Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Torah Flora Comes to New Mexico

Biblical and Talmudic Botany Walking Tours: Torah Flora (TorahFlora.org) is a website developed by Dr Jon Greenberg, and it is devoted to Biblical Ethnobotany.

Dr Greenberg also presents live programs on this subject for audiences of all ages and educational levels, often at synagogues, religious schools, and botanical gardens.


Abq Jew is very pleased to announce that Dr Greenberg will be offering two walking tours right here in the Land of Enchantment. Here you will learn about:
  • Lilies you have eaten, from Egyptian god and Israelite gourmet export to kabalistic symbol and your bagel topping 
  • Why do most English Bibles say that Noah built his ark out of “gopher wood” if there is no gopher tree? 
  • Juniper and saltcedar: Keys to Jeremiah’s theology 
  • The drug that Jacob may have sent to his son Joseph in Egypt 
  • How Miriam made the apple tree a symbol of religious faith 
  • Two American plants that are essential to Israeli identity, and one that’s really an impostor 

ABQ BioPark Botanical Garden
Torah Flora
ABQ BioPark Botanical Garden
Monday  August 4 @ 10:30 am
We will meet at the main entrance to the Botanical Garden at 10:30 am. Directions are available on the BioPark web page. The fee for the Torah Flora tour is $5. (Cash only, please.) The BioPark charges an additional entrance fee that depends on age and New Mexico residency, with discounts for military personnel and members of other zoos and botanical gardens, and free admission for BioPark members. Admission fees and advance ticket ordering are available on-line. Children will receive a craft project to take home. Advance registration is appreciated, but not necessary. To register for this tour, please e-mail jon@torahflora.org. This tour is not recommended for children under 8 years old.

Santa Fe Botanical Garden at Museum Hill
Torah Flora
Santa Fe BioPark Botanical Garden
Tuesday August 5 (Tisha b'Av) @ 10:30 am
We will meet at the main entrance to the Botanical Garden at 10:30 am. Directions are available on the Garden web page. The fee for the Torah Flora tour, which includes admission to the Garden, is $15 for adults, $14 for seniors 65 or older and active military personnel, $13 for students with ID, $8 for Santa Fe Botanical Garden members, and free for children under 12. (Cash only, please.) Children will receive a craft project to take home. To register for this tour, please e-mail jon@torahflora.org. This tour is not recommended for children under 8 years old.


Yes, Abq Jew can hear you asking three very important questions.

1. What is Biblical Ethnobotany?

Dr Greenberg answers: Ethnobotany is the study of how people use plants. Biblical Ethnobotany is a way of using the tools of botany and ethnobotany to help us better understand the Torah. This includes such things as identifying the plants and other natural phenomena mentioned in the Tanach (Jewish Bible), using information about these plants to shed light on their use in prophetic metaphor, and studying the plants involved in performing various mitzvot in order to better appreciate and perform those mitzvot.

2. Who is Dr Jon Greenberg?

Dr Greenberg received his bachelor’s degree with honors in biology from Brown University and his Master’s and Doctorate in agronomy from Cornell University. He has also studied with Rabbi Chaim Brovender at Israel’s Yeshivat Hamivtar and conducted research on corn, alfalfa, and soybeans at Cornell, the US Department of Agriculture, and the University of Pennsylvania’s Institute for Cancer Research.

Since 1989, he has been a science teacher and educational consultant. Dr Greenberg was Senior Editor of science textbooks at Prentice Hall Publishing Company. Previously on the faculty of Yeshivas Ohr Yosef, the School of Education at Indiana University, and the University of Phoenix, he has taught at the Heschel School since 2008. He is a frequent speaker at synagogues, schools, and botanical gardens.

3. Why is this happening right around Tisha b'Av?

As Abq Jew first stated in 2011 (see Consoling The Father) and reiterated in 2013 (see May The Father Find Comfort):
The Talmud says, "When the month of Av begins, we reduce our joy." During the Nine Days we observe a greater level of mourning than during the Three Weeks. We don't eat meat or drink wine (except for Shabbat). We don't wear new clothes that require the Sh’he'cheyanu blessing - we are not happy to "reach this season." We don't play or listen to music.  
But the Talmud also states that all who mourn the destruction of Jerusalem will merit to rejoice in its rebuilding. 
The Sages also teach that the Jewish Messiah was born on Tisha b'Av. It is that promise of redemption which makes this period one of hope and anticipation.
Perhaps, Abq Jew suggests, in this period of war and destruction, we are in greater need of redemption. We are certainly in greater need of consolation. Walking among God's natural wonders can do that.

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Crossing the Bar

Passing the Bar: Yes, Abq Jew is aware that crossing the bar and passing the bar are two very different things, although they may not appear that way to those attempting to avoid the former while acing the latter.


And yes, Abq Jew is aware that the New Mexico bar exam will be offered - could that possibly be the right word? - this coming Tuesday and Wednesday.

Just what everyone needs: a two-day exam.

But let's go back to crossing the bar.


Fred Byrd, who posted this video on YouTube, says
Crossing the Bar is a song based on an Alfred, Lord Tennyson poem of the same name. This particular version was recorded by the bluegrass band Salamander Crossing from their album "Bottleneck Dreams". Salamander Crossing disbanded in 1999 but some of the original members (Rani Arbo and Andrew Kinsey) still perform under the name "Rani Arbo and Daisy Mayhem". 
The poem itself is an allegory for death. It was written near the end of Tennyson's life. "Crossing the bar" could be interpreted to mean "crossing the sandbar" out into sea, transitioning from life into death. The Pilot is a symbol for God. Tennyson wrote that "The Pilot has been on board all the while, but in the dark I have not seen him...[He is] that Divine and Unseen Who is always guiding us." 
The song itself, I find, is strangely beautiful in that even though it is a metaphor for death it isn't especially sorrowful. There's a touch of reflectiveness here.
Abq Jew first heard Rani Arbo and Salamander Crossing many years ago, at a concert in Hightstown, New Jersey. He's been a fan ever since.

"Playful and profound." "One of America's most inventive string bands." And yes, Rani Arbo wrote the music for Crossing the Bar.

For those of Abq Jew's dear readers who will not (ahem) click the video, here is the poem. It is noted that Rani Arbo switched the second and third verses for dramatic effect.
Crossing the Bar 
Sunset and evening star,
  And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
  When I put out to sea, 
But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
    Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
    Turns again home. 
Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
    When I embark; 
For tho' from out our bourne of Time and Place
    The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
    When I have crost the bar.
If Salamander Crossing's version seems too tame for you - here is a very different and visually stunning interpretation, from a band called False Lights.


In his wanderings through the world of YouTube, Abq Jew discovered even more versions of Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem and Rani Arbo's melody.

Among them (in order of their discovery): the ReSound Choir; the Noyana Singers of Brlington, Vermont; a group called Skuzins; and Raise the Roof.

If you want to hear a guy on a boat (how appropriate) singing to the accompaniment of a 5-string banjo - and who wouldn't? - here is Bentley Smith.

Too much boat? Here is Bentley Smith (and Friend) singing to the accompaniment of a 5-string banjo in the Art Deco Miami Beach Post Office. Amazing acoustics!


To those facing the bar exam next week -


And though it's been another tough week in Israel ...
Shabbat Shalom, Albuquerque!
Good Shabbos, New Mexico!
!שׁבּת שׁלום ומבורך, ארץ ישׂראל

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Tunnels? Seriously?

Tunnels. Seriously. We all know stories about Famous Tunnels in History.


For starters, there is the well-known Carpal Tunnel, from which derives Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, a repetitive motion injury that results from ... repetitive motions. Of the wrist and hand - not quite like hitting your head against a brick wall.

New Jersey entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel

Somewhat less well-known is the Lincoln Tunnel, from which derives Lincoln Tunnel Syndrome, a repetitive motion injury that results from ... repetitive motions. Of the hip, knee, and ankle - from hitting the brakes, then the gas, then the brakes ....

Queens entrance to the Queens Midtown Tunnel

Similarly, we find Holland Tunnel Syndrome, Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel Syndrome, and the infamous Queens Midtown Tunnel Syndrome.

Hezekiah's Tunnel in Jerusalem

In Israel, thw most well-known tunnel is, of course, Hezekiah's Tunnel.

The website Historvius tells us
Hezekiah's Tunnel, also known as Siloam Tunnel and the Tunnel of Shiloh, in Jerusalem was built by the 14th king of Judah, King Hezekiah, in 701 BC. Upon hearing of the approach of the Assyrian army, the king wanted to protect the city’s water supply and thus ordered the construction of this tunnel to act as an aqueduct, bringing water to his citizens. It was also to stem the water supply, preventing it from reaching the invading troops. 
This 1,750-foot marvel of engineering stretches from the Gihon Spring to the Pool of Siloam and is still in a remarkable state of preservation. 
The events which led to the creation of Hezekiah's Tunnel are described in the Bible and also on its walls. In 1880, a young boy found an inscription in the tunnel – known as the Siloam Inscription – telling of how the two groups digging it met in the middle. 
Today, visitors can trek through Hezekiah's Tunnel, wading through its water in an adventure that brings archaeology to life. This site is part of the City of David National Park.
Bedboards used to shore up Tom, Dick, and Harry

The tunnels we all know, however - at least, we of a certain age - are the tunnels (Tom, Dick, and Harry) that WWII Allied POWs dug out of the Nazi POW camp Stalag Luft III, wonderfully re-enacted in 1963's The Great Escape.

The website History on the Net tells us
The Great Escape, as it came to be known, was a mass escape attempt from the prisoner of war camp Stalag Luft III located near the Polish town of Zagan. 
The purpose-built camp was opened in April 1942 and the Germans considered it to be practically escape-proof. Prisoners were fairly well treated and the Geneva Convention of 1929 regarding treatment of Prisoners of War was followed.
So - why try to escape? Because ...
it was the sworn duty of all captured military personnel to continue to fight the enemy by surviving, communicating information and escaping.
And - the result of The Great Escape?
Of the 76 men who escaped, 3 made it home to the UK. 23 were recaptured and sent back to Zagan. Hitler personally ordered the execution of the other 50 men.
But we were talking about tunnels.

Israeli soldier in tunnel from Gaza

Until the current round of fighting broke out between the Israel Defense Forces and the terrorist Hamas forces based in the Gaza Strip, Abq Jew had never heard of tunnels used to attack an enemy.

Tunnels are, of course, used to get from here to there, or to bring water to the thirsty. To escape, yes; to get away, yes; but to go the other way? To attack?

Harvard University; Massachusetts Institute of Technology

When Israel disengaged from Gaza in 2005, the citizens of Gaza had the means and the power to chart their own direction. They had an enormous (and surprising) amount of international good will. There was no blockade of sea or land routes.

At the time of disengagement, Wikipedia tells us,
Palestinian mobs entered the settlements waving PLO and Hamas flags, firing gunshots into the air and setting off firecrackers, and chanting slogans. Four synagogues were vandalized, looted, and torched. Palestinians also looted objects from destroyed homes. 
Hamas leaders held celebratory prayers in Kfar Darom synagogue as mobs continued to ransack and loot synagogues. Palestinian Authority security forces did not intervene, and announced that the synagogues would be destroyed. Less than 24 hours after the withdrawal, Palestinian Authority bulldozers began to demolish the remaining synagogues.  
The settlements' greenhouses, which were supposed to be left intact by Israel, but half of which were demolished by their owners before leaving, were also looted by Palestinian mobs. Palestinian Authority security forces attempted to stop them, but did not have enough manpower to be effective. 
In some places, there was no security, while some police officers joined the looters.
What happened? There is no Harvard in Gaza, and no MIT in Rafah. There is no Metropolitan Museum in Khan Younis.

Gaza could have become the Singapore of the Middle East. Her citizens could have built the area up - in so many ways.

But instead, they chose destruction; they chose Hamas. And the concrete, money, time, and - alas -human resources were instead used to build attack tunnels.

So Hamas terrorists could sneak into Israel and kill Jews.

There are no words to express Abq Jew's anger and sorrow.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

New Cheder Director at Nahalat Shalom

Welcome, Roberta Stein! What is it about Alaska, Abq Jew wonders, that moves her Jews (the Frozen Chosen) to become New MexiJews? Could it be the weather?

Never mind; we've picked up another good one!

Nahalat Shalom is excited to announce
the hiring of a new Cheder Director. 

Roberta Stein joins the Albuquerque community from Alaska where she served as a Choir Director, Cantorial Soloist, and Administrator and Director of Enrichment Programming.

Stein holds a Master’s Degree in Jewish Education from Hebrew College as well as a Bachelor’s in Education and Teacher Certification in Music Education.

Dedicated to enthusiastic and dynamic teaching as a means of creating and nurturing a lifelong love of learning, Stein has received numerous awards including: the Dr. Albert and Dorothy Holzman Prize for innovative instructional materials in Jewish Education, and the Disabled Alaskan of the Year Award.

Stein says,
My ability to motivate and share a love of learning fosters a successful learning environment and a joyful experience.
It seems that others would agree. Dr. Margee Greenfeld, former principal of Congregation Beth El Religious School in Harrisonburg, VA notes, that Stein has
an uncanny ability to ‘read’ her student’s interests and abilities and then create resources, plays, musicals, puppets, costumes, and documents that challenge, entertain, and motivate them. 
Her love of the arts is incorporated in all that she does.
Nahalat Shalom’s Cheder runs every Thursday from 4:30 to 6:00 pm for children in Kindergarten to 7th grade. A challenging, yet fun B’nai Mitzvah program is offered for those planning to celebrate becoming  Bar or Bat Mitzvah at Nahalat Shalom.


For more information about Nahalat Shalom’s Cheder as well the many other programs and activities offered at Nahalat Shalom, visit www.nahalatshalom.org.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Welcome, Violet Olivia!

Live! Again From New York! Remember that project 23 months ago (see Welcome, Lena Rose!) involving Dov Yellin the Film Editor and his wife Dr Jessica Schnur?

Dr Schnur and Mr Yellin were involved in a similar - very similar - project this month, the most beautiful and timely result of which is

Welcome, Violet Olivia!
Born July 15, 2014
שבעה עשר בתמוז

There is a tradition ...
that the Messiah will be born on Tisha b'Av. 

The midrash appears to be silent about the wonderful future awaiting girls born on the Fast of Tammuz. So we'll just have to wait and see.

While we're waiting - more photos!

Mama Jessica
Papa Dov
Auntie Alex
Jessica, Dov, Violet

Mr & Mrs Abq Jew are incredibly happy and proud to welcome Lena Rose's sister, Violet Olivia, into the family!


And as for Dov & Jessica's first project - here's an update.

Lena Rose enjoys her 23-month celebration

To celebrate the arrival of Violet Olivia, here is the Mitchell Trio (with John Denver replacing Chad Mitchell) singing Eric Andersen's Violets of Dawn.


And even though it's only Thursday ...
Shabbat Shalom, Albuquerque!
Good Shabbos, New Mexico!
Mazel Tov, Tri-State Area!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Stop the Sirens

We can’t silence them. But we can try and soften their impact on the lives of the children and families living under their blare.


On July 7, Israel launched Operation Protective Edge to intensify defensive efforts against Hamas. To date, hundreds of powerful rockets have been fired on Israeli cities from Gaza. Three-quarters of Israelis lie within their range, but no one is immune to their effects.

“No country on Earth would remain passive in the face of hundreds of rockets fired on its cities,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “and Israel is no exception.” The IDF has mobilized its troops along the Gaza border and called up tens of thousands of reserve soldiers, and the entire country remains on edge.

As hostilities escalate and urgent needs grow, we in North America stand shoulder to shoulder with all Israelis.

Here’s what the Jewish Federation’s partnering agencies in Israel are doing:
  • Moving 36,000 children out of harm’s way for respite in camps
  • Making immediate SOS Grants of $1,000 to victims’ families
  • Offering trauma counseling for the elderly, disabled and immigrants
  • Refurbishing hundreds of bomb shelters
  • Supporting 2,500 new immigrants overwhelmed by the current situation
  • Delivering meals to homebound seniors who rely on JDC day care centers
  • Running activities for children from low-income families in the range of the rocket fire
  • Creating a manual with emergency protocols for people with disabilities
  • Providing crucial database information to temporary caseworkers working with elderly and disabled residents in 13 locations across the south
  • Holding science and technology summer camps in a youth village in northern Israel for 500 children from the Sha’ar HaNegev municipality
  • Minimizing children’s trauma at all affiliated schools and programs
With JFNA support, our partners were able to act immediately. But with the sirens still blaring, they need our ongoing support.


Donate on-line today to the 
Stop the Sirens Emergency Campaign

You can also send a check  -- with “Stop the Sirens” in the memo line – to

The Jewish Federation of New Mexico
5520 Wyoming Blvd. NE
Albuquerque, NM 87109

Or, please call the JFNM at (505) 821-3214 to make a credit card contribution.

With thanks for your support,

Sam Sokolove
Executive Director
Jewish Federation of New Mexico


Friday, July 11, 2014

The Girl from Ipanema

Jewish Bossa Nova: The terrible events of this week have followed the terrible events of last week. Tragedy with victory, tragedy with defeat. And that's just talking about the 2014 FIFA World Cup.


Operation Protective Edge may go on for a while, but the World Cup Final Match is on tap for this Sunday. Between, Abq Jew has learned, Argentina and Germany, two countries about which Jews have decidedly mixed feelings. May, one supposes, the best team win.

Thane Rosenbaum, in his essay Numbers Don't Tell the Mideast Story for The Daily Beast, cleverly points out that

Hamas fires rockets the way Brazilians dance: all over the place.

And what of Brazil? The Final will be held in the Estadio Jornalista Mario Filho, better known as the Maracana. In beautiful Rio de Janeiro, know for its imposing statue of Christ the Redeemer.

And for Ipanema Beach. Unlike Zikim Beach, which is south of Ashkelon, Ipanema is far away from Gaza and her terrorists.

Heloísa Pinheiro, the Girl from Ipanema

TVfoodanddrink.com tells us:
“The Girl from Ipanema”  (“Garota de Ipanema”) was written in 1962 by Antonio Carlos Jobim with original Portuguese lyrics by poet Vinicius de Moraes. The song became famous worldwide with its inclusion on the 1964 landmark Bossa Nova album Getz/Gilberto. 
Jobim originally composed the music at his home in the seaside Ipanema distritc of Rio De Janeiro. The photo above is of the girl who inspired the song, Heloísa Pinheiro. 
The song’s original title was “Menina que Passa” (“Girl Who Passes”), but was changed for the album of collaborations between American jazz saxaphonist Stan Getz and Brazilian guitarist/vocalist João Gilberto to “The Girl from ipanema” to give it a Rio touch. 
The delicate, intoxicating vocals are provided by Astrud Gilberto, then wife of João. The song’s global success launched Astrud’s singing career, eventually earning herself the unofficial title, “Queen of Bossa Nova.”
“Girl from Ipanema” won the 1965 Grammy for Record of the Year with Getz/Gilberto winning for Album of the Year as well as Best instrumental Jazz Performance.  It was the first Bossa Nova song to earn worldwide popularity, and ushered in a craze in the 1960s .... 

And what of Stan Getz? The Jewish Virtual Library tells us
Stan Getz was born Stanley Gayetzky on February 2, 1927, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He received his first saxophone from his father at the age of 13. 
Getz attended the Julliard School of Music, but left after only one year to pursue a career in music. In 1943, Getz was accepted to play in Jack Teagarden’s band. After playing in various other bands, from 1947-49 Getz became a soloist in the Woody Herman’s Herd. 
Getz was an American jazz musician and is considered one of the greatest tenor saxophone players of all time. In the 1950s, Getz had become popular for playing cool jazz. 
[In 1964] Getz ... recorded with Jobim, João Gilberto and his wife, Astrud Gilberto. Both the album and their single, “The Girl from Ipanema” won Grammy Awards; the single quickly became one the most recognized jazz songs of all time. 
Getz died on June 6, 1991, in Malibu, California.  
Tall and tan and young and lovely
The Girl from Ipanema goes walking


Ah, but that's not all! JewishFilm.org quotes Stan Getz


You know, when I'm playing, I think of myself in front of the Wailing Wall with a saxophone in my hands, and I'm davening, I'm really telling it to the Wall.


One more story, this one from Michael J. Simonetti's Guest Book comment at StanGetz.net:
The story goes that one day God announced he wished to play a musical instrument and so he choose the tenor saxophone because to him, it sounded closest to the sound of an angelic voice. 
An angel nearby hearing God suggested he listen to a Stan Getz recording, which God did. After listening to a tune or two God declared that he had decided to choose another instrument. 
When the angel asked God why he had changed his mind God paused, smiled broadly, and answered... 
"Because I have heard the voice of perfection."

Shabbat Shalom, Albuquerque!
Good Shabbos, New Mexico!
!שׁבּת שׁלום ומבורך, ארץ ישׂראל