenley go home, I have to deal with this spastic Elbaz…..”

    Finally, I have to mention the time that I got sent to Roberg for a caning and he asked me to go down to the playground and get an appropriate stick to be hit with. I returned to his office ten minutes later, struggling to hold a tree stump in both arms……needless to say he thrashed me with a slipper instead.

    Mike the blog is brilliant and as you know I have been a fan from afar, keep up the good work.

  20. In a moment I’ll catch the person talking……AAAAAAAND-I’LL-CLOBBAHIIIIIIIIIMM!!

  21. Mark Goldman

    So many funny and strange memories of Hasmo days.

    Mr. Lesser refereeing a fight between 3rd and 4th formers, where we literally lined up on opposite sides of the playground and ran head on, into each other.

    DJ’s purposeful humiliation and embarrassment of those who were least equipped to defend themselves. In retrospect so shameful.

    And so many hysterical tricks and jokes we played on our teachers and each other.

    One time in 4th form Human Biology, Mr. Posen asked for a volunteer to urinate into a beaker, so that he could show us the test for diabetes. Of course, after a few minutes of silence without a volunteer, he charged into the bathroom to return with a beaker full of his. While searching frantically for some litmus paper (or some such), Paul Kaufman and myself added some apple juice to the contents of the beaker. He gasped in shock when his urine test showed positive for the disease.

    One less proud memory took place in the shul with Rabbi Sid Cooper. During a moment of silence, I set my chess clock off, and proclaimed in a very innocent teenage voice “Sir, what’s that ticking sound”?
    Another boy said “It’s a bomb sir”, before you knew it, we were all screaming “It’s a bomb sir, it’s a bomb”. Sid starts screaming “Get out, get out, evacuate”.
    I’m laughing my ass off writing this btw.

  22. Simon Soester-Soreq

    Why has nobody mentioned Dr. Flop’s antics at the school minyan in the morning (could it be that Mark & friends were all Yeshiva stream elite)?

    First comes to mind the saying of the shema, who can forget Dr. F his hands over his eyes leaning backwards (see later) and making a noise that no doubt was similar to the shema of Rabbi Akiva in 1CE, after having his skin peeled off by the Romans?

    The other twice-weekly treat was Flop’s “leining” (a word I havent used for over 20 years I think). Once again the sound was a bit like the cacophony at Mr. Sinai (the shofar and thunder bit, not the 10 commandments). The pièce de résistance was connected to the minimal distance between the lower edge of the North Hendon Adath bima & Dr. Flop that got shorter due to his violent shokels, that included of course a backwards bend.

    Does anyone remember the showdown, circa 1983, during shacharit (sorry shachris) between Flop & and angry N.Hendon Adasser, over the state of the shul?

    I was actually banned for a week from the computer room for installing a pre-internet virus on the network (in BBC basic), that wrote comments on Dr. F’s computer. This should have been that start of a career in hi-tec, but instead I became a kibbutznik.

  23. Henri Berest

    My fondest memory of Flop was on a school trip.
    I have no idea where we’d been, but I remember getting on a train for the return journey, and a few of us sitting down to the ritual game of pontoon. Flop was stalking up and down the platform to make sure all had boarded when he looked through the window and saw the money and cards on the table. We all saw him at the same instant and there was an immediate yell of “EURGH…FLOP!!!” from about 20 voices. He went ballistic. He screamed so hard that the exterior window was covered with his gob.
    This just encouraged us and we just yelled “EURGH…FLOP” a bit more.
    The nutter then boarded the train and realising that we were running down the train in the opposite direction away from him, he started chasing us still screaming and spitting in all directions.
    What this must have looked like to the other passengers I can’t imagine, but we were so busy running and laughing that we didn’t stop to find out.
    I can’t remember which boy was the first one caught, but I remember him getting beaten up while the rest of us sneaked past them and returned to the game.
    One thing about him that I do remember well was that when he slippered/beat someone, there was no restraint or mercy. He really wanted to hurt you. For that reason alone, I see no reason to spare him the ‘mercy’ of this blog because he is still teaching. I just wonder who or what he takes his frustrations out on now that it is illegal to beat up children.

  24. Jonny "Kiri" Kitsberg

    I too have to admit to having been disciplined by our beloved Flop. I remember vividly one potential fatal beating that he administered to my backside.
    He told me to wait outside Room 3 for him after school. He arrived promptly carrying a plain brown envelope. He then took me into the classroom and locked the door. He then turned round to me and said something like:
    “Arrrrgh you’ll never guess what I’ve got in this envelope“
    Being rather astute I guessed correctly and asked my revered teacher if I could get one beating less for getting the answer right.
    He responded that due to my insolence I deserved one more. Flop then proceeded to whip out his Dunlop from the envelope and instructed me to lean over the desk. He then administered six of the best with the full weight of his rather substantial frame behind each beating. He paused between each slippering to check that I was suffering enough. It was a really bizarre experiencing especially looking back over it some 30 years later.

    I saw a very different person during the time that the Flop gave me private lessons for O level physics. On a one to one basis he was a decent bloke and a pretty good teacher. It was very hard to sit next to the big man each lesson and still keep a straight face. This was especially so when my Mum brought him tea and cake. I think you can imagine the scene.
    Once my brother Danny (he of 5 A’s at A levels) came home and screamed out “Mum has Flop gone?“ Unfortunately for Danny, Flop had not gone and Danny avoided Flop for the next few weeks in fear of retribution.
    I actually got an A in the O Level and when I told Flop a huge smile appeared on his face and he almost kissed me. He was more delighted than I was. I think I was one of his first private students to get an A. This showed me the human side of the great man.

  25. How well I recall the time that Danny Cohen packed up his “Lloyds Bank Griffin Saver” bag early, before the end of double physics with the Flop-Meister.

    The man-mountain waddled itself over to Cohen’s seat, unzipped the bag, and shrieking “MISHTER COHE-E-E-N!” in the deranged tones of an elephant on heat, emptied the contents forcefully onto the floor. The last item to hit the ground, with a dull thud, was a pair of tefillin.

    Under a barrage of protest from 25 outraged 4th-years, the best the great mammoth could manage was something later deciphered (approximately) as “WELL-HE-SHOULDN’T-HAVE-PACKED-UP-EARLY-THEN, SHOULD HE-E-E-E-E-E???!!”

  26. Allan Engel

    Michael (the lab assistant) had the surname of Marin.

    He also worked in the Tandy opposite Golders Green Station, mending stuff.

  27. . . . including his battered self-image!

  28. Steve Posen, his scientific brilliance remains vivid in my mind today from my best, but alas last, biology lesson in the 4th form.
    What started out to be a standard experiment, with rusty bunsen burners, test-tubes and overgrown clothes pegs otherwise used by Daren Mennashe to try and catch the petrified fish at the back of the lab, was turning out for me to be the regular disaster. Whilst most class members got the expected and required precipitation, my test tubes just remained this murky shade of grey.
    Luckily, Sam Kahn had stocked up on his supply of sweets to be sold in double biology (come to think of it, he was always stocked up with sweets to sell) so I bought two rolls of those fizzlers, exceptionally well sized to fit into test-tubes. Armed with three beautifully coloured precipitations, I asked Steve for explanations. Steve’s chemical justification of these results would have pushed Ciechanover or any Nobel Laureat into second place. With pure genius he rationalized my result; I may even have gotten away with it but for the 30 faces laughing at him from every corner of the class.
    Not only did his dunlop fly out with a flash, but I was sent to Roberg for an encore. I was, however, rewarded with a lifelong ban from the bio lab and a wonderful memory of this great man.

  29. I can confirm David Bright’s comment that Liam Joughin is working at King Solomon. I know this because I worked alongside him when I was based there for my second teaching placement a few years ago.

    I will never forget the warm smile he gave me when we met after all those years. He is a true gentleman as well as being a damn fine teacher.

    I understand that the reason he spent his life working at Jewish schools stemmed from his being a frum Catholic, who admired the values we were meant to be promoting. Then again, he may have changed his mind after spending time in our venerable establishment…

  30. Darren Seitz

    Perhaps I am wrong, but is it considered normal for someone, let alone a teacher, to walk around with a heavy chain and padlock dangling around his neck???
    If only web cams and video cell phones would have existed back in our days, there would have been a lot of teachers in prison from the sounds of these comments!!

  31. Jack Buechler

    I must put in my tuppence ha’penny worth on Dr. F.

    As we know Dr. F has a PH.d in Physics (Group noble gases or something like that) and was well known for experimental disasters.

    In the days before ‘safety’ we used to play with cancer causing substances, leads, nuclear devices – and to what end…

    However Dr. F’s forte was actually Maths. I slowly had moved up from the bottom group to his middle group. With his direct help, I was able to move up yet again in the 4th year to the ‘b’ group.

    This had a profound effect on my life going on to take A level Maths and then to a poly (now Middlesex University of course) and studied up to degree level maths.

    I still believe today it was down to Dr. F.

    Although I live close to Bushey, I have not seen Dr. F since 1980.

    We should leave Melchett Mike ‘obituaries’ to those that no longer teach at Hasmo. Almost like a biography should not be written about living people……

  32. Jack Buechler

    Liam Joughin is alive and kicking at King Solomon where he is a very capable deputy head.

    He taught me science when he first started his teaching career ( I am guessing 1976) and is still going.

    In those days he also taught PE as well as A level Biology.

    Like many non-jewish teachers at Hasmo he was more religiously jewish than many of the jewish teachers. He made sure he did not deviate from observing rules and times and making sure people did not skip Minkah for example.

  33. Jack Buechler

    A comment about Mr. Ordman.

    In my year throughout my school life he always taught the top group and then went on to take the top group in A Level maths.

    The only time I recall hearing him speak directly to me in a class was when he entered the B class in the A level set and said – anyone who got a B or lower in Maths O Level will fail.

    He was right about that.

    Of course he did nothing to prevent it….. did he Mr. Sireling?!

  34. Grant Morgan

    I was proud to have been a member of Mr. Lesser’s band. My fellow members were Mike, Johnny Mendelsohn and Paul ‘Paki Mouse’ Kaufman (that totally non PC name still makes me piss myself). The premise was simple. The teacher would turn to the board, our cue to start playing invisible instruments through our noses and mouths – Bad Moon Rising I recall from Creedance Clearwater – at which point the hard of hearing and short of seeing Lesser would turn 180 degrees, point almost ‘fuehrer’ like and scream ‘Norton – GET OUT’. Poor Joel Norton. Lesser was mildly cretinous but not a despot like some of the others who shall not be mentioned – apart from DJ that is who I would love to meet up with one day. Preferably in a darkened alley with a Bunsen burner and freshly sharpened scalpel!

    I am able to link Lesser to Flop but before I do, my favourite memory of Lesser’s lessons was Paul Kaufman moving around the class each time the teacher’s back was turned to ask a more stupid and impertinent question than the one prior from each and every available seat in the class. The hapless Lesser knew something was awry, he just couldn’t ascertain exactly what it was. It was far easier to send Norton out than to try and work it out for himself.

    Now Michael is spot on. Lesser could not teach maths. Fact. Which is why – for reasons to this day I still cannot quite fathom – my parents asked Flop to tutor me privately and at home. The image of him sitting at the head of our dining room table with me next to him (and far too close for comfort for my liking), dressed like Worzel Gummidge, leaning back, picking his nose and scratching his balls will stay with me forever. The lessons were lightened at the same time each and every week when at 5.45pm my elder brother Barrie would arrive home from work, come through the front door and at the top of his voice scream ‘AAAAAGGGGGHHH DON’T SIR ME’. I would crack up and Flop would splutter something unsavory into his rat infested beard. Let’s face it – what could he possibly do to me in my own house – in fact, don’t answer that question. All that said, I did get a ‘B’ at O-Level thanks to the bollock scratching, Bissli breathing sadist.

  35. Grant, thank you for your sensitive, touching account of your more private moments with Dr F.

    I believe, however, that you have overlooked who I clearly recall to have been The Lesser Band’s multi-talented leader: Jonathan “Choirboy” Levene.

  36. Paul Kaufman

    Must apologise for joining the fun so late, I’ve been watching much amused from the sidelines.
    Truth be told, I’m happy to let those former associates in piss-taking with far better long-term memories do such an articulate and splendid job of recounting the hilarity of those bygone days far better than i could hope to!
    A couple of more recent personal episodes come to mind which i thought worth sharing:
    Following my THIRD year in the sixth form (yes, i did get an ‘A’ in O-level maths) i finally quit Hasmo in around ’86 or ’87 to start what proved to be a short lived career in banking.
    The incident occured in the plush offices of a large japanese investment bank, where i was attending an interview for my 2nd city job.
    Their HR Director started the interview, then suddenly stood up, and left the room.
    On the desk in front of me was a foreboding black file (i was tempted to use ‘dossier’), with my name on the front (no, Grant, it did not read ”Paki-Mouse”!) After checking for CCTV in the room, and then for smoky mirrored walls, the urge became too great and i nervously opened the file to peruse it’s contents – c’mon,which Chutzpa-dick Hasmo boy worth their salt wouldn’t have?
    At the front was a sheet embossed with Hasmo’s corporate letterhead.
    There followed a heartfelt letter straight from the desk of one ”Rabbi Meir Roberg”.
    This was, in short, a warning letter to any would-be gentile employer of a boy who ”experted in unruly behaviour, and disrupting both his teachers and classmates throughout his school career,” although ”the boy did show slight signs of improvement in the upper-sixth-form” – boy,that extra year in the lower sixth clearly was my Teshuva!
    On an altogether different tack, a few years ago i was unloading some stuff from my car, outside my flat in hendon, when a couple of burly, drunken, Polish goyim walked past and commented ‘Hey, Paki boy!’ (i seem to recall i had recently returned from sunning myself somewhere in Israel) catching me off-guard, i instinctively responded with “I’m not a paki-mouse, i’m a Jew” – which,thankfully, did not elicit the kind of response i might have lived to regret. More recently still, after checking out a relative’s new house in a leafy private road off Totteridge, when exiting the road i could not believe my eyes! Foraging through the undergrowth, with a pair of binoculars around his neck, and sympathetic loyal wife by his side, was none other than ornothologist extraordinaire, our very own Stevie P (It was not Rosh Chodesh however, so, alas, the shirt was white). Now i happen to see Mr Posen around quite a lot these days, at various minyanim, having personally been ‘born again’ for some time now (no thanks to Hasmo) and no doubt like a lot of you, actually like the man, and after enquiring what he was doing there, was not let down by his reply ”Ah, Mr. Kaufman, the bird-life around these parts is spectacular!” Funny, i could only see his missus there…

  37. The “Paki Mouse” thing reminds me of another story, which took place some good years after we left Hasmo (we were in our mid-twenties), and which illustrates the scars which the institution left on many.

    Paul K and I were walking down Brent Street one Saturday evening, on the way to some party or other, when we saw an ex-Hasmo classmate with his girlfriend (later his wife) on the other side of the road.

    This boy had been picked on quite ferociously at Hasmo, though only ever verbally I think (and much of the time his behaviour deserved it). I am sure that Paul will admit to having participated in at least some of the treatment meted out.

    Anyway, not having seen him in some years, Paul – in a spirit of goodwill and of letting bygones be bygones (and because the other boy was with his girlfriend) – shouted out across the road “Hello, Daniel!” (he was never referred to merely as that at Hasmo!)

    To which came the reply: “Aaaaaghhh . . . Paki Mouse!!”

    Now either the boy was still as big a pratt as he was at Hasmo, or he figured “Why should I forgive and forget so easily?” Probably a bit of both.

    Anyhow, I can still picture the smoke coming out of your ears, Paul, for some good hours afterwards!

  38. Anyone still got their maths P E R R R M A N E N T book?

  39. So many memories, so much fun – havent stopped laughing reading the blog and the comments.
    Some of my memories –
    1. Flop shaking me so hard in 1st or 2nd form with the usual why why why – that I convinced myself I had concussion, and got myself sent home.
    2. There was something going on with the planet Uranus (pronouced on the BBC as youranoos but to us as YourAnus) – and we belted Flop with loads of questions –
    Has anyone landed on Uranus?
    What color is Uranus?
    What does Uranus smell like?
    Does Uranus make any sounds?
    and so on –
    Of course he had to keep a straight face – we were asking after all physics questions.
    3. Then there was the time that Danny Shine rang up from the school phone to Flop to say he was from the BBC coming to interview him about the computer lab – strange – it was right in the middle of double physics – so we had a good free period then…
    4. I also had a white board pen fight with Steve Posen and managed to hit him back straight between the eyes – I did however have a lot of respect for him….
    Loads more stories – but no time now.

  40. Geoffrey Hollander

    When Flop was not using the Dunlop, he was quite happy to use his hands, usually for face slapping purposes. The preceding ritual was not one you forget quickly. It started with an invitation to his “office”, a sectioned off area of his classroom “over the bridge”. He then locked the door and pulled the victim uncomfortably close as he sat on his desk facing you, pulling you in and locking his legs around your back. First he stroked your face, sizing up his target before extending his arm out, ready for a pendulum like swing, that ended firmly on your cheek. He may have a good heart deep down, but good hearts should not have been enough to become a teacher at Hasmo.

  41. Grant Morgan

    No Geoffrey – he did not have a good heart. Those with good hearts do not smack the living daylights out of young defenseless children whom they should be caring for and looking after.

  42. Geoffrey,

    As a teacher myself, I feel I must inform you that one should be very careful in making unsubstantiated allegations about a teacher that could ultimately jeopardise the remainder of his career.

    Please re-consider your decision to post your note in light of the above.

  43. Henri Berest

    “unsubstantiated allegations”????

    Are you having a laugh?

    He is relating a story that happenned directly to himself. That’s about as strong as witness evidence can get. He is substantiating it with his own statement.

    I continually roll my eyes at some of the comments on here relating to ‘the great man/men’ who ‘taught’ at that school. The apologists for unacceptable behaviour that they feel is made more palatable by the fact that an individual is still teaching.

    Perhaps the sadistic git is still teaching, but for those of us that were on the end of his physical abuse, why should there be any understanding, forgiveness or mitigation?

    And he was by no means the worst of the bunch….try looking at a bald, sadistic, nipple-headed freak whose greatest challenge in life was to get us to call him Dr instead of Mr – as some kind of ‘earned respect’ he couldn’t get any other way.

    The VAST majority of ‘teachers’ and ‘Rabbis’ in that place would be in prison today if they attempted to repeat the daily abuses that happened in our day. Try putting that into context.

  44. Daniel Greenspan

    A short while back, we watched a DVD of old ‘Rainbow’ episodes, that came free with the Sunday Times. I thought the kids might like it.

    What I’d long forgotten is that, as well as a fair amount of the ‘Zippy & Bungle’ routine, there are also ‘slice of life’ clips, showing some of the things that go on in the ‘real world’ of the 1970s.

    That particular episode showed council workmen digging a manhole in a busy road.

    Not that you’d recognize it by today’s expectations. For a start, the area wasn’t marked by those bright orange barriers. The workmen were wearing plain shirts and trousers, no fluorescent jacket, no hat. And instead of some fancy tools, they were using a gardening fork.

    It was striking. Any company working like that now would be pilloried in the press, shut down by ‘elf and safety, and sued by its workers on the first scratch. But it was considered normal and acceptable enough, in our lifetime for people to work that way…. just as it was considered normal and acceptable not only not to wear seat belts, but for cars to be sold without belts in the rear seats!

    Maybe that’s the context some are missing. Of course it would be front-page-news, career-ending, and probably also jail earning if some of what happened then were to go on today. But it’s not as if, when it happened then, it was a secret.

    Stories were told and corroborated around hundreds of Shabbat tables on a weekly basis. No doubt, a word was had, on occasion, with the governors or headmaster. But whatever happened was no less acceptable then than the way the workmen worked, which is why, only really ‘big’ stories (patent leather shoes) even made it into the JC.

    Having received a horribly disproportionate punishment from Lesser (even when he was not my teacher), and been on the wrong end of Flop’s green flash (a better option at the time, and even now, to a 1-week ban from computers), I still have to wonder whether such events prepared us for life today… whether working late into the night on your boss’s pet project that you expect to be canned within a week, or facing up to the impending pain of ingrown toenail removal (another story, that).

    Oh, and the kids didn’t like Rainbow at all. Back to TellyTubbies…

  45. Hi Henri,

    Good to hear from you again. As far as I remember, the last thing I heard, you were a serving Police Officer. Are you telling me that the law allows people to write allegations about what people have done freely on websites?

    I know that if such information were printed in the media, the defendant would have recourse to sue for libel in a Court of Law.

    The allegations that Geoffrey has made are very serious, particularly since they concern a teacher who is still working in his job. The ramifications of such allegations, were they proved to be true – and I really don’t know whether they are or not for that matter – could have a serious impact on this man’s reputation and family life.

    If Geoffrey does have such allegations to make, this is not the place to do so.

    I don’t have a problem with people poking fun of teachers and I expect the kids I teach are able to do some very funny impersonations of me – which is par for the course.

    Accusing a teacher of inviting a student to a room, locking the door and pulling the victim “uncomfortably close” whilst proceeding to “lock” his legs around him is the point at which I start to have serious concerns with the posting itself, irrespective of whether or not the information contained therein is true.

  46. Claude,

    Please take the trouble of going to Hasmo Legends V and reading the four paragraphs commencing seven paragraphs from the end (“On a rather different note . . .”).

    On the basis that Geoffrey is telling the truth (which he has assured me off-blog that he is), I don’t consider that he is breaking any law. The question of whether this is the appropriate forum (is there any other such?!) for relating one’s Hasmo experiences – good and bad – is a different one, which we could argue until the proverbial “cows come home”.

    I have a fine balancing act to perform. On the one hand, I want to encourage free and open discussion on melchett mike. On the other, I don’t want it to contravene the law, or even to become purely malicious. And, believe me, I have already edited and deleted a lot of things people have written (primarily because I considered that they crossed the bounds of taste and decency, even though I have little doubt that most of them were factually accurate).

    Moreover, a reading of About this Blog will show that I have given people who feel that their rights have been infringed a means of seeking redress (which I would then have to consider on its merits).

    The problem for many of the teachers at Hasmonean, past and still present, is that we all have very long memories . . . and they can’t all be wrong.


  47. I don’t understand how one can really think that you can compare workmen digging up a road to a child being sadistically beaten and physically abused, regardless of how long ago it was. A lot of what went on should have been reported and I am sure the appropriate punishment would have been dealt out but unfortunately no one (i.e. parents) were willing to speak up. I remember an incident and the teacher shall remain nameless where in his private lessons, he would ask the student to sit on his lap and stroke his beard. When that student eventually told his parents, all they did was stop the lessons and never took it up with the teacher or anyone else for that matter. I can only imagine they thought that they were saving both their child and themselves from embarrassment. To this day I can’t understand it and if any of my children were subjected to that, after beating 7 bells out of the perpertrator, I hope the authorities would let him rot in jail. This is tantamount to abuse regardless of when it occurred and should be punished. I do understand where Claude is coming from but I too suffered by the same hand and in a similar way described above by Geoffrey and there are I am sure others that can confirm the same.

  48. Daniel Greenspan


    My first point of comparison is that “The system, and the people allowed it”. Everybody knew it was going on, and no-one considered it worth putting a stop to.

    You can point the finger at individuals for their behavior, but, as the Catholic Church found out, its the organization that bears the brunt of the responsibility – especially, in that case, when behind closed doors.

    “When that student eventually told his parents, all they did was stop the lessons and never took it up with the teacher or anyone else for that matter.”

    So are those parents – or for that matter, all our parents, just as responsible for what went on? It’s not as if parents weren’t able to exert their influence on the school on other ‘important’ matters, such as 7-Eleven Slurpees.

  49. Daniel
    Without a doubt, in my opinion, our parents are responsible and I can only imagine that they allowed it to go on because they didn’t know how the punishment was really administered and also thought it would be beneficial in turning us into men. I have never ever blamed my parents for allowing it to happen but just harboured a further hatred of the “men” involved.

  50. Henri Berest

    “As far as I remember, the last thing I heard, you were a serving Police Officer.”

    Not any more Claude.

    “Are you telling me that the law allows people to write allegations about what people have done freely on websites?”

    Yes. If they are untrue then they have recourse to civil law.

    “The allegations that Geoffrey has made are very serious, particularly since they concern a teacher who is still working in his job. The ramifications of such allegations, were they proved to be true – and I really don’t know whether they are or not for that matter – could have a serious impact on this man’s reputation and family life.”

    By the very same token, by dismissing what Geoffrey says as mere allegations, you are besmirching HIS reputation.

    “If Geoffrey does have such allegations to make, this is not the place to do so.”

    Where then? Let’s be honest here, it’s not like there’s any attempt to conceal what went on there. It is pretty much a matter of record here as evidenced by a substantial number of similar stories and related personal experiences. Why be shy or reticent about it now? Perhaps you feel a more appropriate forum would be at Hyde Park Corner? This is exactly the right place Claude. This blog has become the voice of us ex-Hasmos, and I just don’t see the need to sugar-coat the reality/barbarity of what went on in that asylum.

    “I don’t have a problem with people poking fun of teachers and I expect the kids I teach are able to do some very funny impersonations of me – which is par for the course. Accusing a teacher of inviting a student to a room, locking the door and pulling the victim “uncomfortably close” whilst proceeding to “lock” his legs around him is the point at which I start to have serious concerns with the posting itself, irrespective of whether or not the information contained therein is true.”

    So………because one is a teacher and has ‘so much more to risk’ they should be somehow immune from the truth? Shouldn’t you be more concerned at what the child was being put through? It is gratifying to see how defensive you are of those in your own profession, but surely by your line of argument nobody should ever accuse a police officer of being corrupt.

    The facts here are simple – one story after another recounting events of violence, bulling and intimidation carried out by teachers/rabbis at that school. Abuse is abuse…and because it was widespread and so endemic that it became almost ‘acceptable’ does not make it right or correct.

    The fact that someone is still teaching is a massive strawman and utterly facile. There is enough coverage of this blog to ensure that the teachers are no doubt aware of its existence. I would’t be at all surprised if some of them read it. If there was anything here that they felt was untrue or libelous – then let them act on it. The reality is that the deafening silence tells its own story.

    Sanctimonious defence of those pricks is in my mind indefensible.

  51. Geoffrey Hollander

    Claude – you are blowing this way out of all proportion. At the time I did not consider it abuse, and I continued to be in his class up to and including 6th form without a thought of an allegation.

    This was just a very clear memory of how a teacher used to disclipline his pupils. Clearly what was acceptable then may seem incomprehensible now. But is it any worse than Chich calling people spastics, or Walters thowing chairs at pupils, which has all been well documented, but equally as disgusting in today’s world.

    Flop’s disciplining methods were well known at the time, even if you didn’t go through it. It wasn’t reserved for me, as Alan has already suggested, and he was quite proud of it, probably to serve as deterrent for others.

    Whilst I might question the quality of his teaching and disciplining, I certainly wish him no personal harm and wish to make totally clear that I have no feelings or allegations whatsoever of abuse in the technical sense that we are all so paranoid of in today’s society.

  52. Geoffrey, thank you for that.

    Henri, it is you who misunderstand my comments. I am not providing “sanctimonious defense”. I am simply stating that, from a professional point of view, I have serious issues with what is being written. I would feel exactly the same way were this to be written about any teacher.

    Just like you felt (or maybe felt) a need to defend fellow Police Officers, I too cannot stand idly by when reading such comments about fellow members of my profession.

  53. Claude, what are you on about? Henri is saying quite the opposite . . . that he would not defend fellow police officers willy-nilly. The fact that you are a teacher is a complete irrelevance. Or are you prepared to blindly defend other teachers simply because they are teachers? If you were a doctor, would you have defended Harold Shipman? Or a school caretaker, Ian Huntley? Your argument, if not “sanctimonious”, is quite ludicrous.

  54. …….and yet still, no-one, anywhere, has been able to explain the difference between Centriphrrwhul Force, and CentriPERwhurr Force.

  55. Mike,

    I am not defending Dr F. I am just commenting on the appropriateness of what has been written. It is a shame that some of you feel the need to attack me for simply trying to present my point of view.

    Using examples of Shipman and Huntley to illustrate your point is both disingenuous and frankly ridiculous.

  56. Henri Berest


    Sorry mate, but I really think you’re acting a little blinkered here.

    The attack was not personal – it was against YOUR attack against the appropriatness of the Original Post.

    You have misunderstood my points completely, and when Mike has tried to clarify them with you, using quite reasonable examples, you still miss the point.

  57. Claude, stop playing the fool. My analogy, even if on the extreme side, is perfectly clear.

  58. Can we get back to the original topic please?

    Poor old Flop, his experiments did flop but it wasn’t always his fault. I remember a long term experiment consisting of a length of wire with a weight at the end. The idea was to leave it for weeks and deduce some kind of expansion coefficient or somesuch based on the increased length of the wire and then I assume compare it with the theoretical value. His mistake was to leave it unguarded in the physics lab. After standing on the weight for a while I concluded that his experiment would fail but unfortunately wasn’t in the class that analysed the results.

    Flop did have a point beyond which anything could happen if you pushed him so it was far more entertaining to observe the results than participate in them but hats off to those who pushed too far more than once.

    He taught my brother private lessons at home for a Physics O Level and I remember being rather embarrassed when he popped his head into my bedroom and can’t have failed to see the Daily Star pinups on the wall :))

    As a Physics teacher, he got me through my O and A levels so I can’t complain.


  59. Jeremy Cardash

    The only male teacher I can recall never hitting or humiliating a boy was St Jonny Boker. Maybe because most of us were bigger than him, or maybe, as I suspect, he had a rather large spark of humanity. Truth is the religious studies, science and maths teachers (maybe sport as well) were disproportionately (with exceptions) more psychotic than the rest.
    We all witnessed teachers abusing pupils, physically and verbally. There is no denying what they did was illegal even if it was acceptable behavior in the 70’s and 80’s. As far as I know there is no statute of limitations for punishing Hasmo teachers.
    I have seen current, former and dead Hasmo teachers do their worst. I was slippered, slapped and pinched just like everybody else.
    I suppose it’s the Hasmo Boys philosophy/therapy just to repeat stories at any given opportunity and laugh about them.

  60. As far as I’m concerned, looking back, baiting teachers was both sport and an outlet for boys’ excess need for risk/fun, which go together.

    Humiliating and disrespecting supposed adults/experts/figures of authority was a great outlet. One learned much about human nature and judgement. Without it, lessons would have been impossibly tedious. It was a right of passage.

    Coming back to Jeremy’s points about abuse and brutality, very few got beaten up for no fault of their own. It was a lesson for those boys who indulged in the art of risks and consequences. I had the dubious pleasure of many slipperings, slappings, pinchings, etc, both in private and public and if I’m honest, I probably deserved them. Can many say otherwise? It was a game.

    The only ‘abuse’ that still gets up my nose even today was Osher Baddiel making me wash my mouth out with soap for saying “bloody”. What a c*nt!

    It’s all about discipline. No discipline, no learning. See current British public education for the results.


  61. Jeremy Cardash

    Uri, we deserved being punished there is no doubt about it, but the physical and even verbal abuse, in my humble opinion, was a consequence of frustrated, undertrained, old school teachers who used violence to relieve their frustration, and in certain cases, I am sure, their pent up sexual desires.
    I once saw an OFSTED report that blamed certain behavioral problems on the fact that the pupils were bored and certain teachers simply did nothing to inspire them.
    It’s a human reaction for those weaker than us to attack others as a result of their own failures and insecurities.

  62. Daniel Tarlow

    Jeremy et al,

    Firstly i am not convinced that your comment above about the physical abuse being illegal at the time in the 70’s or early 80’s is true. I believe that about 1983 the slipper, cane etc, became illegal.

    Secondly, i think that your comment as well as others above about the level of competance of teachers and about the physical or verbal abuse that was dished out is slightly incorrect. I fully agree that the level of teaching was often appauling – Jonny Boker one of the few Tzadikim in the school.

    But i think as parents we can all agree that we experience many moments, or even hours of frustration with our children, where we make comments to our children that could be as equally abusive as were made to us in school. This is our outpouring of frustration and as both a former (Jewish) secondary school teacher and parent i can say that the emotions are very similar if not the same.

    Even if we are only using words such as ‘stupid’ towards our children on a regular basis to describe their behaviour this could well be viewed as verbal abuse nowadays. And I think that those people who are careful with the way they speak are mainly doing so because of the modern day PC ideas in society and the way that we are generally allowed to speak about people, ethnic groups etc, and that had we not been living in this day and age we would probably also use similar language to the way our parents and teacher spoke to us.

    I am not trying to defend all of the things that happened, and i do understand that many people had a very bad time at hasmo, but it is also true that we should not judge all of the people until we are in their place/shoes.

    I prefer to remember the fun that I and many others had at the expense of these poor souls!!! And I am quite sure that many of my pupils had a few laughs at my expense as well…… and i hope they enjoyed that and grew from the experience.

  63. Rabbi Dan Tarlow (aka Marje Proops) –

    In private professional practice , and in business, we all have to be grown-ups and control our frustrations. No other option. If we’re anything less than polite – let alone abusive – to clients and customers, they’ll desert us in favour of our numerous competitors, and we’ll be left impecunious, with only ourselves to thanks.

    Why should teachers on the one hand, demand greater respect than mere businesspeople (when did a client last call me “Sir”, or put his hand up before demanding my attention?), yet on the other, be entitled to mete out derision, sarcasm, and physical violence to those to whom they are supposed to provide a service?

    Of course there were some true pros among the Hasmo staff, even in the 1970-80s. But there was also a large contingent of underdeveloped Peter Pans, individuals who had never outgrown their own schooboy immaturities, and were incapable of realising how blatantly their lack of self-control, exposed the paucity of their professional standards.

  64. Daniel Greenspan

    Dan Gins,

    I couldn’t let that one go.

    “In private professional practice, and in business, we all have to be grown-ups and control our frustrations. No other option.”

    You clearly have never been in an Israeli taxi, nor worked with the average Israeli Kablan.

    Also in the polite UK, there are professions such as football coach, stock trader (until recently), shock radio DJ (until recently), Union Leader (until Thatcher) etc. where agression and rudeness seem to be essential.

    And the rote, “I’m sorry sir, but I can’t help you”, is often nothing more than a polite way of saying “piss off” to someone who you certainly could help, if you only gave a shit about them!

    Mike – I think you made a critical slip with this article. You should have written two separate ones – one where the “it was all so wrong… so unacceptable” people can comment to each other, and another where all the “life’s tough… it was part of life” people can do the same!

    By the way – correcting a previous post of mine – I think it was Gerry who came up with the line about maths students needing to be in Yeshiva Stream, not OYB.

    For all that people have to say about O.Y.Baddiel, he did impress me with the consistency between his teaching and his personal life. On repairing one of his son’s calculators (creep…), I received a painstakingly hand-written thankyou note from them. It wasn’t that he vented frustrations on schoolkids… that was simply his view on education.

  65. Daniel Tarlow

    Dan Gins,

    Are you sure you were really at hasmo, i definitely never learnt to write english to that level – i even found it hard to work out what you meant all the time!!!!

    The problem is that teachers are not taught to be business people. To a large extent your clientele is assumed and especially in a state jewish school where there is or was little competition for the pupils to go elsewhere your client base is a dedicated assumed returning customer – an almost perfect business, no matter what level of service you give.

    Now things have changed – i blame Thatcher!!! And schools do see themselves in a more competitive role, but I was rarely taught to apply good business practice to the school enviroment, definitely not in the way I do as a self employed therapist in Israel. And dont forget there is also a much greater financial benefit for working hard and providing great service in business that you cannot achieve in schools.

    If I were the best teacher in my school i could still not go to another school and demand a six figure fee or large signing on fee to join another school. Which is something that a business man could do when they prove that they are successful. The same for accountants, lawyers, doctors, etc. You can charge a bit more for private maths lessons perhaps but the amount of money and time required are not even comparable.

    So you have to also look at the negative business side of teaching, there is absolutely no incentive to a teacher to become excellent. You will move up the ladder of responsibility and be paid more but again this is limited and not comparable to a similar position managing a private law firm etc. There are very few positions in a school that award salaries that most middle class people would expect to earn after 10 or 15 years in a job.

    I can also tell you that i doubt that you get the sort of insults, derision and embarrasment made of you by your clients on a regular basis for just walking in to a room. Even in a very good private school, where very few things happened which were comparable to events at Hasmo, pupils are always out to have a go at teachers and have a laugh. And I dont mind that too much they are kids, as we were, and want to have fun. It is great when you can laugh with them. But there are many times when insults and comments are thrown out at you as a teacher which can be very hurtful and a great personal challange to deal with even for people with a good positive self image, let alone the ones with poor self esteem.

    Dan, one of the reasons that certain demands are made of pupils is that they are still at the end of the day often (immature) young people who need a level of discipline to stop them spending most of the day playing football, betting, penny up the wall or creating havoc. It was quite unbelievable how often a small group of children could not walk across a building quietly and in single file so as not to disturb other classes!! Although I did have fun marching these groups around the school during break time! Was that sadistic, abusive, i do not think so. Was it frstrating for me, definitely, was it challenging equally. But i bet you rarely have to do that with your clients, who should be mature adults capable of sensible discussions most of the time.

    So dealing with children and business people is an entirely different world. Again it was a different world in the 70’s and 80’s and I would also be interested to hear what the business world was like in those days as well. I am sure it was different from the way it is today and people were treated differently with less emphasis on individual care and quality of service. How were customers treated in those days. Just to compare the changes how have the public transport industries changed over the last 20-30 years. Buses, trains, London Underground – at least there is an idea that customers who have to use the systems have rights and should be treated in certain ways. This was not the way of things when we queued up for the 240!!!!

  66. Dan Greenspan – Israelis (taxi drivers in particular), UK football coaches, financial traders, radio DJs and the like…..they all have to be able to TAKE AS GOOD AS THEY GIVE. It’s a two-way street!

    Whereas, until someone fired up his laptop in Melchett Street in January 2009, and said, let me introduce a legend, no-one had a means to retaliate against the Hasmo junta of the 70s-80s.

    It was all teacher insult and threaten pupil, pupil shut up, or teacher hurt pupil. A ONE-WAY STREET. And I for one, think that the teachers should have risen above that, if they had possessed any self-respect, or sense of professional pride.

  67. Jonathan Blitz

    As a pupil of the school I, like everyone else, had my favourite and less-favourite teachers.

    I must admit that Jack was probably at the top of my favourites list.

    Despite what everyone says I do remember when Jack took a lower stream for maths. The result was a disaster for us in the A-stream. I managed a massive 50% in the end of year exams.

    It was he who gave me the love of maths and also the love of learning (especially gemorah).

    Everyone has their own experiences though I think it would be safe to say that there are one or two teachers that would be included on the top of everyone’s teachers-to-be-avoided list.

  68. I liked Jack too. He never taught me math but we (Yeshiva Stream) did have a “lesson” with him every Sunday.

    It would begin with him asking us a general knowledge question which invariably was as to why we have a new fruit or item of clothing on the second day of some festivals. We’d take it in turns to answer and so satisfied with the breadth of our knowledge we’d go over to a “general discussion” which consisted of a 30 minute debate often between me and him. He was quite bright, and open minded in the sense that he would listen to what you were saying though I’m sure he never conceded many points.

    One Sunday I was annoyed with him, I can’t remember why, and refused to argue. He tried to tempt me, “I suppose that Marks will say that what I’m saying is just superstition..” but on that day I said nothing and the lesson was less successful.

    Looking back with the perspective of time it occurs to me:

    1. He, of course, had absolutely nothing prepared for the lesson.

    2. It must have been incredibly boring for my classmates – I apologize.

    3. It was one of my favorite lessons of the week.

    I don’t remember him as being particularly violent. He used to squeeze our hands, but it was done in humor and never hurt much.

  69. Jonathan Blitz

    I do remember he used to pinch our cheeks and was also a great shot with a piece of chalk!
    If I remember correctly didn’t he have a plimsoll that he would use on a errant backside once in a while?

  70. does anyone else remember Dr.Finkelstein saying “tough”?

  71. Like it was yesterday, David. How did we miss that one? Well remembered!

  72. Did anyone ever hear about the great Hasmonean Jewel Robbery?

    In the early sixties 3 guys in the fifth form got into a car, drove up to a prominent jeweller’s
    shop in Golders Green, and walked in there wearing gas-masks.

    They just stood there for about 30 seconds, then left the shop running, headed back to the car and drove back to school. At the time, nobody understood how they got back to school safely; the targetted shop had already been robbed a number of times, and the police had orders to ram the car. Obviously, they were too late.

    The story (unverified) goes that Willie Stanton z”l tore them off a strip, and when they’d left his
    study he burst out laughing.

  73. “Sir, there is this boy . . .”

    I received an email from an ex-Hasmo, yesterday evening, consisting of the following:

    “Call me urgently I have THE FUNNIEST story to tell you”

    The “story”, it transpires, is of this boy driving past Holders Hill Road, last week, and seeing a procession of hundreds of people walking from the school gate in the direction of North Hendon Adass.

    Thinking it must have been Yom Ha’atzmaut, and spotting Flop, this boy – over 25 years (no less) after leaving Hasmonean – felt the uncontrollable urge to wind down his window and yell at the top of his voice (though I suspect the claimed 30 second duration may be exaggerated):

    “Urrrrrrrrrgggggghhh . . . Floppppppppp!!!”

    This boy was met with a look from the Doctor of complete disdain, which became even clearer when this boy was informed that the crowds were there to mark the passing of Rabbi Cooper z”l.

    Now, I write this not to glorify this boy’s idiocy and loutishness, but to request that this boy and/or any witnesses come forward, even anonymously, to confirm or deny the above.

    Clearly, you can take (though, in his case, “throw” may be the more appropriate adjective) this boy out of Hasmonean, but you can’t take the Hasmonean out of this boy.

  74. I was at the levaya, and didn’t notice any such incident; nor indeed did I spot the Good Salivating Doctor there, but then again the crowd was (deservedly) very large.

    If he had been, then the chain from the North Hendon Adass gates would have been round Komputerstein’s neck, not hanging on the gatepost.


  75. What follows is fact and I am so wrapped with guilt and self-loathing that I am both embarrassed and simply far too ashamed of myself to disclose my identity.

    Sunday lunch time, prior to Yom Hurts My Foot, I was driving past the school only to view a packed front playground awash with young and old unstable froomers alike. A mass of bad breath, there was however great disparity between the unhealthy looking skinny youngsters (some of whom’s skin had never seen a ray of sunshine in their lives) and the wildly overweight black hatted oldies (wearing filthy and ill-fitting three-piece suits where not one garment was the same shade of black) with beards full of Bisley and old snot. That said, procession like, they were all facing towards the shule and towering above the lot of them was Dr Lionel (DON’T SIR ME) Finklestien. I felt compelled to grab his attention and without a further thought screamed at the top of my voice ‘URGH – FLOPPPPPPPP’ for what seamed like an eternity (though was probably only 10 seconds). He glared at me (along with the entire hidium) with utter distain, though a number of years on, and with far less hair, he was unable to recognise who the errant wretch in question was.

    Oh how I laughed to myself as I drove off. How puerile. How immature. But how very funny.

    But then laughter quickly turned to tears as I noticed a site which turned my blood cold.

    It was not a YHM gathering at all but a funeral procession – following the car of the none other great, and now late, De Rebbe Cooper !

    So much for Olom Huboh.

  76. Ah, I have just read Michael’s version of events (three comments above) and equally Dan Gins’ denial. Dan, you know what happens to deniers don’t you ! I myself was not at the funeral, but I was outside school and the events are indeed true.

  77. As a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales, I can confirm anonymous’s propensity!

    And, for a sizeable donation to Norwood (or just to me), I will gladly “out” anonymous as the wretched creature that he is!!

  78. As a wretched creature (that I am), I can confirm Michael’s pomposity!

    And, for a sizeable donation to Norwood, I will gladly “out” Michael as the raving homosexual that he is!!

  79. You’re treading on thin ice, ****** . . . my mother could have a sleepless night over that!

  80. In one of Flop’s computer studies classes, he was busy writing on the white board and from behind him we were constintly sniggering.

    He was irritated by it and kept telling us to stop, but the sniggering continued. Eventually he turned round to see Yehuda K. (I think it was) sitting in the Lotus position humming away.

    Very funny.

    I can’t remember who else was in the class at the time, if you were please let me know.
    Hadassah, I think Mordi was. Please can you check for me??? Thanks.

    More Funny Flop stories to follow….

  81. Daniel Greenspan

    I happen to be somewhat related to Jack Ordman, and at a family simcha last week, took the opportunity to bring up this blog with him…

    He said that he’d read it, and had no problem with anything written there about him – except – for one “mistruth”. He feels maligned by the description that “Ordman only took on the ‘challenge’ of the A group.”.

    I did mention to him that this assertion had been challenged in some of the comments, and invited him to contribute – which he said he wouldn’t do (nothing Baddiel-esque about that, just the generation gap).

    In the hope that I heard him accurately above the din of the band, his recollection of events is that he was generally prevailed upon (by the headmaster?) to take the A group, as there was often no-one else qualified to take students who would go on to A-level (of course, that didn’t seem to be an issue for most other subjects ‘taught’ in Hasmo).

    With this new detail (and no pressure has been brought to bear on me, familial or otherwise), perhaps a re-wording is in order?

  82. Thank you, Daniel, but – even if he was “prevailed upon” – doesn’t Jack’s “recollection of events” just serve to confirm mine (i.e., that he “only took on the ‘challenge’ of the A group”)?

    How would the fact that “there was often no-one else qualified to take students who would go on to A-level” have prevented Jack from teaching the O-level B group, for instance?

    If anything, that might have encouraged and enabled some B group pupils to progress to the A-level (in our year, I am not sure that any did . . . a pretty sad state of affairs, in my view).

    None of which, of course, takes away from the fact that “Uncle” Jack was one of Hasmo’s few decent teachers (and, indeed, human beings) . . .

  83. I read the entire blog, I found it unbelievable (not literally, I hasten to add)… very amusing!

    But, I must take issue with some of you who feel you were wronged at Hasmo… is it pity you all want? (maybe justice?)

    Well… Let me momentarily cast a dark shadow over your rainbow coloured dreams and tell it as it is… This is what happens in the wonderful contemporary world of the dunlop-less Hasmo… (based on experiences in the mid 90’s)

    The following has been estimated by intelligent (ehhhm…) guess by no less than 4 Hasmo pupils:

    1. The vast majority of students were bullied daily by other students.

    2. Non-Jewish teachers initially enter Hasmo thinking “Oh, Jewish people, how lovely!”… And come out thinking “What a bunch of Jewish c**ts!”

    3. An academic year is considered to be a disappointment by a significant group of the student body if not a single teacher suffers a nervous breakdown.

    4. (Girls school…) Half the girls school bully a highly qualified Oxford-trained teacher one day and cry like Britney on LSD when they find out the next day that he passed away due to a sudden heart attack.

    5. (Back to the boys…) The school bully receives a prize for good behaviour if he goes two weeks without beating up another student or a teacher.

    6. Teacher turnover is very high… Expertise does not accumulate… Do you think this is a good thing?

    7. Students feel like they are in prison, not because of the teachers, but because of the students… A student can hit another student, under the nose of Dr L.F. (G-d bless him!), and the great man can do nothing about it.

    I could go on, but I will stop by asking (and answering):

    Dunlops in 1970’s Hasmo… Did the ends justify the means?

    DAMN RIGHT THEY DID! (in my humble opinion)

    Pity? Envy, more like.

    I guess the debate could be generalised… Britain needs an open debate on whether or not the cane should be brought back. If not, then there should at least be a Montessory-style hall room for all the kids who want “an easy day”, and this way everyone who wants to study (and teach) can do so without disturbance.


  84. “’80s Sexual Abuse . . . A tall, imposing [male] with a black goatee” named “Finklestein”

    It’s finally out there!!


  85. One short anecdote about Dr Flop that still makes me laugh today.

    The physics lesson policy was as follows: any boy who did not do his homework was punished with two “order marks” (four of which would result in detention) one for not handing in the work and one for not doing it .

    After several weeks of receiving two order marks per week I discovered a legal loophole : I would hand in my blank exercise book thereby (or so I thought at the time) getting only one order mark for not doing the homework but avoiding punishment for not handing it in.

    Needless to say the good doctor did not see things this way, I recall being concerned that he would actually suffer some serious ill effects to his health due to the extreme rage exhibited when I calmly explained my legal position and demanded only one order mark instead of the traditional two.

  86. He must have choked on his barbecue Bissli. Did you get a good yanking?

  87. I cannot exactly recall the details of what happened next but i do remember running faster than I ever have before or since (including during my time in the IDF ) through the corridors of the science block , although that might have been due to an unrelated incident.

  88. The following video, WhatsApp’d to me yesterday evening, captures our former biology teacher – and later Hasmo Deputy Head – in all his Joughin-ness . . .

    Thank you to Paulie Herszaft for forwarding, Daniel Greenspan for uploading to YouTube (for this tech idiot), and to the Legendary Corneys for giving cause!

    If you are reading this, Mr. Joughin (as I am sure you at some point will), any chance of Hasmo Legends XXX: Leave It A-lone?! I know it would be a huge hit, and you would be accorded full editorial control. melchettmike@gmail.com, should you be open to discussing.

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