Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Bugs Bunny & Abq Jew

Abq Jew on Twitter: Yes, of course Abq Jew is on Twitter! And with 1,528 Followers, he is proud to say.

Yes, of course Abq Jew advertises on Twitter!

Abq Jew targets his ads at Twitter users who are interested in the same crazy stuff that Abq Jew is, and who happen to live in any of several key US states or Canada or Israel. Of course.

Sometimes Twitter users will actually mention @AbqJew in a tweet. This is (as Twitter users know) an effective way of attracting the mentionee's attention. Such as:

Now, Abq Jew's Modern Hebrew is not nearly as good as it was back in the last century, when he was an engineering student at the Technion. But Abq Jew thinks this says

Why am I getting ads from the Jewish community in Albuquerque?
Do I look like Bugs Bunny?

Everyone in Albuquerque recognizes this as the age-old Left Turn at Albuquerque calumny. Which actually has an explanation that involves Bugs' creator.
Some of Chuck Jones' colleagues got lost commuting from the Southeast US to Hollywood and ended up lost out in the New Mexico boonies. 
The experience was memorable enough to create an inside joke that ultimately became the means by which Bugs Bunny ended up in the middle of nowhere. 
The joke was that Bugs was actually trying to get to Hollywood but got diverted in Albuquerque.

Abq Jew is, of course, based right here in the NW, in his beautiful West Bank (of the Rio Grande) settlement. But his reach goes way beyond the [18] '67 borders, which are actually nothing more than the [18] '49 armistice lines.

How far beyond? Well ...

The Website:

  • Top 3 Countries: United States (94%); Israel; Canada / Germany (tie).
  • Top 5 Cities: Albuquerque (45%); New York; Santa Fe, Washington; Sandy Springs.

The Blog:

  • Top 3 Countries: United States (74%); Israel; Brazil.
  • Top 5 Cities: Albuquerque (28%); New York; Unknown; Tel Aviv; Houston.

Abq Jew on Facebook

  • Top 3 Countries: United States (82%); Israel; Palestine (as listed).
  • Top 5 Cities: Albuquerque (15%); New York; Tel Aviv; Jerusalem; Houston.

Abq Jew on Twitter

  • Top 3 Countries: Israel (45%); United States; United Kingdom.
  • Top 5 Cities: Tel Aviv (21%); Albuquerque - Santa Fe; New York; Jerusalem; Petah Tiqwa.

To all of you, everywhere, Abq Jew can only say ...

Monday, December 15, 2014

Festival of No Lights

And Plenty of Freedom: The City of Albuquerque is about to celebrate the grand opening of the new I-25 / Paseo del Norte interchange, an eagerly-awaited traffic triumph for all of us settlers on the West Bank (of the Rio Grande, that is).

This Chanukah, the city will celebrate the first Festival of No Lights, as morning commuters taking Paseo to I-25 South will encounter none of same from the Coors intersection to G-d Knows Where.

No flyovers for you!
Commuters going straight across Paseo to Albuquerque Proper - sorry about that. 
Super-commuters going north on I-25 to Santa Fe or Los Alamos - fuggedaboutit! 
The city, county, state, and federal governments all ran out of Chanukah gelt.
Enjoy the Festival of Lights in all its radiance!

For all of us traditionalists, as well as for the nonconformists among us, there is this year, as every year, led, as always, by Chabad of New Mexico:

Community Chanukah
Celebration & Menorah Lighting
Sunday December 21 at 4:00 pm
Albuquerque Civic Plaza
Note: there is (optional) food involved!
Please contact Chabad for reservations!

Which brings us to the timesly (Times of Israel, that is) topic of Hanukkah music.
Way back on December 9 - almost a week ago! - Renee Ghert-Zand published
Swinging Hanukkah wins YouTube
Chicago Jewish wedding band goes all out with holiday video that is inching towards 300k views 
Forget those a cappella groups and goofy parodies. Let’s swing into the winter holiday season this year with a new Hanukkah video that ushers in the Festival of Lights big band style. 
Since its posting on November 22, Hanukkah Song Mashup – Dance Spectacular by Elliot Dvorin and the Key Tov Orchestra has racked up 275,455 views on YouTube.

“People have been in touch with me to tell me how the video really makes them smile,” Dvorin told The Times of Israel from Chicago, where he and his Jewish wedding band are based.
As Abq Jew goes to hit the Publish button, that YouTube count is up to 399,592. Enjoy!

Cheery Chanukah, Chevreh!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Gary Rosenblatt to Keynote ATOH 2015

Editor, Publisher, Mensch: Abq Jew is thrilled to announce (if you haven't seen it in the Link or the eLink) that the keynote speaker for A Taste of Honey 2015 will (אי״ה) be Gary Rosenblatt, editor and publisher of The Jewish Week of New York.

Gary Rosenblatt is often described as “the dean of Jewish journalism” for his award-winning writing and reporting over a span of four decades.

His topic will be:

The Joys and Oys of a Jewish Journalist:
Covering One’s Community from the Inside

Gary is also the author of the recently-published Between the Lines: Reflections on the American Jewish Experience.

Of which, Amazon says:
Gary Rosenblatt has been the editor and publisher of The New York Jewish Week for over 20 years. Here for the first time, is a curated collection of his most thoughtful Between the Lines columns, selected from the more than 1000 he has written since 1993.  
Between the Lines is a 278 page book featuring 80 columns ranging from prescient analyses of the Mideast situation to warm remembrances of his childhood as the Jewish rabbis son in Annapolis Maryland.
Abq Jew first learned of Gary's new book by - what else? - reading an opinion piece that Gary wrote for The Jewish Week: Love Me, Love My Book.

In which Gary describes the grueling yet exhilarating ordeal of presenting a 2-minute pitch to attendees of the Jewish Book Council's "Meet the Authors" event, with they hope that many of said attendees will start him on a national book tour.
It’s every author’s dream. And nightmare. 
The chance to address several hundred people from around the country who, deeply attentive, have come to New York for three days and one purpose — to find speakers for their local Jewish community book fairs, sisterhood luncheons and other cultural programs. 
The annual spring “Meet the Authors” event, sponsored by the Jewish Book Council, is a golden opportunity because it gives writers a platform to promote their work at a time when the publishing industry, hurting financially, is doing less and less to support its authors. 
But there’s a catch. 
Since there are 274 authors on hand, each having written a book this year, they must make their pitch — choose me, choose me — within two minutes.
Not two minutes and two seconds, mind you. Two minutes. And if you go over your allotted time, the timekeeper gets up and stops you. 

Abq Jew did, in fact, ask Phyllis Wolf, the Albuquerque JCC's Art, Culture & Education Director - who has been producing ATOH for beaucoup years - whether she had been to the JBC and heard Gary's book pitch. 

And Phyllis's response?

Gary was a good speaker and it’s a very pertinent topic.
I liked how in two minutes he was able to capture the ‘tightrope he walks’
– honest criticism vs. rah rah rah and ‘damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t’.
I have been keeping him on my radar for keynoting ATOH.

Yes, Gary gave a really good book pitch. Here is how he prepared for it:
I spent more time than I’d anticipated preparing my own pitch for “Between The Lines,” my collection of about 80 Jewish Week columns from the last two decades. Getting my message down to about 360 words was tough. But Joyce Lit, the helpful Council Network associate who preps each of the authors in advance of their presentations, was encouraging. 
“Let them know you’ve been observing and commenting on the Jewish scene for four decades, that you’ve seen it all,” she said. “Tell them what’s changed and what’s remained the same. And use your humor, they’ll like that.” 
So I kept tinkering — adding here, cutting there. When I read my talk to Joyce over the phone a week before my big day, it came in at 1:57. Great, but I told her I wanted to inject more humor. She warned that “laugh time counts on the clock,” and suggested that even if I got a laugh I should just keep going.  (That’s not easy — forgoing the chance to milk every second of a positive audience response.) 
In the end it seemed to work out OK, though it went by in a blur. I summarized my book, got a few laughs, and no trap door opened under me to indicate my time was up. 
Now I wait, along with the hundreds of other authors, to see who gets invited where.

Abq Jew still subscribes to The Jewish Week - it's a great newspaper with a broad perspective that keeps him up to date on everything going on throughout the Jewish world. The Jewish Week is definitely not just for Greater New Yorkers.

But here is where Gary Rosenblatt made his name and firmly established his credentials as a journalist of integrity and courage: the Baruch Lanner scandal of 14 years ago.

In 2010 - a decade after those events - Gary looked back on what had happened in an opinion piece, A Decade Later, More Willingness To Confront Rabbinic Abuse.
The tenth anniversary of the public exposure in these pages of the “Lanner scandal” provides an opportunity to reflect on, and appreciate, how much has changed for the better in the last decade in responding to rabbinic sexual abuse. 
. . .
The story came to light when the first Jewish Week exposé appeared June 23, 2000, following months of investigation and dozens of interviews. It presented detailed allegations of how Rabbi Baruch Lanner, then 50 and the director of regions of the National Conference of Synagogue Youth (NCSY), the youth arm of the Orthodox Union (OU), sexually, physically and/or emotionally abused scores of teen-aged boys and girls in his charge over a period of three decades, despite numerous complaints lodged with the leadership of the organization. 
The response to the 5,000-word report was immediate and dramatic. 
The OU forced Lanner to resign that day and appointed a special commission to review and report on the charges. (Six months later, its 330-page report, based on interviews with 140 people, confirmed and expanded on The Jewish Week’s reporting and concluded that the OU leadership had made “profound errors of judgment,” including failures of management. Top officials were forced to resign and were replaced. NCSY developed a detailed and stringent policy regarding staff behavior, and parental supervision of and involvement in youth activities.) 
The Jewish Week received many hundreds of emails, letters and calls in support of the investigative report, while a relatively small but vocal and influential segment of the Orthodox community, including some of its rabbinate, sharply criticized the newspaper for going public, asserting it violated the religious prohibition against lashon hara, or gossip.
Abq Jew and family had been living in New Jersey for 18 years when the Lanner scandal broke. It turned out that our son, Dov Yellin the Film Editor, knew one of Lanner's victims. He had attended yeshiva with her - not where the abuse took place, and a few years before.

Dov had later heard from mutual friends that something was terribly wrong. But of course he didn't know what it was - no one knew what it was - and no one could then do anything about it.

He only found out when Gary Rosenblatt, with incredible courage, brought it all out into the open.

Which is why Abq Jew told Phyllis Wolf:

I don't know Gary personally,
but I'd love to see him in Albuquerque.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Celebrate the Alter Rebbe's Liberation!

Every Year On The 19th of Kislev: Chabad of New Mexico / Albuquerque will be hosting a Friday night Shabbat dinner in honor of the "New Year for Chassidism".

19th of Kislev Celebration
Friday December 12 ~ 6:30 pm
Chabad of New Mexico / Albuquerque
$15 Adults. $35 Family. $250 Sponsor

For those of us outside the Lubavitcher Chassidic tradition, a bit of historical background may be in order. Abq Jew could have found numerous citations at; but here is what his old friend, Wikipedia, has to say.
The date is significant within the Hasidic movement. Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi (Hebrew: שניאור זלמן מליאדי‎), the first Rebbe of Chabad (also known as the "Alter Rebbe" in Yiddish) was informed upon by a certain Avigdor and arrested on trumped-up charges of supporting the Ottoman Empire. 
His informers pointed to the fact that he would urge his followers to send money to the Land of Israel as "evidence" of his alleged insurrectionist aspirations (in fact, the money was sent to support poor Jews). At the time, the Land of Israel was a part of the Ottoman Empire, which was at war with Russia. 
Rabbi Shneur Zalman was charged with treason, and released in the secular year 1798 on the Jewish date of Tuesday, 19 Kislev. The fifty-three days of Rabbi Shneur Zalman's imprisonment are said to correspond to the fifty-three chapters of the first section of the Tanya.
That's nice, Abq Jew hears you say. But what does this mean to me today?
This day is regarded as a divine vindication of the Chabad movement, and has thus been celebrated ever since by Chabad Hasidim with joyous farbrengens. It is regarded as "the New Year of Chassidus (Hasidism)," when each Chassid wishes the other, "may you be signed and sealed for a good year in the study and ways of Chassidus." 
Rabbi Shneur Zalman said: 
"Whoever participates in my celebration will merit to see nachas from his descendants." 
The day is also marked by many other non-Chabad Chassidic groups.
There was a time ... when Chassidism was not generally as accepted as it is today. Those who opposed Chassidism were call Misnagdim, which means "opponents." Whatever Chassidism came out for - the Misnagdim were against.

Sort of like Republicans and Democrats.

Anyway, here's an additional anecdote about the Alter Rebbe's liberation.
When the Alter Rebbe left prison he was mistakenly brought to the home of a Misnagid (one opposed to Chassidus), who caused him to suffer with his questions. 
Afterwards, the Alter Rebbe said that the three hours he spent at the Misnaged’s home were more difficult than all the time he had spent in prison. 
In commemoration of the fact that the Alter Rebbe's liberation was not complete until he left the Misnagid's house, Chassidim mark 20 Kislev as a day of liberation as well.
Now, one glance at' will show us that the 19th of Kislev actually falls on Wednesday evening, December 10th. But who in New Mexico is free for a fabrengen on a weekday night?

And oh, by the way: Chabad of New Mexico / Albuquerque has a few other classes and events coming up, about which more later.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Let's All Go To El Paso!

We Can Walk By The Old Rio Grande: Abq Jew was fortunate and very pleased to be among a large handful of Rabbi Paul Citrin followers who followed him to Bookworks last Tuesday, where he gave a short talk and reading and then signed our purchased copies of his latest hit, Lights in the Forest (see Lights in the Forest).

As a special added treat, Abq Jew was also able to purchase Sunburst Saga, the latest CD by the Curio Cowboys, of whom Abq Jew last wrote in 2011 (see Happy Tu b'Av!), which seems incredibly hard for Abq Jew to believe.

Way back when Mr & Mrs Abq Jew lived in Livingston, New Jersey, we listened to the Curio Cowboys' recording of A-L-B-U-Q-U-E-R-Q-U-E. Abq Jew immediately decided that that's where he wanted to live. Mrs Abq Jew later agreed to come with.

In all the years (4+) that Abq Jew has lived in Albuquerque, he has never heard the Curio Cowboys perform live. Their scheduled appearance on Sunday at O'Niell's on Juan Tabo (4:00 - 7:00 pm) will, in all likelihood, be no exception. Abq Jew has no explanation for this except - he's gotta take care of his greyhounds.

But Abq Jew must also point out that, in all the years (4+) that he has lived in Albuquerque, the Curio Cowboys have never heard Abq Jew perform live, either. 

Even though, on good days, Abq Jew's banjo musicianship often rises to the level of mediocrity, he has not once been invited to sit in on a Curio Cowboys rehearsal, let alone a live performance. And for this lacuna, Abq Jew has never received a proper explanation.

But never mind. Abq Jew loves the Curio Cowboys and their music. How much?

Almost enough to visit Curio Cowboy and guitar maven
Stan Burg at Guitar Vista

But enough to buy their Sunburst Saga CD, rip it to his computer's hard drive, combine the MP3 of his favorite cut Let's All Go To El Paso with a downloaded portrait (see top) of the Curio Cowboys, and upload the resulting video to YouTube.

All without contacting the Curio Cowboys or their legal team (heck, they're their own legal team!) to seek permission. But still - ya gotta love this new technology.

Shabbat Shalom, Albuquerque!
Good Shabbos, New Mexico!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Hello and Goodbye

Shalom, Shalom:  This month the New Mexico Jewish community says Shalom, Shalom to Sam Sokolove and to Suki Halevi, as the former departs the Executive Directorship of the Jewish Federation of New Mexico (JFNM) and the latter arrives in Albuquerque to become Director of the New Mexico office of the Anti-Defamation Leage (ADL).

First, Sam. Here is what JFNM President Sabra Minkus has to say in this month's issue of The New Mexico Jewish Link.
As you may already be aware, Sam Sokolove has decided to step down from his position of executive director of the Jewish Federation at the end of this calendar year. His last day is Wednesday, December 31.

For the last decade, Sam has helped move our federation – and our community – from strength to strength. I know the Board of the JFNM joins me in supporting his decision to pursue new opportunities, and looks forward to publicly recognizing Sam’s exceptional service before his departure.
With assistance from the Mandel Center for Leadership Excellence at the Jewish Federations of North America, the JFNM Board of Directors has launched a search process for our next Executive Director, and has convened a search committee comprised of the following: Sabra Minkus and Jane Hochberg, co-chairs; Jon Bell; Mimi Efroymson; Marvin Gottlieb and Marisa Johnson.
Our goal is to have a new executive director on staff by September 1, 2015.

In the interim, beginning January 5, I will be serving as acting executive director. JFNM Staff members Cathy Dimos (Chief Financial Officer) and Dr. Sara Koplik (Director of Community Outreach) will maintain administrative and programmatic oversight during this transitional period.

While we will greatly miss Sam’s vision, ruach and leadership, please know that the Jewish Federation of New Mexico remains a strong agency prepared to meet the needs of Jews in New Mexico, Israel and worldwide through leadership, philanthropy, education and social action.

Our ability to continue our work, however, is dependent entirely on the generosity of supporters like you, and I hope that we can count on your support for the JFNM’s 2015 Annual Campaign. 
If you haven’t yet done so, please call (505) 821-3214 or visit to make your commitment today.

Next, Suki. Here is some of what Albuquerque Judaism Examiner Correspondent Diane J Schmidt has to say in this month's issue of The New Mexico Jewish Link (and also in an Examiner article).
Suki Halevi is the new face of the Anti-Defamation League for New Mexico. A serious, dedicated woman of principle, she comes to Albuquerque most recently after seven years on the island of Maui. 
She stands on the traditions she learned growing up in Beth El Synagogue in West Hartford, Connecticut, inspired by Rabbi Stanley Kessler, a prominent civil rights leader who demonstrated with the Freedom Riders and marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., along with Kessler’s teacher, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. 
About Rabbi Kessler, Halevi said, “His sermons inspired me from childhood and made a clear connection between Judaism and social justice.” 
Halevi graduated from Vassar College and Duke University School of Law, then practiced commercial law with an emphasis on ESOPs, employee stock ownership plans, which she sees as a vehicle for employees to have equity and sometimes a voice within companies.  
After her daughter entered college, Halevi felt it was time to do something different. She moved to Hawai’i, where the opportunity to work in community social action brought unexpected life-changing experiences. 
From strength to strength.

Sam's contributions to the JFNM and to the New Mexico Jewish community have been immeasurable. And Suki's potential is unlimited.

And finally, something else new. Stay tuned!

Friday, November 28, 2014

I Wonder Why

Shabbat Thanksgiving 2014: On this happy day, known in America as Black Friday, Abq Jew is very happy to present to you, his dear readers, this video of Dion and the Belmonts singing their first hit, I Wonder Why.

And if you, too, wonder why, Abq Jew will explain:

No particular reason. It's just a happy video.

Who are Dion and the Belmonts? Wikipedia tells us:
Dion and the Belmonts were a leading American vocal group of the late 1950s. All members were from the Bronx, New York City. 
The group formed when Dion DiMucci, lead singer (born July 18, 1939), joined The Belmonts – Carlo Mastrangelo, bass-baritone (born October 5, 1938), Fred Milano, second tenor (August 22, 1939 – January 1, 2012), and Angelo D'Aleo, first tenor (born February 3, 1940), in late 1957. 
The name The Belmonts was derived from the fact that two of the four singers lived on Belmont Avenue in the Bronx, and the other two lived near Belmont Avenue.
About Dion, Wikipedia tells us:
Dion was born to an Italian-American family in the Bronx, New York. 
As a child, he accompanied his father, Pasquale DiMucci, a vaudeville entertainer, on tour, and developed a love of country music – particularly the work of Hank Williams. 
He also developed a fondness for the blues and doo-wop musicians he heard performing in local bars and on the radio. 
His singing was honed on the street corners and local clubs of the Bronx, where he and other neighborhood singers created a cappella riffs.
Dion's career - and life - had its ups and downs. And then ...
In 1968, as a solo performer, Dion recorded Abraham, Martin and John, written by Dick Holler. 
It is a tribute to social change icons, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr, John F Kennedy and Robert F Kennedy. It was written as a response to the assassination of King and the younger Kennedy in April and June 1968. 
When producer Phil Gernhard initially presented the song to DiMucci, the latter didn't care for it. With the persistence of Gernhard, and Dion's wife Susan, he flew to New York that summer. He recorded the song in just one take. 
Laurie Records released the single in September of that year and it quickly raced up the charts, peaking at number four in December. DiMucci, now a star again, was invited to sing this comeback hit on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, as well as many other top shows.
And as for I Wonder Why, Wikipedia tells us:
I Wonder Why is a doo-wop song, written by Maxwell Anderson (lyrics) and Ricardo Weeks, and first recorded by Dion and the Belmonts (released as Laurie Records' first single, number 3013), becoming the group's first national pop chart hit, in 1958. 
It is sung from the point of view of a man telling his girlfriend that he loves her but does not know why. The song is noted for Carlo Mastrangelo singing the bass part in rhythm.
Dion was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1989. The Belmonts, for reasons that Abq Jew cannot even begin to understand, were not.

Nevertheless, Dion said of the Belmonts:
I'd give 'em sounds. I'd give 'em parts and stuff. 
That's what 'I Wonder Why' was about. 
We kind of invented this percussive rhythmic sound. If you listen to that song, everybody was doing something different. 
There's four guys, one guy was doing bass, I was singing lead, one guy's going 'ooh wah ooh', and another guy's doing tenor. 
It was totally amazing. When I listen to it today, often times I think, 
"Man, those kids are talented."

Shabbat Shalom, Albuquerque!
Good Shabbos, New Mexico!