Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Romans 13, Tolerance Zero

Not here. Not now. Not in our name: We have seen the pictures, watched the videos, heard the voices. Children being separated from their parents - by agents of our government - as they cross the US-Mexico border to plea for asylum.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Editorial Cartoonist Rob Rogers: ‘I Was Fired’

Our Attorney General has supported this new and purposefully frightening US policy, in part, by quoting Romans 13, a passage from Paul’s epistle to the Romans.
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 
Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.

But Abq Jew recalls the words of Antonio in The Merchant of Venice.
The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.
An evil soul producing holy witness
Is like a villain with a smiling cheek,
A goodly apple rotten at the heart.
Oh, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!

We Jews, Abq Jew is proud to report, are not Christians.

We need pay no attention to what Paul may (or may not) have said as he was trying to sell (you should forgive the expression) his particular brand of Christianity to what would become, through the mystery of history, the Holy Roman Empire.

But we Jews do, in fact, have our own version of Romans 13.

Allow Abq Jew to present

דינא ד׳מלכותא דינא

Dina d'malkhuta dina (the law of the land is the law) is a Rabbinic / Talmudic statement that Jews must observe the laws of wherever they live.

The blog Jewish Treats explains:
“Dina d’malchuta dina,” the law of the land is the law, is a phrase repeated numerous times in the Talmud, and always attributed to the sage Samuel. According to Samuel, there is no question that a Jew must obey the laws of the land in which he/she resides... unless that law directly contradicts halacha (for instance a law ordering everyone to worship idols).  
In certain cases, the rabbis determined that certain rulers and their unfair and harsh laws were dangerous to the Jewish people, and therefore permitted the local Jews to "skirt the laws" or even to ignore them (such as the anti-Semitic decrees of the Russian Czars). In a country like the United States, however, there is no question that dina d’malchuta dina must be strictly observed.  
What does this mean? This means that being a law-abiding citizen is more that just one’s civic duty, it is one’s religious obligation as well. Taxes, civil law, even the “rules of the road” are our responsibility to uphold.

But let's hold our horses.

Our Rabbis of Blessed Memory, however, were not unequivocal about the matter.

And Pirke Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) points out the degree of the Rabbis' uncertainty about dealing with the government.

On one hand:
[Rabban Gamaliel the son of Rabbi Judah the Prince said:] Be careful in your relations with the government; for they draw no man close to themselves except for their own interests. They appear as friends when it is to their advantage, but they do not stand by a man in his time of need. (Pirke Avot 2:3)
But on the other hand:
Rabbi Chanina, an assistant of the High Priest said: Pray for the welfare of the government, since but for fear of it men would swallow each other alive. (Pirke Avot 3:2)
Both of these statements - both of these viewpoints - are, Abq Jew fears, true. Yet, as F. Scott Fitzgerald informs us:
The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.
From which, Abq Jew claims, we must ask each other

Which side are you on?

Most of the major and minor American Jewish institutions - 27 or more - have issued statements strongly opposing our government's immoral treatment of refugees.

Just one example: Bend the Arc has declared a state of Moral Emergency. Here is their statement:
The Trump Administration's inhumane immigration policies can only continue if good people stay silent. Add your voice to this communal declaration from the Jewish community. 
To this country, in whose promise we still believe, to the millions of people who are outraged and horrified, and especially to the thousands of children who have been separated from their families, we declare our nation to be in a state of moral emergency. 
This Administration has established border policies unprecedented in their scope and cruelty, that are inflicting physical, mental, and emotional harm on immigrants and punishing those seeking refuge at our borders. 
We are anguished by the stories and images of desperate parents torn from their babies and detention facilities packed with children. We shudder with the knowledge that these inhumane policies are committed in our name, and we lift our voices in protest. 
The Jewish community, like many others, knows all too well what it looks like for a government to criminalize the most vulnerable, to lie and obfuscate to justify grossly immoral practices under the banner of “the law,” to interpret holy scripture as a cover for human cruelty, to normalize what can never be made normal. We have seen this before. 
When crying children are taken from their parents’ arms, the American Jewish community must not remain silent. 
To those who are targeted by these cruel policies, know that the Jewish community hears your cries. We will take risks to support you, and we will demand that our nation’s leaders take action. We will not abide the claim that people didn’t know or understand the extent of your suffering; we will not allow your torment to be in vain. 
Our government can persist in this inhumane behavior only if good people remain silent. 
And so we declare a state of moral emergency, and we rise to meet this moment. Even as our democratic institutions are under duress, we raise our voices and take decisive action. United by the wisdom of our tradition, we stand with immigrants, refugees and asylum-seekers, with the children, and with their parents. 
We declare: Not here. Not now. Not in our name.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Korach and the First Tongs

Ten Things, Say the Rabbis: As Abq Jew pointed out all the way back in 2012 (see Explain Me Three Things) - and has been confirmed in nearly every Abq Jew blog post before and since -

Abq Jew does not understand the universe. At all. Except for the answer 42 to the ultimate question of Life, The Universe, and Everything, the universe rarely crosses what remains, after all these years, of Abq Jew's mind.

In Pirke Avot (Chapters of the Fathers), the Rabbis state (Chapter 5, Mishna 8b):

Most of Chapter 5 deals with numerology: numbers, and their meanings. Starting with the perfect number 10:

  • With ten utterances the world was created.
  • There were ten generations from Adam to Noah.
  • With ten tests Abraham, our father, was tested.
  • Ten miracles were performed for our ancestors in Egypt, 
  • Ten [miracles were performed] at the [Reed] Sea. 
  • [With] ten trials did our ancestors test the Omnipresent, blessed be He, in the Wilderness.
  • Ten miracles were performed for our forefathers in the Temple.

And the last '10' thing:

Ten things
were created on the Sabbath eve at twilight.

Now, even though the text may seem plain enough (some say: because the text seems plain enough), Abq Jew must fall back (ouch!) on his technical writing roots to make it into numbered lists:
Ten things were created on the Sabbath eve at twilight. They are:
  1. The mouth of the earth [which swallowed Korach and his co-conspirators]
  2. The mouth of the well [which accompanied Israel in the desert]
  3. The mouth of the donkey [which rebuked Balaam]
  4. The rainbow [that God left as a sign for Noah and his family]
  5. The Manna
  6. The staff [of Moses]
  7. The shamir worm [which could eat the hardest stone to build the Temple]
  8. The script [of the Ten Commandments and the Torah]
  9. The inscription [on the Tablets of the Ten Commandments]
  10. The Tablets themselves [which could miraculously be read from either side]
Some say: also
 Destructive spirits
The burial place of Moses
The ram of our father Abraham [which he slaughtered in place of Isaac]
And some say, also:
Tongs - which are made with tongs
Rabbi Dovid Rosenfield (mispocha? Abq Jew comes from a family of Rosenfields) comments on Torah.org:
[T]ongs deserve an honorable mention - if nothing else because they make an interesting diversion. :-)  I don't know if they too represent a merging of physical and spiritual realities, but they address one of those logical dilemmas which has plagued man throughout the centuries.
It takes a pair of tongs to shape a second pair over the fire. Who made the first one? Did the first blacksmith torture himself for the benefit of the future of mankind?
It too could have only been an act of G-d - not during the Six Days in which He created the natural world, but as a special gift to allow man to get on with the task of living and prospering in the world we know. 
In other words: the Rabbis postulated that the Holy One, Blessed Be He, gave us all we need to live in the world. The world - in terms of matter, of material, physical  things - is complete.

So everything's just fine, right?

Except for Thing #1
The mouth of the earth
[which swallowed Korach and his co-conspirators]

MyJewishLearning provides a swift summary of this week's parashah:
In this Torah portion, Korach and his followers accuse Moses and Aaron of taking power and prestige for themselves at the expense of the community. Moses defends himself against the rebels by saying that the Lord will make God’s presence known by how God kills these rebels. Then God opens the ground and swallows Korach and his followers.

Wait a minute!
The mouth of the earth was waiting for Korach?
Whatever happened to free will?

As it turns out, Abq Jew has already covered this in a previous (and recent) kvetch (see Ship of State Hits the Sand). Where he wrote
It turns out that Judaism, the religion (civilization!) we all know and love, has a lot to say about Fate and Fortune. But boiling it down in our Bunsens, what we draw from the beaker is 
There are theological problems with the idea of human free will. Jewish tradition depicts God as intricately involved in the unfolding of history. The Bible has examples of God announcing predetermined events and interfering with individual choices. Rabbinic literature and medieval philosophy further develop the notion of divine providence:
God watches over, guides, and intervenes in human affairs. How can this be reconciled with human free will?  
There is also a philosophical problem, which derives from the conception of God as omnipotent and omniscient: If God is all-powerful and all-knowing, then God must know what we will do before we do it.  
Doesn’t this predetermine our choices? Doesn’t this negate free will? 
Our beloved Rabbi Akiva (Avot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 15) has cut to the chase:
Everything is foreseen, yet freedom of choice is granted

Now Korah (the parashah, not the person)
has (arguably) bigger problems than free will. 

For, as Richard Elliott Friedman and the Documentary Hypothesis (see JEPD (and MMLJ) Visit ABQ) show us, what we've got this week are two stories wrapped as one.
Even more revealing is the way that the author of P transformed a JE story of a rebellion in the wilderness. The two are wound around each other in the Bible now like the two flood stories.
Which may be why a lot of it doesn't seem to make sense when we read it straight through. But in the meantime -

Justify has won the Triple Crown

North Korea and the USA have declared
peace in our time

Five (5) Jewish baseball players
have hit home runs on the same day

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Pushkin on Jeopardy!

Or, How Do We Know What We Know? Tuesday, May 22, 2018 is a date that will be implanted in Abq Jew's otherwise cloudy with a chance of meatballs memory until he forgets it.

For on that date, Abq Jew heard Alex Trebek - in the category 'Famous Russians' - provide the Final Jeopardy! answer

In November 1836 this writer got a letter naming him
to the Most Serene Order of Cuckolds;
in February 1837 he was dead.

And Abq Jew immediately, without thought or contemplation, correctly, from his greyhound-adorned couch, responded

Who is Alexander Pushkin?

Now Abq Jew must remind you that he is, by the skin of his teeth, a graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Where he received, appropriately, a BS degree in Engineering & Applied Science.

And Abq Jew must remind you that he is, without honors for utterly failing at the somber task of academic writing - but with tremendous gratitude - a graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (JTS). Where he received, somehow, an MA degree in [Jewish] Education.

Where is Russian literature?

Abq Jew has read Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace. Many years ago, and more than once. Just don't ask him who's who in patronymic or, for that matter, matronymic.

Abq Jew has also read Fyodor Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment - also, many years ago. A delightful, thoroughly enjoyable axe-murder romp that reminds us that you can't chop your mama up in Massachusetts or in Saint Petersburg.

At least, not without some small measure of remorse.

There are those who, perhaps unkindly but not without some small measure of truth, suggest that Dostoevsky wrote one of his classics about Abq Jew

And Abq Jew has - of course - seen David Lean's wonderful, award-winning film made from Bernard Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago. But he's never read the book.

The point - and it's a major one -  that Abq Jew is trying to make here is that

On Tuesday, May 22, 2018 ...
Abq Jew knew nothing of the life and work of
Alexander Pushkin, 'The Father of Russian Literature'.

So, Abq Jew hears you, his loyal readers, ask, where did his immediate 'Alexander Pushkin' response come from?

To answer that question, Abq Jew turns to the purported master of Knowns and Unknowns, our former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld.

There are known knowns is a phrase from a response United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld gave to a question at a U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) news briefing on February 12, 2002 about the lack of evidence linking the government of Iraq with the supply of weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups. 
Rumsfeld stated: 
Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. 
We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. 
But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don't know we don't know. 
And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones. 
The statement became the subject of much commentary, including a documentary by Academy Award–winning film director Errol Morris.

In regular American English, Mr Rumsfeld claimed that there are
  1. Known Knowns = Things we know we know
  2. Known Unknowns = Things we know we don't know
  3. Unknown Unknowns = Things we don't know we don't know
What is missing from this series of statements?

4. Unknown Knowns = Things we don't know we know

How can there be such things - things we don't know we know? Where could such hidden knowledge come from? Where did such hidden knowledge go when we needed it? How can we get it back? How much will it cost? Will Medicare cover it?

The universe is full of mysteries.

Or, as Professor Abraham Joshua Heschel said -

Our goal should be to live life in 
radical amazement.
Get up in the morning and look at the world
in a way that takes nothing for granted.
Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible;
never treat life casually. 
To be spiritual is to be amazed.

But back to Final Jeopardy! The Jeopardy! Fan website tells us that, of the three contestants that day
  1. Two responded 'Who is Tolstoy?'
  2. One responded 'Who is Dostoevsky?'
Only Abq Jew, from his greyhound-adorned couch,
was able to question the answer correctly.

And in case you were wondering -
In the fall of 1836, Russian poet Alexander Pushkin (author of the play Boris Godunov and the novel Eugene Onegin) was facing scandalous rumours that his wife Natalia was having an affair with French military officer Georges-Charles de Heeckeren d’Anthès. 
In amongst the scandal was a letter lampooning Pushkin. Heeckeren was accused of being the anonymous author of the lampoon. In an attempt to save Natalia’s reputation, Heeckeren married Natalia’s sister Yekaterina, but this was not enough to settle the conflict, and Pushkin was killed in the eventual duel. 
In the aftermath, Heeckeren was removed from Russia and lived out the rest of his life in France, serving as a Senator in the Second French Empire from 1852 to 1870.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Billy Joel's Song of Ascents

Best. Shir HaMa'alot. Ever: These days, when Abq Jew thinks about ascending, he's usually thinking about driving up from his Upper West Side (Albuquerque) home (elevation 5,200 feet) to the City Different (elevation 7,200 feet).

And, he must admit, when Abq Jew thinks about ascending in the Land of Israel, he still (after 47 years) thinks of driving up from his Ashkelon home (see Ashkelon, O Ashkelon) to his Technion engineering school, above the beautiful city of Haifa.

But when Abq Jew thinks of ascending in song - he thinks not (only) of the magnificent sound of two greyhounds rooing, but (also) of the transcendent words of Shir HaMaalot, aka Psalm 126. You know, the one that goes

שִׁיר הַמַּעֲלות 
בְּשׁוּב ה' אֶת שִׁיבַת צִיּון 
הָיִינוּ כְּחלְמִים
A Song of Ascents
When the Lord returned the captives of Zion

we were like people in a dream
אָז יִמָלֵא שחוק פִּינוּ 
וּלְשׁונֵנוּ רִנָּה
Then was our mouth filled with laughter
and our tongue with exultatio​n
אָז יאמְרוּ בַגּויִם
Then said they among the nations
הִגְדִּיל ה' לַעֲשות עִם אֵלֶּה
הִגְדִּיל ה' לַעֲשות עִמָּנוּ
הָיִינוּ שמֵחִים
The Lord has done great things for them
The Lord has done great things for us

so we rejoiced
שׁוּבָה ה' אֶת שְׁבִיתֵנוּ
כַּאֲפִיקִים בַּנֶּגֶב
Bring back our captives​ O Lord
as the streams in the south
הַזּרְעִים בְּדִמְעָה בְּרִנָּה יִקְצרוּ
They who sow in tears shall reap in joy
 הָלוךְ יֵלֵךְ וּבָכה נשא מֶשֶׁךְ הַזָּרַע
בּא יָבא בְרִנָּה נשא אֲלֻמּתָיו
Though he goes on his way weeping bearing the store of seed
he shall come back with joy bearing his sheaves

This is indeed the psalm that we Jews sing before bentching Birkat HaMazon (Grace After Meals) on Shabbat and Holidays.

On your standard-issue Shabbat, three (3) full meals (i.e. with challah) are required; thus three (3) recitations of Birkat HaMazon are also required. Plus two (2) on every Holiday. Which in turn means that, for us Jews -

Psalm 126 is one of the Top Ten
most-sung Psalms in the Book.

Which of course brings Abq Jew to his near (only 16 steps away!) and dear kuzine, Billy Joel (see Fame, Fortune, and Four Wives).

For while others - e.g. Debbie Friedman, Julie Geller, Eshet Chayil, and lehavdil Reb Shlomo - have provided kavanah and zip to stand in for the stodgy old tune we all know, Abq Jew will now show you that only the tune Billy Joel wrote really makes the angels sing.

A capella. In multi-part harmony.

OK ... so Billy Joel didn't, as far as Abq Jew knows, actually write his tune while thinking about (i.e. specifically for) the Shir HaMa'alot lyrics.

But that's not important, because

The Maccabeats are an American Orthodox Jewish all-male a cappella group based at Yeshiva University, Manhattan, New York. Founded in 2007, the 14-member group specializes in covers and parodies of contemporary hits using Jewish-themed lyrics. 
They have recorded three albums and one EP, and frequently release music videos in conjunction with Jewish holidays. They tour worldwide and have performed at the White House and the Knesset.

and Shlock Rock
Shlock Rock is an American-Israeli Jewish rock band, put together in December 1985, and officially founded in 1986, and led by, singer Lenny Solomon, which parodies popular secular songs, substituting new, religious-themed lyrics for the music. 
Their music is a mix of pop-rock song parodies and original rock songs in English and Hebrew. The purpose of the band is to spread Jewish pride, identity and awareness throughout the Jewish community, for Jewish continuity. 
Solomon and Shlock Rock tour around the world, playing at concerts, schools, and Jewish events. They are the only Jewish Music band to play a concert in all 50 States.
were so attuned and enraptured as to take Billy Joel's music and smerge them with lehavdil King David's words.

All in honor of Yom Yerushalayim 5778/2018.

Abq Jew predicts that this is the way we Jews
will sing Shir HaMaalot well into the next century.

In fact, Abq Jew predicts that we Jews will be singing
Shir HaMaalot like this for

wait for it ...

Thank you, Jacob Richman - for sharing this Shir HaMa'alot!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

ICE Comes for Armando

Bet Torah in Mt Kisco, NY: In late March - just before we Jews celebrated Passover, our Holiday of Freedom - ICE came for Armando, the long-time, beloved custodian of Bet Torah in Mt Kisco, New York.

Yes, that ICE - US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a unit of the US Department of Homeland Security. The ICE website tells us
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) enforces federal laws governing border control, customs, trade and immigration to promote homeland security and public safety. ICE was created in 2003 through a merger of the investigative and interior enforcement elements of the former U.S. Customs Service and the Immigration and Naturalization Service. 
ICE now has more than 20,000 employees in more than 400 offices in the United States and 46 foreign countries. 
The agency has an annual budget of approximately $6 billion, primarily devoted to three operational directorates – Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) and Office of the Principal Legal Advisor (OPLA). A fourth directorate – Management and Administration – supports the three operational branches to advance the ICE mission.
But you, Abq Jew's loyal readers, already know about ICE. You watch the news on TV. So does Abq Jew.

For those not from the Greater New York Metropolitan Area, Wikipedia tells us:
Mount Kisco is a village and town in Westchester County, New York, United States. The town of Mount Kisco is coterminous with the village. The population was 10,877 at the 2010 census. 
It serves as a significant historic site along the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route. 
As of the 2013 United States Census there were 11,067 people, 4,128 households, and 2,447 families residing in the village. The population density was 3,194.0 people per square mile. There were 4,103 housing units at an average density of 1,312.7 per square mile. 
The large number of small businesses, retail stores, and financial and medical offices swells the daytime population to more than 20,000. The racial makeup of the village was 77.79% White, 5.99% African American, 0.28% Native American, 4.24% Asian, 9.03% from other races, and 2.67% from two or more races. Of the population 24.54% were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 
Mount Kisco is socioeconomically diverse. Though most residents are middle to upper middle class professionals, Mount Kisco is home to a sizable number of working class Hispanic immigrants who primarily reside in the downtown core. 
In contrast, sprawling estates and equestrian farms are to be found farther away from the center of town. Worth millions of dollars, these properties are occasionally of a historic nature, many dating back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries. 

And Bet Torah's website tells us
Bet Torah is an engaging and dedicated egalitarian, Conservative congregation devoted to fostering a genuinely warm Jewish community in Northern Westchester.
Exceptionally welcoming and inclusive, truly caring and hamish, Bet Torah is a kehillah kedoshah – sacred community – committed to its core values of Community, Spirituality, Education, Tikkun Olam and Israel. 
In other words -

Anyshul in Anytown USA

So. In late March, just before we Jews celebrated Passover, the Holiday of Freedom, and just after ICE came for Armando, Abq Jew saw this message posted on the Facebook feed of one of Abq Jew's well-connected Facebook friends:

I’m completely devastated to learn that Armando, a beloved member of the custodial staff at our old synagogue, has been abruptly and cruelly deported. 

He was at Bet Torah for 20 years. He was beyond kind to me and my family when we were living in Mt.Kisco. Making sure to know us and help when he could. 

This is beyond cruel. What kind of country have we become?

In response to Armando's deportation, Bet Torah's Rabbi Aaron Brusso wrote this letter (also on Facebook) to his congregation:

Dear Bet Torah Family:

With tremendous sadness I am writing to inform you that yesterday Armando was deported to Mexico.

The first thing you need to know is that your response has been overwhelming. Because of the generosity of the Bet Torah community and numerous offers for legal assistance, Armando's family was able to secure representation and not hesitate to assume the cost.

Once in Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention things moved very quickly. The attorney worked very hard to file all the necessary papers and reach out to the ICE officer to make a case for a stay of Armando's deportation. The officer took a few days to get back to the attorney and before the process was complete, ICE had already approved his removal from the country.

Armando's family is in shock.

Armando was not allowed to gather his belongings, to say goodbye to his family, to make a phone call to them and the family was not notified by ICE that this would be happening. The only way they knew was because the attorney called the ICE officer who said that Armando was already in transit to Mexico. Last night they received a call from Armando for the first time since he left New York. ICE brought him over the border into Mexico and left him. Armando has no ID, no cell phone, no bank cards and no money. When I spoke to Armando Jr. last night he was not sure how his father was going to get to the village he is originally from.

In speaking to the attorney he made clear that in the past there was much more prosecutorial discretion, meaning that ICE would have seen a case like Armando's- no criminal record, almost three decades in the U.S., a family that relies on him and steady employment within an established community- and not made him a priority for removal. That is not the case these days.

The attorney is committed to continuing to work with Armando's family to pursue other avenues to reunite them. Because of the resources you provided, the family will be able to pursue these options.

And that was not the end of your generosity.

You should know that Armando's family will be hosted for seder by one of our Bet Torah families who reached out and offered seats at their table.

And your letters were unbelievable. Here is just one example:

Last year during our fall holiday of Rosh Hashanah, Armando proudly introduced me to his son, Armando Jr and told me that he had "grown up here at Bet Torah." I reciprocated, as I would with any member of our community, and shared pictures of my own children. Armando knows the names of the students and parents in our school; and our children and parents consider him part of our community.

One congregant who participated in a mentoring program for young men offered, that if Armando had to leave, he would be a mentor to his sons.

Our country could learn a lot from our Bet Torah community.

I will be thinking a great deal about the notion of citizenship and belonging at my Passover seder.

Because of an accident of birth, many of us acquired a status and acceptance that affords us all kinds of rights and privileges we take for granted on a daily basis. We should all be more cognizant of that status we did nothing to earn or deserve.

Our citizenship also reflects a certain value system that is represented in our country's behavior. How can we be the kinds of citizens that help our country become the best version of itself?

Our freedoms come with tremendous moral responsibilities.

There is much more to say and hopefully to do but I wanted to make sure to update you since so many of you have reached out with concern and love for Armando.

A meaningful Passover holiday to you and your family.


Because of Abq Jew's recent experiences (see You've Got Hate Mail! et al), his first response was

Tell the story. Fight back.

Abq Jew immediately contacted Rabbi Brusso and offered to help in the best way he could: by telling the story on his Abq Jew Blog and elsewhere.

And Rabbi Brusso asked Abq Jew not to publicize these events, as sensitive negotiations were underway. And it would be best, Rabbi Brusso thought, to keep the story out of the public eye.

So Abq Jew said - and wrote - nothing.

But now the story - without identifying family names - is out. It just appeared in the Forward, in an Opinion piece written by - Rabbi Aaron Brusso.
Our Synagogue’s Custodian Is A Member Of Our Family - And ICE Just Deported Him 
A week before the Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer told him he was going to a detention facility, Armando, our synagogue’s custodian for two decades, had come in to work on President’s Day to be there for my family as we held a small service to celebrate my son’s upcoming bar mitzvah. 
Afterwards, as we ate lunch, Armando stood at a distance smiling. A week later, when I spoke to him in custody, he said through tears, “I have seen your son grow. I wanted to be there for the big celebration.” 
My son, by happenstance of birth, is a United States citizen, and simply by reaching the age of 13 he becomes a full citizen of our religious community. Armando has worked and lived in this country more than twice as long as my son has been alive, has two boys of his own, no criminal record, steady employment and a community of hundreds of families who love him. Yet in an instant, he was taken away.
There is, of course, much, much more to the story. Click here to read Rabbi Brusso's article in the Forward. Toward the end, Rabbi Brusso writes
Recently, a delegation from my synagogue joined Armando’s son and flew down to San Diego to meet Armando in Tijuana. We wanted to be with him as he walked to the border to seek asylum. They told us that they did not have the “capacity,” and turned him away. We will try again soon. One thing is for sure: our community will not give up. 
Rabbi Aaron Brusso, Armando’s son, and Armando in Tijuana. Courtesy Rabbi Aaron Brusso
As I crossed back into the U.S. from Mexico, having left Armando behind, I handed over my passport to be scanned. For the first time I did so without pride. I was a citizen, but of what kind of country? 
The irony is that in enforcing so callously the line between citizen and non-citizen, we don’t affirm, but actually cheapen, the meaning of citizenship. As citizens, we are all implicated in our country’s behavior. If human beings without our status can be treated, in our names, in such cruel and thoughtless ways, then of what value is our status? 
The truth is that when Armando was taken, we didn’t just remove a father from his family and a member from a community, we deported a piece of our humanity as well.