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.

Aaron


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.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

A Royal Wedding for Shavous!

It's Gonna Be A Busy Weekend: After Passover but before Lag B'Omer - during the first 32 days of the Omer - we Jews traditionally don't do weddings. That time is observed as an undelightful period of semi-mourning.


On and after Lag B'Omer, however - we do. Especially just before Shavuos (aka Shavuot), the Holiday of Weeks, which is also the Holiday of the Giving of the Torah. Which is also seen as a mystical wedding - with The Holy One, Blessed Be He as groom and the People Israel as bride.


Thus it is altogether fitting and proper that Prince Harry and Rachel Meghan Markle - who are neither (as far as Abq Jew and world media can tell) neither Jewish nor mystical - to choose Shavuos weekend (alas, Shabbat BaMidbar - the Shabbos just before) to pledge their troth.

Did you know that it's a mitzvah to entertain and
give joy to the bride and groom? 
Of course you did!
Well, here we go!


The Court Jester

Starting with The Court Jester, which Abq Jew first wrote about (see The Pellet with the Poison) way back in 2012. Yep, it's got your royalty, your palace, your jokes, your mayhem, and your ... security concerns.
The Court Jester stars Danny Kaye, "Mr Versatility", as a carnival performer who becomes part of a plot to overthrow an evil king. 
The cast includes Glynis Johns, Basil Rathbone, Angela Lansbury, Mildred Natwick, and John Carradine. 
Abq Jew is sure you'll love this film.  All you have to do is remember: 
The pellet with the poison's in the vessel with the pestle; the chalice from the palace has the brew that is true!

But wait!  There's been a change: they broke the chalice from the palace! The pellet with the poison's in the flagon with the dragon; the vessel with the pestle has the brew that is true! Just remember that!
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Romaine, Yeah! Romaine, Yeah!

NBC News (et al) is happy to report that
It's safe to eat romaine lettuce, CDC says.
Contaminated lettuce is now past its shelf life.
Let the caterers of the New World rejoice!

We Jews tend to think of Romania in other terms, however.

Oh Romania, Romania!
Where can you find another place,
a land as sweet, as nice, as beautiful?
Living there was a pleasure, whatever your heart desired
was within reach: mamaliga, pastrami, carnatzl sausage,
and a glass of wine...

These are the opening lines of Aaron Lebedeff's celebrated yiddish paean to that land - his song Romania Romania. Lebedeff wrote the words and the music and first recorded the song for the Vocalion record label in 1925.

Before - of course, before, well before - the horrible events that Abq Jew described in Remembering the Iasi Pogrom.  

But it's a wedding! We're supposed to be happy! 

Still, the groom smashes a wineglass before the mazeltovs .....


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Laurel and Yanni

If you missed out on the famous Internet Question What Colour Is This Dress? - you're still in time (just) for Do You Hear "Yanny" or "Laurel"?.

Abq Jew is thrilled to report that Chabad - yes Chabad! of course Chabad! - has intelligently connected the ear hearing two different words with Israel's experience at Mt Sinai. (Blogger Jew In The City (Allison Josephs) also picked up on this.)
Laurel and Yanny’s Ancient Jewish Roots
By Menachem Posner 
Two simple words took the world by storm on Tuesday evening. People melded into small groups, intensely holding their phones to their ears. “What do you hear?” they asked each other. 
“Yanny,” said one with conviction. 
“You’re joking, right?” said the other. “I clearly hear Laurel!” 
“Laurel!”  “Yanny!”  “Laurel!”  “Yanny!” 
The words are so distinct it’s hard to imagine that the other person hears something different from what you are hearing. But it’s true! 
It did not take long before YouTube commentators and audio mavens were explaining how it is all possible, and playing the clip on different devices or even changing the frequency settings on a single device could convert Laurel to Yanny and back again. 
It was like the blue-white-gold dress kerfuffle all over again. 
It Happened Before! 
This immediately brought to mind a verse from Psalms: “G‑d spoke one [thing], I heard two.” 
When did G‑d speak but once, yet two distinct words were heard? 
By Divine design, this all happened just days before the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, when we celebrate the Giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. At that time, G‑d spoke the Ten Commandments to His people from Mount Sinai.
The fourth commandment is about Shabbat. When we read the 10 Commandments in Exodus, we are told to “remember the Shabbat to sanctify it.” But when we read the same narrative in Deuteronomy, we are told to “keep the Shabbat to sanctify it.” 
So what did G‑d say? Did he command that we keep the Shabbat or that we remember it?  
The sages of the ancient Mechilta say that both are true. G‑d spoke just once but both words were heard. And as proof that such a thing is possible for G‑d, they cite our verse from Psalms: “G‑d spoke one [thing], I heard two.”  

Oh - and while we're talking -


YANNI 25 - Acropolis Anniversary Concert Tour
Legendary performer and composer Yanni returns to Popejoy Hall
to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Live at the Acropolis
Wednesday June 13 2018 (Rosh Hodesh Tammuz!) @ 7:30 pm


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La Ketuba de La Ley

Internationally-known Ladino singer Sarah Aroeste (see Sarah Aroeste Sings in Albuquerque!) has brought all of the themes of this busy weekend together in her Shavuot song La Ketuba de La Ley (The Marriage Contract of the Law). It's from her September 2017 bilingual Ladino/English holiday album, Together/Endjuntos.

The Torah is a divine gift
Filled with wisdom and sweetness

All is revealed in the Torah
So today we celebrate its power

We will go wherever you go
The Law will lead the way



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Shabbat Shalom, World!
Good Shabbos, Universe!


Hag Sameach, New Mexico!
Good Yontif, Albuquerque!

A Three-Day Yontif!
Better stock up on challah!

OK ... technically, it's one day of Shabbat followed immediately by a 2-day
(outside the Land of Israel) Yom Tov - in this case Shavuot, the Time of the
Giving of Our Torah. But in the vernacular, a 3-day Yontif is what it's called.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Netta's 'Toy' Brings Jerusalem Joy

Eurovision Song Contest - Lisbon 2018: ICYMI - JTA and Abq Jew didn't!
Israel wins Eurovision song contest 
For the fourth time in its four decades of participating in the Eurovision song contest, Israel has won the international competition. 
The song “Toy” by Netta Barzilai, 24, secured Israel’s victory at the Eurovision contest this year at the Finals Saturday in Lisbon, Portugal. The victory means Israel will host the event next year. Barzilai’s song is a warning to a boy not to treat her like a toy.
Israel’s song, which is performed in English, has consistently been ranked on betting sites in first place or at least in the top three at the festival, a hugely popular phenomenon in Europe that combines elements of “American Idol”-style song competitions and the Olympic Games. 
The score is determined by points given by the contest’s official juries and by callers. “Toy” won the match with a combined score of 529 points, giving it a huge lead of 93 points over Cyprus, which came in second, and a 187-point lead over Austria in third place. The score for “Toy”was the fourth-highest in the contest’s history.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated Netta and indicated that the festival next year will be hosted in Jerusalem. 
“You have brought the State of Israel a lot of pride. Next year in Jerusalem!”

JTA also reports:
Israeli actress Gal Gadot congratulated Netta Barzilai for her victory at Eurovision. 
Gadot, whose film persona Wonder Woman gets a shout out in Israel’s song “Toy,” posted her good wishes on Instagram, including a video of Barzilai’s acceptance speech, in which she thanked the audience for “choosing different” and for “celebrating diversity.” 
Gadot said in her post: 
"You represent the real wonder in women."
"So much Truth, confidence and talent. You stand for diversity and you bring fresh beautiful light to the world."

And this occurred, of course, as Israel prepared to celebrate Yom Yerushalayim, the 51st anniversary of the reunification of Israel's capital ...


... as well as the official opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem!

Maybe we should celebrate!


Israeli fans celebrate at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv Israel, after Israeli singer Netta Barzilai
won the Grand Final of Eurovision Song Contest 2018, May 13, 2018. (Reuters/Corinna Kern)

Monday, May 7, 2018

Pancho Villa, Bull Soccer, and Pluto

What Was That Middle Thing? Abq Jew was shocked - shocked! - to his core when he read three (3)! recent articles in The Washington Post on Monday morning.

Although all three (3)! articles were clearly labeled PerspectiveAbq Jew was like, completely unable to reach any conclusion other than that, despite all evidence (especially recent evidence concerning the state of our democracy),

The Washington Post
Doesn't Know Everything




1. Pancho Villa

Let's start with Pancho Villa, shall we? Christopher Wilson, deputy director of the Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute, wrote a Perspective piece titled Five myths about the U.S.-Mexico border. It begins:
The remaining members of the much-discussed caravan of Central American migrants arrived in Tijuana, Mexico, last weekend to seek asylum in the United States. The event, and President Trump’s reaction to it, set off a new round of debate on the management and security of the U.S.-Mexico border. 
In part, it’s a serious conversation about how to respond to migration trends, including fewer economic migrants from Mexico and more asylum seekers from Central America. But it is also laced with political rhetoric that is not always firmly grounded in the truth. 
Here are five prevalent myths about border crossings.
Whereupon we'll jump to
MYTH NO. 4: Terrorist groups are exploiting a porous border.
 and Mr Wilson's statement
There has never been a successful terrorist attack on the United States involving the crossing of the U.S.-Mexico border.


Well, if we're talking about ISIS, Hezbollah, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command, or any of the organizations listed here - technically, Mr Wilson is correct.

And Abq Jew acknowledges that one person's terrorist may be another person's freedom-fighter.

But we New Mexicans have long memories. And we all remember Pancho Villa's 1916 attack on Columbus, New Mexico as if it were yesterday. And as if we had all been there.
Columbus is a village in Luna County, New Mexico, United States, approximately three miles north of the Mexican border. It is considered a place of historical interest, as the scene of the attack in 1916 by Mexican revolutionary leader Francisco "Pancho" Villa, that caused America to send 10,000 troops there in the punitive Mexican Expedition. 
On March 9, 1916, on the orders of Mexican revolutionary leader Francisco "Pancho" Villa, (Colonel) Francisco Beltrán, (Colonel) Candelario Cervantes, (General) Nicolás Fernández, (General) Pablo López and others led five hundred men in an attack against the town, which was garrisoned by a detachment of the 13th Cavalry Regiment. 
Villa's army burned a part of the town and killed seven or eight soldiers and 10 residents before retreating back into Mexico. 
United States President Woodrow Wilson responded to the Columbus raid by sending 10,000 troops under Brigadier General John J. Pershing to Mexico to pursue Villa. This was known as the Punitive Mexican Expedition or Pancho Villa Expedition. 
The expedition was eventually called off after failing to find Villa, who had successfully escaped. The Pershing expedition brought prosperity and international attention to Columbus and a realization that war had come to the border of the United States.
Was this a purely terrorist attack? No, for it clearly had a military objective. Were the citizens of Columbus terrorized (which is not to mention, killed)? Yes.

Let the debate begin.




2. Bull Soccer

Let's move to the problem with the rapid expansion of professional soccer in America, shall we? Norman Chad wrote a Perspective piece with just that title. It begins:
When I was growing up in the late 1960s, playing kick drums, kickball and kick the can, I had a dream that one day there would be dozens and dozens of professional soccer teams in America. 
Actually, it might have been a nightmare. 
Either way, it has come true! 
I mean, I opened my bedroom window the other morning and saw a Major League Soccer franchise moving in across the street. 
Now, I realize I missed something out there before the last presidential election, but what did I miss in the heartland that has fueled this ongoing soccer explosion? 
Later on, Mr Chad takes a shot at the American (although not New Mexican) alien tradition:
I knew MLS was expanding too quickly when I saw it was putting a franchise in Area 51
And then. Mr Chad makes the following dangerous and misleading statement:
Heck, if you could find a way to ensure more scoring and every single player on the pitch were packing heat, you would have a runaway success on your hands. 
There would be 23 MLS franchises in Texas alone.

Now, Texas has contributed mightily to the United States of America, of which said state is, despite what you may have heard, a part. Think, if you will, of Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, and Kinky Friedman. Think of Austin City Limits.

Abq Jew loves things Texas about as much as most sane, easy-going New Mexicans do. Which is to say, not much. Think, if you must, of Texas gun laws. Think of Texas abortion laws.


Abq Jew, for his part, would rather think about The New Yorker. It is, has always been, and, Billy Nader, most likely forever will be, his favorite magazine.

But never mind Saul Steinberg's famous 1976 cover,
View of the World from 9th Avenue.

Sometime, in that or some adjacent era, Abq Jew recalls (or at least believes he recalls; the memory may have been implanted) that The New Yorker (Calvin Trillin?) proposed a cure for American soccer that neither threatened nor reinforced Second Amendment rights.



Simply turn a live bull loose on the field.
During the game.

Yes, the author proposed, and Abq Jew agreed,
that would really perk up both the players and the crowd.
Everyone would quickly start to pay attention.

FWIW: Abq Jew has Googled from here to Timbukto, but has not been able to find any reference anywhere to Bull Soccer, or anything that might link the concept thereof to either The New Yorker or Calvin Trillin. All offers of help accepted.


3. Pluto

Let's end with Pluto, shall we? David Grinspoon and Alan Stern wrote a Perspective piece titled Yes, Pluto is a planet. It begins:
Three years ago, NASA’s New Horizons, the fastest spaceship ever launched, raced past Pluto, spectacularly revealing the wonders of that newly seen world. This coming New Year’s Eve — if all goes well on board this small robot operating extremely far from home — it will treat us to images of the most distant body ever explored, provisionally named Ultima Thule. We know very little about it, but we do know it’s not a planet. 
Pluto, by contrast — despite what you’ve heard — is.  
YES! Abq Jew hears you shout. We all remember when the International Astronomical Union (IAU), during their 26th General Assembly in 2006, in a clear case of Anti-Planetarianism, defined the term "planet" to specifically exclude Pluto.
Why do we say this? We are planetary scientists, meaning we’ve spent our careers exploring and studying objects that orbit stars. 
YES! Abq Jew hears you shout. Finally, we've got the Cognoscenti Team on our side!
We use “planet” to describe worlds with certain qualities. 
YES! Abq Jew hears you shout. That sound alright.
When we see one like Pluto, with its many familiar features — mountains of ice, glaciers of nitrogen, a blue sky with layers of smog — we and our colleagues quite naturally find ourselves using the word “planet” to describe it and compare it to other planets that we know and love. 
 YES! Abq Jew hears you shout. But trouble lies ahead.
We find ourselves using the word planet to describe the largest “moons” in the solar system. 
Moon refers to the fact that they orbit around other worlds which themselves orbit our star, but when we discuss a world like Saturn’s Titan, which is larger than the planet Mercury, and has mountains, dunes and canyons, rivers, lakes and clouds, you will find us — in the literature and at our conferences — calling it a planet. 
OY! Abq Jew hears you shout. Plus, Mr Grinspoon and Mr Stern proclaim
This usage is not a mistake or a throwback. It is increasingly common in our profession and it is accurate.
OH NO! Abq Jew hears you shout. You're going to call a moon a planet? Is there no end to the indignity which you heap upon our dear Planet Pluto? Who must (she must! she must!) respond:


For, as His Grouchoness Julius Henry Marx has taught us:

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

49 Days, 49 Questions

Counting the Omer: As we Jews all know, it's a mitzvah to count the days between Pesach and Shavuot. For us Rabbanite Jews, that's forty-nine (49) days exactly.


Rabbi Jill Jacobs explains:
The omer refers to the 49-day period between the second night of Passover (Pesach) and the holiday of Shavuot. This period marks the beginning of the barley harvest when, in ancient times, Jews would bring the first sheaves to the Temple as a means of thanking God for the harvest. The word omer literally means “sheaf” and refers to these early offerings. 
The Torah itself dictates the counting of the seven weeks following Passover: 
“You shall count from the eve of the second day of Pesach, when an omer of grain is to be brought as an offering, seven complete weeks. The day after the seventh week of your counting will make fifty days, and you shall present a new meal offering to God (Leviticus 23:15-16).” 
וּסְפַרְתֶּם לָכֶם מִמָּחֳרַת הַשַּׁבָּת מִיּוֹם הֲבִיאֲכֶם
 אֶת-עֹמֶר הַתְּנוּפָה שֶׁבַע שַׁבָּתוֹת תְּמִימֹת תִּהְיֶינָה

The problem (and there always is one, isn't there?) is shown above in red. To what day does (literally) "the day after the Sabbath" refer? In other words:

When do we start counting the Omer?


Us Rabbinic Jews say: "The Sabbath," in this and other places scattered throughout the Bible, we interpret to refer to "the Festival." That is what our rabbis say. Hence (as translated above), we start counting the Omer on the eve of the second day of Pesach.

Them Karaite Jews, on the other hand, say: "The Sabbath," in this and other places scattered throughout the Bible, we see literally to refer to "the Sabbath." That is what the text says. Therefore, we start counting the Omer on the Saturday night after the first Shabbat of Pesach. And Shavuot always falls on a Sunday.

What's the difference?

The difference is the difference between the Karaites, who claim to follow the Written Law of the Torah, and the Rabbanites, who claim to follow the Oral Law of the Mishna and Talmud.

Although Karaite communities continue to exist (the 'Golden Age of Karaism' was the 10th -12th century, when they comprised as much as 40% of world Jewry), most Jews today are firmly Rabbanites.

But there are still communities of Karaites among us.
Just Google Karaites in America!


In the meantime - Thursday May 3 is the holiday of Lag B'Omer!
This day marks the hillula (celebration, interpreted by some as anniversary of death) of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, a Mishnaic sage and leading disciple of Rabbi Akiva in the 2nd century, and the day on which he revealed the deepest secrets of kabbalah in the form of the Zohar (Book of Splendor), a landmark text of Jewish mysticism. 
This association has spawned several well-known customs and practices on Lag BaOmer, including the lighting of bonfires, pilgrimages to the tomb of Bar Yochai in the northern Israeli town of Meron, and various customs at the tomb itself.


Want to celebrate in New Mexico?
Check your local Chabad!




And Greyhounds de Mayo is coming up!
Visit! Celebrate! Adopt!


Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel.   Credit: Doug Mills/The New York Times

It seems that Special Counsel Robert S Mueller III
has 
forty-nine (49) questions
he'd like our current president to answer.


Perhaps one question a day? All done by Shavuot?