Thursday, July 18, 2019

Seduced By the Sounds of Cuba

The Mamboniks and Martin Cohen: Have you been celebrating the Jewish experience through cinema at the 6th Annual ABQ Jewish Film Festival 2019 presented by the Jewish Community Center of Greater ABQ?

An entire, complete plethora of good films is (not are; Abq Jew checked) being presented this year. But the one that, in easier* times, Abq Jew would most be looking forward to is

The Mamboniks
Film Festival Finale
Sunday July 28 @ 2:00 pm
NHCC - Bank of America Theater
Bagels meet bongos in this surprising story of Jewish dancers
who fell in love with the Cuban mambo in the 1950s,
sparking a dance craze that swept the nation and the world.
Only a revolution could stop it.

Lox and bagels meet salsa and congos in Peabody Award winner Lex Gillespie’s joyous and singular celebration of the Jewish love affair with Latin music and dance, set in New York, Havana, Miami Beach, and the Catskill Mountains. 
During the 1950s, free-spirited, mostly Jewish dancers from New York City fell head over heels for the mambo, the hot dance from Cuba that became a worldwide sensation. 
Their love for Latin rhythms earned them a nickname: the “mamboniks.” Now retired, yet still dancing in Florida, a lovable, somewhat zany collection of dancers from the ‘50s share a passion that age has not cooled. 
With colorful first-person accounts and an infectious Afro-Cuban soundtrack including Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, and “mambo king” Pérez Prado, The Mamboniks explores a largely unexamined and exhilarating aspect of Jewish life and culture, and a time when Jews, Latinos, and African-Americans met on the dance floor, although America was racially segregated and anti-Semitism was commonplace.

And as long as we're talking Jews & Cuban music -
here is Martin Cohen's bongo story.

How a "poor, Jewish guy, who can't speak Spanish"
succeeded in making his mark on the Latin music industry

From NPR and
How I Made It: King Of The Bongo Makers
by Jeanne Montalvo Lucar 
In the late 1950s, a young mechanical engineer from the Bronx named Martin Cohen stumbled into Birdland, the famous jazz club in New York City. He discovered the rhythms of Latin music and thus began a lifelong love affair with percussion. 
In the 1960s, when Cohen wanted to get his own set of bongos to learn how to play, he found he was unable to get a high-quality instrument, due to a trade embargo with Cuba. 
He decided to start his own company, Latin Percussion (LP for short). If you’ve ever seen a band play percussion instruments—like congas, a set of bongos, or a cowbell, chances are you’ve seen an LP branded instrument. 
Cohen started by making drums, something he says he knew nothing about, and decades later, some of the greatest percussionists in the Latin music scene have played with LP instruments. 
Though, as of 2015, he no longer runs the company, he remains enmeshed in the world of Latin music. In the early 2000s, he created, a site dedicated to Latin music and percussion, with articles, photos, and live performances of bands from all over the globe. 

Mr & Mrs Abq Jew have not felt much like dancing or singing since the November passing (see In Memory of Sheila Kronrot) of our beloved Mother, Mother-in-Law, Grandmother, and Great Grand Mama - who would have turned 95 this past June. We are still mourning, and in some ways will always be.

And then - this Sunday (actually, Shabbat) is the fast of Shiva Asar B'Tammuz, which begins (see The Three Weeks 2016) a traditional period of mourning during which singing and dancing are ... discouraged.

Nevertheless, when the Holy One, Blessed Be He, grants us the strength ...

Monday, July 15, 2019

Deborah Lipstadt in Santa Fe

Antisemitism Here and Now: Got hate? Got intolerance? Although we Jews in New Mexico have been spared the worst (see Hate in NM: March 2019), we are by no means immune. And we see very clearly what is going on - all around us.

To help us better understand antisemitism - and why this term should neither be hyphenated nor capitalized - Professor Deborah Lipstadt, author and fighter against Holocaust denial, will speak with us in Santa Fe on Sunday, August 4.

Dr Ron Duncan Hart, President of the Jewish Federation of New Mexico, first told us about Professor Lipstadt's speech in this summer's issue of The New Mexico Jewish Link. It is reprinted here with his permission.

Deborah Lipstadt in Santa Fe 

by Ron Duncan Hart, PhD

On August 4, 1944, Anne Frank and her family were arrested by the Gestapo in Amsterdam. They were shipped to Auschwitz.

On this 75th  anniversary of that date, we will be commemorating her and her courage, along with that of her mother and sister who all died in the camps.
As we see this new wave of anti-Semitism in our country, we confront it as intolerance that undermines the fabric of our society.

In a special event for New Mexico,
Deborah Lipstadt will speak on 
Antisemitism: Here and Now
at 3:00 pm on August 4 at the James A Little Theater, Santa Fe

Dr. Lipstadt is a leading spokesperson in the United States and internationally on the rising antisemitism in Europe and the U.S. She is being invited by the Santa Fe Distinguished Lecture Series and the Santa Fe Jewish Film Festival, with support from the Jewish Federation of New Mexico.

Her new book on anti-Semitism, published earlier this year, sold out immediately and went into a second printing on the second week after its release. In addition to the American edition, it is now being published in England, Germany, the Czech Republic, and Israel.

Lipstadt came to national attention in 2016 with the movie Denial, in which she was played by Rachel Weisz, which chronicles her international court case with David Irving, a Holocaust denier in England.

Lipstadt had long fought Holocaust deniers, and in this court case she was able to prove the falsehoods of those who denied it happened. After a successful run in theaters, Denial can now be seen on Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, and other streaming services.

Her TED talk about the trial has received 1.3 million views.

Lipstadt is an award-winning author. In her most recent book, she gives us a penetrating and provocative analysis of the hate that will not die, focusing on its current, virulent incarnations on both the political right and left: from white supremacist demonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia, to mainstream enablers of anti-Semitism such as Donald Trump and Jeremy Corbyn, to a gay pride march in Chicago that expelled a group of women for carrying a Star of David banner.

When newsreels depicting the depredations of the Holocaust were shown in movie theaters to a horrified American public immediately after World War II, it was believed that the anti-Semitism that was part of the fabric of American culture in the 1920s and 1930s was finally going to be laid to rest.

In the ensuing decades, Gregory Peck received an Academy Award for playing a journalist who passed as a Jew to blow the lid off genteel Jew hatred, clauses restricting where Jews could live were declared illegal, the KKK was pretty much litigated out of existence, and Joe Lieberman came within five electoral votes of becoming America’s first Jewish vice president.

And then the unthinkable began to happen.

Over the last decade, there has been a noticeable uptick in anti-Semitic rhetoric and incidents by left-wing groups targeting Jewish students and Jewish organizations on American college campuses.

Jews in countries throughout Europe have been attacked by terrorists. And the re-emergence of the white nationalist movement in America, complete with Nazi slogans and imagery, has brought to mind the fascist displays of the 1930s.

Where is all this hatred coming from? Is there any significant difference between left-wing and right-wing antisemitism? What role has the anti-Zionist movement played?

And what can be done to combat this latest manifestation of an ancient hatred?

In a series of letters to an imagined college student and imagined colleague, both of whom are perplexed by this resurgence, Deborah Lipstadt gives us her own superbly reasoned, brilliantly argued, and sure-to-be-controversial responses to these troubling questions.

Professor Deborah Lipstadt has held the presidential appointment to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, and represented President George W. Bush at the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

Her books include The Eichmann Trial, Denial: Holocaust History on Trial (a National Jewish Book Award-winner), Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, and Beyond Belief: The American Press and the Coming of the Holocaust, 1933-1945.

She is the Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies at Emory University, and lives in Atlanta.

This event is open seating, and advanced tickets ($18.00) are available online at

Tickets will be on sale at the door for $20.00.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

The West Loch Incident

More LST-273 Exploits: This August, Abq Jew will observe what would be the 95th birthday of his father, Richard W Yellin, of blessed memory.

As Abq Jew wrote in December 2011 (see Boogie Woogie), Dad served in the Navy during World War II, mostly aboard LST 273.  

"LST" officially stands for "Landing Ship, Tank", whose job it was to drive right up onto the beach into direct enemy (in this case, Japanese) fire, and deposit its load of tanks, supplies, and troops.

LST 273 off Saipan, 16 June 1944

The Travels of LST 273

In preparation for Dad's 95th, Abq Jew has taken another look at some of the things Dad left behind. And: It turns out that Dad is in the above photo.

Abq Jew found a 2005 letter Dad wrote (in reply to another LSTer's letter) to the Scuttlebutt, the quarterly newsletter (and now the official website) of the United States LST Association.

In which Dad said:
I am a plankholder in LST 273, which also went down the Mississippi. That was in September 1943, after I finished Quartermaster classes at Great Lakes U. After shakedown and passing through the Panama Canal, we sailed to Long Beach, California, and then to Pearl Harbor. 
The 273 saw action in 
  • Kwajalein and Eniwetok [Jan-Feb 1944] in the Marshalls,
  • Saipan and Tinian [June-July 1944] in the Marianas, 
  • and then to Palau [Sep-Oct 1944]; 
  • it was in Pearl Harbor at the time [May 1944] of the West Loch incident

The West Loch Incident

More history: What, you may ask, was this West Loch incident? The disaster has been called "The Second Pearl Harbor" - but nobody seems to know about it.
The West Loch Disaster was a maritime accident during World War II at the Pearl Harbor U.S. Naval Base in Hawaii. The incident, which occurred just after 1500 hrs. on Sunday 21 May 1944, began following an explosion in a staging area for Landing Ships, Tank (LSTs) and other amphibious assault ships in West Loch. 
A fire quickly spread among the ships being prepared for Operation Forager, the invasion of the Japanese-held Mariana Islands. Over the next 24 hours, six LSTs sank, 163 naval personnel died and 396 were injured. 
A subsequent Naval Board of Inquiry never determined the exact cause of the disaster but concluded that the initial explosion was caused when a mortar round aboard LST-353 detonated during an unloading operation because it was either dropped or went off when gasoline vapors ignited. 
The incident – together with the Port Chicago disaster two months later – led to major changes in weapon handling practices within the United States Navy. 
The LST wreckage was quickly cleared in a salvage operation and dumped at sea 3 mi (2.6 nmi; 4.8 km) south of Hawaii.
Only the hull of the partially beached LST-480 was left in West Loch. A press blackout was enforced and naval personnel were ordered not to talk about the incident. 
The disaster was classified until 1960
and is therefore not well known.

[Dad never spoke about it.]

So, you (and Abq Jew) may ask:

Where Was LST 273?

As you would expect, Abq Jew did a lot more investigating around the Internet. In the Scuttlebutt, Mel Barger (LST-555) wrote about what he called the West Loch Tragedy:
West Loch was a busy area that day in 1944. Many of the ships were being loaded with ammunition, gasoline, and other cargo in preparation for the Marianas campaign. Marines and soldiers were also aboard the ships. 
And twenty-nine LSTs were berthed there to receive supplies from the West Loch Naval Ammunition Depot. 
  • LST-69 was berthed in a row identified as T-8, along with LSTs -205, -225, -274, -43, -179, -353, and -39. 
  • Next to them was T-9, which berthed LSTs -480, -140, -224, -340, -23, -462, and -222. 
  • The ships that would be lost in the disaster were LSTs -353, -179, -43, -480, and -69.  
Where were the other LSTs? And which LSTs were they? 

Google (at least the first several pages of results) did not provide the answer - but Dad did! While Abq Jew was putting away Dad's stuff until next time, he found this newspaper article that Dad had clipped and saved:

Which reveals, very clearly (Abq Jew magnified the photo), the exact location of LST-273 on that fateful day.

Here is the official lineup of 32 LSTs and three destroyers in the West Loch.
  • T-5: Five LSTs: LST 242, LST 126, LST 121, LST 45, LST 34
  • T-6: Five LSTs: LST 334, LST 20, LST 272, LST 169, LST 273
  • T-7: One LST: LST 29. Three destroyers: Waters, Stringham, Overton
  • T-8: Eight LSTs: LST 205, LST 225, LST 274, LST 69; LST 43, LST 179, LST 353, LST 39
  • T-9: Seven LSTs: LST 480; LST 240, LST 224, LST 340, LST 23, LST 461, LST 222
  • T-10: Six LSTs: LST 42, LST 275, LST 244, LST 166, LST 127, LST 128
This newspaper article indicates that five LSTs were destroyed (sunk) and one LST damaged in the disaster. LST 273 was some distance away and partially shielded from the explosions and fires.

Where Was Dad?

Abq Jew has Dad's complete (he believes) Navy personnel records from that time. So here is what Abq Jew thinks he has learned:
  • LST 273 and Dad were definitely at Eniwitok in February 1944.
  • LST-273 was definitely at Pearl Harbor's West Loch on May 21, 1944.
  • LST-273 and Dad were definitely at Saipan (Operation Forager) in June 1944. 
During the weeks before the West Loch disaster, the Navy was preparing the ships and rehearsing the men for the upcoming invasion of Saipan and the Marianas. Most likely, Dad and LST-273 took part in these exercises.

The day of the disaster was a Sunday. Many Navy personnel were on shore leave. Was Dad aboard LST-273? Abq Jew just doesn't know. Dad never said.

Which raises the next question:

What About Saipan? reports:
The Navy rallied after the incident, finding new ships and men to take over the mission. The LST fleet for the invasion of Saipan launched only one day late and made it to the Marianas quickly enough to invade on schedule on June 15, 1944. 
A media blackout kept most of America from hearing about the incident until it was declassified in 1960. Even today, it remains relatively unknown. 

You can read more about the West Loch Disaster here and here.
And here and here and here and here and here.

Keeping The Secret

About keeping the entire incident quiet: It was (of course) vitally important that the Japanese not learn about it. reports:
Historian Howard Shuman noted, “At least 250,000 people on ships and ashore at Pearl Harbor and tens of thousands more from Honolulu to Ewa saw the black smoke and fires and heard the blasts at West Loch. The disaster was not unknown.” 
Trying to downplay the disaster, [Admiral Chester] Nimitz (CINCPACFLT) issued the following statement: “An explosion and fire which occurred while ammunition was being unloaded from one group of landing craft moored together in Pearl Harbor on May 21, 1944, resulted in destruction of several small vessels, some loss of life, and a number of injuries. A court of inquiry has been convened….” 
Nimitz had put a beautiful little spin on a devastating accident. 
Fearing that word of the disaster would leak to the Japanese, a censor order was placed on the entire invasion force. As ordered by Admiral Nimitz, it was against regulations to talk about the disaster to others, including men from your own ship, or to write about it in letters home or elsewhere. 
William Wright, Jr., had been at paymaster school during the disaster but rejoined his ship just prior to the invasion. “I knew nothing about it until a long time later,” he recalled. “I didn’t even hear anybody talk about it among themselves. I guess they were threatened.” 
All of the official information and documents pertaining to the disaster, including the official court of inquiry transcripts and testimonies, were classified as TOP SECRET and stored away until January 1, 1960.  

Oh, there is much more to tell ...

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Unwanted & Goin' Nowhere

A Nice Jewish Girl: Well. Abq Jew seldom quotes from Elle magazine (or even reads it). But today - yes, today! - will be the exception. R Eric Thomas just published a magnificently-illustrated article that begins

Every Photo of Ivanka Trump at G20 Is Deeply Uncomfortable 
Last week, Ivanka Trump attended the G20 Summit in Osaka with her father's delegation and gave a speech on women's empowerment as part of this administration's on-going commitment to words that mean nothing to them. 
From the looks of the photos that have emerged from the meeting of world leaders (and, apparently, also their preferred daughters???) Ivanka had the time of her life, which is odd because she is definitely not a world leader and also G20 doesn't exactly sound like a blast. 
Nonetheless, there are dozens of photos of the First Daughter straight up cackling in dignitaries' faces like she's a high school junior visiting her older sibling at college and trying to make friends at a frat party no one invited her to.

Oh. No, Ivanka Trump does not actually appear in Lunch atop a Skyscraper.
Lunch atop a Skyscraper (New York Construction Workers Lunching on a Crossbeam) is a photograph taken atop the steelwork of 30 Rockefeller Plaza, during the construction of the Rockefeller Center, in Manhattan, New York City, United States. 
The photograph depicts eleven men eating lunch, seated on a girder with their feet dangling 840 feet (260 meters) above the New York City streets. The photograph was taken on September 20, 1932, on the 69th floor of the RCA Building during the last months of construction. 
According to archivists, the photograph was in fact prearranged. Although the photograph shows real ironworkers, it is believed that the moment was staged by Rockefeller Center to promote its new skyscraper. 
Other photographs taken on the same day show some of the workers throwing a football and pretending to sleep on the girder. The photo appeared in the Sunday photo supplement of the New York Herald Tribune on October 2, 1932.
The photograph was credited to Charles C Ebbets in 2003.
But she appears in enough ... awkward-looking (that's a euphemism) ... photos of the recent G20 Summit that Abq Jew is sure that you, his loyal readers, will get the visual joke.

Want to see more Ivanka hilarity? Try searching the Internet with the hashtag


Remember when Ivanka sang with The Beatles? No one else does, either. That's because Ivana Marie "Ivanka" Trump, also known as Yael Kushner, was born on October 30, 1981.

Ivanka, it turns out, was also not present at The Last Supper. This well-known1498-ish photograph by Leonardo da Vinci has been Photoshopped.

Some of these photos and memes are so bad (Abq Jew means that in a good way) you could just scream. And now -

Abq Jew must apologize.

For many things, and to many people. But in this case: for linking presidential candidate Gov John Hickenlooper (see It's Hickenlooper!) to Bob Dylan's classic You Ain't Goin' Nowhere.

Which may not have been the theme song Gov Hickenlooper was looking for. In fact, the Gov claims -

We crossed the finish line of June's
fundraising sprint in great shape.

Here is (in Abq Jew's perhaps not-so-humble opinion) a much better theme song, as we here in the USA launch into our Summer of Space.

Telstar is a 1962 instrumental written and produced by Joe Meek for the English band the Tornados. The track reached number 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in December 1962, and was also a number one hit in the UK Singles Chart.
The record was named after the Telstar communications satellite, which was launched into orbit on 10 July 1962. 

Thursday, June 27, 2019

It's Hickenlooper!

A Virtually Virtuous Banjo Virtuoso: Abq Jew's choice - for President of the United States in 2020 - has now been made. And that choice is -

John Hickenlooper

John Hickenlooper has hit all of Abq Jew's policy notes, from A to G. G#, actually. Gov Hickenlooper, Abq Jew has discovered, is

for some things and against others.

Which things? Abq Jew is not really sure; but it doesn't really matter. That's because:
  1. Gov Hickenlooper is the former gov of Colorado. Which is about as close to being from New Mexico as you can get without actually being from New Mexico. That's because - both states are blue! (Colorado is more purple-ish, due to their mountain majesties.) Let's keep it that way. Texas and Arizona? You're next!
  2. Gov Hickenlooper suffers from prosopagnosia. Although it's always possible that he rather enjoys it - he's constantly meeting new people! See There's A Bathroom if you've forgotten what prosopagnosia is.
  3. It's just fun to say "President Hickenlooper". Go ahead - try it!
  4. Gov Hickenlooper plays the banjo. This shows that the man has an abundance of character, stage presence, and chops. Here he is, playing Bob Dylan's You Ain't Goin' Nowhere, with the Old Crow Medicine Show (Paramount Theatre, Denver 2017).

Alexandra Petri, The Washington Post's "columnist offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day," has done us all the immense favor of ranking all the [presidential] campaign logos of 2020.

No, not this logos:
Logos (UK: /ˈloʊɡɒs, ˈlɒɡɒs/, US: /ˈloʊɡoʊs/; Ancient Greek: λόγος, romanized: lógos; from λέγω, légō, lit. 'I say') is a term in Western philosophy, psychology, rhetoric, and religion derived from a Greek word variously meaning "ground", "plea", "opinion", "expectation", "word", "speech", "account", "reason", "proportion", and "discourse". 
It became a technical term in Western philosophy beginning with Heraclitus (c. 535 – c. 475 BC), who used the term for a principle of order and knowledge.

And not that lego, either.
Lego (/ˈlɛɡoʊ/ LEG-oh, Danish: [ˈleːko];[1][2] stylised as LEGO) is a line of plastic construction toys that are manufactured by The Lego Group, a privately held company based in Billund, Denmark. 
The company's flagship product, Lego, consists of colourful interlocking plastic bricks accompanying an array of gears, figurines called minifigures, and various other parts. Lego pieces can be assembled and connected in many ways to construct objects, including vehicles, buildings, and working robots. Anything constructed can be taken apart again, and the pieces reused to make new things. 
The Lego Group began manufacturing the interlocking toy bricks in 1949. Movies, games, competitions, and six Legoland amusement parks have been developed under the brand. As of July 2015, 600 billion Lego parts had been produced.

But rather, this logo - which Ms Petri ranks as #16 - for Gov Hickenlooper's 2020 presidential campaign. And about which Ms Petri says:
There is a lot going on here. It looks like at the brainstorming session that led to this logo, they said, “Everyone just throw out suggestions! There’s no such thing as a bad idea! We’ll winnow them down later!” and then they forgot the second part. 
So the result is a logo that looks as though a star appeared and led to … Colorado! Where there were either mountains or a set of blue stairs that had fallen over. And also it was 2020! But, hey, I’d drink a beer with this logo. 
Hickenlooper 2020: No Bad Ideas in Brainstorming!

Alright, that's a terrible banjo joke. Although there are many who will claim that there's no such thing as a terrible banjo joke; the reality is much worse.

But bagpipes? That's a whole other story. So please let Abq Jew leave you with a video of exactly what and for whom you've been waiting since January (see Kudos and Bagpipes).

Here he is -
Our Attorney General. On bagpipes.

Thank you, Emily Tillett of CBS, for covering this important story.
Attorney General William Barr took a break from his day job to showcase one of his hidden talents during an event with U.S. attorneys. Seated on stage Wednesday during the Justice Department event, the nation's top law enforcement official disappeared behind a curtain as a group of Pipes and Drums bagpipers from the New York Police Department, the Emerald Society, assembled in front of the auditorium stage.  
Barr re-emerged onstage and tucked a bagpipe under his arm as the crowd of government attorneys laughed and applauded. A low drum beat sounded and the traditional bagpipe march "Scotland the Brave" began with Barr joining in. The crowd gave him a standing ovation at the end of the performance.

Did you know?
"Scotland the Brave" is a great tune for "Adon Olam."
Go ahead - try it!

Shabbat Shalom, Albuquerque!
Good Shabbos, New Mexico!
Sabbath Peace, World!