Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Four Videos and an Inauguration

Four Years: On January 20 2017 - a date which will live in ... perplexity and despair, @realDonaldTrump will, if all goes as planned (Abq Jew cannot in good conscience say "if all goes well"), become the next President of the United States of America.

To which Abq Jew responds, in a clear, bold statement with which he is sure we all can agree

For his sanity (what little remains) Abq Jew is meshuggeh to offer four recent videos that frame our times and capture the true gestalt of the political moment.

1. Remember That We Suffered

Yes, The New York Times (!) alerted Abq Jew that Patti LuPone would play a rabbi on the Friday the 13th (wouldn't you know) episode of CW's Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, titled Will Scarsdale Like Josh's Shayna Punim?, in which
the lovelorn title character Rebecca (Rachel Bloom) attends a bar mitzvah with Josh, her ex-boyfriend, that’s presided over by her childhood rabbi. Nothing strange there. But when it’s the Tony Award-winning actress Patti LuPone under the skullcap — with the Tony nominee Tovah Feldshuh slaying an imaginary hora as Rebecca’s mother — well, that’s where things start to get funny. 
In the episode, Ms. LuPone and Ms. Feldshuh lead a klezmer-crazy musical number called “Remember That We Suffered,” about a Jewish taste for basking in horrors past. Much to Rebecca’s obvious discomfort, the lyrics at the top of the song set the cheerily misfortunate mood right away:
Nights like these are filled with glee
Noshing, dancing, singing, wee!
But we sing in a minor key
To remember that we suffered! 
Cheered by the prospect, Abq Jew DVRed the entire episode. Which he hasn't had the time to watch yet. But here is the video of Remember That We Suffered.

2. Human: Francine

A little too flip and flippant? Here is a video from Human: The Movie that will snap us all back to reality.
HUMAN is a collection of stories and images of our world, offering an immersion to the core of what it means to be human. Through these stories full of love and happiness, as well as hatred and violence, HUMAN brings us face to face with the Other, making us reflect on our lives. 
From stories of everyday experiences to accounts of the most unbelievable lives, these poignant encounters share a rare sincerity and underline who we are – our darker side, but also what is most noble in us, and what is universal. 
Our Earth is shown at its most sublime through never-before-seen aerial images accompanied by soaring music, resulting in an ode to the beauty of the world, providing a moment to draw breath and for introspection.
And about this video clip (and the power of chocolate!) -
Born in 1933, Francine Christophe was deported with her mother at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1944. Released the following year, she continues to share her experience and memories, particularly with the younger generations.

3. Real Housewives of ISIS

OK ... too serious. Poignant and uplifting, but too serious.

So let's switch to the Real Housewives of ISIS. Once again, The New York Times (!) tipped Abq Jew off.
The comedy sketch opens with a hijab-wearing British woman named Afsana fretting over how to impress the Islamic State militants who recruited her. “It’s only three days to the beheading, and I’ve got no idea what I’m going to wear!” she laments. 
Another woman models her new suicide vest for her fellow jihadist wives. “What do you think?” she asks. “Ahmed surprised me with it yesterday.” 
A third woman reacts admiringly, typing into her phone and saying: “Hashtag OMG. Hashtag Jihadi Jane. Hashtag death to the West, ISIS emojis.”

4. Israel Dancing

And then there is this video of Israeli Folk Dancing - A Celebration of Traditions, put out by the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

There's no special message here, except

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

At the End of In the Beginning

The Wandering Mem: This Shabbat, at synagogues throughout Albuquerque, we will have the honor of reading Parshat Vayehi, And [Jacob] Lived.

And at one of those synagogues (Abq Jew will explain later), the reading will include Jacob's Blessing of the Children of Israel.

And Jacob called unto his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days. Gather yourselves together, and hear, ye sons of Jacob; and hearken unto Israel your father. 
Reuben ...Simeon and Levi ... Judah ... Zebulun ... 
Issachar ... Dan ... Gad ... As for Asher ... 
Naphtali ... Joseph ... Benjamin. 
All these are the twelve tribes of Israel: and this is it that their father spake unto them, and blessed them; every one according to his blessing he blessed them.
Yes, all the Brothers of Joseph (see Sing Along With Joseph!) we've come to know and love over the many, many, many years. But Abq Jew hears you, his loyal readers, ask

Who's this 'As for Asher' Guy?
What happened to Plain Old Asher?

Funny you should ask! As Abq Jew promised (Billy Nader) last week - let's take a look at Gad's verse and at Asher's verse.

Gad, a troop shall troop upon him;
but he shall troop upon their heel.
As for Asher, his bread shall be fat,
and he shall yield royal dainties.

The problem, which Abq Jew has thoughtfully highlighted, is in Gad's verse: their heel. The Hebrew text reads עקב (heel), not עקבם (their heel). Where did the word "their" come from?

By now you have surely noticed that every other blessing that Jacob utters begins with the name of the person (tribe) being blessed. So isn't the wordphrase מאשׁר (As for Asher) just a bit odd?

To understand what has happened to our Biblical text, let us all recall that the Torah scroll is written with no vowels and no punctuation. Moreover, in the days of Eeyore, there were no extra spaces at the ends of sentences.

Oh - one more thing (as Columbo used to say). Way back then there was no ם (final Mem). There was only מ (Mem).

So here is what Biblical scholars say: Over the years, the Mem that was the final letter in עקבם became the Mem that is the first letter in מאשׁר. In other words

A scribal error was made.

Talmudical scholars, of course, will have none of this.

Oh - one more more thing (as Columbo never used to say). At one time, the Torah was written in כּתב עברי (Hebrew script), not the square-letter כּתב אשׁורי (Assyrian script) we use today.

You can read more about this (and the traditional Rabbinic response) here on

Because it is the final parsha in the Book of Genesis, one Albuquerque congregation - Chabad, don't you know - will shout out, at the end of the seventh aliyah (but not after maftir)

Be strong! Be strong! And may we be strengthened!

Other Abq congregations may (or may not) shout this out, for those congregations may (or may not) include Jacob's Blessing of the Children of Israel in their Shabbat Torah reading, this being the first year of the Triennial Cycle.

And yet.

In spite of our disagreements over scribal errors, alphabet switcheroos, and reading cycles - every Shabbat, every Yom Tov, every weekday, when we lift the Sefer Torah before replacing it the Ark, all of us Jews all over the world will shout out

This is the Torah
that Moses placed before the Children of Israel!

Shabbat Shalom, Albuquerque!
Good Shabbos, New Mexico!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Shapeshifting Noah's Ark

The Coracle Oracle: A new twist on the ancient story we all know:

Make for yourself an ark of gopher wood ...
And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of. 
The diameter of the ark shall be fifty cubits;
the circumference of it [πd] 157 cubits;
and the area of it [πr2] 1,963 'square' cubits.

Wait a minute! Abq Jew hears you, his loyal readers, exclaim. That's not how the story goes! The King James tells us

Make for yourself an ark of gopher wood ...
And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of.
The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits;
the breadth of it fifty cubits;
and the height of it thirty cubits.

Irving Finkel believes the ark was round. He bases his theory on years of study. And he's got proof. But Abq Jew now hears you ask

Who the heck is Irving Finkel?

Wikipedia tells us
Irving Leonard Finkel (born September 1951) is a British philologist and Assyriologist. He is currently the Assistant Keeper of Ancient Mesopotamian script, languages and cultures in the Department of the Middle East in the British Museum, where he specialises in cuneiform inscriptions on tablets of clay from ancient Mesopotamia.
Irving Finkel reads cuneiform like the rest of us read the Daily Mail or Biblical Archaeology Review. Or watch a PBS NOVA program titled Secrets of Noah's Ark.
In 1948, a British pilot serving in Iraq acquired a clay tablet with an intriguing, 3,700 year-old inscription. The ancient writing tells the story of how the god Enki warns a Sumerian king named Atra-Hasis of a future flood that will destroy mankind; Enki gives him instructions for building a boat to save his family and livestock. 
If that sounds like a familiar tale, it’s because this was one of several ancient flood traditions that, centuries later, would inspire the biblical story of Noah. But the tablet’s inscription describes a boat very different from the traditional image of the Ark—it’s said to be circular and made of reeds. 
Is this nothing more than a fanciful myth? Or could such a reed boat have carried Atra-Hasis’ family of more than one hundred and his many animals? 
Join NOVA as a team of historians and expert boat builders investigates this fascinating flood legend and sets out to rebuild a tantalizing, ancient forerunner of the Ark.
You can read more about this fascinating story here. Or watch the entertaining and informative PBS NOVA program here.

But take a close look at about 34 minutes in.

Which shows how the original round ark


the ship-shape ark we know today.

How, Abq Jew hears you ask, could this round-to-rectangular shapeshift possibly have happened? The PBS NOVA program explains -

Through a series of scribal errors.

Wow! Abq Jew hears you exclaim. Those ancient Mesopotamians sure were sloppy! Thank God, you think, that our ancient Hebrew scribes were so much more careful with the text of our Torah, the literal Words of God.

Well ... think again. Abq Jew will (Billy Nader) talk about one such classic error in next week's Torah reading, Vayehi. Next week.

In the meantime, Abq Jew hears you ask

Why would anyone build a round boat?

Irving Finkel points out that a pointed ship may be easier to sail to a particular destination - but the ark had nowhere special to go.
In all the images ever made people assumed the ark was, in effect, an ocean-going boat, with a pointed stem and stern for riding the waves – so that is how they portrayed it. 
But the ark didn’t have to go anywhere, it just had to float, and the instructions are for a type of craft which they knew very well. 
It’s still sometimes used in Iran and Iraq today, a type of round coracle which they would have known exactly how to use to transport animals across a river or floods.

The man who is tired of tablets is tired of life.
- Irving Finkel

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Days Are Here Again

May They Be Happy: Back in November, we were all prepared to sing about it. Now, on the cusp of the 2017th year of the Common Era, many of us are no longer sure.

Happy days are here again
the skies above are clear again
let us sing a song of cheer again
Happy days are here again

All together shout it now
there's no one who can doubt it now
so let's tell the world about it now
Happy days are here again

Happy Days Are Here Again is a song copyrighted in 1929 by Milton Ager (music) and Jack Yellen (lyrics) .... 
The song was recorded by Leo Reisman and His Orchestra, with Lou Levin, vocal (November 1929), and was featured in the 1930 film Chasing Rainbows.  
The song concluded the picture, in what film historian Edwin Bradley described as a "pull-out-all-the-stops Technicolor finale, against a Great War Armistice show-within-a-show backdrop." 
This early example of 2-strip Technicolor footage was, along with another Technicolor sequence, later cut from the 1931 re-edited release of the otherwise black-and-white film, and is believed to have been lost in the 1967 MGM Vault 7 fire.

For those who look happily toward the New Year, here are Ben Selvin and the Crooners.

For those who look toward 2017 with sadness and fear ... here is Barbra.

Your cares and troubles are gone
there'll be no more from now on

To A Happy & Healthy 2017!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Winter / Spring 2017 @ OASIS Abq

Great Courses @ OASIS:  Abq Jew is pleased to inform you that

OASIS Albuquerque has just announced
their Winter / Spring 2017 line-up of classes!
Registration opens on
Wednesday January 4
but you can Wish List your selections now.

The mission of OASIS (as stated on the organization's website) is

To promote healthy aging through a three-fold approach: lifelong learning, healthy living
and social engagement. 
OASIS Albuquerque Executive Director Kathleen Raskob continues (as always) to work enthusiastically to bring you new and interesting class offerings, and continues to make sure there are plenty of courses of Jewish interest. This session's courses and instructors include but are by no means limited to:

The Foundations of Modern Zionism & State of Israel
Wed 1 Feb & 8 Feb 2017 @ 10:30 am - #56
Instructor: Noel Pugach
What It Is: In 2017, there are a number of notable anniversaries in the history of modern Zionism and the re-creation of a Jewish state. The first class focuses on the First Zionist Congress in 1897 called by Theodore Herzl, the father of modern Zionism. Then examine Great Britain's Balfour Declaration issued in 1917, which gave international recognition for the restoration of a Jewish homeland in an area called Palestine. Place these events in their historical context and examine their consequences.

Not Your Fiddler on the Roof: The Religious Thought of Hasidism
Mon 6 Feb 2017 @ 10:30 am - #101
Instructor: Michael Nutkiewicz 
What It Is: Eastern European Jewry before the Holocaust is often romanticized as folksy, pious, and powerless. The 18th century, however, saw the rise of Hasidism - a religious movement that swept the imagination of a large segment of Jewish society. Initially branded as heretical by rabbinic authorities, it was finally accepted as part of Judaism. Hasidism, however, offered a unique approach that blended traditional Jewish concepts, mysticism, and psychology. This fascinating movement still exists.

Celebrating Trees & Protecting the Environment Through a Model Seder
Thu 9 Feb 2017 @ 10:30 am - #103
Instructor: Paul Citrin
What It Is: Ancient rabbis established the 15th of the month of Shevat (corresponding this year to February 11) as the New Year of the Trees. For two millennia, due to a strong Jewish feeling for the environment, trees have been planted during this time. About 500 years ago, the mystics of Safed, Israel developed a seder, or liturgical meal, to express the human relationship to the earth. A model seder with its liturgy and discussion of environmental values will be presented with samples of dried fruits and nuts used in the celebration. Limited enrollment.

Shakespeare in Love?
Thu 2 Mar 2017 @ 10:30 am - #69
Instructor: Norma Libman
What It Is: With whom? - and other secrets of the great writer's life. No, we won't be able to answer all the questions about this man, but in this class we will learn a lot about Shakespeare's view of himself and the world in which he lived. We do this by looking at some of his key sonnets, in which he revealed much about who he was.

Truly American: Aaron Copland
Thu 2 Mar 2017 @ 1:00 pm - #80
Instructor: Jane Ellen
What It Is: Hailed as "The Dean of American Composers," Aaron Copland (1900-90) was one of the driving forces in creating a definitive American sound in concert music. As an author, Copland wrote books presenting classical music in such a way as to appeal to musicians and non-musicians alike; as an educator, he was devoted to helping develop young talent. But then, as Igor Stravinsky once remarked, "Why call Copland a great American composer? He's a great composer!"

Bob Dylan: Homer, Ginsburg, or Jeremiah
Mon 27 Mar 2017 @ 10:30 am - #70
Instructor: Lib O'Brien
What It Is: "Why can't I be conventional" Bob Dylan sang, in response to the announcement of his Nobel Prize, showing that once again, Bob Dylan will be Bob Dylan without labels. Much of the following controversy is over the definition of literature. Through discussion we will try to define Dylan's place in both the arts and culture. As well as listening to many of his songs, we may even sing a few.

Spies in Los Alamos During World War II
Thu 30 Mar 2017 @ 10:30 am - #130
Instructor: Richard Melzer
What It Is: The project to develop the world's first atomic bomb was to be the most secure operation of World War II. It was not. This presentation describes how security at Los Alamos was supposed to work but soon failed, leading to easy access for three spies: David Greenglass, Klaus Fuchs, and Ted Hall, and their Communist handlers. Using autobiographies, oral histories, and previously classified information, Richard Melzer tells this absorbing story, complete with anecdotes and ironic humor.

The Ethics & Morality of the Death Penalty
Thu 6 Apr 2017 @ 10:30 am - #108
Instructor: Harry Rosenfeld
What It Is: There are those in leadership in the state of New Mexico that are pushing for the reinstitution of the death penalty. Harry Rosenfeld examines some classical Jewish and other religious texts to help clarify the moral and ethical implications of the reinstitution of the death penalty.