Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Singer Norma Tanega Dies at 80

Walkin' My Cat Named Dog: No, no, Norma Tanega was not a household name, even in the '60s. She only had one hit record. And she wasn't Jewish.

But, to paraphrase what Philip Blondheim (later known as Scott McKenzie) once said (see If You're Going to San Francisco) of his one hit,

If you're going to be a one hit wonder,
Walkin' My Cat Named Dog is the hit to have. 

Sports and Obituaries writer Richard Sandomir says, in The New York Times -
Norma Tanega, Who Sang About a Cat Named Dog, Dies at 80  She had only one hit record, but it was a memorable one: a quirkily titled song about freedom, dreaming and her cat, who really was named Dog 
In 1966, when Norma Tanega released her first single, rock fans were becoming used to unusual lyrics. But as it turned out, that song, “Walkin’ My Cat Named Dog,” wasn’t as quirky as the title suggested: The song was inspired by her cat, whose name was indeed Dog. 
“I had always wanted a dog, but because of my living situation, I could only have a cat,” she said on her website. “I named my cat Dog and wrote a song about my dilemma.”
She turned that situation into a lilting song about freedom, “perpetual dreamin’” and “walkin’ high against the fog” around town with Dog (whom in real life she really did walk). 
Accompanying herself on guitar and also playing harmonica, she sang, in a low voice: “Dog is a good old cat/People what you think of that?/That’s where I’m at, that’s where I’m at.”
And, Mr Sandomir tells us -
Norma Cecilia Tanega was born on Nov. 30, 1939, in Vallejo, Calif., and grew up in Long Beach. Her father, Tomas, was a Navy bandmaster and musician. Her mother, Otilda (Ramirez) Tanega, was a homemaker. 
As a teenager, Norma painted, and gave classical piano recitals and taught herself the guitar. After graduating from Scripps College in Claremont and earning a master’s in fine arts from Claremont Graduate School, she moved to Manhattan to join the folk music scene. 
A job singing in a summer camp in the Catskills brought Ms. Tanega to the attention of a producer, Herb Bernstein, and to Bob Crewe, the songwriter and producer behind many of the Four Seasons’ hits, who signed her to his New Voice record label in 1965. “Walkin’ My Cat Named Dog” came out early the next year.
And Abq Jew was distressed to read -
No immediate family members survive.

Today begins, so to speak, the impeachment trial of our 45th president. While some of us are, for emotional support, rereading Franz Kakfa's The Trial ...

others, Abq Jew is sure, are rereading Ian Frazier's Coyote v Acme.

And so, to ease the mood, here is Norma Tanega singing her signature hit.

And here is a video of the same song, covered by They Might Be Giants.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

A Daily Dose of Talmud

Daf Yomi for Everyone: Following the recent worldwide celebration of Siyum haShas, Abq Jew was bitten - as many of you were - by the Daf Yomi bug.

Yes! Abq Jew is committed to learning (as we say in Yeshivish; we never say studying) one daf (in Hebrew; or blatt in Yiddish ; or double-sided page in English) of Talmud every day for the next seven-and-a-half years. At which point Abq Jew may be considerably older than he is now.

Or, as they say, not.

As many of you may surmise, Abq Jew has been committed before. And although he has been committed - to a peculiar set of institutions, and to a particular set of values since ... well, a while ago - Abq Jew has managed to successfully complete a complete Counting the Omer cycle (49 complete days, for those of you counting) in only a handful of years. A very small handful.

Even though he started out committed.

So. Just to make sure everyone here is on the same page (Abq Jew apologizes; he just had to), here is Wikipedia's take on Siyum haShas.
Siyum HaShas (Hebrew: סיום הש"ס‎, lit. "completion of the Six Orders [of the Talmud]") is a celebration of the completion of the Daf Yomi (daily Talmud folio) program, a roughly seven-and-a-half-year cycle of learning the Oral Torah and its commentaries, in which each of the 2,711 pages of the Babylonian Talmud are covered in sequence - one page per day.
The first Daf Yomi cycle began on the first day of Rosh Hashanah 5684 (11 September 1923); the thirteenth cycle concluded on January 4, 2020 [the Siyum's official website says January 1] and the fourteenth cycle began the following day, to be concluded on June 7, 2027. 
The Siyum HaShas marks both the end of the previous cycle and the beginning of the next, and is characterized by inspiring speeches and rousing singing and dancing.

The biggest Siyum celebration in the USA was held, naturally enough, at MetLife Stadium, in Meadowlands Sports Complex in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Which is located eight miles west of New York City. If you've heard of it, it's because it's the home stadium of the "New York" Giants and the "New York" Jets.

Yeah. New Jersey.

Which is still some 42 miles closer to New York than Santa Clara (where the "San Francisco" 49ers play) is to The City By The Bay. Don't get Abq Jew started! So -

Some 92K people attended the Siyum celebration in New Jersey. About a zillion more attended Siyum celebrations all over the world, even though Israel's liberal HaAretz says that Daf Yomi may be the wrong way to study Talmud.

Oh yeah.
Waldo showed up at MetLife Stadium.
Really. The Times of Israel even covered it.
Waldo, BTW, turns out to be Jonathan Gray (@udontchap).

If you look at the photos and read the official Siyum haShas literature, you might come away with the impression that Talmud is for Agudath Israel (of America and the World) only. For frummies, as we say.

But that's just not true. Talmud is for every Jew.

As Abq Jew pointed out in 2014, when he taught The Talmud @ A Taste of Honey. See also

A Map of the Talmud Page:     1. Mishna     2. Gemara     3. Rashi     4. Tosafot

Judaism is a civilization; Talmud defines that civilization.
When you study Jewish history and language,
music and literature, you learn about Judaism.
When you study Talmud, you learn Judaism.

After looking at the above image of a page of Talmud, you may suddenly be inspired to ask

How come everybody who learns Talmud is on the same page? Why is a worldwide Siyum even possible?
By which Abq Jew means: Every Berachot 2a page is exactly the same* - word for word, letter for letter - as every other Berachot 2a page. Eliezer Segal explains it for us.
The page format of the Babylonian Talmud has remained almost unchanged since the early printings in Italy. Some twenty-five individual tractates were printed by Joshua and Gershom Soncino between 1484 and 1519, culminating in the complete edition of the Talmud produced by Daniel Bomberg (a Christian) in 1520-30. 
As 63-year-old Michigan school teacher Annie Edson Taylor said after
she went over Niagara Falls in a barrel in 1901: "No one ought ever do that again.”
These editions established the familiar format of placing the original text in square formal letters the centre of the page, surrounded by the commentaries of Rashi and Tosafot, which are printed in a semi-cursive typeface. The page divisions used in the Bomberg edition have been used by all subsequent editions of the Talmud until the present day.
Almost all Talmuds in current use are copies of the famous Vilna (Wilno, Vilnyus) Talmuds, published in several versions from 1880 by the "Widow and Brothers Romm" in that renowned Lithuanian centre of Jewish scholarship. While retaining the same format and pagination as the previous editions, the Vilna Talmud added several new commentaries, along the margins and in supplementary pages at the ends of the respective volumes.
Get Your Daily Dose of Talmud

For those of us who are definitely not Agudah-niks, but who want to participate in this fourteenth cycle of Daf Yomi - even if we're starting a few days late (with some 2,700 to go!) - there are many, many opportunities to do so. Yes, even via a daily email. You can Google it!

Among them, the one that Abq Jew has selected is the Daf Yomi subscription via My Jewish Learning. My Jewish Learning says:

Around the world, thousands of Jews read
the entire Talmud one page at a time,
on a set schedule called Daf Yomi
(literally “a page a day”).
The new Daf Yomi cycle has begun
 and My Jewish Learning is excited to help you
dive into this worldwide Jewish learning project.

We shall return to you, Babylonian Talmud!

Monday, January 6, 2020

A Fast Day for the New Year

A Mystery Explained: Yes, tomorrow (Tuesday January 7) many of us Jews observe the Fast of the Tenth of Tevet - one of our minor fasts, observed (only) from daybreak to nightfall.

We fast in order to mourn the siege of Jerusalem in 588 BCE by Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylonia - which culminated in the destruction of Solomon's Temple (the First Temple) and the conquest of the Kingdom of Judah.

The fast has no relationship to Hanukkah, but it always falls the week right after. Wikipedia also informs us that the fast - per its selichot liturgy - also commemorates other calamities that occurred throughout Jewish history on the tenth of Tevet and the two days preceding it:
On the eighth of Tevet one year during the 3rd century BCE ... Ptolemy, King of Egypt, ordered the translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, a work which later became known as the Septuagint. Seventy two sages were placed in solitary confinement and ordered to translate the Torah into Greek.
Each sage emerged with the exact same translation.

Abq Jew wishes to point out that, traditionally -
Judaism sees this event as a tragedy, as it reflected a deprivation and debasement of the divine nature of the Torah, and a subversion of its spiritual and literary qualities. 
And on the ninth of Tevet, the Shulchan Aruch tells us -

Something happened - we don't know what.
But we presume it was something bad.

Did Ezra the Scribe, the great leader who brought some of us Jews back to the Holy Land from the Babylonian exile and who ushered in the era of the Second Temple, die on this day? Perhaps. Nechemiah, too? Maybe.

But our Rabbis - and we - really don't know why the ninth is tragic. It just is.

In Israel, the Tenth of Tevet is observed as a "general kaddish day" - a day to allow the relatives of victims of the Holocaust whose yahrtzeits are unknown to observe the traditional yahrtzeit practices for the deceased.

There are too many of them.

Over four years, the Rev. Patrick Desbois and his group
have identified more than 600 common graves of Jews in Ukraine.

Efrem Lukatsky/Associated Press

There are also too many Holocaust victims whose final resting places are unknown. Especially those who were murdered in the Ukraine by the Einsatzgruppen, in what has come to be called the Holocaust by Bullets.

Father Patrick Desdois, a French Roman Catholic priest, has spent years searching for these unmarked mass graves. 

A Priest Methodically Reveals
Ukrainian Jews’ Fate
His subjects were mostly children and teenagers at the time, terrified witnesses to mass slaughter. Some were forced to work at the bottom rung of the Nazi killing machine — as diggers of mass graves, cooks who fed Nazi soldiers and seamstresses who mended clothes stripped from the Jews before execution. 
They live today in rural poverty, many without running water or heat, nearing the end of their lives. So Patrick Desbois has been quietly seeking them out, roaming the back roads and forgotten fields of Ukraine, hearing their stories and searching for the unmarked common graves. He knows that they are an unparalleled source to document the murder of the 1.5 million Jews of Ukraine, shot dead and buried throughout the country. 
He is neither a historian nor an archaeologist, but a French Roman Catholic priest. And his most powerful tools are his matter-of-fact style — and his clerical collar. 
The Nazis killed nearly 1.5 million Jews in Ukraine after their invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941. But with few exceptions, most notably the 1941 slaughter of nearly 34,000 Jews in the Babi Yar ravine in Kiev, much of that history has gone untold. 
Knocking on doors, unannounced, Father Desbois, 52, seeks to unlock the memories of Ukrainian villagers the way he might take confessions one by one in church.

Father Patrick Desbois will be our guest
Sunday, April 19, 2020
Yom Hazikaron laShoah ve-laGevurah Observance
Jewish Community Center of Greater Albuquerque

One final note: Due to the mysteries of the Hebrew Calendar (see Easter on Purim and Nineteen and Twenty-Eight), the current Common Era year (2020) will provide not one, but two opportunities to fast on the Tenth of Tevet.

The next Fast of the Tenth of Tevet will fall on

Go figure ....

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Spring 2020 @ OASIS Abq

Great Courses of Jewish Interest
Abq Jew is pleased to inform you that
OASIS Albuquerque has just announced
their Spring 2020 line-up of classes!
Registration opens on
Wednesday January 8
but you can Wish List your selections now.

OASIS Albuquerque Executive Director Kathleen Raskob and her staff continue (as always) to bring you new and interesting class offerings, and continues to make sure there are plenty of courses of Jewish interest.

This session's courses and instructors include, but are by no means limited to:

The Story of Love in Judaism
Monday 10 February 2020 @ 10:00 am
& Wednesday 12 February 2020 - #135
Instructor: Paul Citrin
What It Is: During two sessions, examine how Judaism and Jewish teachers have understood the commandments to love God and one's neighbor; and to love in marital and family life, in the communal setting, and in terms of sex and sexuality. We read and discuss texts from the Bible and from the ancient rabbis as well as material from contemporary sources. The goal of these sessions is to deepen our understanding of what the world needs in this era of me-ism and tribalism.

Unexpected Bride in the Promised Land:
Eyewitness to History in Palestine & Israel
Monday 10 February 2020 @ 12:30 pm - #88
Instructor:  Iris Keltz
What It Is: Iris Keltz continues to discuss her experience as chronicled in her award-winning book, Unexpected Bride in the Promised Land. Having survived the Six-Day War under the protection of a Palestinian family, it was 32 years before Keltz returned to Jerusalem. She went to find out what happened to the people who had protected her, and she went to find out if friendships between Jews and Palestinians were possible. You do not need to have attended Part 1 (offered in August 2019) to attend this class.

The Strange Case of
the 17th Century Jewish Mystical Messiah
Friday 14 February 2020 @ 10:00 am - #136
Instructor: Michael Nutkiewicz
What It Is:In 1666 Shabbatai Zvi (d. 1676) was declared the messiah. Most of the known Jewish world from the Middle East to Western and Eastern Europe was prepared to follow him. Skeptical rabbis were powerless to stop the movement, and Christian writers followed the story very carefully as it unfolded. But why did Shabbatai Zvi convert to Islam, and what happened to him and his believers?

The Spiritual & Social Ideas
of Simone Weil - A Continuation
Friday 21 February @ 10:00 am - #137
Instructor: Frank Yates
What It Is: This continuation of Frank Yates' talks on Simone Weil focuses on her spiritual and social ideas. Weil, who died during World War II, conveyed many of her spiritual ideas in her book Waiting for God. While working for De Gaulle's French government during her exile in London, she wrote a blueprint for post-war France. That became her book The Need for Roots. These two works are examined in detail while we learn more about this fascinating philosopher, spiritual writer, and political theorist. Note: you do not need to have attended the previous lecture (summer 2019) to enroll in this one.

The Biblical Saga of Joseph & His Brothers
Thursday 5 March 2020  @ 10:00 am - #138
Instructor:  Shlomo Karni
What It Is: Learn about Joseph, the hated brother who was kidnapped, sold into slavery, imprisoned, and who then rose to be viceroy of the pharaoh of Egypt. This is an emotionally-charged drama with actions of envy, coldblooded cruelty, bereavement, tenderness -- and the occasional providence or fate. How relevant is this story to us today?

Art & Architecture Tour of
Congregation Albert Synagogue: Field Trip
Wednesday 11 March 2020 @ 10:00 am - #139
Instructor: Paul Citrin
What It Is: Congregation Albert is 121 years old and its present synagogue facility is 35 years old. Join Rabbi Paul Citrin to learn about the architect's concept for the building and examine the art and artifacts which make it a unique synagogue. See how the values of a community influence and are influenced by the physical surroundings of where people meet. A feature of this tour is to see both the Centennial Torah scroll and the Holocaust scroll. Enrollment limited to 30.

Jack Benny: Forever 39
Wednesday 11 March 2020 @ 2:30 pm - #42
Instructor: Yolanda Day
What It Is: Jack Benny, star of stage, screen, radio and television, not only did it all but did it all at the same time. Known for both his impeccable comic timing and stinginess, he developed a devoted audience over a more than 30-year career. This lecture by Yolanda Day brings you history from Benny’s friends and family as well as live skits performed by The Rio Grande Players from some of his most successful radio shows and personal favorites.

The History of Crypto-Jews
in New Spain & New Mexico
Tuesday 31 March 2020 @ 10:00 am - #172
Instructor: Stefanie Beninato
What It Is: Learn about a lesser-known aspect of Southwestern history by exploring the settlement of New Spain by Sephardic Jews, many of whom practiced Judaism secretly (Crypto-Jews). Learn how and why many Hispanics in New Mexico did not know of this ancestry or, if they did, how they hid it from the agents of the Inquisition. Understand how these ethnic roots affect cultural identity and contemporary issues in New Mexico today. Presented in partnership with the Historical Society of New Mexico.

Regular OASIS Albuquerque instructor (and award-winning composer and recording artist) Jane Ellen also continues (as always) to bring you new and interesting class offerings, and continues to make sure there are plenty of courses of musical and Jewish interest.

Jane's courses this session include, but are by no means limited to:

You've Got A Friend in Carole King
Tuesday 21 January 2020 @ 10:00 am - #101
What It Is: Singer/songwriter Carole King (1942- ) began her career in the 1960s writing hit songs with then husband Gerry Goffin. A decade later, she became an award-winning performer in her own right when the album Tapestry topped the US charts in 1971 for 15 weeks, remaining on the charts for six years. Recipient of the Gershwin Prize from the Library of Congress in 2012, King has written the musical soundtrack of our lives across five decades.

Kurt Weill's Useful Music
Monday 20 April 2020 @ 2:30 pm - #116
What It Is: Kurt Weill (1900-50), known primarily in the United States for "Mack the Knife" from The Threepenny Opera, was a leading composer for the stage, as well as a classical composer during his tragically short career. Denounced by the Nazis, he fled Europe in 1933 to pursue his ideal of writing music that served a socially useful purpose. This class is amplified by a wide range of recordings, including classic performances by his wife, Lotte Lenya.

OASIS Albuquerque also offers regular Friday Performances - musical, dance, theater, and storytelling - all by local artists. They're listed among the schedule of classes.

This session's Jewish performances include but are by no means limited to:

Neshama del Bosque
Friday 17 April 2020 @ 2:00 pm - #129
What It Is: Neshama del Bosque (Soul of the Forest) performs Sephardic music from medieval Spain, Syria, Turkey, and the Mediterranean. You might hear a Ladino lullaby from Greece, an ancient folk song from Turkey, a mushwasha love song in Arabic from Andalucia, a Ladino folk song by Flory Jagoda about "Tu Beshevat" (the New Year of the Trees), a suite of traditional folk songs and fiddle tunes from New Mexico -- y mucho mas!

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Hanukkah Leftovers

From Outer Space and Elsewhere: Well. That other holiday fell in the middle (i.e., Wednesday) of the week. Who thought that would be a good idea? And two weeks in a row?

For us Jews, Shabbat is approaching - and it's still Chanukah! In fact, this very Shabbat we will have the rare treat (and fulfill the extra mitzvot) of reading from ... not one; not two; but three (3) Sifrei Torah -

One for the regular weekly portion (Miketz); one for Rosh Hodesh (Tevet); and one for the holiday (Hanukkah)!

A Torah Trifecta!
Let's celebrate!

Louis Anderman via Chuck Taggart via Jacob Richman
Maiden voyage of the USS Menorahprise
Her 8-night mission: to boldly schlep
where no Jew has schlepped before!

Six13 - A Star Wars Chanukah

Little known fact: though Baby Yoda's cousin delivered this sage advice
to Luke Skywalker, he took his inspiration from the Maccabees.
Like the Jedi years later, against all odds (never tell us the odds!)
they fought off a great empire who sought their destruction.

NASA Astronaut Jessica Meir
Celebrates Hanukkah from Space

NASA astronaut Jessica Meir shows off some colorful
Hanukkah socks on the International Space Station on
the first night of Hanukkah, December 22, 2019.
(Image credit: twitter.com/Astro_Jessica)

The Hanukkah Story for Kids
Maccabees, Miracles, and Dreidels

Latke Recipe

Happy Joyous Hanukkah
Indigo Girls

The Hanukkah Dance
Nefesh Mountain
A pairing of songs written by the great Woody Guthrie.
Woody moved to Coney Island in 1942 and spent much of his time
learning from and collaborating with his Jewish mother in law
and Yiddish poet Aliza Greenblatt.

Six13 - Bohemian Chanukah

Is this just fantasy? No, it's a Chanukah tribute to one of the greatest and most epic songs of all time. Ready, Freddie? Kindle the lights, remember the Maccabees, and rock on. CHAG SAMEACH!