Hasmo Legends XIV: Conversations with Osher

[Followed by Osher: The Postscript (featuring melchett mike‘s Osher Poll)]

A couple of hours after posting Hasmo Legends XIII: A Legend (Osher) Strikes Back, I received a phone call from a fellow ex-Hasmo Tel Avivi (single, no dogs) who couldn’t believe the coup of having Osher Baddiel on melchett mike:

“If you could have chosen anyone,” Jonny said excitedly, “Osher would have been in the top five . . . perhaps even the top one!”

And over two hundred comments in three weeks is testament to the fact that – agree with his views or disagree, and whether you liked him at Hasmo or not – Osher Baddiel is almost the definition of a legend: “a person about whom unauthenticated tales are told” (The Concise Oxford Dictionary).

Much of my initial, 45-minute telephone conversation with – or, more accurately (for the first twenty minutes or so), lecture from – Osher (see Hasmo Legends XIII: The Background below the main post) centered on the right to exist. Not of Israel. But of Hasmo Legends. According to Osher (I hope Mr. Baddiel will forgive the impertinence . . . it is how we all knew him), the series is a necessary evil which encourages only mischief and is causing only hurt: “A fat lot of kiddush Hashem it is doing.” And he repeatedly urged me to remove all posts and comments at once: “Close it. Kill it. Bye-bye.” (But Osher’s unambiguous views on the subject are there for all to read, and rehashing them here serves no useful purpose.)

When (during the initial barrage) I managed to get a word in edgeways, I informed Osher that my motives for penning Hasmo Legends were anything but malicious – I had a lot of warm and amusing memories of Hasmonean, and had been amazed to find little or nothing written about the institution on the Web. I told him that if he would actually read my posts (and turn a blind eye to the odd indiscretion), he might even find them amusing and of merit. In spite of having an Internet connection, however, Osher seemed intent not to be seen to be condoning the series, the blog, or their author (though he did eventually concede that I was “not a bad fellow”, but had just “made a very silly mistake”).

It is Osher’s disapproval of Hasmo Legends, and of melchett mike, which makes the fact of his posting all the more startling, according both a certain degree of ‘official’ approval which they did not previously have. Of course, I had no intention of telling him that. And his express precondition for posting, that I refrain from editing his words, was entirely superfluous. I had no intention! Whilst chosen to damn me – and my fellow “overgrown babies” – those words merely incriminated their author and, in many ways, Hasmo’s former religious ‘elite’. Indeed, they are a far better record of the ethos of Hasmonean Grammar School for Boys than our cumulative testimonies. And, every time I read them, I am taken back to the pottiness of those musty, dilapidated classrooms.

However surprising the fact of his posting, it confirms Osher’s status as Hasmo’s primary maverick. Excluding the posts of Tony Pearce – who only had a cameo (however unique) in the carry-on that was Hasmonean – and a brief comment from Clive Fierstone, no other Hasmo Legend has had the courage or imagination to rear his head. We hardly expected DJ or Jerry Gerber to speak out, but one of the renegade English department, for example, could quite easily have done so without jeopardising a Golders Green shtiebl membership (in spite of his son being a regular contributor to melchett mike, unearthing information on Nazi war criminals has proved a simpler task than obtaining anything whatsoever on Jeff Soester).

I tried telling Osher that comments to Hasmo Legends indicate that the Hasmonean experiences of many ex-pupils (certainly many more than I would have imagined) were far from idyllic (and again, far further than I would have believed). Osher dismissed out of hand, however, the “online therapy” justification for the series.

When I brought up the issue of corporal punishment, Osher responded that “there was very little malice” at Hasmonean, that “those things were done in those days”, and that “sometimes a kid gets what’s coming to him”. Indeed, much of the violence in today’s society, Osher believes, stems from children no longer being physically disciplined at school: “Children don’t know what physical hurt means, so they do it to others when they leave.” And “the Torah,” Osher argues, “doesn’t say it is wrong to hit a child”.

I was longing, however, to get to the two matters of most interest to me: Osher’s attitudes towards Israel/Zionism, and to his celebrity rent-a-Jew cousin David Baddiel (who, on telly, always seemed oddly willing to play the role of a Jewish Uncle Tom).

I started by quizzing Osher about the truth of a comment to melchett mike, that he had asked a pupil who attended school on Yom Ha’Atzmaut in a blue and white striped shirt why he was “wearing an Auschwitz uniform”. “Not me,” replied Osher, “I would never have said that.” What Osher did, however, volunteer was his recollection – following a talk with Sixth Formers on some aspect of (what he considered to be) “chilul shabbes in Eretz Yisroel” – of the scrawling on a classroom wall: “Osher, Hitler would have loved you!”

Osher’s views on Israel – to a Sheinkin dweller at least – do seem rather extreme: “If you don’t keep Torah mitzvos, you have no right to it.” Osher further decries the arrogance of chiloni Israelis, who “think they can defend themselves without Avinu She’bashomayim.” And he is certain that Israel only continues to exist because of God’s help, much of which has been “undeserved” and given “on credit”.

Far from being totally detached from the State, however, Osher’s mother and son live here, and he certainly has a finger on Israel’s pulse, commenting on the evils of certain “parades” (he didn’t need to specify which) and that so-called human rights groups, B’tselem and Shalom Achshav, are “terrible enemies of the Jewish people”.

When I asked Osher whether he had any sympathy for Neturei Karta and the individuals who met with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran, he replied that he was “dead against them” and that they were so out of touch that “even the Arabs don’t use them for propaganda”.

In spite of having it on my to ask list, I decided not to bring up Osher’s alleged ‘assault’ on Norman Kahler, as witnessed by various commenters to melchett mike. If I can be forgiven for the Khaled Mashaal impression, it sounded very much like Norman – with his endless “Zionist provocations” – had it coming to him!

I did, however, ask Osher whether he had really washed boys’ mouths out with soap. No denials there: “It was no more treif than what had come out of them. And they never swore again.” In front of him, at any rate.

Osher's Cuz

Osher's cuz, Dave

My curiosity as to Osher’s relationship with his author/TV presenter (he is no more a comedian than Osher) relative, David Baddiel (right), stems from my recollection of the latter – in a desperate, failed attempt to draw Osher into a 2004 episode of the BBC genealogy series Who Do You Think You Are? – making some cringeworthy reference to his ultra-Orthodox cousin whilst standing outside a Golders Green bagel bakery. Osher recalled how the documentary’s producer had spent two and a half hours in his Stamford Hill home, over tea, trying to persuade him to participate. Even the very little Osher knew about David – including the “goyishe girlfriend” – was sufficient to persuade him that it could only come to no good. And David’s boasting of his partiality for seafood confirmed to Osher that he had made the correct decision. As he put it, in true Osher style: “Even goyim don’t eat oysters!” Anyhow, it seems that a wider Baddiel family Rosh Hashanah reunion may not be on the cards.

Towards the end of our first conversation, Osher enquired as to my marital status. On hearing of my singularity, he proceeded to impart similar advice to that which I receive daily from my dear mother. Following his “parades” reference, I was longing to reassure Osher – though why I don’t know – that I am not gay.  But I couldn’t quite summon up the courage or the appropriate wording (I mean, would I have gone for “gay”, “homosexual” . . . or something rather more “feigele”-like?)

Osher then enquired as to my level of religious observance. I gulped (even though I knew it was coming). “Are you sure you want me to tell you?” He did. And I told him. “Of course you believe in the Ribono Shel Olom,” Osher assured me, “you are just estranged from him. It is just that you have seen things in your life that you didn’t like.” (At the risk of reinforcing your views on modern Israel, Osher, what I forgot to tell you is that I was the first person in my company – of over nine hundred employees – to challenge the big boss and put a mezuzah on my office door. My deference to the Big Boss, even if born of superstition, perhaps means that I am not such an apikores after all.)

My “joker” for Osher was the thorny issue of charedi service – or, rather, the lack of it – in the IDF. But I might as well not have played it. “The Shulchan Oruch and the Rambam,” he assured me, allow for “Torah learners to be left alone.”

“Anyway,” said Osher, “frum Jews have never got a good press, because we’re outlandish and strange.”

I couldn’t argue with that. I had, however, enjoyed talking – or, rather, for the most part, listening– to Osher. And I must have asked him about five times whether I could have “just one more question”. In spite of Osher repeatedly saying that he “would like to keep up the contact” (I would too), I had the strong feeling that I had to make the most of this audience because he might not speak to me so freely again.

Defending his position on corporal punishment, Osher had commented: “Fashions change. Values don’t. Because they come from Hashem . . . and He doesn’t change.”

Pithy and brilliant.

What a shame, I thought, that this man – who most definitely has something to say (even if I might not always agree with it) – didn’t teach me at Hasmo, instead of the various muppets . . . who had nothing to.

[I took contemporaneous handwritten notes of my telephone conversations with Osher Baddiel with his express knowledge and consent, and on the clear understanding that I would be using them to accurately document them. I did not amend the above post in the light of the following.]

…..

Osher: The Postscript (featuring melchett mike‘s Osher Poll)

During my drive home from work, on Monday, I had two “missed calls” from a UK telephone number. I called back. It was Osher Baddiel. He asked me to remove his post from melchett mike. I listened to the reasons for his request – essentially, the nature of the comments it had engendered – whilst remaining purposely non-committal.

The following day, after receiving a message from Osher on my answer machine – seeking confirmation that I had removed the post as requested – I sent him the following by e-mail:

Dear Mr. Baddiel,

I just heard your voice message.

After spending the evening thinking it over, I have decided not to remove your post from the blog. You expressly agreed that I post it, and – with the greatest respect – I will not remove it because you don’t like the resulting discussion. I will, however, consider removing or editing specific comments.

I had already (i.e., before your telephone call of yesterday) written a further post about our conversations, which I told you I would and which I intend to post. If you would like me to send it to you first, I will be happy to and to take into consideration your response. Anyway, I think you will find it to be – in the main – flattering and positive.

As I have mentioned to you, many, many ex-Hasmos have found the Hasmo Legends series to be extremely beneficial, and not just mere entertainment.

I am not e-mailing because I wish to avoid talking to you, but because I fear it would end in an argument. And I don’t wish to get into that situation with you. Our world views are very different. I will talk about the law and rights. And you will talk about Torah.

Even though I didn’t really get to know you during my Hasmo days, I respect you and your forthrightness. And I would still like to meet you some day soon, even though I understand that I might now be jeopardizing that . . . or that I am likely, at the very least, to get a “putch” for my disobedience!

Yours respectfully,

Mike

I addressed Osher’s reply of that same afternoon, written between paragraphs of the above, on a similarly piecemeal basis (my explanations of the context, where necessary, in square brackets):

  • I listened carefully [to your request] and very intentionally did not make any “promises” of the kind [that I would remove the post].
  • You are of course “entitled to ask for it back”, but – in terms of the general law – I don’t believe that I am obliged to remove it. This is made even clearer by the terms and conditions of my blog (see https://melchettmike.wordpress.com/about-this-blog/).
  • Your post has had 3,145 ‘hits’ to date. Since November of last year, my blog has had 128,378. These statistics hardly support your contention [that the post has “breathed life into” melchett mike and that I “wish to exploit” it “to engender more interest”] (though you are of course free to think as you please).
  • I have no desire to get into a personal war of words, but your post makes it abundantly clear that you are not afraid of hurting people’s “feelings”. [re Osher, once again, accusing contributors to melchett mike of this]
  • The e-mail at the bottom of this page [seeking, and obtaining, your confirmation I could post the draft] makes it quite clear that there were no such “false pretences” involved. [re Osher’s claim that his post was obtained under such]

Just as you have no wish do get into a public “scrum”, I have no wish to get into a private one. You sent me a post. I posted it. I do not believe that I am under any obligation, moral, legal, or otherwise (we are not at school anymore), to unpost it.

If you wish to appeal via the blog, feel free to do so. They are not all “foulmouthed cretins”.

Still respectfully,

Mike

It may sound a little harsh, but the bottom line is this . . . melchett mike is a blog (see the link above). It is not the Hasmonean School Magazine Online. If it were, none of you would be reading it. I am an ex-journalist, and (believe it or not) take my blog reasonably seriously. And, whilst it didn’t “make” melchett mike as Osher seems to think, receiving a post from him was (as I wrote in the first paragraph above) a “coup” for Hasmo Legends. Why would I remove it?

Early on that Tuesday evening, Osher sent me his pièce de résistance (of seven hundred words no less), to which, yesterday morning, I replied as follows:

Dear Mr. Baddiel,

In spite of the deeply insensitive things that you wrote about me in your post to the blog, I went out of my way to refrain from attacking you personally. But you fail to accord me the same courtesy. How ironic that you write about “hurting people, deliberately, gratuitously” . . . and call me a “bully boy”!

You have now crossed the line, and I certainly no longer feel the need to accord you special treatment. I won’t, however, get drawn into an unseemly e-mail ‘war’.  But neither will I “tell [my] bloggers” anything. If you are as “not afraid of the truth” and “not scared of [my] bloggers” as you claim, you will have no objection to their seeing the e-mails you have sent me. I have nothing to hide . . . do you?

In some sense, as a result of all their comments, my Hasmo Legends series has become theirs too. And perhaps they are the ones to decide whether your post to the blog should rightfully be removed.

Mike

By prompt reply, Osher refused me permission to publish his e-mails, which I will respect (even though, from a strictly legal standpoint, I don’t believe that I require any such permission). Perhaps he considers them copyrightable works of art. In subtlety, however, they owe rather less to the school of Michelangelo than to that of Rabbi Angel (and the plank for our backsides that he christened “wacko”).

"Osher who?"

"Osher who?"

Indeed, after what he wrote in those e-mails, I have little respect left for Osher Baddiel. They were hateful, viciously abusing both me – though I am mischievously proud of my new “Rotter-in-Chief” title – and contributors to melchett mike. Osher was particularly scathing and unpleasant about my relationship with his seeming bêtes noires, Stuey (above right) and Dexxy. The great defender of former Hasmo teachers’ and Rebbes’ (suddenly) delicate sensibilities appears to have no problem assaulting those of their former pupils, too many of whom are singing from the same hymnsheet for his liking. (If Osher wishes to challenge any of this, I will gladly publish his e-mails . . . and let you be the judges.)

So, what do I take out of this whole Osher episode (apart, that is, from marvel at the man’s astonishing ability to psychically reproduce dogs)?

(Trite and banal, perhaps, but . . .) That religious extremism is bad, whatever the religion. No less than the fundamentalist imams around the corner from him, in Finsbury Park, Osher dexterously manipulates the Scriptures to suit his own arguments and ends. His post to melchett mike, e-mails, and even telephone utterances, clearly illustrate that Osher does not apply the laws of loshon hora (for example) as rigorously to himself as to others. And I have no doubt that Osher would have a most eloquent and persuasive justification for that. (It is just fortunate that Jewish texts are rather less open to pernicious interpretation than those of our Islamic cousins [though 72 virgins could always be nice].)

And there was I, wondering how many buses I would have to catch for the honour of tea with a Legend in N16 during my next visit to the “green and pleasant land” (though Stamford Hill is probably not quite what William Blake had in mind).

 

Next on Hasmo Legends, Part XV: “Polly” Sue Schneider

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40 responses to “Hasmo Legends XIV: Conversations with Osher

  1. Martin Sykes-Haas

    More good reading Mike.

    I think you’ve offered Osher more than enough respect, and in return he’s provided more than enough rope.

    His post and subsequent comments (at least as you report them) confirm the arrogance, hypocrisy and continued complete lack of respect for students (now former students) by staff that was the case when we were at the school, is alive and well.

    I think I’d better stop there…

  2. I’ve been away and haven’t been following this Osher thing from the beginning, but now that I’m reading today’s post I’d like to read Osher’s post (I’m rather enjoying the drama but feel as though I’ve missed the beginning of it).

    Could you point me to that post? There have too many follow up posts/comments since the beginning and I’m struggling to find it myself.

    Thanks!

  3. “When I brought up the issue of corporal punishment, Osher responded that “there was very little malice” at Hasmonean, that “those things were done in those days”, and that “sometimes a kid gets what’s coming to him”. Indeed, much of the violence in today’s society, Osher believes, stems from children no longer being physically disciplined at school: “Children don’t know what physical hurt means, so they do it to others when they leave.” And “the Torah,” Osher argues, “doesn’t say it is wrong to hit a child”.”

    A few points:

    1. As I explained in an earlier comment, it is wrong both from the point of view of law and the English language to describe randomly slapping, hitting or beating those who misbehave as corporal punishment. To do so would be the equivalent of murdering and calling it capital punishment: “Legal corporal punishment of school students for misbehaviour involves striking the student on the buttocks or the palm of the hand in a premeditated ceremony with an implement specially kept for the purpose such as a paddle, or with the open hand. It is not to be confused with cases where a teacher lashes out on the spur of the moment, which is not “corporal punishment” but violence or brutality, and is illegal almost everywhere.”

    2. “Sometimes a kid gets what’s coming to him” – sounds a little like what rapists say, “She was asking for it”, doesn’t it? No, not really. In the case of the rapist he normally argues that she wanted it, enjoyed it etc. It’s harder for a child-beater to make a similar claim.

    3. Osher’s falling back on the Torah is the most disgusting part of all and is an enormous desecration of G-d’s name. Suddenly he’s become a Karaite learning halacha from his sefer torah, not from gedolei yisrael who have over and over again forbidden the random the beating of children. Incidentally, wife beating is also not specifically forbidden, in that context I hope that Mrs. Baddiel has been behaving herself.

    I think it was Rabbi Shlomo Aviner when asked to comment on those who use the Hebrew equivalent of “He who spares the rod, hates his child” said that if a person loses control and then regrets it, it’s one thing. To make an ideology of it, or to do it in G-d’s name is unforgivable.

    A very peaceful and violence-free shabbat to all of us from Jerusalem.

  4. Reb Shlomo Wolbe in his Sefer Zeriah V’Boneh makes the identical point Daniel regarding “sparing the rod” and hitting children is no longer the best for the child. Though R’ Osher may well be correct that the reason that we have so many deliquents today is because corporal punishment is not legal, in todays society with todays children we could well have many more deliquents.

    30 years ago time was different and if you look at that generation of children that are now in their 40’s and general speaking they are a pretty rounded hard working bunch. We may well need Svei Petch to have helped us but todays kids would need something different.

  5. Ex hasmo, I am curious to hear your view of my stance re Osher’s request to remove . . .

  6. I actually voted in favour of keeping everything status quo. If Reb Osher initiated the whole article and its subsequent debate it can not just dissapear, this is meant as no disrespect to him but it reminds me of the old saying, that not everything thought should be said, not everything said should be written, not everything written should be published. Therefore if is was thought and not meant for eternity it should never have been written and published.

    btw- I thought your follow up and conversation with R Osher was both informative and a phenomanal piece and shows both R OSher’s true strength and yours.

    Kol HaKoved to you both
    Gut Shabbes

  7. David Kornbluth

    Don’t know why you are so concerned with Ex hasmo’s view – though i do love him.

    I for one am somewhat bored with the latest blogs (13 and 14) especially following the sh£t storm produced by the initial blog, why the need that you seemed to have to add another? May i respectfully put myself up for your ridicule and request a change of subject.

    Do you not think that grown adults should be able to come to terms with their education or lack thereof many years ago and whatever it may have entailed, as one who was slapped hard by a teacher it certainly doesn’t bother me now!

    I for one wish to read no more blogs of people justifying their lifestyle or p.o.v. in criticizing others but want to read funny stories, perhaps sad stories and definitely legendary stories.

    I for one was often told by a friend of the late Mr Reiss, my own grandfather (repeated by my mother), “If you haven’t got anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Perhaps this bears some thought!

    Disappointed.

  8. David, I value differing opinions on melchett mike, and appreciate yours. Of course it is difficult for me to be totally objective, but I am surprised that you don’t find Osher’s post/views of interest and that you were “bored with the latest blogs (13 and 14)”. Would you rather hear never-ending stories of Hasmo tomfoolery . . . and not even once the “horse’s mouth” attitudes of a senior figure who shaped the place?! If so, I find it both curious and sad . . . and, with respect, perhaps you have the wrong blog. (On a personal note, as I think you know, Sam Reiss z”l – if he is the “Mr. Reiss” you are referring to – was my grandfather. My mother, who is sitting next to me, would like to know who your grandfather is/was and if/how he was related to Nat and his father, Phillip, Kornbluth. You know Jewish mums!)

    Daniel Marks (“A very peaceful and violence-free shabbat to all of us from Jerusalem”), you settlers get more chutzpah by the week! I am all for keeping our capital “undivided”, but as for expanding it to incorporate Ma’ale Adumim . . . 😉

    And Ex hasmo, you are not the stooge I thought. Apologies.

    Good shabbes, one and all.

  9. Being of the female ilk, i never attended the boys’ school. However, Osher provided a lot of “entertainment” through my brothers and their friends. You have accorded him respect when others would have totally used this blog, were it theirs, as a weapon of character assassination – if you take the post down, what does that say about you? That you are kowtowing to demands from someone who wrote to you freely and willingly – if belligerently.

    I vote it stays – the ensuing discussion has been one of the most entertaining and enlightening on the blog so far.

    And to insult Stuey and Dexxy – no excuse.

  10. Love it, Mike.

    Could you please add a fifth category to the poll: “Publish the e-mails and be damned.”

    Oshers response showed once again how everything is ‘all about me’. Even to the reason that he wants the post removed was that he felt that ‘he’ was responsible for increased traffic.

    A pompous, bombastic, arrogant attitude that has absolutely substantiated the dozens of posts above. It did occur to me that far from him not reading the blog, by virtue of him knowing the ‘nature of these comments’, I reckon he has had a crafty peek at the very least.

    No wonder he wants the post removed. His attempt at bullying you into removing the blog has epically backfired. Rather than quieten things down, his attempts to bully you show clearly that (certainly in his case) “Values don’t change”.

    Nothing could have cleared my somewhat fuzzy recollections of some events more clearly than seeing him on this blog, re-living his hilarious attempts to impose his will on 40 and 50-somethings in 2009.

    Stroll on Osher…I’m just looking forward to your next tantrum. 😉

  11. Re-check the poll, “our” Henri. Excellent suggestion!

    I draw all of your attention to some Hasmo photographs posted on flickr. Some comments/queries . . .

    Coach to Coalbrookdale
    “What the f*ck am I doing with my life?!” Is Clive Johnson experiencing a nervous breakdown on the coach?

    Greenman
    Who posted these photos? Adrian Kelaty? If so, why has he taken a photo of a boy – from memory – three school years below him? And near the bottom of the playground. Suggestions, anyone?

    Sports Day 2
    Is that Danny Frei z”l (on the right)?

    Sports Day 1
    Jerry Gerber, Radovan Karadzic’s role model.

    2OB 1978
    How appropriate, Osher Baddiel’s form. And, even by Hasmo standards, what a motley bunch.

    Hasmo Staff 80-81
    – Could the photographer have stood any further away? Mind you, he wouldn’t have wanted to get much closer to that lot.
    – The two prize (though none for guessing who!) c***s look like their heads are falling off, Terrance and Phillip style.
    Dr Flop was obviously scared to get too close to The King . . . or was it the other way round?
    – Did Osama Bin Laden resolve to intimidate the West by taking on the appearance of a latter-day Rabbi Angel?
    – And, could this be the only existing photograph of Big Al (back row, second from right)?

  12. Mike,

    It amazes me how the need to rebel against the staff is so engrained in the Hasmonean student mentality. But what amazes me more is that the staff never get it.

    I was an avid reader for the first few months of activity on your blog, but, and I admit my guilt today, the novelty dried up and I found myself less involved. Until I heard that a teacher said it was “osor”, and I return with a vengeance. According to the number of postings, I seem to be in good company. Was this not the way we were educated… Mitch making sure no-one stressed any syllables on the school song… etc, etc… to do exactly what the staff forbid. Wouldn’t one think, after teaching in Hasmo for so many years, teachers would realize the opposite effect of their requests.

    On another note, Mike, if Osher does make further requests to remove the post that he has permitted you to publish, you may want to express your astonishment that he is not familiar with today’s Daf Yomi, which stresses the fact that once you allow something for the use of another, you cannot retract.

    Matti

  13. Warmest Rosh Hashana wishes to all contributors and objectors to, and all readers, heroes, victims, opponents and fans of Melchett Mike, particularly the Hasmonean pages. And especially to Mike, Dexxy, and Stuey. May the year ahead bring countless blessings to you all.

  14. Mike,

    Maybe its just me, and I have no affinity with Osher, but you do seem to be in breach of your own terms of service, which I read only because you quoted them, that being that any objections to posts will be treated in the strictest confidence….

  15. Thank you, JSF, though I think you are missing the point somewhat . . .

    Osher’s “objection” is to his own post! And, if you read my initial e-mail to him (above), I offered to “consider removing or editing specific comments.” I received no response from Osher in that regard.

    The clause in About this Blog most applying to Osher is: “If you are merely offended by anything herein, melchett mike may not be for you!” But the author of an inflammatory post, who then expects me to delete it because he doesn’t approve of the reaction, is hardly who I had in mind in About this Blog!

    Osher is volunteer . . . not victim.

  16. Mike,

    It sounds like you don’t allow for anyone to make mistakes. Unless of course you count you not having in mind this scenario when you wrote your clauses.

    Anyhow – maybe im missing the point – if youve offered to consider removing it, and he’s asked for you to do so, why have you spent most of this post resisting just doing that.

    I most certainly am not making him into a victim – your doing that yourself.

  17. About this Blog is, I believe, very clear and consistent. I offered to “consider removing or editing specific comments” on Osher’s post . . . not the post itself.

    JSF, if you can’t be bothered to take the time to read what I actually write – in my replies to you and/or in About this Blog – then please don’t waste my time.

    And no more stone-throwing from behind a pseudonym.

  18. Baruch Solomon

    I only just discovered your excellent blog so I hope I’m not too late to have my say about Osher Baddiel. I had him in the mornings for Chumash Rashi for two years in the late seventies, and during his many digressions, always begun with the words “y’know boys”; we became well acquainted with his particular kind brand of untra-orthodoxy which may have been forthright, bigoted or plainly absurd, but never dull.

    Far from being obsessed with anti-zionism, his eloquent discourse covered a wide range of topics, from Darwinism “Compared to evolution, Noddy is genius” to choosing a wife “you don’t wait for love or whatever the pop stars call it”; from overpopulation “it’s the biggest lie, second to evolution” to a certain incident involving Abraham’s nephew and great nieces “Lot was just a dirty old man!”

    But whatever his eccentricities and prejudices, I remained convinced that he was, and is, a decent man at heart.

    Yes, some of his comments about Israel and Zionists may have been extreme, but he did at least try to give reasons for his beliefs, unlike some of his opponents who were only interested in shouting him down.

    He may have defended corporal punishment, but I never saw him use it himself, though he once advised me, justifiably under the circumstances, that “a slipper or two might bring you to your senses”.

    He also strikes me as having genuine compassion and empathies for his fellow human beings. His greatest antipathies are often reserved for cruelty, or behaviour that he perceives to be cruel. This was not only a recurring theme of his during my school days but something that has featured prominently in the recent Melchett – Baddiel saga. He opposed the blog because he thought it would cause hurt and he defended corporal punishment as making people think twice about inflicting pain on others.

    Osher was also someone, who for all his faults, did respect his pupils and sometimes take trouble over them, even inviting them to his house for Shabbos. I know this because one ex-Hasmo colleague of mine made the faux pas of asking Osher’s daughter to show him her bedroom.

    So certainly a legend, and an outrageous one at that; but in spite of everything, I still say that he is, inhis own words, “not a bad fellow”.

  19. Daniel Marks

    One day we’ll have to give more serious attention to the Osherism that :

    “corporal punishment as makes people think twice about inflicting pain on others..”

    The idea is certainly interesting and worthy of expansion:

    Random mugging to make people more honest.

    Rape to make people think twice before having casual sex.

    In fact it’s so clever that I suggest a devoting an entire page to “Pre-emptive Beatings” and the like.

    The Baddiel legacy!

  20. Of course you are not “too late”, Baruch. In fact, I love it when people ‘resurrect’ old(er) posts!

    In spite of the rather sour ending to my brief communication with Osher, I think your comment sums the man up well. And, a month later – and now that the commotion has died down – I wouldn’t disagree with too much of your conclusion.

    Thank you for putting things in perspective.

    Mike

  21. Baruch Solomon

    Happy to have been able to contribute, even if I did inadvertantly start a beatings legacy.

  22. Much respect is due to melchettmike for making such an effort to be fair to a man who fully deserves to be roundly and publicly maligned. To me he represents (almost) everything that was bad about Hasmo. And now it seems that when confronted, he blames his victims. I don’t care that he’s an anti-Zionist – that is a legitimate political position. I am more concerned with his arrogant and violent behaviour. He justifies punishing students with violence on the grounds that “those things were done in those days” and that the g’mara doesn’t explicitly forbid it. He then has the temerity to complain that his students were nasty and malicious.

    His justifications/rationalisations might seem more sincere if I hadn’t been present to see the look on his face while meting out these punishments. Even the most ardent advocates of corporal punishment agree that it must be carried out dispassionately; Osher was invariably taking out his anger and frustration on us. The violence was clearly for his benefit and not ours. What many saw him do to Norman Kahler (see postscript) is a perfect example.

    Moreover, the “olden days” argument doesn’t wash. He was still hitting students for years after it became an offence.

    To be fair to him (because I am a fair person, not because he deserves it), at least half the Hasmo teachers inflicted or attempted to inflict bodily harm on us daily. DJ once took me up to Roberg’s office to cane me. I believe my offence was coming to school in a kippah srugah. I was a repeat offender. When he ordered me to bend over I refused on the basis that “long ago it became illegal for old men to discipline young boys by beating them with a stick.” I ended up standing outside in the corridor for the rest of the day (about 4 hours) but I was never caned.

    About a year later, Roberg tried to cane me (this time for the crime of kicking a size 4 football in the back playground) and I said the same thing. For a minute it looked like he would try to physically force me to bend over and “tutth my tothe” but he thought better of it. He too made me stand outside his office for several hours as an alternative punishment.

    PS For those who do not know, Norman Kahler, very nearly blind, about 5’7″ and at least 16 stone would sing Hatikvah very loudly every time he walked past Osher’s classroom or saw him in the corridor. This went unpunished for months until one day Osher had had enough. Kahler was walking over the bridge towards the art room annexe [due North] and catching sight of Osher started belting out Hatikvah…

    “Ko-ol od ba leyyyy-vov” – SMACK!!!

    Norman did not return to school for about a week. Amazingly, Osher returned a while later too, and never mentioned it again.

  23. Quite, Jeremy. Indeed, every time I revisit Osher’s post to melchett mike and its ludicrous excesses, it takes me back to that nuthouse in a way that no number of ex-Hasmo stories ever could.

  24. Re Norman Kahler . . . Norman (it feels weird to call you by your first name), if you’re reading this, it would be fascinating to hear your perspective, twenty-odd years later.

    Jeremy

  25. In spite of only adding the option after 38 votes had already been cast, “B*****ks to Osher – don’t remove his post or the comments, and publish his e-mails” is now leading my Osher Poll (above).

    Osher, surely a democrat like yourself wouldn’t argue with the will of the people?!

  26. Mike, in case you’re still trying to track down Reb Norman Kahler – one of the most entertaining Hasmo pupils I can ever remember – he was recently spotted working as sexton (yes yes very funny……) for London’s Federation of Synagogues’ burial society. See

    http://www.federationofsynagogues.com/burial-society/

    Perhaps you can get in touch elicit some comments (“not to bury Osher, but to praise him”)?

  27. I used to see “Noson” taking fag breaks outside the Federation, at the end of our road, on the Watford Way.

  28. Henri Berest

    Mike, Just wondering if there was any chance of you acting on the poll results…..now that the dust has settled a bit?

    …and the ‘nearly men’ of Leeds blow it again!!!!

  29. You are only allowed to vote once, Henri . . . the poll is now void!

    And who are the “nearly men”? Second tier, shoestring Leeds? Or Arse’s multi-million pound bunch of overpaid, ineffectual underachievers?

  30. Henri Berest

    Both.
    Two teams of wasters.
    Your geriatric chairman needs to splash the cash!
    Too many recent leads …costing me way too much money. Bloody Leeds.
    Now Spurs on the other hand……the entertainers of the premiership.

  31. albert de gogan

    It astonishes me that Rabbi Osher Baddiel still retains the notion that it is acceptable to beat and brutalise young people who were in his charge.

    I have never lived in a Jewish community, and have never attended a Jewish school. My family were never religious, for as far back as three generations to my knowledge. The amazing thing is, they always married Jews (well nearly always).

    Rabbis, priests, and any type of clergy, I see as dream peddlers and liars. Who would be more gainfully employed doing something useful. The usual reaction to the above statement is: “People would have no morals. And they would be killing each other, robbing, and doing all kinds of horrible things”. Well I have news for them, they do that anyway.

    In answer to a remark I read in one of the posts, about children becoming delinquents if they are not beaten. That is utter rubbish, my wife and I have three girls who were never beaten. The three of them are a credit to us, and are all extremely well educated and useful members of society. Which is more then I can say for the paedophile Catholic priests, and Rabbis. Who blighted our schools, and were protected, and allowed to carry on molesting children. So the respective religions could save face.

    Osher Baddiel, I find you and your type very destructive. I don’t know you, so I can only judge you on your posts. I think you and I are about the same age, and there are times in my life when I wish I had done better. For the people I affected, which were few, I apologised too. It seems to me it is not in your make-up to say sorry.

  32. Well said, Albert. We give far too much respect to rabbis – or, at least, some rabbis – purely by virtue of them having sat on their asses for long enough to get the title. And my Alma Mater is ample testament to that . . . as are many of the irresponsible, narrow-minded idiots who sit in our Knesset and run our religious parties.

  33. I am not a Charedi. I am not a Rabbi. I am not a Priest. I am not a paedophile. I am not a Catholic.

    However, after successfully negotiating the obstacle course of misplaced punctuation in the above comment, I feel positively sick at the ignorance and bigotry…………displayed in the comment.

    Mr de gogan (sorry, I don’t want to insult you by putting the capital letters in the wrong place) , I warmly recommend that you read Howard Jacobson’s 2010 Man Booker Prizewinning “The Finkler Question”.

  34. While I was clearly not as sickened as John, I did find Albert de Gogan’s comment disturbing.

    I did know Osher Baddiel and have clearly expressed my criticism of his “educational philosophy” (if it can be called that); however, Albert has clearly misread or misunderstood something. He writes:

    “Which is more then I can say for the pedophile Catholic priests, and Rabbis. Who blighted our schools, and were protected, and allowed to carry on molesting children.”

    To the best of my knowledge no mention of pedophiles has ever been made in connection with this issue. These were not Catholic priests, forbidden to marry or have sex, but married middle-aged Jewish men living in North-West London.

    The actions of some of them in using illegal violence to “punish” their students is a sufficiently damning charge in and of itself, commentators have even used the term sadistic in extreme cases and I would not take issue.

    However, as far as I know, there have been absolutely no suggestions of sexual misconduct. I would add that as someone who spent seven years in the institution it is inconceivable to me that such a thing could have happened without any rumors whatsoever. Moreover, after more than half a century no “victim” has come forward, not one.

    I never thought I’d hear myself protecting those monsters, but there you have it.

  35. Whilst I find the punctuation nauseating, Albert stopped short of accusing Osher of paedophilia. What he actually said was:

    “Which is more then I can say for the paedophile Catholic priests, and Rabbis. Who blighted our schools, and were protected, and allowed to carry on molesting children. So the respective religions could save face.”

    Certainly there have been some paedophile rabbis, albeit I too never heard rumours at Hasmo. And certainly there have been attempts by their communities to cover up their offences. Afaik the sheer scale of the problem in the Catholic Church is unmatched (in any other religion) but that doesn’t mean Jewish clergy are entirely innocent.

    Albert, I feel like you had something useful to say but it was overtaken by your distaste for organized religion in general. Perhaps you should have posted only the first and last paragraphs. And a lot less full stops.

  36. Albert de Gogan

    Gentlemen please forgive me if my badly written post suggested that all priests and Rabbis were paedophiles. Or made any suggestion that Rabbi Baddiel suffered from that disorder. It seems paedophilia is a psychiatric disorder that has no known cure. That these men can be perfectly normal in all aspects of their lives apart from that terrible deed. This problem I am aware effects all of society and not just the religious institutions. My annoyance with religion is that they consistently covered it up and did not protect the children.

    Regarding my terrible punctuation gentlemen I can only claim a lack education. And fleeing the nest at fifteen and something to the horror of my poor parents. Later in life I tried to make amends and they forgave me because they were like that.

    PS. Thank you John for the book recommendation.

  37. Marksy Boy writes:

    “as far as I know, there have been absolutely no suggestions of sexual misconduct”

    There have, indeed, been “suggestions” – even rather more – of indecent fondlings and rubbings in the classrooms and corridors of Holders Hill Road. Indeed, I recall seeing them myself, though – in my naivety – didn’t think any more of it at the time. Some such accounts were posted to melchett mike, and subsequently deleted by me for fear of libel action.

    Anyway, some of the beatings that took place, while not sexual perhaps, were no less inexcusable. And we all remember those.

    “as someone who spent seven years in the institution it is inconceivable to me that such a thing could have happened”

    Could it merely be, Daniel, that there were other, more attractive, victims available?! 😉

    While Albert’s comment could, indeed, have been rather more qualified, I share his suspicion of the religious leader or teacher (Marksy Boy excepted). And of the dozens of rabbis I have been exposed to (phnarr), there are very few whom I recall with much more than complete indifference or, in many cases, sheer contempt.

  38. Albert. Thanks for revamping your masthead with carefully chosen capital letters . You have succeeded in dispelling my concern that you are an e. e. cummings groupie. He once said, ‘To like an individual because he is black is just as insulting as to dislike him because he isn’t white”.

    No need to thank me for the book recommendation; if you read it, you will probably agree.

  39. “Anyway, some of the beatings that took place, while not sexual perhaps, were no less inexcusable. And we all remember those.” –

    Amen!

  40. Albert de Gogan

    I was talking to my brother Ger today about slapping as it was termed in Dublin when we were boys. I wanted to compare the school he went to which was secular and mine run by Christian Brothers.

    In his school punishments were controlled through the Headmaster in mine there was no control. All of my teachers carried a thick leather strap specially made for the purpose. It is beyond me how anyone would approve such a thing to be used on children under eleven. Anyway they did allow it and we were beaten without any restrictions on the manics who were beating us.

    It left me with a complete contempt for the Catholic clergy which I know is illogical but that is the most impressionable time of a kids life.

    The weather in London today 12C with broken Gray Clouds.

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