Monday, January 31, 2011

It's Always About Us

Tunisia to Egypt:  Herb Keinon of the Jerusalem Post writes that "Recent unrest in Arab world is not about us".

How the Egyptian revolution debunks the Israel-is-the-cause-of-Mideast-instability myth.
From an Israeli perspective, one of the most striking elements of the evolving revolution in Egypt, Tunisia and other parts of the Arab world is the degree to which all of this is not about us.
Abq Jew offers a different perspective: It's always about us.

Not in the sense that, if only Israelis and Palestinians could reach an accord, all the problems of the Middle East would be solved.  But in the sense that Israel shows what can be achieved by ordinary people living in the Middle East.

In so many ways, Israel (and the Jewish people) continue to serve as a Light Unto The Nations.  And in so many places (Tunisia and Egypt just now), people ask: "If Israel can, why can't we?".  They may not say "Israel" - but that's what they're thinking.  And this certainly doesn't mean that they like Israel.  It only means that - it's still about us.

Want a more down-to-earth analysis of what this means to Israel?  Here is a link to Ethan Bronner's piece in The New York Times, which begins:
The street revolt in Egypt has thrown the Israeli government and military into turmoil, with top officials closeted in round-the-clock strategy sessions aimed at rethinking their most significant regional relationship.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Margot's Coming To Klezmerquerque!

Klezmer Mountain Boys:  The Boys aren't coming with, but Abq Jew is sure looking forward to hearing and learning from Margot Leverett at Klezmerquerque 2011.  This video shows Margot, Kenny Kosek on fiddle, Barry Mitterhof on mandolin, and (we believe) Joe Selly on guitar.  Probably Marty Confurius on bass, unknown drummer.

What Abq Jew finds amazing is that he used to live a mere few miles from Margot & the Boys in New Jersey, and didn't discover The Joy of Klez until he moved to New Mexico.  Thank you, Beth Cohen and the Nahalat Shalom Community Klezmer Band!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Jews & Films & New Mexico

Perfect Together:  The Jerusalem Post reports that "Jews sweep Oscar nominations", and Abq's KOB TV reports that "NM films earn 15 Academy nominations".  Coincidence?  Abq Jew thinks not . . . .

Monday, January 24, 2011

Rediscovering Jewish Roots

More and More:  No, you never expect the descendants of Jews who fled the Spanish Inquisition - and those who were forced to convert - to turn up in far-away places like Italy.  But they do; in fact, more than 500 years after the fact, they turn up everywhere - even (especially?) in New Mexico.  And many of them are eager to reclaim their heritage.  The Jewish Chronicle reports about rediscovered Jews in Italy:
Back in the 1950s, when Barbara Aiello was growing up in the Hill District, Dormont and Beachview, and attending Catholic school, no one could have guessed what the future would hold for the dark-haired girl from a large Italian clan, the first in her family to be born in the United States.
Now, in her 60s, she is a self-described “pioneer,” the first woman rabbi to serve as a spiritual leader in Italy, as well as that country’s first non-Orthodox rabbi.
Aiello comes from a family of anousim (Italians whose ancestors were forced into conversion from Judaism), and has made it her mission to help other Italians re-connect with long lost Jewish roots.
Continue reading the article here.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Debbie Friedman’s Healing Prayer

Mi Shebeirach:  Rabbi Drorah Setel wrote a beautiful article about the creation of this prayersong in the Jewish Daily Forward.  The article begins:
As word spread that Debbie Friedman was gravely ill, people around the world prayed for her recovery. Many turned to “Mi Shebeirach,” her version of the traditional Jewish prayer for healing and probably her best-known song. Our prayers and our loving song did not prevent Debbie’s death, but neither were they offered in vain. Indeed, for Debbie, the purpose of “Mi Shebeirach” was about much more than physical healing.
The story of “Mi Shebeirach” begins in 1987 . . . .
Rabbi Drorah Setel is rabbi of Temple Beth El in Niagara Falls, N.Y., and president of the Buffalo Board of Rabbis.  Rabbi Setel co-wrote the Mi Shebeirach with Debbie Friedman and is interviewed in the film  A Journey of Spirit.  Continue reading her article here.

Abq Jew Note:  This video will fill your heart and break it at the same time.

Those who sow in tears will reap in joy - Psalm 126:5

Senator Joe Lieberman

Not Running:  Senator Joe Lieberman, Independent of Connecticut, recently announced that he does not plan to seek reelection when his term expires in 2012.  The New York Times, in its Times Topics page, states:
Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut is an independent who caucuses with the Democrats. From time to time he drives them crazy, and from time to time provides them with a crucial vote.

Mr. Lieberman, up for reelection in 2012, will not seek a fifth term, according to sources close to the Senator.
The New York Times's David Brooks calls Senator Lieberman A Most Valuable Democrat, while the Times's Gail Collins wishes a non-nostalgic Goodbye to a Guy Named Joe

How does Abq Jew react to this news?  Is Senator Lieberman one of the Jewish All-Stars (who can forget his Amazing Adventure in 2000?), or is he an annoying pain in the tuchus?  Senator Lieberman is a complicated man, and Abq Jew feels very strongly both ways.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Blessing for New Mexico

Tu B'Shevat Invocation:  Nahalat Shalom's Rabbi Deborah Brin was invited to give the invocation at the Governor's Inaugural Prayer Breakfast on January 20, 2011. The text of her remarks follows.
Good morning.

I have been given the honor of giving the invocation today. To invoke is to call upon The Source of Life from Whom All Blessings Flow. It is an auspicious moment to do so. In my tradition, beginning at sunset tonight, we are going to be celebrating a holiday called Tu B'Shevat, the New Year for the Trees. Long ago it was determined that this is the day in our ancestral lands when the sap begins to rise. The Source of Life grows buds then leaves, then blossoms and fruit.
We celebrate by enjoying the fruits of the trees. We eat three distinct kinds of fruits: those that are hard on the outside and soft on the inside like nuts. Those that are soft on the outside with hard internal pits like apricots, and those that are tender through and through like blueberries.
Rabbis are known to sermonize that these categories are like people. Some of us are hard or prickly on the outside and soft on the inside, some are soft on the outside and hard on the inside and some of us are thoroughly sweet through and through.

As the life force begins a new cycle, so it should be with us. May the blessings for our State of New Mexico, her leaders and her citizens, rise and flow freely like the sap in the trees, so that we shake off the cold darkness of winter and emerge into the light and warmth of a new spring, a new season of governance. May this spring be filled with increasing light and warmth so that the buds and blossoms of legislation will bear nourishing fruits for all the citizens of New Mexico.

Ribbon Haolam kabayl nah b'rachamim et-t'filateinu . . .

Sovereign of the Universe, mercifully receive our prayer for the State of New Mexico and her government. Let Your blessings pour out on us and on all officials who are occupied, in good faith, with the public needs. And let us all say: Amen

Greyhounds Run & Have Fun

The Best Race:  Elizabeth Corbett's Greyhounds Delilah and Benny race around their backyard in Connecticut.  Abq Jew is a Greyhound Rescuer and a big fan of almost all things Greyhound.  Here is one example of why.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Prime Grill

Let's Meat in Abq:  My son recently turned 30!  On one hand, this is the natural turn of events, or at least the way we want events to naturally turn.  On the other hand, this is a miraculous occurrence with no parallels in the known or unknown universe.

What to do?  Celebrate!  How to celebrate?  The way Jews traditionally celebrate: by eating!  Since my son lives in NYC and loves to eat meat, I could think of no better place to eat than The Prime Grill on East 49th Street.  And since my son is (kayna hara) engaged to be married to a beautiful and intelligent Jewish doctor (yes!), the two complete nuclear families (that's eight of us) met in Manhattan last week for a delightful meal together.

I showed up, tired, cold, and thirsty at the bar at The Prime Grill at 5:00 pm, planning to enjoy one or more single-malt Scotch whiskies from their excellent selection.

Why was I there at 5:00 pm, when our dinner reservation wasn't until eight?  Because MOMA closes at 5:30 on Thursdays . . . but that's another story, involving The Search For The Perfect Dress For The Mother Of The Groom and my subsequent arrival, sans wife, at MOMA around four - when, measured by the number of artworks I could potentially view in the time remaining, it just wasn't economical to enter.

My wife, my son, my daughter, and my future daughter-in-law soon joined me.  And together, we ran up a noticeable bar tab by the time the machetonim showed up, right around eight.  Why do I mention this?  Because The Prime Grill, may they know only success, is not cheap.  In fact, it's one of those places where "if you have to ask how much it costs, you can't afford it."

I didn't have to ask - I've been there before, and I knew I couldn't afford it.  But I only have one son, and he only turns 30 once, and he was the whole reason we were visiting the East Coast.  I believe I ordered the Petite "Filet" ($43), with a side of French Fries ($11).  The other six Members Of The Family chose similarly. The Father Of The Bride and I split the bill.

Why do I bring this all up?  To show that Abq Jew can be a Big Spender when the occasion calls for it?

No, I bring this up because I believe that, in the Duke City, where the food service at the JCC (believe it or not) isn't kosher, what the Jewish community really needs is an extremely extravagant, extraordinarily expensive kosher meat restaurant like The Prime Grill.

"But the Jewish community won't support it!", I hear you cry.  But here's the trick, and (I believe) the secret behind The Prime Grill's success:  The food, the service, the atmosphere at The Abq Prime Grill have to be so ... rich, that even non-Jews will pay for the honor of dining there.  We shouldn't tell anyone it's kosher (unless they ask) - our lucky diners must simply recognize that the food is really, really good.

Did I mention that The Prime Grill doesn't advertise? Not in the general press; not in the Jewish press. And you have to look hard for a kosher certificate (it's there). But let me tell you - last week, on a cold winter night, the place was packed with Jews of all stripes, from the ultra-frum with beards and payas to the not-yet-observant with no head covering. There was even a pair of frum Jewish singles (one man, one woman) at the bar, obviously on a watchable, public, kosher date.  And there were even a few non-Jews.

What, you ask, have I been drinking?  The Dalmore.  $13 per 2-ounce serving at The Prime Grill.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Giffords Known For Her Openness & Judaism

Terrible News:  From the JTA.
The event was typical Gabrielle Giffords: no barriers, all comers - Democrats, Republicans, independents welcome to talk about what was on their minds and in their hearts.

While she was deep in a conversation with an older couple about health care - the issue for which she was willing to risk her career - a gunman strode up to the Arizona congresswoman and shot her point blank in the head.

Beloved US Jewish Songwriter Debbie Friedman Dies

Terrible News:  From The Jerusalem Post.
American Jewish singer and songwriter Debbie Friedman, who changed the voice of American Jewish spirituality and prayer, died Sunday in a hospital in Orange County, California, sources from the Union for Reform Judaism confirmed. Friedman had been hospitalized with pneumonia.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Gefilte Fish

The Secret of a Good Marriage:  Presented by the San Francisco Film Festival, with an introduction from JewTribe.  Enjoy!
Director Shelly Kling has produced a charming movie Titled Gefilte Fish. In it we find Gali’s family has long-lasting tradition. Every budding bride must prepare gefilte fish for the wedding party, to guarantee a successful marriage. When Gali’s mother and grandmother give her a living carp to cook, Gali is torn between her need to abide tradition and her sympathies for the fish.

A Nice Jewish Wedding

L'Chaim!  With, yes, really, Julie Andrews (from 1967's Thoroughly Modern Millie).  Mazeltov!  Where does Abq Jew find these things?  On YouTube, of course!

The Doctrine of Defensible Borders

Occupied Territories Revisited: Whatever happened to the doctrine of defensible borders?  Abq Jew found this always-timely article by Harry Kanigel in American Thinker, courtesy of Jewish Ideas Daily.
It's a puzzle - isn't it? A a tiny state of a few million industrious souls is viewed as a truculent, sneering imperialist bully. Surely there's a story behind such a cognitive burr. Why would we dispute the morality of a nation that retains territory of high military value gained in a defensive war?
The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs recently published a paper by Alan Baker on a similar topic:  The Fallacy of the “1967 Borders".  Again, courtesy of Jewish Ideas Daily.
The Palestinian leadership is fixated on attempting to press foreign governments and the UN to recognize a unilaterally declared Palestinian state within the "1967 borders." Indeed, this campaign appeared to have some initial successes in December 2010 when both Argentina and Brazil decided to recognize a Palestinian state within what they described as the "1967 borders."

But such borders do not exist and have no basis in history, law, or fact. The only line that ever existed was the 1949 armistice demarcation line, based on the ceasefire lines of the Israeli and Arab armies pending agreement on permanent peace. The 1949 armistice agreements specifically stated that such lines have no political or legal significance and do not prejudice future negotiations on boundaries.
Abq Jew still has a pamphlet on this very subject that was written by the late Abba Eban z"l in 1967. Since then, the "situation on the ground" has become much more complicated and incredibly more dangerous.