Sunday, July 31, 2011

NMJHS Call for Papers

New Mexico Jewish Historical Society Fall Conference:  The New Mexico Jewish Historical Society's Fall Conference 2011 will take place on

Sat 22 Oct & Sun 23 Oct 2011

and will focus on The Jewish Experience in Twentieth Century New Mexico: And the Institutions that Made it Possible.

Deadline for Proposals:  Thu 18 Aug 2011

Proposals for talks, panels, or other presentations should be emailed to
or snailmailed to
NMJHS Fall Conference Program
P.O. Box 23924
Santa Fe, NM 87502
Talks and / or PowerPoint presentations should be 20 minutes, and panel discussions 1 1/2 hours.  Please give the name of the presenter(s), titles, a 100 word summary of the content of the presentation, and specials needs, such as A-V, a table, etc.

The Fall Conference will focus on the business, professional, and community institutions that supported the development of Jewish life in New Mexico in the twentieth century, including the scientific and scholarly institutions that hired Jewish professionals to come to the state (i.e. University of New Mexico, Medical School, Los Alamos, Sandia Labs, etc.) and the community institutions that supported Jewish life here (synagogues, the Federation, the Link, the Holocaust Museum, ADL, NMJHS and others), and businesses (Service clubs, Chamber of Commerce, etc.).

What is the Jewish history in the professional organizations? What has been the role of the Jewish institutions in supporting community and Jewish life? Who have been the Jewish leaders in these institutions? What have been major institutional events that have shaped Jewish life in New Mexico?

Registration material will be available in early September.  For more information, email the New Mexico Jewish Historical Society at, or call (505) 348-4471 or (505) 820-0550.  The Doubletree has given a special conference rate for the meetings, and reservations should be made directly with the hotel.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Consoling The Father

Menachem Av:  This coming Shabbat, Shabbat Mas'ei, is also a Shabbat Mevarkhim HaHodesh - a Sabbath on which we announce, with blessing, the coming New Month.

It is the custom in most synagogues to announce the month of Av as "Menachem Av" - literally, "Consoling The Father."

Who is consoling Whom?  The Jewish people are consoling their Father in Heaven.  And G-d, our Father, is in need of consolation, in light of the Talmudic statement "Woe to the Father Who exiled His children."  We comfort G-d by assuring Him that even in the darkest moments of our exile we have not lost our faith and trust in Him.

The Talmud says, "When the month of Av begins, we reduce our joy."  During the Nine Days we observe a greater level of mourning than during the Three Weeks.  We don't eat meat or drink wine (except for Shabbat).  We don't wear new clothes that require the Sh’he'cheyanu blessing - we are not happy to "reach this season."  We don't play or listen to music.

But the Talmud also states that all who mourn the destruction of Jerusalem will merit to rejoice in its rebuilding.  The Sages also teach that the Jewish Messiah was born on Tisha b'Av.  It is that promise of redemption which makes this period one of hope and anticipation.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Every Day, In Every Way Is Getting Better And Better:  Actually, this turns out to be true.  Perhaps not every day, but most days, Abq Jew does some work on the website.

This statement ("Tous les jours, a tous points de vue, je vais de mieux en mieux.") of Emile Coué (1857-1926), French psychologist and pharmacist, is particularly true today.

Abq Jew has added new pages, new information, and new graphics - as well as fixing misplaced text and broken links.

This has undoubtedly been a moving experience for some of your favorite spots - but, all in all, Abq Jew thinks it was worth the effort.

If you haven't visited recently - and even if you have - now would be a good time.  Just sayin'.

Funny Films

Can Lead to Serious Conversations:  Gail Rubin, aka The Doyenne of Death, will be interviewed on

Thursday, July 28, 2011 
between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m

As Abq Jew notes in his recent Dying Is Easy blog post, Gail Rubin is the author of A Good Goodbye: Funeral Planning for Those Who Don’t Plan to Die.  She has a website, A Good Goodbye, and a blog, The Family Plot.

Also on Thursday (5:30 - 6:30 pm):  Gail is presenting a talk on

Using Funny Films 
to Start Serious Funeral Planning Conversations 
Bear Canyon Senior Center
4645 Pitt NE, Albuquerque
just NE of Montgomery & Eubank
(505) 291-6211

She will show film clips from major motion pictures and independent films to help start the conversation about funeral planning issues.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Jerusalem Online U Comes to Abq!

Israel Inside / Out:  The Jewish Federation of New Mexico, Congregation Albert, and Congregation B’nai Israel have teamed up to offer this Jerusalem Online University Class on Israel to Albuquerque area teens.

Beginning in August, 11th and 12th grade students will be offered the opportunity to attend the 30 session class Israel Inside / Out, developed by Jerusalem Online University.  Students will take an exciting journey through time and discover the fascinating history of the State of Israel. An interdisciplinary approach utilizing online technologies paired with in-class lessons provides an unparalleled view of both ancient and modern Israel.

Class topics include Ancient History, A State is Born, In Search of Peace, international Relations, Israel in the Media, and Crossing the Line: The Intifada Comes to Campus. Online lecturers presented during class include such notable personalities as Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz, former Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Dore Gold, and Knesset member Professor Marina Solodkin. The class will feature cutting-edge films about the History of Israel, the Peace Process, Israel’s Global Contributions, and more.

Israel Inside/Out presents students with primary documents such as the Balfour Declaration, the PLO Charter, the Hamas Charter, and the IDF Code of Conduct. Students will learn, study, debate, and advocate.

Tammy Kaiser, Director of Lifelong Learning for Congregation Albert says, “I can’t wait to bring this program to the Albuquerque Jewish community. Jewish High School students preparing for college, travel or employment should know about the history of Israel and Israel’s current place on the world stage.”

This class will be held at Congregation Albert on Wednesday evenings from 6:30 to 7:30 pm, beginning on August 24th. The class is open to the entire community, and is free for all 11th and 12th grade students.

The class includes all materials, Community-Wide Graduation Party, Graduation Certificate and the opportunity to further learning through additional Jerusalem Online University programs.

To learn more about this wonderful opportunity or to register, contact Megan at (505) 883-0306 or

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Guest for Dinner

Christopher Guest!  Abq Jew has never had dinner with Christopher Guest - or with Jane Lynch, Michael McKean, Rob Reiner, Harry Shearer, Ed Begly, Jr, Fred Willard, Catherine O'Hara, John Michael Higgens, Bob Balaban, Eugene Levy, or Parker Posey.

Christopher Guest, as if you didn't know, is the Actor / Writer / Director responsible for such modern film classics as This Is Spinal Tap. A Mighty Wind, Best in Show, and For Your Consideration ("Home for Purim").  And the folks mentioned in the paragraph above are members of Mr Guest's usual cast of characters, each one just slightly better than the others and each performance just slightly better than the one preceding.

Let's talk about Waiting for Guffman, one of Mr Guest's, alas,  lesser-known masterpieces.

Abq Jew cannot explain why Waiting for Guffman is lesser-known, but he will now cheerfully explain why WfG is a masterpiece.

My Luncheon with Schelly, as you are no doubt by now aware, conjured up images in what is left, after many years in high tech, of Abq Jew's mind, of the famous action flick My Dinner with Andre.

No, MDwA is not known as an action flick.  And it is that ... dichotomy ... that caused Abq Jew, one winter's evening many years ago at the home of dear NJ friends who now live in CT, of all places, to Roll On Floor Laughing for more than an hour.

"But wait a minute!" Abq Jew hears you cry.  "Where is the Jewish connection to all this?  This is supposed to be a Jewish blog!

That's an easy one.  First of all: Abq Jew's NJ / CT friends are Jewish.  And: while Mr Guest is probably not Jewish, Eugene Levy almost certainly is.  Along with Bob Balaban and Ed Begley, Jr.  Yes, Ed Begley, Jr.  For, as The Daily Beast reports:
In Christopher Guest’s folk-music mockumentary A Mighty Wind, Ed Begley Jr.’s Lars Olfen, a Swedish-American public-television producer effortlessly laces his language with the mamaloshen: “The naches that I'm feeling right now,” Olfen tells Bob Balaban’s character Jonathan Steinbloom, “because your dad was like mishpucha to me. When I heard I got these tickets to the Folksmen, I let out a geschrei, and I'm running with my friend, running around like a vilde chaya, right into the theater, in the front row! So we've got the shpilkes, 'cause we're sittin' right there... and it's a mitzvah, what your dad did, and I want to try to give that back to you. Kinehora, I say, and God bless him.”
Yes, Ed Begley, Jr should give Michele Bachmann Yiddish lessons.  Again, from The Daily Beast:
Oy! Though Michele Bachmann once worked on a kibbutz and has always been pro-Israel, her Jewish street cred is hurting after a recent interview with Greta van Susteren.  Discussing President Obama’s audacity, Bachmann used the Yiddish word for it—“chutzpah”—but pronounced it CHOOT-spa. (It’s actually HUT-spa.) Naturally, Bachmann’s gaffe has already given her critics a lot of naches.
In case you missed it, here is a replay:

So where were we?  Oh yes.  With Abq Jew & family & friends, watching Christopher Guest's lesser-known masterpiece, Waiting for Guffman.  ROFL.  Because of one brief scene, in which Corky St Clair, played by Mr Guest, shows off his My Dinner with Andre action figures during the tour of his shop.

Once again, Abq Jew points out that laughter is not forbidden during the Three Weeks, or even during the Nine Days.  We will get through this mourning period together.  May we share an ROFL - soon!  Me oui!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Dying Is Easy

Comedy Is Hard: Gail Rubin makes dying easy.  Boy, does that not sound right.  However: Gail Rubin, aka The Doyenne of Death, is the author of A Good Goodbye: Funeral Planning for Those Who Don’t Plan to Die, a book that really takes a lot of the pain out of ... you know ... the process.

Gail points out - on her website, A Good Goodbye, and on her blog, The Family Plot - that just as talking about sex won’t make you pregnant, talking about funerals won’t make you dead.  And your family will benefit from the conversation.

The "Dying is easy. Comedy is hard." quote may be attributed to Jack Lemmon.  Or to Alan Swann (Peter O'Toole, in "My Favorite Year").  Or to Art Buchwald, who also said "Dying is easy.  Parking is hard."

It's important to bring Jack Lemmon into this post, so Abq Jew can also bring in his favorite Walter Matthau story:
Jack Lemmon told a story that he was working on a movie with Walter Matthau and Walter was doing some sort of minor stunt and accidently fell on his back and hurt himself. He was lying on the ground in agony, and everyone told him to stay still while they got the doctor. Lemmon leaned over and said, "Walter, are you comfortable?" and Matthau replied, "Oh, I make a living."
Now, Gail Rubin is here in this blog post because both Gail and Abq Jew were among the 120+ present at Congregation Albert last Sunday when Rabbi Harry Rosenfeld gave his lecture "Being Human - Living Creature or More?". 

Gail has written an excellent blog post, What Makes Us Human?, about that event - thereby (theoretically, at least) relieving Abq Jew of his responsibility to do the same.  Thanks, Gail!

Turning philosophical, Abq Jew has questions:  Everyone knows The Ultimate Answer to The Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything: 

So why is comedy hard?  And: Can anyone, anywhere, do anything to make comedy even a little bit easier?

The answer to the first question is: I Don't Know (Third Base). 

The answer to the second question is:  Yes. Ben Taxy, teacher of the Santa Fe Improv Players, can.  Ben is offering two free improv classes - August 1 (for actors) and August 2 (for writers).

You can read more about Ben and the Santa Fe Improv Players here.

Abq Jew makes no claims about Ben or these classes.  But Ben is Jewish, and Jews are funny.  He's in Santa Fe, and he wrote me a nice email and asked for a bit of publicity.

So let me remind potential advertisers:

One final thought: Abq Jew can find no Talmudic or post-Talmudic source that unequivocally (or even equivocally) prohibits laughter during the Three Weeks, or even during the Nine Days.  But then, he didn't look very hard.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

March of the Jobless Corps

Mournful Days of Tammuz:  J.J. Goldberg of The Jewish Daily Forward has just published an outstanding piece, For Source of Debt Crisis, Look to the Tithes, that ties together the woes of yesteryear with the debt woes of today.

Goldberg relates the story of Korah, which we read a few weeks ago.  Korah, Goldberg reminds us, was "a prince of the tribe of Levi who challenged Moses’ leadership and got swallowed up by the earth."

The reading went on to suggest that Korah’s challenge was about more than just rank. The Levite tribe, you see, didn’t get a share of the promised land to farm, like all the other tribes. Their job was to manage the sanctuary and the meeting tent, and their pay consisted of the tithe brought to Jerusalem by all the other tribes. The best part of the tithe went to Moses’ brother Aaron and his sons, the priests. Korah evidently wanted a better cut. He shouldn’t have asked. The allocation of the tithes, the scripture warns, is “a statute forever throughout your generations.” A contract is a contract.
And wouldn’t you know it? Before the next week was up, we learned about judges in two states who ruled that a contract is, in fact, not a contract. It seems the good people of Colorado and Minnesota discovered their tithes no longer cover the costs of running the meeting tent and the other business of the tribe, so they decided to trim the amount they contribute to the Levites. The Levites went to court, insisting that they had a contract. The judges laughed in their faces.
Yep, it's all about unions - public employees' unions.  Abq Jew comes from families of union organizers, and he has always believed - strongly - in the connection between Jewish legal ethics and fair labor practices.

When did the troubles for public employees' unions start?  Perhaps on August 3, 1981, when workers in the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) walked off the job - seeking a shorter work week, pay increases, improved working conditions and better safety for air travelers.  Two days later, President Ronald Reagan fired all 11,359 of them.  On February 4, 1998, the House and Senate voted to rename Washington National Airport in his honor.

How about private sector employees?  Deeper into the piece, Goldberg reminds us that
The question isn’t why public employees have good retirement benefits, but why private sector employees don’t.
. . .
Put bluntly, America has spent the last 30 years lowering taxes on the wealthy instead of saving for everyone else’s retirement. Deliberately, cold-bloodedly, eyes wide open. We declared class warfare on ourselves.
And more:
People will tell you these things are complicated, but they’re not. If you put fewer coins in your bucket, your bucket will be emptier because there will be fewer coins in it.

Now, you might suppose that with fewer coins being collected in taxes, the public would have more coins in its pockets, right? Guess again. Nearly all of it has gone to the wealthiest 10% of the population. The other 90% has been treading water or losing ground. In 1980 the richest 1% of the population made about half as much as the bottom 50%. Today, the richest 0.1%, just 300,000 individuals, make as much in total per year as the bottom 150 million. It’s been a lovely war, for some of us.
While you're reading J.J. Goldberg's piece, you might also listen to March of the Jobless Corps from Daniel Kahn & The Painted Bird's album Lost Causes.

No, one traditionally does not listen to music during the Three Weeks.  But Abq Jew claims this is virtually a case of  פּקוח נפשׁ pikuah nefesh - we're fighting for our lives here!

Original Yiddish song by Mordechai Gebirtig, written ca. 1930 in Krakow
English by Daniel Kahn, 2009. Arrangement by Michael Winograd/Jake Shulman-Ment
Instrumental, "Nifty's Freylakh" by Naftule Brandwein

Observing The Three Weeks

For History's Sake:  It is no secret that Abq Jew is a fan neither of fast days nor of fasting. There is nothing that focuses Abq Jew's mind on food more quickly or steadily than telling him he can't have any.  In Abq Jew's view, if the purpose of fasting is to remind ourselves of the insignificance of food - fasting fails.

How, then, should we observe the 17th of Tammuz, the Three Weeks, and Tisha b"Av?  More importantly - why should we take note of this mourning period at all?

Dr. Erica Brown is the scholar-in-residence at the Jewish Federation of Greater Washingto, and one of the foremost Jewish educators of our time.

In her latest book,, In the Narrow Places: Daily Inspiration for the Three Weeks, she brings her extraordinary teaching skills to the subject of the Three Weeks, the period of mourning commemorating the destruction of the First and Second Temples.

Why - and how - should we modern Jews observe the Three Weeks?

Dr Brown recently wrote an opinion piece, Observing The Three Weeks, For History’s Sake, in The Jewish Week. 
In 1999, Dr. Ismar Schorsh, then chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary, made a rather unfortunate observation. He claimed that Conservative Jews who observe the Three Weeks, a period of collective mourning for the Temples’ destruction and all subsequent calamities, was about as rare as a polar bear at the equator.
The Three Weeks are bookended by two fasts, beginning with the Fast of the 17th of Tammuz (corresponding to July 19 this year), and ending with Tisha B’Av, the ninth of Av (Aug. 9), which is the most serious fast of the liturgical year after Yom Kippur.

But Rabbi Schorsh’s rather casual dismissal of the mourning period led him to the conclusion that we should abolish the Three Weeks altogether. The Jewish calendar, he argued, is too dense with tragedy. Why bother with the heaviness of it all when no one really cares?
The idea behind the Three Weeks is simple and elegant.  The Three Weeks reverse the Jewish rituals of mourning.
  • When a loved one dies, Jewish tradition mandates one terrible day of prompt burial and complete mourning;  a seven day (shiva) period of intense mourning; then a thirty day (sheloshim) period of moderated mourning.  (For parents only, an additional 11-month period of mourning follows.)  During these periods, we are to steadily increase our joy and expand our celebrations.
  • The Three Weeks, in reverse, mandate a three week period of moderated mourning, then a nine day period of intense mourning, then one terrible day of complete mourning.  During these periods, we are to steadily decrease our joy and limit our celebrations. 
The question we ask ourselves every year is: 2,000 years and more since the precipitating events occurred, do any of these practices have any meaning for us?

Dr Brown answers: Yes.  If for nothing else, to commemorate our history.  History is not just "one damn thing after another;" history has meaning.  That's the Jewish position.
Jews are not only students of history; we are its stewards. Each of us carries within us thousands of years and multiple layers of the past. We walk in the world not laden down by tragedy but uplifted by our capacity for survival. We do this not because we ignore history but because we revere it.

The rhythm of the Three Weeks helps us think about our ancient religious center, our holy city, the relationship we had with God then and the price we have paid throughout history for our commitment to tradition. We focus on loss but also pray that some of the internecine struggles and external battles we fought once will not be repeated because we have learned from our mistakes. We are also able to appreciate the long spiritual timeline that brought us to where we are today as a people. Ultimately, Jewish history’s triumphs are even more miraculous than a polar bear at the equator.
To all of us: an easy fast, and / or a meaningful mourning.

Monday, July 18, 2011

My Luncheon with Schelly

Eating Up Jewish Geneaology:  Schelly Talalay Dardashti has tracked her family history through Belarus, Russia, Lithuania, Spain, Iran, and elsewhere. She has been blogging about Jewish genealogy since 2006 at Tracing The Tribe and other sites; she has published numerous articles on the topic, and she regularly speaks at Jewish and general genealogy conferences all over the world.

In fact, Schelly spoke at the Albuquerque JCC last Sunday, for the New Mexico Jewish Historical Society. Abq Jew and others were not able to attend Schelly's talk, it being the Day of the Abq Jewish Trifecta.

And more: Schelly is working with MyHeritage, the Israeli company that develops Family Tree Builder software and its website. has over 50 million users, and is one of the largest sites in the social networking and genealogy field.

Now, you may recall that in 1981, Louis Malle directed a wonderfully intense movie, My Dinner with Andre, which consists almost entirely of a delightfully cerebral dinner conversation between playwright / actor Wallace Shawn and theater producer Andre Gregory.  IMDB says:
Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory, apparently playing themselves, share their lives over the course of an evening meal at a restaurant. Gregory, a theater director from New York, is the more talkative of the pair. He relates to Shawn his tales of dropping out, traveling around the world, and experiencing the variety of ways people live, such as a monk who could balance his entire weight on his fingertips. Shawn listens avidly, but questions the value of Gregory's seeming abandonment of the pragmatic aspects of life. 
Here's a brief clip that will show you how the dinner conversation goes:

Why does Abq Jew bring up My Dinner with Andre?  The movie goes on for 110 of what Abq Jew's college-age daughter has characterized as the most excruciating minutes in movie-watching history.  That's not even two hours!  Roger Ebert, however, loved the movie. Abq Jew considered it then, and considers it now, one of the most fascinating movies of all time.

My Luncheon with Schelly lasted 150 minutes - 2 1/2 hours - until we had to quit to go home and make Shabbos with our respective families.  But what a conversation!   It was just as action-packed as My Dinner with Andre, almost as exciting, and more than 33% longer! Abq Jew played the part of Wallace Shawn - mostly listening - as Andre Gregory, played by Schelly, told stories and stories and stories.

After living in Tel Aviv (most recently), Las Vegas (NV - the other one), Los Angeles, and pre-revolutionary Iran (her husband is Persian), Schelly is now part of the Jewish community of the Greater Albuquerque Metropolitan Area.  She speaks Farsi, Hebrew, and Yiddish, et al. Schelly knows people, she knows places, and she knows ... lots of stuff.  Genealogy stuff.  Crypto-Jewish stuff.  Just lots and lots of really interesting stuff.  We talked for 2 1/2 hours!

When I got home, I told my wife and daughter everything about My Luncheon with Schelly.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Sparkles of a Summer Night

Artscrawl @ Wright's Indian Art:  Albuquerque has (again) been named one of the top arts destinations in the country - this year #6 among large cities by American Style magazine. We know what a great arts city we have - it's exciting to see the rest of the nation catching on.

The Albuquerque Art Business Association (AABA) has presented Artscrawl tours by district every third Friday since 1990.  July's Artscrawl is tonight in the North East Heights, and includes

Sparkles of a Summer Night @ Wright's Indian Art

one of Abq Jew's favorite galleries (and, not incidentally, a new Abq Jew advertiser).  Now in its 104th consecutive year, Wright's Indian Art offers native American Indian jewelry, pottery, kachinas, fetishes, sculpture, Navajo and Zapotec rugs, Navajo folk art, masks, hot blown glass - and everything else individual Indian artists create.  Wayne & Tania Bobrick, Owners.

Wright’s Indian Art
1100 San Mateo NE, Lower Level
(505) 266.0120 - Artscrawl 5:30-8:30pm
Sparkles of a Summer’s Night at Wright’s. A glittering display of micaceous pottery by some of the most prestigious artists working in this scintillating medium: Alan E Lasiloo, Preston Duwyenie, Dominique Toya, for instance. Major award winners all, their work sparkles with serious creativity and skill. This evening only: 10% off all micaceous pottery.  And don’t miss our month-long in-store special – selected pieces in all media, 40% off!

Abq Jew reminds you that - it's summer!  Shabbos starts late!  Go out and Artscrawl!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Abq Jewish Trifecta! One Day Only!

When It Rains, It Pours:  It is Abq Jew's responsibility, honor, and distinct pleasure to announce that on Sunday, July 17th, too many events are going on in the Abq Jewish community and he won't be able or qualified to attend them all.

Abq Jew hereby defines "too many" as "three".  That's right - the Abq Jewish community has finally hit the Trifecta!

You can read all about these events on Abq Jew's Calendar, and follow all upcoming events on Abq Jew's Upcoming Events page.  But Abq Jew is going to help you out and repeat it all right here.

The first major event - and the most important - is new-to-Abq Rabbi Harry Rosenfeld's lecture, Being Human - Living Creature or More?, at Congregation Albert.  This will be Rabbi Rosenfeld's first community event, and it is incumbent on us all to welcome him.  Why is this the day's most important event?  See below:  "A light breakfast will be served.  There is no fee ...."

Medical Ethics & Jewish Values
Being Human
Being Human - Living Creature or More? @ Congregation Albert
Sun 17 July 2011 @ 10:00 am 

What It Is:  The Louis and Frances Levin Memorial Lecture on Medical Ethics and Jewish Values, to be delivered by incoming Rabbi Harry Rosenfeld.  A light breakfast will be served.  There is no fee for this program, but reservations are required.
RSVP:  Please contact the Office at (505) 883-1818 or  

The second major event is also very important - but doesn't seem to include free food.  At the Albuquerque JCC, a mere 2.05 miles (4 minutes, per MapQuest)  away from Congregation Albert, Schelly Talalay Dardashti of Tracing The Tribe and the Genealogy Blog will be giving a talk on Social Media for 21st Century Genealogists.  Schelly is our local Jewish Gen maven, and it's always worthwhile hearing what she has to say.

Genealogy Presentation
Social Media for 21st Century Genealogists @ Albuquerque JCC
@ Sun 17 July 2011 @ 10:00 am 
What It Is:  Noted genealogist Schelly Talalay Dardashti (Tracing The Tribe: The Jewish Genealogy Blog) will present Social Media for 21st Century Genealogists. After the presentation, attendees will be invited to form a steering committee to plan monthly meetings of the New Mexico Jewish Historical Society Genealogy Group.
The third major event is only important if you're Jewish and single, the relative of a Jewish single, the friend of a Jewish single, or the parent of a Jewish single who is hoping for grandchildren and soon, please G-d, while we're still alive.  This probably includes just about all of us, although only those who are truly Jewish and single may attend.

Jewish Singles Event
JCC Singles Event
Fun in the Sun, Made in the Shade @ Albuquerque JCC
@ Sun 17 July 2011 @ 3:00 pm

What It Is: CALLING ALL SINGLES: Gen Y, Gen X, and Boomers
Sun Seekers 3-5 pm: We will start off with volleyball and ultimate Frisbee on the JCC field. The pool will also be open for anyone who wants to take a dip or a splash.

Shade Seekers 3-5 pm: We will feature the 2010 film The Social Network in the J auditorium.

Everyone 5-7 pm: We will all gather inside for drinks and a light dinner. Next we’ll enjoy Ana Loiselle, a life coach who is a dynamic and exciting speaker. 
Then we’ll split into groups according to age range to plan our next events: hikes, dinner clubs, happy hours, sporting events, etc! info:  Fee: $10 includes everything. Just bring a change of clothes if you are planning on swimming.  Please come and bring any and all friends! We are going to have an afternoon of fun in and out of the sun!
RSVP:  Online at, or contact Robin Weiner at (505) 348-4518 or

Attention, Abq Jewish organizations, institutions, and individuals!  Abq Jew would like to point out that Sunday, July 24th is wide open.  Yes, it's during the Three Weeks (between the 17th of Tammuz and Tisha b'Av) , but it's not during the (last) Nine Days.  Just sayin' ....

Monday, July 11, 2011

Third Base

I Don't Know.  In honor of the Major League Baseball's 2011 All-Star Game, Abq Jew is proud to present his own interpretation of "Who's On First", the greatest comedy routine ever, originated and originally performed by two of the greatest Jewish Comedy All-Stars ever - Bud Abbott and Lou Costello.

OK ... as it turns out, Lou Costello was not Jewish.  And William Alexander "Bud" Abbott?  If Joey Bishop - aka Joseph Abraham Gottlieb - could be Jewish, why not Bud Abbott?

Depending on which source you trust, Bud Abbott was either a full (by traditional standards) Jew, a full (by US Reform standards) Jew, or, perhaps - not a Jew at all.

But consider this: Bud Abbott married the former Betty Smith in September 1918 - in a Christian ceremony.  When the couple renewed their vows  in March 1950 - they reportedly did so in a Jewish ceremony. So there.

Abq Jew's "Duke City" interpretation of "Who's On First" highlights the features, capabilities, and ... well, let's just call them idiosyncracies ... of Xtranormal Movie Maker, of which Abq Jew has previously been on the receiving end only.  This video is, therefore, a major creative leap, probably forward.

If you want your comedy routine in the classic mode - click here, as Abbott and Costello perform "Who's On First" in their 1945 film "The Naughty Nineties".

And if you want your comedy routine in the political way, click here, as W and Condi take a crack at it.

Last Call for Camp Oranim!

Camp Stoney - Santa Fe - July 28 thru July 31:  Congregation Albert's Camp Oranim will be held at Camp Stoney in Santa Fe from July 28th - July 31st.

Join us for hiking, swimming, s'mores, campfire songs, whitewater rafting and more! Celebrate Shabbat and Havdallah with us under the stars! We also have a special program, Shomrim, for students entering 10th - 12th grade.

And due to a generous donation by the Congregation Albert Brotherhood, camp now costs only $200 per child!!! ($225 for nonmembers and $215 for URJ-affiliated). And we are providing transportation to and from Camp Stoney for all campers.

Click here for more information.  To register, call us at (505) 883-0306!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A New Light on Tiffany

Exhibition @ The Albuquerque Museum:  You can probably recognize a Tiffany lamp when you see one.  And you may have thought that Louis Comfort Tiffany designed and built them all.  And you'd be wrong, as Abq Jew learned during a recent visit to The Albuquerque Museum of Art and History.
Louis Comfort Tiffany was one of the most recognized designers of his time in decorative arts, especially in stained glass.  However, some lamps, windows and other decorative objects which were originally thought to be designed by Tiffany himself, are now recognized as designed and executed by a special group of women who worked for Tiffany at the turn of the 20th century.

The “Tiffany Girls”, as they were called, worked for Louis Comfort Tiffany in the Women’s Glass Cutting Department of Tiffany Studios along with their department head, Ohio-born designer Clara Driscoll (1861-1944).
Through August 21, you can see wondrous examples of the Tiffany Girls' work at an exclusive, special exhibition at The Albuquerque Museum - previously shown only at The New York Historical Society in 2007 - but nowhere else in the world.
This ground-breaking exhibition explores the turn of the 20th century New York women who created many of Tiffany Studios' celebrated decorative objects. Included are approximately 70 Tiffany lamps, windows, mosaics, enamels and ceramics, as well as pages of newly discovered documents written by designer Clara Driscoll.
 Click here to watch a great video about the exhibition, produced by Gov TV.

To truly understand what you're looking at, Abq Jew recommends that you take a docent-guided tour.  But if you just can't make it - you can still buy the book!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Got Siddur?

HaSiddur HaShalem:  On Tuesday July 12th @ 7:00 pm,  Dr David Katz will be presenting Didn't Know THAT Was in Our Siddur - about the words and phrases, sentences and paragraphs that somehow, mysteriously, appear (or disappear), unannounced, in our Daily Prayerbooks. 

אֲדון עולָם אֲשֶׁר מָלַךְ. בְּטֶרֶם כָּל יְצִיר נִבְרָא:
לְעֵת נַעֲשה בְחֶפְצו כּל. אֲזַי מֶלֶךְ שְׁמו נִקְרָא:
וְאַחֲרֵי כִּכְלות הַכּל. לְבַדּו יִמְלךְ נורָא:
וְהוּא הָיָה וְהוּא הוֶה. וְהוּא יִהְיֶה בְּתִפְאָרָה:
וְהוּא אֶחָד וְאֵין שֵׁנִי. לְהַמְשִׁיל לו לְהַחְבִּירָה:
בְּלִי רֵאשִׁית בְּלִי תַכְלִית. וְלו הָעז וְהַמִּשרָה:
וְהוּא אֵלִי וְחַי גואֲלִי. וְצוּר חֶבְלִי בְּעֵת צָרָה:
וְהוּא נִסִּי וּמָנוס לִי. מְנָת כּוסִי בְּיום אֶקְרָא:
בְּיָדו אַפְקִיד רוּחִי. בְּעֵת אִישָׁן וְאָעִירָה:
וְעִם רוּחִי גְּוִיָּתִי. ה' לִי וְלא אִירָא:
Yes, it's our old friend, Adon Olam.  Did you know that you can sing Adon Olam to exactly 18,365 different tunes?  I thought you might.  Abq Jew's personal favorites are Scotland the Brave and O Solo Mio, but he is also partial to Sloop John B.

More interestingly - how many of you can find the red-highlighted phrase (for they bow down to emptiness and vanity, and pray to a god who does not save) in your Siddur's version of the Alenu?

עָלֵינוּ לְשַׁבֵּחַ לַאֲדון הַכּל. לָתֵת גְּדֻלָּה לְיוצֵר בְּרֵאשִׁית
שֶׁלּא עָשנוּ כְּגויֵי הָאֲרָצות. וְלא שמָנוּ כְּמִשְׁפְּחות הָאֲדָמָה.
שֶׁלּא שם חֶלְקֵנוּ כָּהֶם וְגורָלֵנוּ כְּכָל הֲמונָם:
שֶׁהֵם מִשְׁתַּחֲוִים לְהֶבֶל וְרִיק וּמִתְפַּלְלִים אֶל אֵל לא יושִׁיעַ:
וַאֲנַחְנוּ כּורְעִים וּמִשְׁתַּחֲוִים וּמודִים לִפְנֵי מֶלֶךְ מַלְכֵי הַמְּלָכִים הַקָּדושׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא:
שֶׁהוּא נוטֶה שָׁמַיִם וְיוסֵד אָרֶץ. וּמושַׁב יְקָרו בַּשָּׁמַיִם מִמַּעַל. וּשְׁכִינַת עֻזּו בְּגָבְהֵי מְרומִים:
הוּא אֱלהֵינוּ אֵין עוד. אֱמֶת מַלְכֵּנוּ. אֶפֶס זוּלָתו. כַּכָּתוּב בְּתורָתו. וְיָדַעְתָּ הַיּום וַהֲשֵׁבתָ אֶל לְבָבֶךָ.
כִּי ה' הוּא הָאֱלהִים בַּשָּׁמַיִם מִמַּעַל וְעַל הָאָרֶץ מִתָּחַת. אֵין עוד

Jonathan L Friedman, writing in the June 2009 edition of The Jewish Magazine, provides a complete history of the Alenu prayer.  Friedman notes:
In 1400 a baptized Jew spread a rumor that the passage "for they bow down to vanity and emptiness and pray to a god who does not save" was an attack on Christianity. In support of this view, he noted that the numerical equivalent of the word "emptiness" (varik) is the same as "Yeshua," the Hebrew name for Jesus. And because varik is also related to the word rok, meaning "spittle," it was customary for Jews to spit during this phrase—a practice anti-Jewish author Johann Andreas Eisenmenger (1655-1704) interpreted as a further insult to Christianity.
The result?  Text expunged. And that's why you probably won't be able to find that phrase in your Siddur.  HaSiddur HaShalem - the "Complete Siddur" - doesn't have it.  Nor does Siddur Sim Shalom, The Authorized Daily Prayer Book of Joseph H Hertz, or Abq Jew's Koren Siddur (printed in 1966).  But Abq Jew's Hebrew-only Siddur Rinat Israel, published in Israel in 1976, does.  Go figure.

Dr Katz's will be the fifth of seven presentations in Congregation B'nai Israel's Making Connections to Judaism series.  If you missed the first four - well, you missed the first four!  But don't miss this one (or any that follow).  This time, Abq Jew is tooting Dr Katz's horn!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Let Us Speak of Rope

But Not of the One Hanged:  There is a French proverb: "Never speak of rope in the family of one who has been hanged." But what about one who was hung?  Abq Jew now dares to step into this treacherous territory.

Charlie Rose recently spoke with Deborah Lipstadt, Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies at Emory University and author of  The Eichmann Trial.  You can watch their deep, probing, moving conversation here.

Dr Lipstadt is clearly an intelligent and well educated woman, a diligent researcher, powerful writer, and forceful speaker.  And Abq Jew followed her statements carefully, trying to capture and savor each word, regardless of the distastefulness of the subject.

Then, toward the end of the conversation, Dr Lipstadt mentioned that That Man was tried, convicted, and hung.  This caught Abq Jew unawares; he had always thought that That Man was hanged.

Grammar Girl (Mignon Fogarty) explains:
[The writer] said he was taught that curtains are hung and people are hanged, and he is correct. It's not quite that cut-and-dried — some of my reference books say hung isn't wrong, just less customary, when referring to past executions, and the Random House Unabridged Dictionary says that hung is becoming more common — but the majority of my books agree that the standard English word is hanged when you are talking about killing people by dangling them from a rope. Therefore, it's correct to say that Saddam Hussein was hanged in Baghdad on Saturday, December 30, 2006.
A minor aside: Hanging, properly executed, does not kill people by "dangling them from a rope" (strangulation).  When done correctly, hanging snaps the necks of the condemned by dropping the condemned through the gallows' trapdoor.

Hung?  Hanged?  As former Vice President Dan Quayle reminded us, "What a terrible thing to have lost one's mind. Or not to have a mind at all. How true that is."   

Abq Jew surely lost his mind (or may not have one at all), and quickly conjured up the famous (but aren't they all?)  hanged / hung scene from Blazing Saddles:

You may wonder: Is there any point in any discussion where good grammar doesn't matter?  Abq Jew points you to an incident reported in Bill Bryson's book, The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way (end of Chapter 9, page 146):
Perhaps for our last words on the subject of usage we should turn to the last words of the venerable French grammarian Dominique Bonhours, who proved on his deathbed that a grammarian's work is never done when he turned to those gathered loyally around him and whispered: "I am about to - or  I am going to - die; either expression is used."

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Rabbi Min on Bruchim HaGerim

Basic Jewish Value #10:  The mission statement of Jewish Family Service of New Mexico reads: “Guided by Jewish values, we offer targeted social services that help preserve and improve the quality of life for New Mexicans.” What are these Jewish values? How do they help guide the day-to-day work that we do at JFS? When new employees join the staff of JFS, they are introduced to eighteen of these basic Jewish values.

The Hebrew Bible often reminds us that we have lived as strangers in different lands, and that this history requires us to remember what it felt like to be a stranger. This leads directly to the Jewish value of welcoming the stranger. During the holiday of Passover, which was celebrated in April this year, Jewish families literally open the doors and invite strangers to join the festive meal and celebration.

For the staff at Jewish Family Service, this value is put into action often, as we reach out to people who were strangers to us until they needed our services; after the connection is made, they are no longer strangers. Instead, they often became collaborators in programming and service delivery. In the Health and Wellness Programs, for example, community residents meet regularly with JFS staff to plan and schedule activities. Some favorite activities, Wii bowling, for example, are actually conducted by residents. Relationships between staff and clients develop over time; people who were once strangers become involved with their own lives, the lives of their neighbors and communities, and even become volunteers for JFS - helping others as they themselves were helped.

Rabbi Min Kantrowitz
Director, Jewish Community Chaplaincy Program

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Rebbe's Yahrzeit

The Maimonides of Our Generation:  The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson of righteous memory, passed away 17 years ago today - on the 3rd day of the Hebrew month of Tammuz, in the year 5754 from creation (June, 12 1994).

In an article at entitled "Meeting with the Maimonides of Our Generation", noted scholar and historian Rabbi Marvin Tokayer recalls his introduction to Chabad philosophy:
As a Yeshiva University student in the early 1960s, I used to attend a Thursday night class on Chabad philosophy. The class was interesting and highly informative, and I was never shy about asking questions. How could you say such-and-such when other Jewish philosophers posit other theories? How do you reconcile their disagreements? The teacher’s recurrent answer was, “The Rebbe knows,” referring to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of saintly memory.
Rabbi Tokayer requested, and was granted,  a meeting with the Rebbe.  And what does he remember of that meeting, and of the Rebbe?
My clearest memory from my discussion with the Rebbe is his eyes. I looked into his eyes and he looked into mine. They were the most intriguing and beautiful eyes I had ever seen. I felt that the Rebbe was looking deep into my heart and soul. It is hard to convey this, but I felt he understood me more than I understood myself.
Oh, yes.  Abq Jew had - many years ago - the privilege of davening with the Rebbe at "770", 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, Chabad Lubavitch Headquarters.  And he will never forget the Rebbe's eyes, either - intense, purposeful, deeply understanding.
During my audience, I felt that the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s approach to Judaism was very close to the approach outlined in Maimonides’ Guide to the Perplexed, a difficult and complicated volume. The Rebbe and Maimonides were trying to do the same thing: teach us how to live as intelligent, modern, devout and strictly observant Jews in the modern world.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson of righteous memory, the seventh leader in the Chabad-Lubavitch dynasty, is considered to have been the most phenomenal Jewish personality of modern times. To hundreds of thousands of followers and millions of sympathizers and admirers around the world, he was - and still is, despite his passing - "the Rebbe".

The Hammer Song

Sing Out!  Last night, the Ovation Network (DirecTV Channel 274) presented Festival: Folk Music at Newport 1963-1966, a film about - what else? - the seminal Newport Folk Festivals of those early folk revival years.

All the greats were there (and, by direct implication, Abq Jew was not). Pete Seeger appeared young, although he was among the oldest and most experienced performers. Joan Baez sang with crystal clarity and Judy Collins - Judy 'Blue Eyes' - with delicate purity.  Jim Kweskin & The Jug Band - Abq Jew's heroes! - performed with verve and elan.

And then there was Bob Dylan, looking like a little Jewish kid from Minnesota, and sounding - like a little Jewish kid from Minnesota.  The film showed Dylan performing both before and on that fateful day - July 25, 1965 - when Dylan went electric, abandoning the acoustic orthodoxy of the folk music cognoscenti.  The only time The Jewish People have been more ... disappointed ... was when Shabbatai Zevi converted to Islam.

But the best performance of the Festival - and, in Abq Jew's not-too-humble opinion, the best folk music performance of any festival, anytime, anywhere  - was that of Peter, Paul and Mary

The song?  Originally titled "The Hammer Song" when written in 1949 by Pete Seeger and Lee Hays, but now known as "If I Had A Hammer". 

Conceived as a labor song (note its symbology) and first published on the cover of the premier edition of Sing Out! Magazine, "If I Had A Hammer" became one of the most popular songs of our nation's Civil Rights Movement.  Click here to enjoy it once again.

Monday, July 4, 2011

How To Remember Gettysburg

Mine Eyes Have Seen The Glory:  Seven score and eight years later, how should we remember the Battle of Gettysburg?  Jane Eisner offers one answer in The Jewish Daily Forward's Editor's Notebook:
The bloodiest, most significant, most celebrated battle of the Civil War ...
But Eisner also relates the power of Gettysburg - acknowledgment of the "shattering cost of war" - to the power of peace.
That particular message played out powerfully on September 10, 1978, when President Carter decided to bring Egyptian President Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Begin on a little road trip from nearby Camp David.
Abq Jew has had the privilege of visiting the town and battlefield of Gettysburg, home to Gettysburg College and the Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival (yes, life does go on).  The site and sights are truly awe-inspiring, as Eisner herself notes:
But it’s impossible to view the monuments to the fallen scattered all around the park site — more than 850 altogether — and not be saddened by the overwhelming loss of life suffered in such a short blast of violence. Trace the sloping path of Pickett’s Charge and the sheer brutality of that last, futile fight is still hard to comprehend — 8,000 dead in less than an hour.
Yes, life does go on.  On this Fourth of July, we hope that through the suffering - on all sides - our beloved Israel and her neighbors can build a true and everlasting peace.
... that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain ....

Friday, July 1, 2011

Aerial Tour of Israel

Shabbat Shalom:  It's been a tough, fire-full and fearful week here in the Land of Enchantment.  So for Shabbos, Abq Jew presents a soothing, beautiful look at the Promised Land, via United with Israel.

May the entire Los Alamos community soon return to their undamaged homes and precious belongings in safety.  And for the Jewish community:

If you are able to help, please contact
Rabbi Jack Shlachter
of the Los Alamos Jewish Center
(505) 500-2668