Sunday, April 23, 2017

Remembering the Iasi Pogrom

A MyHeritage Journey: In March (see The Dutch Jews at Sobibor) Abq Jew wrote about the branch of his family in or from the Netherlands.

And back in December (see Starting With Aunt Bea), Abq Jew wrote about his Aunt Bea, her friend Ronnie Gilbert (of Weavers fame), and - as it turned out - our mutual relative, Donna Korones.


And how we had all been brought together by Cousin Eleanore, Ronnie's memoir, MyHeritage.com, and Great Grand Mama's printout of the Oring Family Tree.

MyHeritage has now helped Abq Jew build out his Family Tree - from his father's (z"l) original 646 people to now more than 5,700.

This evening, we begin our observance of
יום הזיכרון לשואה ולגבורה Yom HaShoah viLaGevurah
(Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day).

Let's continue our journey with Great Grand Mama, Abq Jew's beloved mother-in-law. Who had in her possession a Family Tree for her father's family, the Orings, built by her grandfather's half brother's granddaughter Linda Lou Samuels z"l, who (alas) passed away in 2011.


Great Grand Mama's Family Tree included two entire branches that were heretofore unknown. The first branch was in Romania, but made its way to Israel in the 1970s. The second branch was also in Romania, but never left.

The fate of the second Romanian branch is largely unknown. The fate of other members of Abq Jew's family in Europe, however, is.

Gmina Oświęcim, Oświęcim County,
Lesser Poland Voivodeship, Poland

Sobibór, Włodawa County, Lublin Voivodeship, Poland

Terezin/Theresienstadt, Czech Republic


And then there are Rachel and Etti Oring, Mrs Abq Jew's first cousins twice removed, who appear on the Family Tree with a shared year of death and no descendants. Their fate was

Died in Pogrom, Iasi, Roumania


It was a bit of a shock for Abq Jew to see those words printed so clearly on Great Grand Mama's Family Tree. He had not been aware of the Oring family's Romanian roots (neither had Mrs Abq Jew); and he had not known of the Iasi pogrom.

So Abq Jew looked it up. Yad Vashem tells us
Jews first settled in Iasi, located in the Moldavia district of Romania, in the late fifteenth century. The majority of Jews in Iasi earned a living from local commerce and as artisans. Iasi became an important center of Jewish life, and approximately ninety synagogues once existed there. 
In 1930, Jews made up thirty percent of the city’s population, totaling 35,465 persons.  
On Saturday evening, June 28, 1941, Romanian and German soldiers, members of the Romanian Special Intelligence Service, police, and masses of residents murdered and plundered the Jews of Iasi. Thousands were killed in their homes and in the streets; additional thousands were arrested by patrols of Romanian and German soldiers and taken to police headquarters.  
Lazar Rozin, who was only fourteen years old in June 1941, describes, “They entered our house, screaming and pillaging all of our belongings. They ordered us all out of the house, also my mother and my sisters. We walked to the police station and on the way we saw how people were beaten and bodies of dead Jews were strewn in the streets.” 
The next day, “Black Sunday,” Romanian soldiers shot thousands of Jews who had interned in the police headquarters yard.
Approximately 4,000 Jews, rounded up from all parts of town, were packed into freight cars and vans. The “death trains” were sealed and moved back and forth between railway stations. 2,650 of them died of suffocation or thirst, and others lost their sanity. 
Lazar Rozin states, “They piled us into the train…we did not know what was going to happen…we thought that they would not want to set the cars ablaze only because they did not want to destroy the locomotive itself … For five days we suffocated in that crowded train. Most of the people died in the car… we slept on dead bodies.” 
During the pogrom, the Romanian authorities, together with German soldiers, not only murdered thousands of Jewish residents of Iasi, but also sought to destroy an entire community that had existed for more than 300 years.

And what became of those who perpetrated this atrocity? Wikipedia tells us
The Romanian People's Tribunals were conducted in 1946 and a total of 57 people were tried for the Iaşi pogroms: eight from the higher military echelons, the prefect of Iaşi county and the mayor of Iaşi, four military figures, 21 civilians and 22 gendarmes. One hundred sixty-five witnesses, mostly survivors of the pogrom, were called to the stand. 
The majority of those sentenced under war crimes and crimes against peace (article 2 of Law no. 291/1947), 23 people (including generals and colonels), received life sentences with hard labor and 100 million lei in damages. One colonel received a life sentence in harsh conditions and 100 million lei in damages. 
The next-largest group, twelve accused, were sentenced to 20 years hard labor each. Sentences of 25 years hard labor were received by seven accused. Smaller groups received a 20-year harsh sentence and 15 years hard labor, and one accused was sentenced to five years hard labor. Several accused were acquitted.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Becoming Animated

The Log Driver's Waltz: We New MexiJews, along with Jews all over the world, have (in most cases) made it through another delightful Passover holiday. Eight full days (here in חו״ל) of eating, sleeping, singing, reading, praying, and eating some more.


So now it must be time to dance!

On Sunday evening, April 9 (Mrs Abq Jew's birthday!), Turner Classic Movies (TCM) was pleased to present (says Animation World Network) "a primetime program of screenings and interviews on animated short films produced by the National Film Board of Canada."

And, as The Solute tells us -
On Sunday Night, TCM is showing a variety of these films through the decades from the abstract works of McLaren to 1988’s Academy Award-nominated cartoon The Cat Came Back. The evening tackles a wide array of subjects from nuclear war (The Big Snit) to mid-life crisis (Bob’s Birthday which would become the series Bob and Margaret) to our ubiquitous dependency on cars (What On Earth!) to the microscopic wonders of the world (Zea). Many of the films have been nominated or won Academy Awards for best Animated Short. 
You don’t have to have TCM to watch these films. Most (if not all) of these films are available on the internet, through either NFB’s website or NFB’s YouTube Channel. (I highly recommend the website as it has much better organization, but they both have a fantastic amount of videos and NFB’s YouTube will take you down a rabbit hole).

Abq Jew's favorite animated film was The Log Driver's Waltz, based upon a Canadian folk song written by Wade Hemsworth (here sung by Kate & Anna McGarrigle and the Mountain City Four).

Released in 1979 as part of its Canada Vignettes series, the song
. . . celebrates the profession of log driving, a practice in the lumber industry which involved transporting felled timber by having workers walk or run on the logs as they floated down rivers. This occupation required a great deal of strength and physical agility, and Hemsworth was struck by how much the sight of log drivers at work resembled dancing. 
The song's chorus is: 
For he goes birling down a-down the white water
That's where the log driver learns to step lightly
It's birling down, a-down white water
A log driver's waltz pleases girls completely. 
The lyrics are often misheard as "whirling" or "twirling" instead of "birling". "Birl" is an old Scots verb meaning "to revolve or cause to revolve", and in modern English means "to cause a floating log to rotate by treading". Today, birling survives as a competitive sport. 
The song also contains considerable double-entendre, beginning with the sentiments of the opening stanza: 
If you ask any girl from the parish around,
What pleases her most from her head to her toes;
She'll say, "I'm not sure that it's business of yours,
But I do like to waltz with a log driver."
Yes, Abq Jew is fully aware (and you should be too) that today marks 74 years since the beginning of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

And that יום הזיכרון לשואה ולגבורה Yom HaShoah viLaGevurah (Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day) will be observed this coming Monday, with many communities offering special programs this Sunday April 23.

But until then - let's waltz!


A log driver's waltz pleases girls completely!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

More About the Four Sons

After the Seders: Surely, says Abq Jew, we all recall the Four Sons of the Passover Haggadah - the Wise Son, the Evil ("Contrary") Son, the Simple Son, and the Son Who Doesn't Know What to Ask.

And if not - surely we all met them again during the Seders.


We New MexiJews who know how to watch KENW - Public Media [PBS] for the High Plains, based at Eastern New Mexico University (whose mascot is the Greyhound!)


were also treated to


a new documentary by Allen Oren, the man who brought us


a few years back. Many others across the country were also fortunate to have their local PBS station(s) carry this wonderful film.


As the Southwest Dutchess Daily Voice reports -
As Jewish faithful gather to celebrate traditional Passover Seders this April, many households will read a short fable of family, faith and tradition, a story passed down for centuries. The tale, known as "The Four Sons," has inspired countless spin-offs and alterations over generations. 
Allen Oren, a communications professor at Pace University, examines this timeless tale in his upcoming documentary, The Four Sons And All Their Sons: A Passover Tale, which will air nationally on PBS. 
An Emmy-winning documentary filmmaker, Oren received critical acclaim for his first faith-based film, 18 Voices Sing Kol Nidre, which was released in 2011. The documentary explains the sacred ancient chant and discusses its importance in the Jewish tradition. 
In his newest film, Oren explores one of the oldest, most well-loved Passover stories, sharing more than thirty versions of the tale in art, music and words.

Abq Jew thinks that - depending on how much you may or may not have contributed to PBS this year - you may or may not be able to watch at least a preview of The Four Sons by clicking here. Or maybe here.

But Abq Jew is sure that you can watch three clips from the film at The Four Sons website. Or by clicking here and here and here. Or by scrolling down!




Happy Passover from Abq Jew!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

All Who Are Hungry

All Who Are Needy: The Albuquerque Jewish community, along with Jewish communities all over the world, will soon invite -


All who are hungry, come and eat;
all who are needy, come and celebrate
Passover with us.

This year, we are perhaps even more attuned to the cries of the afflicted.
Therefore, Abq Jew invites us all to help each other. Here are a few ways.

ADL New Mexico


The New Mexico Region of the Anti-Defamation League has recently issued a

Statement by New Mexico Jewish Communal Organizations and Clergy
in Support of Refugees and Immigrants


We, the undersigned Jewish communal organizations and community leaders from across the State of New Mexico, now join national Jewish organizations and communities throughout the United States in expressing our support for refugees and immigrants.

New Mexico was home to pioneering Jews fleeing discrimination, persecution and hardship. New Mexico was the destination of Jewish scientists and other refugees escaping the Nazis. As we give thanks for our lives in the place that was a refuge for our ancestors, we also recall Jews who were barred from immigrating to the United States during the Holocaust and perished.

Today, thousands of refugees and families who survived war and other violence, and were approved for resettlement in the United States after years of vetting and review, are being turned away. We cannot be silent as victims of war and terror are again denied entry. The United States can protect its residents from threats without closing its doors to legitimate refugees and barring immigrants based solely on where they come from.

Welcoming refugees and immigrants is vital to who we are as Americans and as Jews ....

Click here to read the full Statement, which was endorsed by almost all
major New Mexico Jewish organizations and clergy.
Mazon - A Jewish Response to Hunger


Each year at the Seder, we ask the traditional four questions.

And each year, Mazon asks a Fifth Question to raise awareness about a particular hunger-related issue and spark important conversations around the seder table.

This year, we turn our attention to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which faces proposals for devastating changes and cuts that would increase the problem of hunger.

Charities and houses of worship provide important temporary assistance for emergency situations, but they simply do not have the capacity or resources to feed the overwhelming number of people in need.

Federal food and nutrition assistance programs serve as our nation's frontline defense against food insecurity. SNAP is the nation's most important and effective anti-hunger program, targeting assistance according to need and helping millions of Americans to purchase adequate food for an active, healthy, and productive life.

So this year, please join us as we again ask The Fifth Question:


How can we protect the precious safety net
that supports those who are hungry?


Click here to add Mazon's Fifth Question to your Seder.

HIAS - Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society


Throughout our history, violence and persecution have driven the Jewish people to wander in search of a safe place to call home. We are a refugee people. At the Passover Seder, we gather to retell the story of our original wandering and the freedom we found.

But we do not just retell the story. We are commanded to imagine ourselves as though we, personally, went forth from Egypt – to imagine the experience of being victimized because of who we are, of being enslaved, and of being freed.

As we step into this historical experience, we cannot help but draw to mind the 65 million displaced people and refugees around the world today fleeing violence and persecution, searching for protection. Like our ancestors, today’s refugees experience displacement, uncertainty, lack of resources, and the complete disruption of their lives.

Over the past year, we have read almost daily about humanitarian crises, watched xenophobic hate crimes increase, and been overwhelmed by the sheer number of people being persecuted. In the United States, in particular, we have experienced a devastating closing of doors to refugees.

We now have the opportunity this evening to move beyond the headlines and the statistics to focus on the individual experiences behind the numbers and policies. These are the experiences of refugees around the world who, like the ancient Israelites, are finding liberation amidst brokenness and rebuilding their lives.

Tonight, as we embrace the experience of our ancestors, we also lift up the experiences of the world’s refugees who still wander in search of safety and freedom.

Click here to download HIAS’s 2017 Haggadah Supplement.

AJWS - American Jewish World Service


The Passover story chronicles the Israelites’ exodus from slavery in Egypt. It celebrates the movement from oppression to liberation and our belief that tyranny can be thwarted and justice can prevail.

Around the world today, courageous people are making similar journeys—leaving behind violence, poverty and persecution and seeking security, freedom, prosperity and peace.
Several months ago, I felt the power of the Passover story as palpably as I ever have when I travelled with AJWS to Cambodia. My sense of what it means for a people to go from slavery to freedom deepened when I spent time listening to the modern-day narratives of Cambodians who live in the shadow of a genocide that claimed 2 million lives. They are recovering from their traumas through the sheer force of will—and, today, continue to fight oppression and lay the foundation for democracy, equality and freedom for all Cambodians. 
This juxtaposition between the deepest injustice and the most transcendent hope reminds me of our own people’s transformations—from slaves in Egypt to a free people at Sinai; from those Jews who did whatever they could to resist the genocide perpetrated against us, to Jews today who find meaning in that tragic chapter of our history by standing up for freedom for others in the new millennium.
—Mandy Patinkin, actor and recording artist AJWS Passover essay 2016
Click here to download the AJWS's Global Justice Haggadah.


And lest we think "Dayenu" - here is AJWS's video on the subject.



A Zissen Pesach, Everyone!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Fun on Pesach with Paris Hilton

SodaStream Meets Exodus: Paris Hilton has (at last!) teamed up with Israeli drinks company SodaStream to reduce plastic bottle pollution.


Abq Jew was visiting DC last week, and happened to be wandering the White House grounds when three (3!) independent sources confirmed what everyone had long suspected. As later reported by The Times of Israel -
In an ad released last week, Hilton announced she had teamed up with the Weizmann Institute of Science to create a groundbreaking new product that “will reinvent drinking forever,” tiny bottles of something called NanoDrop meant to save the planet and consumers from waste. 

What immense, cosmic event motivated Paris to do this? The NanoDrop website (and, of course, the NanoDrop Facebook page) explain -
Troubled by the sight of a sea turtle struggling to free itself from plastic waste while she was vacationing in Majorca, a distraught Paris Hilton quickly Googled the matter and was appalled to learn the extent of devastation caused to the planet by plastic pollution. 
Two weeks later she launched the Paris Hilton Institute for Plastic Pollution Solutions, or PHIPPS. The cutting edge facility is located in the now retired Hilton Bermuda Spa & Resort (which still serves drinks to guests from 12 to 4 pm).
Here - watch this video and learn more. 
Follow the links in this blog post. You will laugh.


And you'll figure out who Milosz “Steve” Kasinski is.



What with President Orange still (still!) in office, and his Cabinet and Team of Advisors (or, perhaps, Advisers) not yet (but soon, אי״ה) under indictment, it's hard to tell what kind of week this is going to be.

So Just In Case things get busy, Abq Jew will now leave you with the Passover video that most clearly conveys his fondest wish -


A Zissen Pesach, Everyone!