Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Stan Lee, Jewish Literary Hero, 95

Jews & Comics: In the midst of what has turned out to truly be a Blue Wave (see Reflections On The Elections), there has been some sadness this week.

Observing Armistice Day (now Veterans Day); worrying about the hundreds of rockets fired on Ashkelon and Southern Israel; and remembering Stan Lee.

Tablet Magazine's Jacob Siegel tells us:
Stan Lee, who was almost certainly the most famous man in comics, has died at 95 ... Over the course of his life, Lee worked as a writer, editor, and publisher of Marvel Comics and became the face of the company. 
He created or had a hand in creating titles like Spider-Man, the X-Men, Iron Man, the Fantastic Four, and the Incredible Hulk among countless others. 
Lee was born Stanley Martin Lieber in New York City in 1922, a first generation son of Romanian Jewish parents. In 1940 he entered the comics business by going to work at Timely Publishing. 
There, he met and worked alongside the artist Jack Kirby, another son of New York City and Jewish immigrant parents whose name would become legendary among followers of comic books and American popular culture.
But you knew that, didn't you?

While we mourn his passing, we also recognize that Stan Lee lived a good, long life. Not a perfect life - but a good one. Tablet Magazine's Liel Leibovitz concludes his tribute:
But if you’re looking to understand what makes Judaism’s edicts eternal, what makes American popular culture so widely resonant, and how the two intersect, you could do much worse than picking up a Stan Lee comic book and following it into a world where good and evil still do battle, even if down here they’ve settled into a dance of mutual convenience. 
We’ve had great comics masters before Lee and since; what we’ve never had is one so adept at breathing new life into old ideas, so attuned to the ancient stories and so wise to realize how much they still matter.

Since his passing, tributes to Stan Lee have been published and broadcast ... well, almost everywhere. Here is just one example - a video tribute from CBS News.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Reflections On The Elections

A Blue Wave Big Enough: Abq Jew would be happy to report that all of the eager and anxious waiting before Tuesday's midterm elections was worth it. However, as we have since learned - some of it was, and some of it wasn't.

Here in our beloved Land of Enchantment, a a lot of the ... anticipation ... was definitely worth it.

It turns out we are sending three (3) Democratic Representatives to the House of. And outside NM, Max Rose, Kevin Thomas, Mikie Sherrill, et al, won their races. Perhaps not overwhelmingly terrific ... but not too shabby, either.

And then there was Florida's [Constitutional] Amendment 13. Which on Tuesday Floridians approved, 69%-31%.

The Florida Bar Journal explains (sorta) what's in the Amendment.
The humane treatment of animals is a fundamental value of the people of the State of Florida. After December 31, 2020, a person authorized to conduct gaming or pari-mutuel operations may not race greyhounds or any member of the Canis familiaris subspecies in connection with any wager for money or any other thing of value in this state, and persons in this state may not wager money or any other thing of value on the outcome of a live dog race occurring in this state. The failure to conduct greyhound racing or wagering on greyhound racing after December 31, 2018, does not constitute grounds to revoke or deny renewal of other related gaming licenses held by a person who is a licensed greyhound permitholder on January 1, 2018, and does not affect the eligibility of such permitholder, or such permitholder’s facility, to conduct other pari-mutuel activities authorized by general law. By general law, the legislature shall specify civil or criminal penalties for violations of this section and for activities that aid or abet violations of this section.
Or, in simpler terms -

Florida has banned greyhound racing,
effective December 31, 2020.

Florida is now home to 11 of the 17 greyhound racing tracks still operating in the US. An estimated 7,000 greyhounds will need to be re-homed during the next two years.

But that's just counting the dogs at Florida's tracks. There are thousands more greyhounds in the breeder / trainer 'pipeline' - being bred and trained specifically for racing, all over the country.

Abq Jew declines the invitation to join the highly-charged argument about whether greyhound racing is humane or cruel or just 'is'. It doesn't matter anymore.


We have work to do.

But let's get back to the Blue Wave for a moment.

Has Abq Jew ever mentioned that he 'grew up' - as much as anyone can - in the then-beautiful Santa Clara Valley (before it turned to Silicon) of Northern California? When (and where) everybody went surfing?

Here are three things that Abq Jew has learned about surfing.
  1. Surfboards are pricey. Even when you could buy a Sunnyvale home for thousands (not millions), surfboards cost more than groceries. Or books.
  2. Getting to the beach (as they call it there, as opposed to the Jersey Shore) meant tying your surfboard onto (or into) your 'woody' (or your mom's Dodge Dart) and traversing the Santa Cruz Mountains via Highway 17. One of the most dangerous roads in the state, country, world, and, perhaps, universe.
  3. If you make it to Santa Cruz, and are able to find a place to park near the beach, then shlep your feshluggeneh (that's a technical term) surfboard out into the 'blue' waves, you discover that
Geez, the water is cold!

Nevertheless ... there were The Beach Boys.
The Beach Boys are an American rock band formed in Hawthorne, California, in 1961. 
The group's original lineup consisted of brothers Brian, Dennis, and Carl Wilson; their cousin Mike Love; and their friend Al Jardine. 
Distinguished by their vocal harmonies and early surf songs, they are one of the most influential acts of the rock era. 
The band drew on the music of jazz-based vocal groups, 1950s rock and roll, and black R&B to create their unique sound, and with Brian as composer, arranger, producer, and de facto leader, often incorporated classical elements and unconventional recording techniques in innovative ways.
The Beach Boys began as a garage band, managed by the Wilsons' father Murry, with Brian's musicianship dominating their creative direction. 
In 1963, they gained national prominence with a string of top-ten hits reflecting a southern California youth culture of surfing, cars, and romance, later dubbed the "California Sound". 

 There's a Jewish connection!

Yes, really. Jews for Surfing! It begins with that second paragraph.
The group's original lineup consisted of brothers Brian, Dennis, and Carl Wilson; their cousin Mike Love; and their friend Al Jardine. 
It all depends, you see, on how you count. Among the first members of the group was none other than David Marks.
David Lee Marks (born August 22, 1948) is an American guitarist who was a member of the Beach Boys from February 1962 to August 1963.
At age seven, [he] moved into a house across the street from the family home of the three Wilson brothers, Brian, Dennis, and Carl Wilson, later to become the founding members of The Beach Boys. 
David is Jewish. He was ... a frequent participant at the Wilson family Sunday night singalongs. 
Marks performed on the Beach Boys' first four albums, Surfin' Safari (1962), Surfin' U.S.A. (1963), Surfer Girl (1963), and Little Deuce Coupe (1963), before leaving the band due to personal issues with manager Murry Wilson. 
Since Marks did not appear on the 1961 single "Surfin'", the first performance by the band that would become "the Beach Boys", most historians discount him as a true founding member of the group.
As you watch the video, kindly remember - we all were young, once.

As Abq Jew is preparing to release this blog post to the world, details of the latest gun-shooting mass tragedy - this one in Thousand Oaks, California - are beginning to emerge. And although we may not have heard of the others -

This is not the first mass shooting since Pittsburgh.

Representative Eric Swalwell (D-CA15) says:
It’s absolutely heart-wrenching to listen to #borderlineshooting victims’ families describe their loss. Life is fragile. Take a second today to tell a loved one what they mean to you. Or even better, a break to just hold them. 
It was college night. They were dancing. Yet, now we mourn the loss of their innocent lives. May memories of the #BorderLineShooting victims always be a blessing to those who loved them. 

Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA28) says:
The mass shooting in Thousand Oaks is horrific, and all too familiar. Once again we are devastated by the loss of life. And we are grateful to the first responders, one of whom lost his life. Our response must not be familiar. We must do something about gun violence.  
We must ACT.

Monday, November 5, 2018

For What It's Worth

Thalia Gets Religion: Waiting. That's what we're all doing, Abq Jew suspects. Don't want to say anything until the midterm elections are over and counted. And we find out whether the American People and our Constitution have won. At least a little.

In the meantime, the Search for Truth
and Lost Guitar Picks continues.

Guitar Players! Friends & Family of Guitar Players! Jews All Over! 
Do you know about Thalia Capos?

Thalia's are the most gorgeous, scientifically-designed, and pricey guitar capos on the market. Yes, Abq Jew has one. (It was a gift.) And loves it. For what it's worth.

So Abq Jew - who is not working on commission here - is happy to announce that

Thalia Capos have got religion!

For example ... Thalia's Blue Abalone & Chai MOP (Mother-of-Pearl) / Chrome Capo, pictured above. About which Thalia says
Chai, which means "Life" in Hebrew, is one of the most recognizable symbols of the Jewish faith. Comprised of the letters Chet and Yud, together they form the word "Chai" - a word that reflects the importance of life in Judaism. 
According to the Gematria, a Jewish mystical tradition that assigns a numerological value to Hebrew letters, the Chet has a value of 8 and the Yud has a value of 10, adding up to the number 18.  
Because of this, the number 18 represents good luck and gifts are often given in multiples of Chai, or 18. It symbolizes giving the recipient the gift of "life" or luck.
In case you're wondering - Thalia's theological capos come in lots of other ... flavors, too. Your OM, your Cross, your Trinity Knot, your Infinity, your Dove. Your Alchemical Elements. Your Dragon Scales. And for atheists and agnostics - no insignia at all!

But if you're shopping for Chanukah or Hanukkah - Thalia now offers rosewood picks with a Chai or Magen David, too! Just sayin'. For what it's worth.

But while we wait - eagerly and anxiously for election results, here's a little Buffalo Springfield.

For what it's worth.

For all you kids out there -
Buffalo Springfield was a Canadian-American rock band active from 1966 to 1968 whose most prominent members were Stephen Stills, Neil Young, and Richie Furay. The band released three albums and several singles, including For What It's Worth
The band combined elements of folk and country music with British invasion and psychedelic-rock influences, and, along with the Byrds, were part of the early development of folk-rock. 
With a name taken from a brand of steamroller ....

And while we're still alive and kicking ... Abq Jew urges you all (if you haven't done so already) to get out there on Tuesday and

ICYMI ... Abq Jew ® LLC is not a 501(c)(3) organization.
We are thus free to attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of our activities; and we may participate in any campaign activity
for or against political candidates.

Alright ... cue the Better Angels!

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Securing Our Jewish Institutions

Two Important Community Conversations: The Jewish Federation of New Mexico, in partnership with the JCC of Greater Albuquerque and congregations across the state, announces two important community conversations on securing our Jewish institutions:

  • Wednesday, November 7, 7:00 p.m. at the JCC of Greater Albuquerque,
    5520 Wyoming Boulevard Northeast
  • Thursday afternoon (time TBD), November 15, at Temple Beth Shalom,
    205 East Barcelona Road, Santa Fe
Each session will include a panel of Jewish communal lay and professional leaders, as well as representatives from the FBI's New Mexico field office.

Panelists will discuss how congregations, organizations, and law enforcement agencies are working to ensure that Jewish spaces remain safe, after which the forum will open to the audience for questions and discussion.

These events are free and open to the public.


Please contact the Jewish Federation of New Mexico
at (505) 821-3214 or info@jewishnewmexico.org

As we mourn the loss of life in the attack on the Etz Hayim /Tree of Life synagogue, Zach Benjamin, Executive Director of the Jewish Federation of New Mexico, talks about the loss and steps being taken for the safety of Jews and Jewish institutions in New Mexico.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Avenge. Redress. Vote Democratic.

More Lessons, More Commentary: This has been a terrible week in the history of Jews, in the history of America, and in the history of Jews in America.

Many different people - Jews, non-Jews, Americans, Citizens of the World - have reacted to the Pittsburgh Pogrom, the Tree of Life Massacre, in many different ways.

Most have stressed the theme Stronger Than Hate. That is, Love Is Stronger Than Hate. Abq Jew takes little consolation in this sentiment.

So Abq Jew has turned to the traditional Jewish liturgy.

Av HaRachamim (אב הרחמים‬ "Father of mercy" or "Merciful Father") is a Jewish memorial prayer which was written in the late eleventh or early twelfth century, after the destruction of the Ashkenazi communities around the Rhine River by Christian crusaders during the First Crusade. 
First appearing in prayer books in 1290, it is printed in every Orthodox siddur in the European traditions of Nusach Sefarad and Nusach Ashkenaz and recited as part of the weekly Shabbat services, or in some communities on the Shabbat before Shavuot and Tisha B'Av.
The Yizkor service on Jewish holidays concludes with the Av HaRachamim, which prays for the souls of all Jewish martyrs.
Here is an English translation of the prayer.
The Father of mercy who dwells on high
in His great mercy
will remember with compassion
the pious, upright and blameless
the holy communities, who laid down their lives
for the sanctification of His name.  
They were loved and pleasant in their lives
and in death they were not parted.
They were swifter than eagles and stronger than lions
to carry out the will of their Maker,
and the desire of their steadfast God.  
May our Lord remember them for good
together with the other righteous of the world 
Up till here, these are very nice, uplifting sentiments. If you're in the mood for Stronger Than Hate - if you find it comforting - you should stop here.

But Av HaRachamin continues.
And may He redress the spilled blood of His servants
as it is written in the Torah of Moses the man of God:  
"O nations, make His people rejoice
for He will redress the blood of His servants
He will retaliate against His enemies
and appease His land and His people".  
And through Your servants, the prophets it is written: 
"Though I forgive, their bloodshed I shall not forgive
When God dwells in Zion". 
And in the Holy Writings it says: 
"Why should the nations say, 'Where is their God?'"  
Let it be known among the nations in our sight
that You avenge the spilled blood of Your servants.  
And it says: 
"For He who exacts retribution for spilled blood remembers them
He does not forget the cry of the humble".  
And it says:  
"He will execute judgement among the corpse-filled nations
crushing the rulers of the mighty land;
from the brook by the wayside he will drink
then he will hold his head high".

Redress and retaliate.
Avenge and render vengeance.

George Washington in the Oval Office. Doug Mills/The New York Times

Thomas Friedman, in The New York Times, endorses
George Washington for President
Patriots put love of their own people first, while nationalists put hate for other people first. 
Dear Reader. I think you know, after 23 years of my writing this column, that I’m not lazy. I always try to come up with fresh ideas. 
Today, though, I am fresh out of fresh ideas. 
More than any time in my career, I think our country is in danger. It has a disturbed man as president, whose job description — to be a healer of the country in times of great national hurt and to pull us together to do big hard things that can be done only together — conflicts with his political strategy, which is to divide us and mobilize his base with anger and fear. And time and again he has chosen the latter.
Mr Friedman calls for constructive action to avenge the blood. All the blood.
In the midterm elections, vote for a Democrat, canvass for a Democrat, raise money for a Democrat, drive someone to a voting station to vote for a Democrat
I repeat: In the midterm elections, vote for a Democrat, canvass for a Democrat, raise money for a Democrat, drive someone to a voting station to vote for a Democrat. 
I repeat: In the midterm elections, vote for a Democrat, canvass for a Democrat, raise money for a Democrat, drive someone to a voting station to vote for a Democrat. 
Beyond that, nothing else matters. 
He then cedes "the rest of his space"
... to President George Washington and the letter he wrote, after a visit to Newport, R.I., where he was enthusiastically received by, among others, members of the local Jewish community. It was dated Aug. 18, 1790. [You can read the full text here.]
But the key part - which we all know by heart is
For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support. 
The letter ends with his blessing
May the Children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid. 
May the father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in his own due time and way everlastingly happy.
Finally - the protests in Pittsburgh, when the president and his entourage showed up - uninvited, and expressly told (as much as one can tell this president anything) not to appear - to "pay their respects" to the dead and injured Jews.

You may have wondered - what is that chant they're chanting? Well, Abq Jew is happy (as happy as he can be under the circumstances) to tell you.

The words, of course come from The Song of the Sea (Exodus 15). And, it turns out, the melody comes from New Mexico's Rabbi Shefa Gold.

Rabbi Shefa Gold
Rabbi Shefa Gold develops and leads Hebrew chants based on Jewish sacred texts for transformative spiritual growth.
With her focus on Hebrew chanting, Rabbi Shefa presents workshops based on chanting, ecstatic meditation, and Jewish subjects. Also, she is available for performing services as a rabbi. She developed and taught the Kol Zimra Chant Leaders’ Training program (through ALEPH) for many years.
May Rabbi Shefa's chant bring us peace,
as we prepare for the first Shabbat
after the Pittsburgh Pogrom.

Abq Jew does not use the word pogrom lightly or without forethought.

Stanford University's Steven Zipperstein (with whom, Abq Jew fondly recalls, he used to play guitar at UCLA Hillel in the 1970s,) writes:
Pogrom: The word's origins can be traced to the Russian for thunder or storm. A dark remnant of the Old World, it retains the capacity to feel as immediate as yesterday's outrage on morning services in Jerusalem
"The sight of Jews lying dead in a Jerusalem synagogue, their prayer-shawls and holy books drenched in pools of blood, might be drawn from the age of pogroms in Europe." -The Economist, November 22, 2014.
But we were talking about peace and harmony.