Friday, April 11, 2014

Fun on Pesach: 2014 Edition

Just A Few Things: Once upon a time, a famous Jewish scientist (Albert Einstein, in case you don't recognize him) said (in a relatively different context)

Such wise words! Unfortunately, the Albuquerque Jewish community has paid no heed; with the result (as you can see on the Abq Jew Calendar) that (without exaggeration)

Everything in the world is happening this Sunday.

This includes, of course, final cleaning and preparation for Passover. No one wants to be Pesachdik for Shabbos; everyone must be Pesachdik by Monday morning. Do these facts suggest a possible timeframe for an appropriate course of action? Never mind.

And if that's not enough, we have the customary festivities associated with the birthday of Thomas Jefferson with which to contend.

What Abq Jew is trying to say here is that his next blog post may be a few long, long days away. Please hold the applause. Let's get down to Passover business.

Let Us Go

The Atlanta area's Weber School has put together a fun and meaningful Passover parody of the hit 'Let It Go,' exploring the traditional themes of Passover while asking: "How do we adapt the Seder's idea of freedom to our modern lives?"

Students helped craft the lyrics and themes and performed all the vocals and acting roles. The School has posted a lyrics guide, a study guide, and lesson plans.


Which brings us to Andrew Silow-Carroll, Editor-in-Chief of the New Jersey Jewish News. Abq Jew has written about Mr Silow-Carroll before (see Laughing at Pew, Jewish Jokes for Dark Days, and Laughing at Pew 2)) and will (Billy Nader) undoubtedly do so again. Anyway, here is his latest, Passoverkill?.
by Andrew Silow-Carroll
NJJN Editor-in-Chief
April 9, 2014

When I was growing up, there were five foods on our seder plate: egg (beitza), shank bone (zeroa), bitter herbs (maror), vegetable (karpas), and haroset (haroset). At some point we began adding hazeret, another form of the bitter herbs, on the theory that a Jewish family gathering could always use a little more bitterness.

In recent years, the symbols on the seder plate have tended to proliferate. To honor the contributions of Jewish women, some people add an orange. Rabbis for Human Rights suggests a tomato to show that you support exploited farmworkers. And still others add olives as a symbol of peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

All of these are worthy reminders, but how many symbols do we need during a ritual event already bursting with symbolism? Lots, that’s how many. If you really want to cover your bases this year, check out my suggestions for the 21st-century seder plate:

Apple: Celebrates how technology has changed Jewish life, like on-line Torah learning and the ability to play Candy Crush while sitting in the carpool lane at Sunday school.

Green pepper: Symbolizes our need to heal the planet, which you promise to do right after using up all the Styrofoam cups and plastic utensils that you bought for Passover.

Grapes: A reminder that if you really drink all four cups of wine, you can put up with your cousin’s boyfriend for one night.

Scallions: Persian and Kurdish Jews have a Passover custom of striking one another with scallions to symbolize the burdens of the Israelites. I like to put scallions on the seder plate to mock what sounds like a ridiculous and even dangerous custom.

Strawberry: Expresses solidarity with professional athletes struggling with addiction problems.

Carrot: Calls attention to the plight of gingers, and how people with red hair must really be careful in the sun.

Asparagus: A reminder that two hours after the seder you’ll be reminded what you ate at the seder.

Prickly pear: The national symbol of the Israeli Jew: tough on the outside, soft and sweet on the inside.

Kiwi: The national symbol of the American Jew: once exotic, now familiar, especially among college grads, who tend to marry them in greater and greater numbers. Jews, not kiwis. Marrying a kiwi would be weird.

Celery: Sounds like “salary,” and expresses the hope that your children will get jobs after graduation.

Potato: Placed on the plate piping hot, it reminds you not to bring up certain topics with your in-laws, especially but not limited to the high cost of prescription drugs and the traffic since they built the new development.

Rhubarb: Uh-oh, you brought up the cost of drugs when I told you not to, and now Uncle Harry is going on and on about Obamacare. Nice job.

Broccoli: The surprising fact that broccoli is a member of the cabbage species helps us understand how some of our family members can actually be related to us.

Prune: Doesn’t symbolize anything, but believe me, you’ll want one in the next few days.

Pineapple: Just as a pineapple starts out sweet and ends up causing cold sores, something something something about your cousin’s boyfriend.

Banana: Reminds us that a man, too, can wash the damn dishes after the seder.

Here are your favorites from Passovers past!

Google Exodus

Ready To Search For Chometz?

Pesach As She Oughtta Be

Shabbat Shalom, Albuquerque!
Good Shabbos, New Mexico!
A Zissen Pesach, World!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

In The Rail Yards

Something New in Abq: Let's start out by stating the obvious: In not-too-distant terrible times, Jews and trains did not have a warm and loving relationship.

The Albuquerque Jewish community will commemorate those times on Sunday April 27, and on Monday April 28, which is Yom HaShoah - Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Abq Jew, on the other hand, has always loved trains. In Valley Stream, he lived across the street from the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) tracks, and loved to flatten pennies and watch the trains go by.

From California, Abq Jew and his mother, Roselyn Yellin, of blessed memory, rode the rails to his Bar Mitzvah - in Valley Stream.

In Felton, California, Abq Jew's family were among the first investors in the Roaring Camp & Big Trees Railroad. Abq Jew still has the stock certificates somewhere.

And then there were the weekly rides on what Abq Jew fondly called the Very Erie Lackawanna Railroad from Hoboken to Summit Jewish Center - his first real job in Jewish education.

Abq Jew has recently learned about some new developments - downtown, in the Albuquerque Rail Yards - that could really make life here a lot more interesting, educational, and fun.

Almost as important - these new developments could make our city (and all of New Mexico) an even stronger travel and vacation destination.

We'll talk about two of these developments now, but stay tuned. There's lots more coming!

Here is what a 2004 PBS documentary said about Albuquerque's Historic Railroad Shops:
Like the bones of some odd prehistoric dinosaur, perhaps no other buildings in the Southwest have such a presence or history. The sprawling buildings sit quietly just outside Albuquerque's downtown. Walking through the empty interiors is an eerie experience, miles of glass windows, cavernous spaces, the remains of a shop bulletin board and curious remnants. 
For over 70 years the Santa Fe Railroad operated a huge repair and work shop in Albuquerque. At one time, the shops could rebuild over twenty locomotives in each of the huge five-story, glass story buildings. 
The impact of the shops was so pervasive, townspeople set their clocks to the shop whistle as it signaled the beginning and end of the workday. The shops were the heartbeat of the city and economic engine that helped power a nation. 
This documentary takes a fascinating photographic voyage through these tremendous buildings and hears of the remarkable experiences of the people who worked there.
Things have changed since that PBS documentary was filmed. Here are two big reasons why things are changing for the better.

1. WHEELS Museum

The WHEELS Museum organization was established to preserve history, educate the public, and provide current and future generations with an understanding of the impact of transportation on New Mexico and the West.

The Museum will be located on the site of the historic Santa Fe Railroad Shops in downtown Albuquerque. Built in 1914, the Albuquerque shops serviced steam locomotives operating on the Santa Fe Railroad.

Leba Freed, who family history in Albuquerque goes way back, has been the driving force behind the effort to build the WHEELS Museum. And there's a complementary effort to restore Santa Fe 2926 and rebuild the Roundhouse, as this video explains:

There are two big events coming up at the WHEELS Museum:
  1. National Train Day on Saturday, May 10, 2014
  2. WHEELS Benefit Gala on Saturday, June 14, 2014
Visit the WHEELS Museum's website for more information.

2. Rail Yards Market

The Rail Yards Market is a grassroots campaign to revive the Albuquerque Rail Yards by bringing in a weekly market featuring food, art, and music.

In September of 2013, the City of Albuquerque completed its renovation of the Blacksmith Shop, one of the historic buildings on the 28.3 acre site that comprises the Rail Yards. Improvements included new glass, fire-suppression, roof repair, electric service and a 130-car parking lot just outside the shop’s front door.

A team of committed community members has dedicated the last several months to activating that space by creating a weekly public market featuring food, art, music and community education.

Rail Yards Market
Sundays, May 4 - November 2, 2014

The Rail Yards Market is currently utilizing its website and - more importantly - the crowd sourcing site Indiegogo to help raise funds for its first year of operation.

Together we can bring new life to the Albuquerque Rail Yards
by creating the city’s first covered public market
and community space.

Abq Jew thinks this is a very cool idea. Take a look at this video, and you will, too!

Yes, there is a Master Plan for the Albuquerque Rail Yards. But Abq Jew suggests that you not get bogged down with all the reading. Instead -

Call ahead and go for a visit!
Learn how you can join the adventure!
WHEELS Museum       Rail Yards Market

Friday, April 4, 2014

Margot Leverett's Klezmer Fantazi

Got Weekend Plans? In case you've lost track, famed klezmer clarinet virtuosa Margot Leverett is in New Mexico (see Margot's in New Mexico!) and will be performing this very weekend - right here in Albuquerque!

Margot will be appearing on the same stage as the Albuquerque Concert Band, and actually performing Klezmer Fantazi (a free-form song, traditionally played at Jewish weddings to the guests as they dined )with the Mesilla Valley Concert Band.

The performance will be at Volcano Vista High School, which is on the Very West Side of Albuquerque. For all you NEers - yes, you get to go across the river! In case you've lost track, that's the Rio Grande.

And in answer to your questions (Abq Jew can hear you!):
  1. YES. There are volcanoes on the West Side of Albuquerque.
  2. YES. You can see the volcanoes very well from the high school. 
  3. YES, You can drive to and from the concert in broad daylight.
  4. YES. Here is a map. GPS coordinates: 35.177177, -106.732369
And if you'd like a forschbite of what to expect: Here is Margot performing the Klezmer Fantazi  (in two parts) with the Brown University Wind Symphony in April 2009.

And if, for some crazy reason, you find yourself in Santa Fe (and what better place is there to find yourself, outside of Albuquerque?), you should certainly drop by Chabad Santa Fe 's simcha - the Groundbreaking Ceremony for their new building, the Center for Jewish Life!

Shabbat Shalom, Albuquerque!
Good Shabbos, New Mexico!
Mazeltov, Santa Fe!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

New Mexico 2014 Seder Roundup!

Got Shmura Matzo? Got Horseradish? The story is told ... about the Jewish community in Madrid, who needed horseradish for Pesach
The Jewish community in Madrid needed horseradish for making chrain (horseradish) for Pesach, but all the European Union countries gave them the same reply, "Sorry, we have none to send." 
In desperation, the Rabbi phoned one of his Yeshiva friends in Tel Aviv and begged him to send a crate of horseradish by air freight to Madrid.   
Two days before Pesach, a crate of grade Aleph tear-jerking Israeli horseradish was loaded at Ben Gurion Airport onto the EL Al 789 flight to Madrid, and all seemed to be well. 
Unfortunately, when the Rabbi went to the Madrid Airport to claim the horseradish he was informed that a wildcat strike had just broken out and no shipments would be unloaded for at least four days.  As a result: 
The chrain in Spain stayed mainly on the plane!
Abq Jew thanks Chuck Glass and Jacob Richman for that story.

But more (or less) to the point - have you got your shmura matzah?
Regular ol' Passover matzo is carefully guarded from the time that the wheat is taken to the mill to be ground into flour, to make sure that it does not come into contact with water or other moisture that could make it rise.  
Shmura matzo, on the other hand, is made from wheat that is guarded from the time that it is harvested.
Is this necessary? Abq Jew hears you ask. Tell Abq Jew if you've heard this one before:

Most rabbinical authorities say no.
Some rabbinical authorities say yes.

But this technical explanation leaves out the best thing about shmura matzo:

Shmura matzo is always handmade.
As this video from Rabbi Berel Levertov of Chabad Santa Fe shows:

So here we are, each of us and all of us, making final arrangements for our Passover Seders. Where to go? To invite or (wait) ... to be invited?  Thus, Abq Jew thoughtfully provides a Seder Roundup for all of us last-minute reservation-makers.

First Seder & Second Seder

First Seder Only

Second Seder Only

Yes, we're getting down to crunch time! 
Got all your Pesachdik foods? 
Keep checking Abq Jew's Pesach Watch
And keep reporting in!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Tesla Will Choose New Mexico

Elon Musk Will Cite Chosen People As Influence: In a highly anticipated development that may have stunned others but didn't faze Abq Jew even one bit, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk will announce later today that

Tesla Will Choose New Mexico

as the site of its planned battery factory. The factory will cover 500 to 1,000 acres and employ up to 6,500 workers. The finished batteries will be shipped to Tesla’s assembly plant in Fremont, California.

The reasons and reasoning behind Elon Musk's decision (and it was his decision) to bring Tesla to New Mexico were not publicly disclosed. But Abq Jew has learned that


Elon Musk Chooses the Jews
Crypto No More! Tesla CEO Comes Out
for the Jewish Community of N
ew Mexico

Moreover, Abq Jew has learned just why Mr Musk has chosen to join with the Jewish community of New Mexico. In a statement you won't read anywhere else, Mr Musk said
I bought Stan Hordes' book, To the End of the Earth, a few years ago - because it was about the exile of Spanish and Portuguese Jews to New Mexico, something I had never heard of. 
Until then, I had thought we all went 'to the end of the Earth' in South Africa, where I'm from. 
Dr Hordes really opened my eyes. Ever since then, I've been trying to figure out a way to join my landsmen in the Land of Enchantment.

New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez (whose Crypto-Jewish roots are still unexplored) was overjoyed - not only with Tesla's decision, but especially with Mr Musk's reason for that decision. In another statement you won't read anywhere else, Governor Martinez said
Tesla's decision to build batteries in New Mexico is a complete vindication of my astute and progressive business policies. But more importantly -
Tesla's decision is an affirmation of  the strong ties between all Jews - crypto and straight - and the financial interests of this state.

Governor Martinez also expressed her strong support of the upcoming 2014 Jewish Federation of New Mexico (JFNM) Population Study. In yet another statement you won't read anywhere else, Governor Martinez said
Especially in hard financial times like these, it is important to know how many Jews live in New Mexico, where exactly they live, how much money they have, and how to contact them. 
We already know where the rabbis are. But when push comes to shove, they really can't help us much. 
That's one reason why the 2014 JFNM  Population Study is so important.

In another development that didn't faze Abq Jew, Elon Musk even offered - as a small token of good will for his joyous return to his roots - to pay the entire cost of the 2014 JFNM Population Study. But the JFNM told him
Nah. We got this. If everyone just increases their pledge by even a few bucks, we'll have this covered.

So, Abq Jew hears you ask

Is this true? Elon Musk, MOT? 
Is Elon Musk really not only Jewish, but an actual Jew?

You may point to the website, which only gives Mr Musk a Jew Score of 6 (Maimonides is a 15; Mel Gibson is a 0) and a Verdict of Sadly, not a Jew.

But Abq Jew points to's December 2012 expose of The Jews of Forbes Most Influential List. There's a photo of our own (yes, he is!) Mr Musk, second from the top.

And Abq Jew also points to the Habrador Blog's enticing article, Everything about Elon Musk's religious views. Wherein the blogger states with conviction:
But as someone with a great wealth, and at the same time is a public figure, Elon Musk has to cope with an increasing amount of rumors. 
One of these rumors is that Elon Musk's religious background is Jewish and one conspiracy theory is that the only reason to why he became so successful is because 
he is a Jew and a part of a great Jewish conspiracy. 
The other part of that conspiracy is that Elon Musk is a member of a lizard race from a distant planet ....
It's not strange that people believe that Elon Musk is Jewish. The name Elon is Hebrew for oak tree ... There are unconfirmed sources saying that Elon Musk attended Jewish schools in South Africa ... It's unclear what Elon Musk's parents religion were  ....
Still not convinced? Going to stick with the lizard theory? Abq Jew offers this further proof of Elon Musk's Jewish identity:

Elon Musk has five sons.
Tevye der Milkhiker had five daughters

(in Sholem Aleichem's original stories, not Fiddler).
And finally, in conclusion, Abq Jew must invoke that famous Irish Jew

Ken O'Hara
from this Abq Jew Blog to G-d's ears

And for them what are still confused by all this, Abq Jew reminds us it's

Rosh Hodesh April &
Purim 'til it's Pesach!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Body and Soul Language

Rabbi Marc Angel on Parshat Tazria 2014:  As noted in previous blogs (among them Since You've Asked), the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals 

offers a vision of Orthodox Judaism that is "intellectually sound, spiritually compelling, and emotionally satisfying".

The Institute was founded in October 2007 by Rabbi Dr. Marc D. Angel, formerly of Congregation Shearith Israel, the historic Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue of New York City.

And speaking of Tazria, the creative and talented folks at remind us:
Tazria is possibly the grossest parsha in the entire Torah, full of scaly skin, sprouting sores and breakouts of Biblical proportions. 
But this week, Rabbi Angel - a prolific and award-winning author - turns his attention to body and spirit, examination of character and purification. In his article Body and Soul Language, Rabbi Angel begins with Rabbi Yitzhak Luria, and what the great kabbalist was able to see.

Note: for your convenience, Abq Jew has reprinted the entire article below.  But you are strongly encouraged to visit the Institute's website - - to learn more about the Institute's work, and especially to read and view Rabbi Angel's thoughts and opinions.
It was said of Rabbi Yitzhak Luria, the great kabbalist of 16th century Safed, that he was able to see into people’s souls when he looked at their faces. By looking into one’s eyes, he could gain clear insight into that individual’s personality. 
For this reason, many people were ashamed to appear before Rabbi Luria, believing that he could detect their character flaws and inadequacies. 
Actually, one does not need to be a saintly kabbalist to assess people’s character traits on the basis of external observation. Psychologists have pointed out that people often reveal their personalities through their facial expressions and body language. 
A careful observer can learn much about others simply by paying close attention to their expressions and gestures. While these observations may not be as accurate as those of Rabbi Luria, they nonetheless provide insight. 
In our own experience, we find ourselves drawn to warm, smiling and kindly-looking people. We find ourselves repelled by mean, scowling and arrogant faces. We raise our guards when we feel we are in the presence of smooth-talking hypocrites; we feel at ease when we are in the presence of compassionate and thoughtful individuals. 
We shape our views of others by looking into their eyes, by examining their demeanor, by reading their facial expressions. Surely, our judgments may be wrong at times; yet, we intuitively feel that there is an intimate connection between physical appearances and spiritual / emotional / psychological qualities. 
This week’s Torah portion deals with “tsara’at” (often translated - incorrectly - as leprosy), providing details that are very difficult for us to understand. Yet, the underlying message seems to be: spiritual impurity may manifest itself in a physical blemish. 
When a person is stricken with “tsara’at,” a purification ritual is required to bring body and spirit back into proper alignment. 
Our inner feelings and personality traits are indeed reflected in our physical appearances. While some people are better able to camouflage their emotions, even they will inevitably betray their real selves in moments of weakness. 
Our goal should be to maintain a healthy spiritual/emotional life so as to have nothing to hide! We can all strive to be good, compassionate and sensitive human beings - and these qualities should be easily detected in our faces and our physical appearance. We can all strive to avoid the negative qualities associated with the arrogant, the bullies, the egotists. 
We can all hope to be approachable and kind, so that others will be drawn to us rather than be alienated from us. 
The manifestation of a “tsara’at” wound was a wake up call to ancient Israelites, demanding that they self-reflect and then purify themselves. Although we lack the “tsara’at” of biblical times, we have mirrors. If we look honestly at ourselves, we might detect some character traits that need improvement, and we can work to purify ourselves. 
If we look into the mirror and don’t see character flaws that need improvement, then we can be fairly sure that we indeed do have “tsara’at,” that we have become content with ourselves … and therefore have become spiritually numb. 
Even if we do not see our own spiritual / emotional / character shortcomings, others can observe them clearly enough by looking at our facial expressions, our gestures, our physical demeanor. 
We need to live our lives in such a way that we would not be ashamed to stand before Rabbi Yitzhak Luria … or anyone else.
But far be it from Abq Jew to leave you on Erev Shabbat with such a serious, thought-provoking message. For whenever Abq Jew thinks of Parshat Tazria, he (truly) cannot help but conjure

Jewish music (Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Joshua Sondheim, Jerome [Wilson Rabinowitz] Robbins) at its very very best.And so here for your pre-Shabbos and forever after enjoyment is

Shabbat Shalom, Albuquerque!
Good Shabbos, New Mexico!