Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Hanukkah! Here We Go Again!

Stuff To Do! Laugh! Sing! Please allow Abq Jew the honor, the pleasure, the sheer joy of being the first to wish you, his loyal readers, a happy, bright, and joyous Chanukah. (If Abq Jew was not the first, please don't tell him.)

Here in the Land of Enchantment, there's gonna be plenty of stuff to do during the holiday. Just like there was plenty of stuff to do before the holiday, like the Hanukkah Fest at the Albuquerque JCC.

Let's start with the JCC's presentation of [click here for tickets]

Great news! POTUS has recognized Santa Fe as the capital of New Mexico!

Now if he only knew that NM is part of the US ...

Anyway, Chabad Santa Fe's got their annual

on Sunday December 17. Also on Sunday December 17, Chabad Albuquerque's got their new almost-traditional (2018 (אי״ה, Billy Nader) will make it a chazaka)

And then ... really new this year is

The MeshugaNutcracker!, a musical comedy celebrating Chanukah, debuts in movie theaters nationwide on December 19, putting a unique spin on the classic Nutcracker ballet.

Note: The MeshugaNutcracker! debuts and closes
on the same night - Tuesday December 19 -
is playing at only one theater in town,
and will be shown at 7:00 pm only.

That one theater is the United Artists Cottonwood 16, conveniently located on Albuquerque's Upper West Side. In the Cottonwood Mall, on Coors Bypass, just a couple miles north of Paseo del Norte. Allow extra time for traffic.

Now, Abq Jew knows that many of you, his loyal readers, are afraid somewhat apprehensive about crossing the Rio Grande (that's the river on the west side of town). Don't be. Why? Because
The MeshugaNutcracker! is a full-length musical comedy that features the wonderfully silly sensibilities of the folklore of Chelm (a fictional town of fools) underscored by an invigorating Klezmer-ized orchestration of Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite,” including original lyrics that celebrate Chanukah. 
Judah Maccabee’s triumphant saga and accounts of perseverance during the Holocaust as well as the celebration of the first Chanukah in the new state of Israel emerge with a genuine sense of wonder as the Chelmniks tell eight stories that pay tribute to the holiday. 
Add in dancing dreidels, singing sufganiot, and surprise guest stars and you have the perfect recipe for a holiday outing! Jews and non-Jews alike will delight in this original musical celebrating all things Chanukah.

Much more (אי״ה, Billy Nader) to follow. Until then -

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Ashkelon, O Ashkelon

Reality Bites: On this day, The Times of IsraelThe Forward, and just about every major and minor news outlet in the known and unknown world have reported that our very own President Donald J Trump has recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and has pledged to move the US Embassy to the Holy City.

Abq Jew was hoping for Ashkelon.

Abq Jew's old home town. Of which the Jewish Virtual Library says
Israel has one of the world's most beautiful coastlines, with white sandy beaches and spectacular Mediterranean views. The coast stretches to the northern border with Lebanon at Rosh Hanikra and south to the Gaza Strip. Just north of Gaza and 36 miles south of Tel Aviv is the southernmost stop for most tourists, the city of Ashkelon.

But no!
Abq Jew must instead report that
Jerusalem is the chosen city. 

The TOI tells us -
President Donald Trump reversed decades of U.S. policy on Wednesday and recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, despite warnings from around the world that the gesture further drives a wedge between Israel and the Palestinians. 
In a speech at the White House, Trump said his administration would also begin a process of moving the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which is expected to take years.

What does this announcement mean?

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, issued the statement below in response to President Trump's speech today:
In declaring formally U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, President Trump has affirmed an age-old dream of the Jewish people and of all who care about Israel. 
Jerusalem is, in fact, the capital of Israel. 
That is how it should and must be. The President correctly noted that a sovereign state is entitled to name its own capital. The Reform Movement has also long held that the U.S. Embassy should be moved to Jerusalem.  
Yesterday, we expressed our serious concern about the timing of these actions. We still believe that they ought to be implemented in a manner that enhances the peace process and contributes to ensuring the safety and security of Israel. 
We continue to have significant concerns. 
In separating today’s decisions from a broader strategy, they may well undercut the Administration’s peace process efforts and risk destabilizing the region. 
We do, however, commend the President for affirming the importance of moving the peace process forward, and clarifying that these decisions are not intended to restrict final status decisions of the Israelis and Palestinians -- including the borders of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem and border issues generally.

Where are we now?

The Jewish Theological Seminary, one of Abq Jew's favorite almae matres, offered this statement about Jerusalem, the city in which Abq Jew has felt the most lost (look at that map!) and also the most found.
We at The Jewish Theological Seminary are heartened that Jerusalem, the focal point of Jewish hopes and prayers for over two millennia, and the capital of the reborn State of Israel since its founding nearly 70 years ago, has been recognized as such by Israel’s closest ally. 
We welcome our president’s commitment to helping to forge a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians. We who love Israel and Jerusalem, and pray daily for peace among the world’s faiths and peoples, continue to hope that Israelis and Palestinians will find a way to share the Holy City. 
But we must do more than hope. 
The rabbis of antiquity envisioned two Jerusalems—the Jerusalem that resided in the heavens and its earthly counterpart. They asserted that the fates of both of these Jerusalems are intertwined, and that God declared, 
“I will not reside in the heavenly Jerusalem until I am able to reside in the earthly Jerusalem.” 
It is the responsibility of humankind to bring peace to our earthly Jerusalem so as to allow God’s presence to find a home. Only then will God enter the Jerusalem on high. 
Let us get to work and make this a reality.

And what does Abq Jew say?

Abq Jew says that Jerusalem is the undivided, eternal capital of Israel. And that there never will be a "good" time to recognize Jerusalem as such.

And Abq Jew says that our very own President Donald J Trump has not thought this through, and really has no Grand Plan for Middle East Peace (or anything else).

AbqJew also says that POTUS may be doing this just now to distract us from other things - like indictment and / or impeachment.

Or perhaps POTUS has invested in Jerusalem real estate.

But Abq Jew also says that

Even a drunken gunslinger
can hit the broad side of a barn sometimes.

And then ...

Abq Jew goes back to Hillel's words -

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

10 Years, 70 Years, 24 Years

Remembering My Father:  On November 29, 1947, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution calling for Palestine to be partitioned between Arabs and Jews.

That was 70 years ago, before Abq Jew was born. Yet he remembers that day as if it were yesterday.

Here is a map of the 1947 UN Partition Plan.

Wikipedia tells us:
The United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine was a plan for the future government of Palestine. The Plan was described as a Plan of Partition with Economic Union which, after the termination of the British Mandate, would lead to the creation of independent Arab and Jewish States and the Special International Regime for the City of Jerusalem. On 29 November 1947, the General Assembly adopted a resolution recommending the adoption and implementation of the Plan as Resolution 181(II).
A lot of things have changed since then. But just as important - a lot of things changed before then.

Let's start with the map itself. Do you notice anything missing?

Most people who were born after 1922 don't.

So let's look at this map to the right, which shows the area of the original British Mandate.

What's missing in the 1949 map above is the entire area of Palestine that lies east of the Jordan River.

What happened to all that land? Abq Jew hears you ask. Well ....

The British government decided to remove 78% of the area of the Palestine Mandate from the jurisdiction of that Mandate.

As the map to the left shows, the British created a separate Arab entity there, called Transjordan. They then gave that land to Emir (later, King) Abdullah.

How could the British do that, Abq Jew hears you ask. Well ....

Let's look at the document that (in a sense) started it all - the Balfour Declaration. Wikipedia tells us:
The Balfour Declaration (dated 2 November 1917) was a letter from the United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour to Baron Rothschild (Walter Rothschild, 2nd Baron Rothschild), a leader of the British Jewish community, for transmission to the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland.
His Majesty's government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.
The "Balfour Declaration" was later incorporated into the Sèvres peace treaty with Turkey and the Mandate for Palestine. The original document is kept at the British Library.
1. As you can easily see, the Balfour Declaration supports a national home for the Jewish people in "Palestine." And when the Balfour Declaration was written, "Palestine" meant all of Palestine - both west and east of the Jordan River.

2. As you can also easily see, the Balfour Declaration supports a national home for the Jewish people "in Palestine." And "in Palestine" meant exactly that, and was never intended to imply all of Palestine.

The British, for their own reasons, went with the second interpretation. There are others, of course (followers of Vladimir Jabotinsky, for example), who still hold with the first interpretation.

In any event, everyone (perhaps) recalls what happened right after the UN vote on November 29, 1947. Wikipedia (and The New York Times) reminds us:
The Plan was accepted by the leaders of the Jewish community in Palestine, through the Jewish Agency. The Plan was rejected by leaders of the Arab community, including the Palestinian Arab Higher Committee, who were supported in their rejection by the states of the Arab League. The Arab leadership (in and out of Palestine) opposed partition and claimed all of Palestine.
The rest, as they say, is history. Go and learn!

My father, Richard W Yellin, of blessed memory, certainly chose an already memorable day on which to pass on to the World to Come.

Abq Jew has often written on his father's yahrzeit - in 2016 (Starting With Aunt Bea), in 2013, (For the 19th of Kislev 5774), in 2012 (5 Years, 65 Years, 19 Years), in 2011 (Boogie Woogie), and in 2010 (My Father's Yahrzeit).

This time around, ten years after his father's passing, it's the civil date (yahrzeit is still several days away) that Abq Jew recalls. November 29 also turns out to be the day in 2001 that George Harrison died, at age 58, following a battle with cancer.

But let's return to the Land of the Living. And let's start with Tom Lehrer. Wikipedia tells us:
Thomas Andrew Lehrer (/ˈlɛrər/; born April 9, 1928) is a retired American musician, singer-songwriter, satirist, and mathematician. 
He has lectured on mathematics and musical theater. He is best known for the pithy, humorous songs he recorded in the 1950s and 1960s. 
Lehrer was born to a Jewish family and grew up in Manhattan's Upper East Side. 
His work often parodies popular song forms, though he usually creates original melodies when doing so. A notable exception is "The Elements", where he sets the names of the chemical elements to the tune of the Major-General's song from Gilbert and Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance. 
Lehrer's early work typically dealt with non-topical subject matter and was noted for its black humor in songs such as "Poisoning Pigeons in the Park". 
In the 1960s, he produced a number of songs dealing with social and political issues of the day, particularly when he wrote for the U.S. version of the television show That Was the Week That Was
Despite their topical subjects and references, the popularity of these songs has endured; Lehrer quoted a friend's explanation: 
"Always predict the worst and you'll be hailed as a prophet." 
In the early 1970s, he mostly retired from public performances to devote his time to teaching mathematics and music theatre at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Well, it's getting close to Christmas, also known as Xmas, but in politically correct circles referred to as "The Holidays." Along with Chanukah, Hanukkah, Khanikeh, and Kwanzaa.

Anyway, Abq Jew's father (and mother, also of blessed memory) loved Tom Lehrer. 70 years, 10 years, and soon (for Mom) 24 years. Abq Jew remembers, with Tom Lehrer's A Christmas Carol.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Rabbi Neil Gillman, Philosopher

Theologian & Professor Dies at 84: Amid the happiness of Thanksgiving, JTA announced over the weekend -

Rabbi Neil Gillman, professor emeritus of Jewish philosophy at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and one of the premier theologians in the Conservative movement, has died. He was 84. 
His death was announced Friday by the Rabbinical Assembly. 
The author of numerous books, including, in 1991, Sacred Fragments: Recovering Theology for the Modern Jew, Gillman was associated for over 50 years with JTS, the main seminary of the Conservative movement, as a student, administrator and member of the faculty, emphasizing the intersection of Jewish theology, Conservative Judaism and Jewish education. 
“Gillman’s innovative thinking about how to construe Jewish faith and how to justify it, his use of anthropology as well as philosophy in approaching questions of God and life after death, and his ability to combine complete intellectual openness and honesty with a commitment to Jewish tradition mark his work as truly important, indeed, a real gift to Jews and non-Jews alike,” Elliot Dorff, the Sol & Anne Dorff Distinguished Service Professor in Philosophy at American Jewish University, said in introducing a collection of essays released in Gillman’s honor in  2013.

Abq Jew wrote about Rabbi Gillman in December 2010 (see Talmud and Torah and Zombies and The Final Tisch; No Zombies), when he was first reading The Death of Death.
In the final chapters, Rabbi Gillman dismisses the doctrine of the immortality of the soul - it's just not enough - and makes a very strong case for the traditional Jewish belief in the resurrection of the dead.  
Only resurrection of the body, says Rabbi Gillman, will prove God's supreme power, solve the problem of  the misfortune of the righteous and the prosperity of the wicked (tzaddik vi'ra lo, rasha vi'tov lo), and make each of our individual lives eternally meaningful. 

Abq Jew remembers Rabbi Gillman from his time at the Jewish Theological Seminary. In 1975, Rabbi Gillman and Rabbi Joseph Lukinsky z"l taught an Introduction to Philosophy course that totally blew the mind (he had more of it then) of Abq Jew, a guy from California with an engineering degree and very little formal Jewish learning.

Here is JTS's statement on Rabbi Gillman's passing:
With deep sorrow, we join the family, the Jewish world, and countless others in mourning the loss of Rabbi Neil Gillman, professor emeritus of Jewish Philosophy and a giant presence at JTS for more than half a century. 
He was a beloved teacher, colleague, and friend, whose lucid writing and philosophical insights profoundly influenced Jewish theology in the contemporary world. 
An award-winning author, his writing was both learned and accessible, helping Jews and non-Jews wrestle with the most challenging theological issues, including questions about God, revelation, suffering, and death. 
As a professor and dean of The Rabbinical School, he mentored and inspired generations of students, challenging them to explore the meaning of their relationship with God as they went on to careers as clergy, educators, and scholars. 
The impact of his teaching and writing is immeasurable and will be felt for years to come. 
We extend our deepest condolences to his beloved wife, Sarah, his daughters, Deborah and Abigail, his grandchildren, and the entire family. May they be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

Monday, November 20, 2017

It's Traveling Time!

Twas The Week Before Thanksgiving: And all through the sky, the planes were stacked up with family and friends ready to fly.

Meanwhile, the news at AVClub.com is

Steve Martin And The Steep Canyon Rangers
release a charming video for “Santa Fe”

Wherein Gwen Ihnat tells us that
New single “Sante Fe” is bolstered by an animated video by Fantoon’s David Calcano, premiering here at The A.V. Club. 
All the characters and musicians are portrayed by Tex-Mex food items, as the story of a long-distance relationship between a taco and a sack of french fries perseveres even through several travails. 
The song itself uses to horns to brighten the score, “Ring Of Fire”-like, racing to keep up with the frantic strumming of Martin’s banjo and other strings beneath.

Yes! Trumpets!

And the news at PasterMagazine.com is

Steve Martin Talks About His New Album
and How He Tells Stories in Song

Wherein Joshua Miller tells us that
When Martin and the North Carolina-based band Steep Canyon Rangers convened to record their new album, The Long-Awaited Album, it wasn’t exactly a surprise that the project would be rooted in bluegrass, with plenty of banjo playing.  
But one listen to The Long-Awaited Album opener “Sante Fe,” with its flurry of mariachi trumpets, makes it evident that he isn’t going to stand on ceremony or rest on traditions. Putting horns on a bluegrass song has historically been a no-no, but with the help of producer Peter Asher—best known for recording albums by Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor and Neil Diamond—Martin was moved once again to bend the rules. 
Martin began writing “Santa Fe” about five years ago, and when he revisited it he realized it would sound better with the trumpets. He had spent some time living in the New Mexico capital, where he heard plenty of mariachi music, so the sound was dear to him. 
“What could be more appropriate if you’re writing a song about Santa Fe than to have those joyful horns be on there?” he says.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, Abq Jew would like to thank everyone who has supported his work over the past year. And if ... ahem ... you would like to be thanked next year ... just click the box below. Please!

But as first stated - it's traveling time! From Albuquerque to Santa Fe and all points in between and beyond!

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!