Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Horses Who Sing

And Whales Who Play: Hummingbirds must hum, as we all know (see Music Comes to B'nai Israel), because they don't know the words. Horses, on the other hand, can surely sing - because they do indeed know the words.

Nov. 5, 2019 | Iceland horses play in their paddock of a stud in Wehrheim
near Frankfurt, Germany.
(Michael Probst/AP)

Where and when, Abq Jew hears you ask, did horses learn to sing? A long time ago, Abq Jew must inform you. Horses learned how to sing (and, importantly, what to sing) from their ancestors - stegosauruses.

And this we know from two of Abq Jew's quickly-classic, scientifically-based blog posts - 2018's It's Noah Time Again! and 2017's Yontif Ends, Creation Begins.

Stegosauruses had beautiful singing voices, and they
knew all the words to The Seekers' greatest hits.

We all know that whales can sing. Here's a photo of a baby beluga just singing his heart out. Trying out for The Voice?

This particular baby beluga, however also has athletic talent. As shown in this video, which has been making its rounds across the Internet.

And, just as Jim Croce (see Remembering Jim Croce, MOT) sang - this baby beluga has a name.

Hvaldimir is a male beluga whale that fishers near Hammerfest in northern Norway noticed in April 2019 wearing a camera harness; after being freed from the harness, the whale remained in the area and appeared used to humans. 
Speculation that he had been trained as a Russian spy whale led to his being dubbed Hvaldimir, from Norwegian: hval (whale) and Vladimir Putin.

Hvaldimir's Story
from his foundation's website

A lone and friendly beluga whale with a harness attached to its body was first reported on 26th of April 2019 off of Tufjord, in Finnmark, in northern Norway. The Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries sent experts to respond to this sighting and to assist the animal in disentanglement ...

The team first tried to unfasten the harness from a boat, but the operation failed each time due to challenging access to the clips. Eventually, and after entering the cold waters with the whale, they managed to detach the tight strap.

The harness was labeled with 
"Equipment of Saint Petersburg"
and had an equipment mount attachment
on the harness. 

Based on these elements and geographic considerations, it was speculated that the whale was a lost 'spy' animal, trained and used by the Russian Navy.

In the following days, the whale was seen again in the harbor of Tufjord, both by the dock and following local fishing boats cruising in and out the harbor. The locals ... were instantly charmed by the adorable whale, and special interactions with people started occurring.

On April 30th, the whale followed a sailboat during its entire 5-hour cruise to Hammerfest. The whale has remained in the harbor of Hammerfest since then.

However, is the story as "fun" as it seemed? 

Based on the harness and highly sociable behavior, it appeared clear that the whale had been used for human benefits and was most likely conditioned to be hand-fed. If so, such behavioral conditioning could have resulted in the whale being dependent on people and not able to successfully hunt and feed itself.

In fact, a week of behavioral observations and multi-sensor camera tagging (www.cats.is) conducted by scientists from Norwegian Orca Survey (NOS) failed to reveal any successful feeding. The whale's body was also judged to be lean by international experts.

NOS, therefore, urged the need to take action to ensure the whale's welfare and survival before the situation reached a critical point of no return.

The organization developed and submitted feeding protocols to the authorities, and secured the financial resources necessary to initiate the intervention. The first donation of funds to support the emergency response was the Sea World and Busch Gardens Conservation Fund (USA).

The local [Hammerfest] community has been incredibly welcoming, supportive and eager to help Hvaldimir. People provided us with additional logistical and financial resources that were crucial to initiate the feeding program as fast as possible.

In order to boost Hvaldimir's protection and health,
a code of conduct was also introduced.

The harbor authority further restricted access to the docks, which instantly promoted the whale to spend more time exploring his natural environment and reduced his time roaming in the busy path of the inner harbor.

The harbor of Hammerfest remains a busy location with boat traffic and was listed as one of the most polluted harbors in Norway. A long-term solution is urgently needed and most importantly, a relocation to a safer environment should be considered.

However, maintaining him in his natural environment will fully rely on the financial resources available to us.

With contributions from the world,
Hvaldimir's story could be a happy one.

Please contribute to save his future.

So, you may ask -

First of all ...

Nancy Pelosi was right (big surprise).
All roads lead to Putin.
Even roads under the sea.

 But also ...

Judaism stands firmly for
the ethical treatment of animals.  

In her article in My Jewish Learning, Rabbi Jill Jacobs makes it clear that

The concept of Tzaar Baalei Hayim
demands that we take animal suffering seriously.
Beyond simply prohibiting cruelty to animals, Jewish tradition associates care for animals with righteousness. Within the Torah, the commandment to send a mother bird away before taking eggs or chicks from her nest is one of the few commandments that promises long life to those who fulfill it. The book of Proverbs comments that, "A righteous person knows the needs of his beast, but the compassion of the wicked is cruelty." 

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Music Comes to B'nai Israel

Join the Singing! Or Just Hum Along! Abq Jew would like to say he's sorry about the old Dad (see below) "hummingbird" joke - but he's not.

Abq Jew saw this marvelous hummingbird photograph on Abq photographer Jerry Goffe's Facebook, and he just couldn't resist.

Why do hummingbirds hum? Because they don't know the words!

Besides which - Abq Jew is a Dad (and a Popsie). So he's absolutely entitled.
At least once in a while.

But let's continue with the main topic of this blog post: music. Specifically, Jewish music. Even more specifically, Jewish music that people can sing (if they know the words, or can read them) or hum along with (if they don't or can't).

Now, you may (or may not) know that Congregation B'nai Israel of Albuquerque has a new-ish (he's been here for weeks) Interim Rabbi.

Rabbi Dov Gartenberg answered all the quiz questions (see Wanna Be Our Interim Rabbi?) correctly (or close enough) and got the job!

Rabbi Gartenberg comes to CBI from Seattle, where (among a few other activities) he was deeply involved in getting that Jewish community to sing. And now us.

Friday November 8 @ 6:00 pm
Congregation B'nai Israel
4401 Indian School Road NE, Abq 87110
RSVP: (505) 266-0155 or office@bnaiisrael-nm.org

Abq musical cognoscenti will of course (of course!) recognize that B'nai Israel is coming late to the music game - Cantor Barbara Finn at Congregation Albert and Cantor Beth Cohen at Nahalat Shalom have been musicalizing for years.

However - as Abq Jew noted (pun fully intended) back in 2016 (see Peace in the High Places) -

When you daven exclusively at stodgy, old,
set-in-their-ways, "traditional" Conservative shuls,
you miss a lot of the fun.

Congregation B'nai Israel will soon (2020)
celebrate its 100th year, and will even sooner
(November 12) celebrate its building's listing
in the National Register of Historic Places.

Yes, you can call Congregation B'nai Israel "old" and "traditional." Just don't call B'nai Israel "stodgy". Or "set in their ways." Not any more.

Rabbi Dov Gartenberg is in the building.

Here are a couple of selections from Friday evening's set list. Singing will be led by Rabbi Gartenberg and - yes, by Nahalat Shalom's Cantor Beth Cohen. And by a few friends.

Lecha Dodi (Maccabeats; to Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah

Why do hummingbirds hum? Because they don't know the words!

And if you'd just like to hum along - where you don't need to know the words -

Bina's Nigun (Joey Weisenberg and the Hadar Ensemble)

You can see more of B'nai Israel's music
by visiting the 
CBI Songs playlist
on Abq Jew's YouTube channel.

Like what you see here?

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The Hot Sardines

Train to Forest Hills: If, like Abq Jew, you like hot jazz - and how could you not? - then you should watch this video by The Hot Sardines. Especially if you like American Yiddish music - and how could you not?

In case you (like Abq Jew) didn't know, Wikipedia tells us -
The Hot Sardines are an American jazz band formed in New York City in 2007 by artistic director, singer and writer Elizabeth Bougerol and artistic director, actor and pianist Evan Palazzo. 
Although hailed as "the charismatic front-runners of vintage jazz," the Sardines paradoxically emphasize both authenticity and irreverence in their performances. 
According to Palazzo, the Sardines do not treat jazz music "with kid gloves, or place it on a pedestal to preserve and adore" and instead play "as if these songs were written this morning, for today's generation." 
Over time, the Sardines have assembled a unique repertoire with "a sound and a style that are distinctly their own."Their distinctive style has been described by music critics as "wartime Paris by way of New Orleans" while firmly rooted in the "here and now."
Oh - and they're on tour now! Supporting their newest album, Welcome Home, Bon Voyage, the Sardines'll be in Denver on November 20 ... and (חבל) that's about as close as they'll come to the Land of Enchantment.

Bei Mir Bistu Shein is, of course, "the world's best-known and longest-reigning Yiddish theater song of all time."
Bei Mir Bistu Shein" (Yiddish: בײַ מיר ביסטו שיין‎, [ˌbaj ˈmir ˌbistu ˈʃejn], "To Me You're Beautiful") is a popular Yiddish song written by Jacob Jacobs (lyricist) and Sholom Secunda (composer) for a 1932 Yiddish language comedy musical, I Would If I Could (in Yiddish, Men Ken Lebn Nor Men Lost Nisht, "You could live, but they don't let you"), which closed after one season (at the Parkway Theatre in Brooklyn, New York City). 
The score for the song transcribed the Yiddish title as "Bay Mir Bistu Sheyn". The original Yiddish version of the song (in C minor) is a dialogue between two lovers. Five years after its 1932 composition, the song became a worldwide hit when recorded under a Germanized title as "Bei Mir Bist Du Schön" by The Andrews Sisters in November 1937. 
Click here to learn more about the F Train than you ever wanted or needed to know. Alas, Mr & Mrs Abq Jew didn't get a chance to ride the F Train during their recent Long Island visit - they stayed on Long Island.

But The Hot Sardines made their video
while riding the old-time F Train's ancestor!

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Another Memorial by the Bridge

The Brooklyn Bridge Elephant Stampede: Yes, Abq Jew reminds you, it was only three years ago that the Chicago Cubs, on Rosh Hodesh MarHeshvan (the "bitter" holiday-free month of Heshvan), won the 2016 World Series.

Oh, those were happy days
(unless you were a Cleveland fan).

We celebrated Chicago's victory over The Fates along with native son President Barack Obama and his bright, good-looking, and virtuous family.

And we looked forward to the upcoming elections, as we prepared to deliver the White House (and the Capitol!) to one of the smartest, most experienced, and most capable candidates in our nation's history.

As we all know -

It's been straight downhill since then.

Before we get to Thanksgiving - when we are obligated to be thankful for the many blessings we have, as Americans, indeed received, present circumstances notwithstanding - we pause in our time-travels to memorialize two events that occurred on October 29, 1929.

The first event - those of a certain age (and perhaps, their children and grandchildren) will never forget.

The second event - those of a certain age (and certainly, their children and grandchildren) may not even remember, since its tragedy was trampled in the tragedy of the first event.

Abq Jew speaks, of course, of

The Brooklyn Bridge Elephant Stampede

Don't remember? Here is the story:
Since the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge in May of 1883, elephants have crossed into lower Manhattan. 
It was a hallowed and wholesome tradition, started by world-famous showman, P.T. Barnum. That is, until the laughter and cheers of yesteryear were supplanted with screams of horror and the sounds of bones crunching under elephant foot. 
October 29th, 1929, to some, is known as Black Friday … the day of the great stock market crash. To others, it is known as 
the Brooklyn Bridge Elephant Stampede … one of the most horrific land mammal tragedies in our nation’s history.

This year was more even more publicized than most as the circus advertised the arrival of its new star: Jumbo! The thirteen-foot-tall African elephant was to lead other elephants across the bridge and crowds came from miles around to see Jumbo in all of his massive glory as he led the greatest show on earth into the greatest city on earth.

However, before Jumbo and the other elephants could complete their journey, something upset the animals and a slow and deliberate cross suddenly became a deadly stampede to freedom for Jumbo and a pair of elephant crusaders. 
The elephants bulldozed anyone and anything in their path. Bones were crushed. Bodies impaled upon tusks. Helpless citizens dragged through the streets like rag dolls. 
Then it was down Broadway to Wall Street where more chaos unfolded. While the distressed leaders of the financial sector descended into panic, many taking their own lives, 
the Brooklyn Bridge Elephant Stampede would go down in history as the greatest single animal-driven disaster of the modern era.

When all was said and done, two of the elephants lay dead in the city street. The third, Jumbo himself, was last seen running to freedom through the Holland Tunnel. 
While no firm evidence exists either way, rumor has it he survived and lived out his days in an elephant sanctuary. 
The Brooklyn Bridge Elephant Stampede Monument is dedicated to the triumph of the will of these elephants … and the poor souls that stood in their way.
Artist Joe Reginella has taken it upon himself - as he did for the Staten Island Ferry Octopus Disaster - to spread awareness of this pachydermal tragedy - via a website, a Facebook page, a documentary, and the Brooklyn Bridge Elephant Stampede Walking Tour.

One of the most horrific land mammal tragedies
in our nation's history. Dedicated to the triumph
of the will of these elephants and
the poor souls who stood in their way.

You can learn more about the Brooklyn Bridge Elephant Stampede here and here.To learn more about New York City's most compelling mysteries and forgotten tragedies, click here.

Let us never forget.

Enjoy this blog post?

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Abq JCC 2019 Book Fest

Ariel Burger and More: The Jewish Community Center of Greater Albuquerque is proud to present our New Mexico Jewish community’s annual celebration of the written word.

Again this year, the  Abq JCC Book Fest & Visiting Author Series is bringing new authors of high quality and importance to the Albuquerque community.

This year (did you remember to write '5780' on your checks?) our Abq JCC will present six excellent authors. You can check the Abq Jewish Event Calendar or the JCC website to see when each will be appearing.

They're all at the top of their game; they're all worthy of your attention. But Abq Jew must (really; he must) call your attention to one author in particular: Ariel Burger, author of Witness: Lessons from Elie Wiesel's Classroom.

Surely you recall that Abq Jew offered a Word of Torah from the book in his August blog post Discovering Albany. But there's more - much, much more.
From Ariel Burger's website:
The world remembers Elie Wiesel—Nobel laureate, activist, and author of more than forty books, including Oprah’s Book Club selection Night—as a great humanist. He passed away in July 2016. Ariel Burger first met Elie Wiesel at age fifteen. They studied and taught together. Witness chronicles the intimate conversations between these two men over decades, as Burger sought counsel on matters of intellect, spirituality, and faith, while navigating his own personal journey from boyhood to manhood, from student and assistant to rabbi and, in time, teacher. 
In this profoundly hopeful, thought-provoking, and inspiring book, Burger takes us into Elie Wiesel’s classroom, where the art of listening and storytelling conspire to keep memory alive. As Wiesel’s teaching assistant, Burger gives us a front-row seat witnessing these remarkable exchanges in and out of the classroom. The act of listening, of sharing these stories, makes of us, the readers, witnesses.
About the significance of the title; Ariel Burger tells us:
At the center of the book is Elie Wiesel’s teaching that “listening to a witness makes you a witness”. That is one reason for the title, and it has a specific and universal meaning. 
Specifically, this is the response to the difficult question of what will happen when the last Holocaust survivor is gone: who will tell the story?  
Although no one who was not there can truly imagine the experience, we can absorb, integrate, and act as witnesses to their stories. 
In this way, as long as there are children and students willing to listen with sincerity and attentiveness, the reality of the Holocaust will never be lost.
Elie Wiesel and (להבחל"ח) Ariel Burger

In their review of Witness, the Jewish Journal said:
Burger, a compassionate heart, fiery soul, and sharp religious mind in his own right, presents a personal side of Wiesel that we normally didn’t see. This is the humane Wiesel, the Wiesel who nurtured students and who shook the foundations to demand more decency in society…. 
We all know Wiesel the Activist who spent his life working for people suffering everywhere to protest injustice and oppression and to bear ‘witness,’ but there are other more personal dimensions to this story as well. Now we can see Wiesel the Soul. 
May we continue to be inspired by the life and teachings of Elie Wiesel. We owe Rabbi Dr. Ariel Burger our gratitude for this special opportunity.
To which the Jewish Book Council added:
Burger’s book hon­ors Elie Wiesel’s truth that ​“lis­ten­ing to a wit­ness makes you a wit­ness,” and when read­ing these words, you, the read­er, will become a wit­ness, too.
In case you were wondering ....

Here is a video of Ariel Burger is in conversation with Sarah Hurwitz, head speechwriter for Michelle Obama from 2008 to 2017, who was appointed to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council by Barack Obama after he left the White House.

BTW - Sarah Hurwitz also has a new book out ... but she is not coming to our Land of Enchantment for the 2019 Abq JCC Book Fest. Maybe next time.

And in the meantime -