Monday, October 31, 2011

Jerusalem Online U @ Congregation Albert!

Israel Inside / Out: Abq Jew cordially reminds the community that Jerusalem Online University's Israel Inside / Out program has just begun at Congregation Albert.  Come join us!

Israel Inside / Out @ Congregation Albert  
Wed 26 Oct 2011 thru 02 May 2012 @ 5:30 pm

To register, please contact 
Megan McLean at Congregation Albert
(505) 883-0306 or
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 and adults.

Beginning on October 26th, 11th grade students to adults will be offered the opportunity to attend the multi-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.

This FREE class is open to the entire community - from 11th grade to adults - and has been graciously underwritten by the Jewish Federation of New Mexico.

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

To register, please contact 
Megan McLean at Congregation Albert
(505) 883-0306 or

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Na Nach Nachma

Nachman Me-Uman:  Why, oh why, didn't anybody tell Abq Jew about this?  There is a Na Nach phenomenon happening - in Israel, in New York, and all over the Jewish world.  In Albuquerque?  Not so much.

Who are the Na Nachs?  Remember Abq Jew's Burnt Books post back in August?  We talked about Rodger Kamenetz's newest book - Burnt Books - about the lives of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav and Franz Kafka.  Kamenetz discussed - all too briefly! - the Na Nach movement in his book.  Just to let you know - the Na Nachs have their own website and their own Wikipedia page.

This all has to do with Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav (Breslov), the Hasidic Master who moved to Uman just before he died.  There is a Breslov Research Institute that publishes works by and about Rabbi Nachman; there are Breslover Hasidim who follow the words, works, and teachings of Rabbi Nachman; and there are the Na Nachs.

Wikipedia tells us:
Na Nach Nachma Nachman Meuman (Hebrew: נ נח נחמ נחמן מאומן‎) is a Hebrew language name and song used by a subgroup of Breslover Hasidim colloquially known as the Na Nachs. The complete phrase is Na Nach Nachma Nachman Me'uman. It is a kabbalistic formula based on the four Hebrew letters of the name Nachman, referring to the founder of the Breslov movement, Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, along with a reference to his burial place in Uman, Ukraine.
And then there is the matter of The Petek:
In 1922, Rabbi Yisroel Ber Odesser a Breslover Hasid, claimed to have received a petek (note) addressed to him from Rebbe Nachman, although the latter had died in 1810. The seventh line of this petek is signed Na Nach Nachma Nachman Meuman, which became Rabbi Odesser's personal meditation and song. Before he died, he taught this phrase to a group of devotees who formed the Na Nach movement.
How was The Petek revealed to Rabbi Odesser?
When he was 33 years old, Odesser was overcome with weakness and hunger on the Fast of Tammuz. He decided to eat. But immediately after eating, he felt great sorrow at having succumbed to his own physical temptations. After five continuous days of prayer, a powerful thought came to him: "Go into your room!" 
He obeyed the inner voice, went to the bookcase, and randomly opened a book. In the book was a piece of paper that he would later call "The Letter from Heaven." The paper, written in Hebrew with one line in Yiddish, read as follows:
    It was very difficult for me to come down to you
    my precious student to tell you that I had pleasure
    very much from your devotion and upon you I said
    my fire will burn until
    Messiah is coming be strong and courageous
    in your devotion
    Na Nach Nachma Nachman Meuman
    And with this I will reveal to you a secret and it is:
    Full and heaped up from one extreme to another extreme
    And with the strengthening of your devotion
        you will understand it and a sign
    The 17th of Tammuz they will say that you don't fast
Odesser believed the letter to be a message of consolation, directly from Rebbe Nachman's spirit to himself here on earth. Since his name did not appear in the petek as the recipient, Odesser said that this was reason for every person to consider the petek addressed to himself or herself personally.

Odesser adopted Na Nach Nachma Nachman Meuman as his personal meditation and song, and became so totally identified with it that he later said, "I am Na Nach Nachma Nachman Me'Uman!" (This quote appears on Odesser's tombstone in Jerusalem.) 
So what does this mean?  Rabbi Nachman himself never used the phrase Na Nach Nachma Nachman Meuman - but he did say that repeating one word over and over was an effective form of meditation.

Rabbi Nachman remains a powerful force in the Jewish world - more than 200 years after his death.  The Tales of Rabbi Nachman still hold us enthralled.  Even Abq Jew, a determined rationalist, is caught up in the exuberance.  Sing!  Dance!

נ נח נחמ נחמן מאומן
Na Nach Nachma Nachman Meuman

Monday, October 24, 2011

Day of the ... You Know

No Longer Among Us:  And you thought the holidays were over!  True, the three High Holidays (Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Fashion Week) have strutted by.  Sukkot (Outdoor Insect Week), Shemini Atzeret (The Mystery Holiday), and Simhat Torah have finished their runs.  The beloved Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta has blown away.  So what's next?

The next Jewish holiday is, of course, Thanksgiving.  But before we get there, we've got to get through Halloween, All Saints Day, and - Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead.  Here in New Mexico, the general (non-Jewish) public celebrates all three.

If you're not from around here, Dia de los Muertos can take a bit of getting used to.  And Abq Jew cordially invites everyone to celebrate Dia de los Muertos in Albuquerque.  But no, it's not Halloween!  Think of Dia de los Muertos as Halloween on steroids. 

Now, we Jews have our own rituals with the ... no longer living.  As but one example - Gail Rubin, aka The Doyenne of Death, explains Tahara in her latest post in her blog, The Family Plot.  And as Abq Jew explained in two previous posts - Torah and Talmud and Zombies and The Final Tisch: No Zombies - normative Judaism can steer very close to the macabre.  Still, the Day of the Dead makes Yizkor look like a walk in the ... park, let's say.

New Mexico is nothing if not multicultural, and Abq Jew strongly believes that members and adherents of different cultures can co-exist and treat each other with dignity and respect.  But ....

To help you attain the proper understanding of Dia de los Muertos - this old Mexican and hence New Mexican holy day - Abq Jew offers the complete text (and illustration!) of Dear Mountain Room Parents, by Maria Semple, which appears in the Shouts & Murmurs section of the October 24th issue of The New Yorker.

Note:  Abq Jew seldom reprints entire articles.  But this piece was too short and too juicy to chop up.  Therefore, Abq Jew exhorts you: Subscribe to The New Yorker!

This is not a How To article!
Do not attempt this at home or in your school!

Illustration: Jordan Awan

Hi, everyone!

The Mountain Room is gearing up for its Day of the Dead celebration on Friday. Please send in photos of loved ones for our altar. All parents are welcome to come by on Wednesday afternoon to help us make candles and decorate skulls.



Hi again.

Because I’ve gotten some questions about my last e-mail, there is nothing “wrong” with Halloween. The Day of the Dead is the Mexican version, a time of remembrance. Many of you chose Little Learners because of our emphasis on global awareness. Our celebration on Friday is an example of that. The skulls we’re decorating are sugar skulls. I should have made that more clear.



Some of you have expressed concern about your children celebrating a holiday with the word “dead” in it. I asked Eleanor’s mom, who’s a pediatrician, and here’s what she said: “Preschoolers tend to see death as temporary and reversible. Therefore, I see nothing traumatic about the Day of the Dead.” I hope this helps.


Dear Parents:

In response to the e-mail we all received from Maddie’s parents, in which they shared their decision to raise their daughter dogma-free, yes, there will be an altar, but please be assured that the Day of the Dead is a pagan celebration of life and has nothing to do with God. Keep those photos coming!



Perhaps “pagan” was a poor word choice. I feel like we’re veering a bit off track, so here’s what I’ll do. I’ll start setting up our altar now, so that today at pickup you can see for yourselves how colorful and harmless the Day of the Dead truly is.



The photos should be of loved ones who have passed. Max’s grandma was understandably shaken when she came in and saw a photo of herself on our altar. But the candles and skulls were cute, right?


Mountain Room Parents:

It’s late and I can’t possibly respond to each and every e-mail. (Not that it comes up a lot in conversation, but I have children, too.) As the skulls have clearly become a distraction, I decided to throw them away. They’re in the compost. I’m looking at them now. You can, too, tomorrow at drop-off. I just placed a “NO BASURA” card on the bin to make sure it doesn’t get emptied. Finally, to those parents who are offended by our Day of the Dead celebration, I’d like to point out that there are parents who are offended that you are offended.


Dear Parents:

Thanks to their group e-mail, we now know that the families of Millie and Jaden M. recognize Jesus Christ as their Saviour. There still seems to be some confusion about why, if we want to celebrate life, we’re actually celebrating death. To better explain this “bewildering detour,” I’ve asked Adela, who works in the office and makes waffles for us on Wednesdays, and who was born in Mexico, to write you directly.


Hola a los Padres:

El Día de los Muertos begins with a parade through the zócalo, where we toss oranges into decorated coffins. The skeletons drive us in the bus to the cemetery and we molest the spirits from under the ground with candy and traditional Mexican music. We write poems called calaveras, which laugh at the living. In Mexico, it is a rejoicing time of ofrendas, picnics, and dancing on graves.



I sincerely apologize for Adela’s e-mail. I would have looked it over, but I was at my daughter’s piano recital. (Three kids, in case you’re wondering, one who’s allergic to everything, even wind.) For now, let’s agree that e-mail has reached its limits. How about we process our feelings face to face? 9 A.M. tomorrow?


Dear Parents:

Some of you chose to engage in our dialogue. Some chose to form a human chain. Others had jobs (!) to go to. So we’re all up to speed, let me recap this morning’s discussion:
  • Satan isn’t driving our bus. Little Learners does not have a bus. If we did, I wouldn’t still need parent drivers for the field trip to the cider mill. Anyone? I didn’t think so.
  • Ofrenda means “offering.” It’s just a thing we put on the altar. Any random thing. A bottle of Fanta. Unopened, not poisoned. Just a bottle of Fanta.
  • We’re moving past the word “altar” and calling it what it really is: a Seahawks blanket draped over some cinder blocks.
  • Adela will not be preparing food anymore and Waffle Wednesdays will be suspended. (That didn’t make us any new friends in the Rainbow and Sunshine Rooms!)
  • On Friday morning, I will divide the Mountain Room into three groups: those who wish to celebrate the Day of the Dead; those who wish to celebrate Halloween; and Maddie, who will make nondenominational potato prints in the corner.

Dear Mountain Room Parents:

Today I learned not to have open flames in the same room as a costume parade. I learned that a five-dollar belly-dancer outfit purchased at a pop-up costume store can easily catch fire, but, really, I knew that just by looking at it. I learned that Fanta is effective in putting out fires. I learned that a child’s emerging completely unscathed from a burning costume isn’t a good enough outcome for some parents. I learned that I will be unemployed on Monday. For me, the Day of the Dead will always be a time of remembrance.

Happy Halloween!


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Rejoicing Again

The End; or, A New Beginning:  Simhat Torah has come and gone, and with it, the 5772 / 2011 Jewish Holiday Season.  Abq Jew missed much of the MLB Baseball Playoffs (alas, the Yankees were eliminated early), but only two World Series games.

Of course, the highlight of Simhat Torah is - completing the reading of one year's Torah cycle (Parshat Vizot Habracha) and immediately starting in on another (the Six Days of Creation in the first chapter of Parshat Bereshit plus the Sabbath paragraph of the second chapter).  Accompanied by singing and dancing, of course.

Were you at Congregation B'nai Israel for Simhat Torah?  If you were, you surely must remember when the excellent Torah Reader mentioned to Abq Jew (who was Gabbai-ing at the time) that he wasn't sure he could get through the entire reading error-free.  And Abq Jew responded:

Just take it one day at a time.

This is not the best laugh line that Abq Jew has ever produced.  No, that would be The Greatest Pun Ever Told, which Abq Jew did indeed tell at (no pun intended) Tel Ashdod in the Summer of 1968.  More about that later ....
"It was a moan-a, a groan-a, he left her alone-a!
He didn't write a letter and he didn't telephone-a!"
Why do I have this stuck in my head...?
Curse you The Reduced Shakespeare Company
Now, at some point during the Jewish Holiday Season, a FB Friend of The Reduced Shakespeare Company left the above message on our Facebook Wall.  And Abq Jew thought nothing of it - until Simhat Torah.

How, you wonder, did this possibly come up?  Well, on Simhat Torah - when it falls on a weekday, which it always does, because if it fell on Shabbat that would mean that Yom Kippur would fall on a Sunday, which the Rabbis do not allow - anyway, the Hatan Torah (Shishi = 6th) reading begins with the Hebrew word מענה, which is pronounced "Mi'ona".  And, as mentioned above, Abq Jew was Gabbai-ing, so that word sort of stuck out.  See where we're going with this?

And now you're wondering - who the heck is The Reduced Shakespeare Company?  Well, they are the renowned writers and performers of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) and other masterpieces.  As their website proudly proclaims:
All 37 Plays in 97 Minutes! An irreverent, fast-paced romp through the Bard’s plays, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) was London’s longest-running comedy – 10 years in the West End at the Criterion Theatre – and is NOW ON TOUR! Join these madcap men in tights as they weave their wicked way through all of Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories and Tragedies in one wild ride that will leave you breathless and helpless with laughter.

Warning! This show is a high-speed roller-coaster type condensation of all of Shakespeare’s plays, and is not recommended for people with heart ailments, bladder problems, inner-ear disorders and/or people inclined to motion sickness. The RSC cannot be held responsible for expectant mothers!
What - did you really think Abq Jew would leave you hanging?  Here's "The Othello Rap", a snippet of The Complete Works ... (Abridged).

Now, back to The Greatest Pun Ever Told. Abq Jew will check with his legal team and his agents, and will share this with you - just as soon as the trademarks and copyrights are secured and the book and movie rights are nailed down.  Yes, it's that good.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Bringing Gilad Home

Everyone's Son:  Yossi Klein Halevi, a fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem and a contributing editor at the New Republic, has written a poignant article, Everyman's Son, for the online Tablet Magazine. The tag line:

In opposing the mass release of terrorists in exchange for Gilad Shalit’s freedom, I felt as if I was betraying my own son

What could Israel have done?  The New York Times (Israel Releases Names of 477 Prisoners to Be Freed in Trade, by Ethan Bronner and Stephen Farrell) notes that
Those being freed include the founders of Hamas’s armed wing and militants who kidnapped and killed Israeli soldiers and civilians. A mastermind of the 2001 bombing of a Jerusalem pizzeria that killed 15 will walk out of prison, as will a woman who used the Internet to lure a lovesick Israeli teenager to a Palestinian city and had him murdered.

Most of the prisoners were serving life sentences, some for being involved in attacks like the 2001 bombing of a Tel Aviv nightclub that killed 21 people and a suicide bombing a year later of a Netanya hotel in which 29 died. 
The Jewish Encyclopedia notes
Captivity being considered a punishment worse than starvation or death ... to ransom a Jewish captive was regarded by the Rabbis as one of the most important duties of a Jewish community; and such duty was placed above that of feeding or clothing the poor. He who refrains from ransoming a captive is guilty of transgressing the commandments expressed or implied in [several] Biblical passages.
And yet -
In the tannaitic period it had already been found necessary to make provision against paying too high a ransom for Jewish captives, so as not to encourage pirates in their nefarious practises ....  This law was relaxed in later times .... The community was required to pay all that was demanded for the ransom of a learned man or of a promising youth.
And it is well known that Rabbi Meïr of Rothenburg "refused to be released for the large sum of 20,000 marks,which the German Jews were willing to pay for his ransom, lest similar captures should be encouraged thereby."

What could Israel have done?

First:  We must realize that it was this deal or no deal.  The deal was negotiated as far as it could be; no further negotiations were possible.  If Israel could not accept this deal, it would have to be prepared to watch Gilad Shalit die in captivity - sooner or later.  Yossi Klein Halevi points out that
A few months ago, as part of its psychological war against the Israeli public, Hamas released an animated film depicting Gilad as an elderly gray-haired man, still a prisoner in Gaza. No image tormented us more.
Second - while we applaud Rabbi Meir's courage - he was the prisoner, and was thus permitted to make his own decisions about what would or would not be done to rescue him.  Gilad Shalit is not in the same position.  And what happened to Rabbi Meir?  He died in prison after seven years. Fourteen years after his death, a ransom was paid for his body.  Is this what we wanted to happen to Gilad?

Aryeh Tepper writes in To Ransom or Not to Ransom? in Jewish Ideas Daily about
... a 2008 prisoner swap with Hezbollah. In that exchange, Israel freed five terrorists, including the notoriously savage Samir Kuntar, plus 200 bodies, in exchange for the bodies of two IDF soldiers.
Yes, Hamas will celebrate this deal to bring Gilad home as a victory for their cause.  The freed prisoners will be hailed as heroes.  This will be terribly, terribly painful to watch and hear - for Israelis, and for all who care about justice.

For - there is no justice here.  Nor can there be - especially for the victims of Hamas terror and their survivors.  The world is a dangerous place.  Yossi Klein Halevi writes:
For all my anxieties about the deal, I feel no ambivalence at this moment, only gratitude and relief. Gratitude that I live in a country whose hard leaders cannot resist the emotional pressure of a soldier’s parents.  And relief that I no longer have to choose between the well-being of my country and the well-being of my son.
Kevin Connolly of the BBC News Magazine says, in Gilad Shalit: A 1,000-to-One Asymetry:
Israel's readiness to do a deal on these terms is both a strength and a weakness.

It's a strength because it reassures the country's conscript troops and their families that everything possible will be done to secure their return if they're captured. "No soldier left behind" is not just an empty phrase.

It's a weakness because it advertises to any future potential hostage-takers the high price which can be extracted from Israel for any captured soldier - perhaps for any captive citizen.
Writing about Gilad Shalit in a post-release follow-up article in the New York Times, Ethan Bronner and Stephen Farrell note :
He was the first captured Israeli soldier to be returned home alive in 26 years
What could Israel have done?

The Conservative Movement's Rabbinical Assembly posted the following Prayer of Thanks for Gilad's release:

תפילת הודיה
על שחרורו של גלעד בן אביבה ונעם שליט

אֱלֹהֵינוּ וֵאלֹהֵי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ וְאִמּוֹתֵינוּ, בְּיוֹם גָּדוֹל וְקָדוֹשׁ זֶה, זְמַן שִׂמְחָתֵנוּ, אָנוּ נוֹשְׂאִים לְבָבֵנוּ אֶל כַּפַּיִם אֶל אֵל בַּשָּׁמַיִם בְּגִילָה וּבְשִׂמְחָה בִּרְעָדָה וּבְהוֹדָיָה עַל חַסְדְךָ הַגָּדוֹל שֶׁעָשִׂיתָ עִם גִּלְעַד בֶּן אֲבִיבָה וְנֹעַם שֶׁהֲשִׁיבוֹתוֹ בְּשָׁלוֹם מִשִׁבְיוֹ לְמִשְׁפַּחְתּוֹ וּלְאַרְצוֹ וּלְעַמּוֹ בִּדְּמֵי חַיָּיו. 

יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ, יהוה אֱלֹהֵינוּ וֵאלֹהֵי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ וְאִמּוֹתֵינוּ, שֶׁבְּיוֹם זֶה וּבְכָל הַיָּמִים הַבָּאִים יֵדַע הַשָׁבוּי שֶׁנִּפְדָה שִׂמְחָה בַּלֵּב וְשַׁלְוָה בַּנֶּפֶשׁ וְהַצְלָחָה בְּכָל מַעֲשֵׂה יָדָיו, יַחַד עִם אִמּוֹ וְאָבִיו, עִם אֶחָיו וְעִם כָּל יִשְׂרָאֵל.
רִבּוֹן הָעוֹלָמִים, אֵל שִׂמְחַת גִּילֵנוּ, יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ שֶׁעֵקֶב פִּדְיוֹנוֹ לֹא יְאֻנֶּה כָּל פֶּגַע אוֹ רָעָה לִבְנֵי עַמֶּך לֹא בַּשָּׁנָה הַזֹּאת וְלֹא בְּכָל הַשָּׁנִים הַבָּאוֹת עָלֵינוּ לְטוֹבָה, אֶלָּא בְּרַחֲמֶיךָ הָרַבִּים פְּרוֹשׂ עָלֵינוּ סֻכַּת רַחֲמִים וְחַיִּים וְשָׁלוֹם.
וְכֵן יְהִי רָצוֹן וְנֹאמַר אָמֵן.

Our God and God of our ancestors, on this great and holy day, the season of our rejoicing, we raise our hearts to God in heaven in joy, happiness, trembling and thanksgiving for the great kindness that You have shown Gilad the son of Aviva and Noam Schalit that You have restored him safely from his place of capture to his family, his country and his people.

May it be Your pleasure, God and God of our ancestors, that this day and in the future the redeemed prisoner may know joy in his heart, peace of mind and success in all his endeavors together with all his family and all Israel his brethren. Sovereign of the Universe, God of our exultation, may it be Your pleasure that this redemption not bring in its wake any harm or mishap to Your people, neither this year not in years to come; but in Your great compassion spread over us the sukkah of compassion, life and peace. May this be Your pleasure and let us respond Amen.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Joint Is Hopping!

Lots of Stuff Going On Here: You can find complete information about most of these events - and more - on's Upcoming Events page.  Or you could check out the Calendar.  But here it is anyway.  Just trying to be helpful!

Jazz from the Silver Screen
Nahalat Shalom
Sat 22 Oct 2011 @ 7:00 pm

The first of four concerts in Nahalat Shalom's Geniuses of Jazz Concert Series.  Arlen Asher & Dave Anderson, woodwinds.  Jim Ahrend, electric keyboard. Richard Snider, bass. Cal Haines, drums.  Guest vocalist: Judy Christopher.  An enlivening evocation of fabulous film numbers that became jazz standards!

Tickets:  $20 at the door.  Info:  Please call (505) 989-1088 or email

Stephen Fried
Appetite for America - Fred Harvey
Civilizing America, One Meal at a Time
Sun 23 Oct 2011 @ 10:00 am

The opening presentation at the JCC Book Fest 2011, the New Mexico Jewish community’s annual celebration of the written word.

Tickets:  $10 to $25.  Info:  Contact Phyllis Wolf or (505) 348-4500.

Sholem Aleichem
Laughing In The Darkness
CCA Santa Fe
1050 Old Pecos Trail
Sun 23 Oct 2011 @ 4:30 pm

The second of five films in HaMakom's Jewish Film Festival.

Reservations:  To reserve seats, send e-mail with your name and number of tickets to  Tickets will be held at the CCA Box Office.

And don't forget - Israel Inside / Out begins Wednesday October 26th!
You can find complete information about Israel Inside / Out 
on's Online Learning page.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Yidden #OWS Occupy Wall Street!

Yidden!  #OWS! #OccupyWallStreet!  Surely you must remember Yosl Kurland of the Wholesale Klezmer Band!  Yosl (Joe) Kurland visited Albuquerque last February, just in time for KlezmerQuerque.  He taught us Together With Your Money that Erev Shabbos.  Ah, now you remember!

Abq Jew posted Together With Your Money in response to Why Isn't Wall Street In Jail?, an excellent, and, as it turns out, prescient article by Rolling Stone's Matt Taibi.

Anyway - Yosl has sent this report from his home in Massachusetts, highlighting the Jewish aspect of and support for the #OWS movement.
At Succos services in Greenfield, MA Thursday, we studied the Torah portion which reads, "And when you reap the harvest of your land you shall not reap the corner of you field, nor shall you gather the gleaning of the harvest, you shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger."

In the discussion that followed we talked about how this teaching relates to the Occupy Wall Street actions taking place around the country. We recalled how the Talmud teaches that there is no prescribed limit to the corner of the field, or in other words, how the more that a wealthy person contributes to the welfare of others, the more merit s/he deserves. We talked of how our religion is opposite to the worship of wealth and power as personified by the Wall Street bankers and corporate CEOs who earn hundreds of times the wages of their employees and want to pay no taxes.

We agreed that the teaching of our Torah should inspire us to act in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement. So, we proposed to bring our lulav's and esrogs to Greenfield town common on Monday, October 17 from 5 to 6 pm to stand and bear witness to the need for investment in infrastructure, education, jobs, and justice, and for the sharing of the burden by the wealthy.

There are many other teachings in the Torah and Talmud that teach similar lessons, such as the commandment to return the pledged cloak of a debtor at night (this would imply no forclosures) so that s/he will be able to sleep in it and stay warm.

I would like to invite the rest of the Jewish community of Franklin County, the interfaith community and anyone else, to join us. We may not all be able to go to Wall Street, we may not all be able to spend days and weeks in an occupation, but let us spend that hour to demonstrate our solidarity with the principles of the Wall Street occupation.

We Stand With the Majority of Americans:
Human Needs, Not Corporate Greed
 A large majority of the American people consistently support the following agenda:
  • Tax the rich and corporations
  • End the wars, bring the troops home, cut military spending
  • Protect the social safety net, strengthen Social Security, Medicare for all 
  • End corporate welfare for oil companies and other big business interests
  • Transition to a clean energy economy, reverse environmental degradation
  • Protect worker rights including collective bargaining; create jobs and raise wages
  • Get money out of politics
The government, dominated by elite economic interests, is going in the opposite direction from what the people want. The American people's agenda is our agenda.
        Gut Yontev and Gut Shabbos, 
 For more, see this Occupy Sukkot Across the Country video.

Monday, October 10, 2011

NM Jewish Historical Society Fall Conference

BREAKING NEWS:  Last chance for full conference registration at the JCC office of the NMJHS is THURSDAY!  (You can still walk in and register for any of the four program sessions - but you'll miss the meals and the reception!)

The Jewish Experience in 20th Century New Mexico
Doubletree Hotel Albuquerque
Saturday 22 October 2011
9:00 am - 9:00 pm

The New Mexico Jewish Historical Society's Fall Conference 2011 will focus on  

The Jewish Experience in Twentieth Century New Mexico 
And the Institutions that Made it Possible

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.).

Session 1: Continuities and Change: Noel Pugach & Henry Tobias:  In the opening session, Noel Pugach and Henry Tobias will talk about the continuities and changes in the New Mexico Jewish community with attention to the development of the community after World War II.

Session 2: Jewish Experience in New Mexico State Government: Dr Stanley M Hordes & PanelIn the following session, Stan Hordes and a select slate of Jewish government officials will talk about being Jewish in government and how government has affected the community.

Luncheon: Jewish New Mexico 2011: Where are We and Where are We Going?: Sam Sokolove:  As the luncheon speaker, Sam Sokolove, Exectutive Director of the Jewish Federation of New Mexico, will provide his vision of the future.

Session 3: Jews in Twentieth Century Albuquerque: Naomi Sandweiss & Michael Sutin:  In the afternoon Naomi Sandweiss will lead a session on the Jewish community in Albuquerque with the participation of Michael Sutin and others who have had important roles in the development of the community.

Session 4: Jews and the National Laboratories - LANL & Sandia: Rabbi Dr Jack Schlachter, et al:  The final session will focus on the national research labs, Sandia and Los Alamos. Rabbi Dr. Jack Schlacter, Robert Benjamin, and others will examine Jewish involvement in these institutions and how that has contributed to Judaism in New Mexico.

Reception: Honoring Naomi Sandweiss, Jewish AlbuquerqueA reception from 5 to 7 on Saturday will honor Naomi Sandweiss and her recent book, Jewish Albuquerque.

Keynote Speaker: Sharon Niederman:  The keynote speaker will be Sharon Niederman, winner of the 2011 Hurst Award and President of New Mexico Press Women, who will speak on "Reading Shalom Aleichem in Raton: My Life in the New Mexico Diaspora".

For further information about the Fall Conference, 
The registration deadline at the JCC office of the NMJHS is Thursday October 13.  

Walk-in registration is available for the four program sessions, but does not include meals or reception.

Abq Jew View: Bringing the Community Together

Abq Jew is dedicated to using the power of the Web to bring the Albuquerque Jewish community together. The New Mexico Jewish Historical Society is dedicated to telling the stories of the many Jewish groups that came and stayed and helped make New Mexico a remarkable place. 

Abq Jew is a member of the NMJHS, and has contributed an article, "Remembering Magidson's", to the September 2011 issue (not yet online) of the Society's newsletter, Legacy.  And he will do more - he is fascinated with New Mexico's Jewish history.

That being said: Abq Jew is troubled that this Conference is to be held not only on a Shabbat, but on a Shabbat that immediately follows two days of Yom Tov. 

This means that any observant Jew who might have consented to spend one night away from home in order to attend - would actually have to spend three nights away.  This is an unfair burden on the most traditional element of our community.

As Rabbi Mordechai Scher of Kol BeRamah in Santa Fe points out in his comment: "That's really a shame, and it doesn't have to be that way." 

Abq Jew's current level of observance permits him to enthusiastically but sadly attend this Conference.  Enthusiastically, because he can observe firsthand one of the important contributions that NMJHS makes to the New Mexico Jewish community.  Sadly, because he knows that not everyone who might wish to attend, can attend.

Therefore:  Abq Jew respectfully calls upon the New Mexico Jewish Historical Society to do better next time.  Let's bring the entire community together.  Or, as Abq Jew likes to put it: Everybody to the table!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Kol Nidre @ Home

If You Can't Make It To Shul:  Even (especially) if you can't make it to shul for Kol Nidre - for whatever reason, or for no reason at all - you can still participate with Klal Yisrael.

First - to help establish the mood and theme  - here is Jacqueline du Pre performing Max Bruch's Kol Nidre.

Jacqueline Mary du Pré OBE (26 January 1945 – 19 October 1987)
was a British cellist, regarded as one of the greatest players of the instrument. She is particularly associated with Elgar's Cello Concerto in E Minor; her interpretation has been described as "definitive" and "legendary."  Her career was cut short by multiple sclerosis, which forced her to stop performing at 28 and led to her premature death.
Max Christian Friedrich Bruch (6 January 1838 – 2 October 1920)
also known as Max Karl August Bruch, was a German Romantic composer and conductor who wrote over 200 works, including three violin concertos, the first of which has become a staple of the violin repertoire.

Next - here is OurJewish, which offers

live, streaming Yom Kippur evening services here at 6:15 pm New Mexico time.

Abq Jew wishes everyone an easy fast but a meaningful day.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Lost In Our Losses

A High Holiday message from Rabbi Geoffrey A. Spector - Abq Jew's former rabbi - of Temple Beth Shalom in Livingston, New Jersey - Abq Jew's former shul.  Abq Jew also misses the davening of Cantor Sharon Knoller - Abq Jew's former cantor - especially on the High Holidays

 “ONE COULD get lost in what is lost,” a friend from New Orleans said after Hurricane Katrina, and I think he was right. The hardest task for a person is to find a route to happiness without sinking in the quicksand of what has already perished — to find a new way without getting lost in what is lost.

For many, the losses of this past year have been quite painful. Some watched pensions evaporate; others lost jobs. Some experienced the death of a beloved spouse. Others endured the disintegration of a marriage they thought would last forever.

And yet, a New Year is about to begin, and we are asked to begin our lives again with it.

Tradition implores us to see that it is possible to start over even in the face of the harshest adversity. Adam and Eve, exiled from Eden, gave birth to a son. Job lost everything he had, but rejoiced again by starting a new family once his afflictions had passed. Noah saw a world destroyed and set about creating a new one.

At Rosh Hashana, we seek a way out of the darkness, and we stumble upon others who are also lost in their losses. By joining hands with them, the light of a new horizon emerges, beckoning us to move forward into life, inspiring us to live again, to smile again, and to sing again, fortified by the love of family, friends, and community and strengthened by the grace of God — one more time.

Rabbi Geoffrey Spector has been the Senior Rabbi of Temple Beth Shalom since July, 2005. Previously, he served as the spiritual leader of Shir Chadash Conservative Congregation in Metairie, Louisiana. Rabbi Spector is a Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude graduate of the University of Pennsylvania where he majored in Jewish Studies. He received his M.A. and rabbinical ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, and was the recipient of academic prizes in Homiletics and Talmud. In addition, Rabbi Spector holds a Master of Theology degree in Comparative Religion from Harvard University Divinity School where he was awarded the prestigious Charles E. Merrill Fellowship for clergy.


Cantor Knoller holds a Certificate of Jewish Music from Gratz College. She graduated from the University of Rhode Island with a BS in Elementary Education and Communicative Disorders and from Adelphi University with a Masters Degree in Special Education. Prior to joining Temple Beth Shalom in July 2002, Cantor Knoller served as Cantorial Soloist and music and Hebrew teacher at Congregation B’nai Israel of Somerset Hills. In addition to her Temple responsibilities, Cantor Knoller also teaches Torah Trope to fifth graders at Solomon Schechter Day School of Essex and Union.

Yom Kippur, The Longest Day

When Rabbis and Cantors Earn Their Pay:  Pirke Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) says "Do not make the Torah into a spade with which to dig."  Why, then, do rabbis and cantors receive salaries?  To compensate them for loss of revenue - time spent in public service in which they were not able to engage in more gainful employment.  Or, as Abq Jew likes to put it - to keep them from going into another line of work altogether.

Abq Jew is very glad that Cantor Paul L DuBro is not in another line of work.  Cantor DuBro graced the bima at Congregation B'nai Israel on Rosh Hashanah - with a great voice and a warm personality.

Based in St Louis, Cantor DuBro has enriched that Jewish community with numerous appearances and concerts. He has appeared as a soloist with the St. Louis Symphony, and has made several guest appearances as Hazzan in Cincinnati, Phoenix, New York, and Vancouver. Abq Jew says: Catch him at B'nai - if you can!

Way back in September, Rabbi Stephen Landau presented One Night, Standing Together, Part 2 of the two-part lecture series, to a still small but still enthusiastic group of WestSiders meeting at Case de Shalom in Rio Rancho.

The best part?  A screening of the documentary 18 Voices Sing Kol Nidre and a discussion of the prayer’s meaning in our lives. And speaking of Kol Nidre - Abq Jew received the following comment (from a highly traditional and respected member of the New Mexico Jewish community):
I understand that Kol Nidre is associated with awe because it is the entry into Yom Kippur. I also realize it has become a favorite for lovers of operatic acrobatics. I think among traditional and learned Jews, it doesn't occupy nearly such an important spot. I would bet that most of my teachers and fellow yeshiva students would associate the most awe filled responses with the 'avodah' in Yom Kippur mussaf, or with Neila at the end of the day. A comparison of the content alone makes those more obvious choices.
Well, Rabbi Landau and the group talked about this, and - in a way - we agree: "A comparison of the content alone makes [Avodah or Neilah] more obvious choices."  Ah, but Kol Nidre and Yom Kippur are not about "content alone."  Of the traditional Ashkenazic sound of Kol Nidre, Tolstoy said, "Its melody echoes the story of a grief-stricken nation."  Abq Jew agrees - the melody is more important than the words.

And speaking of the melody - yes, Al Jolson sang the traditional Ashkenazic melody in The Jazz Singer.  Perry Como, Johnny Mathis, and Meshugga Beach Party have versions, too.  But Jolson brings tears to your eyes.

But all the above refers to the traditional Ashkenazic melody of Kol Nidre.  Abq Jew went looking on YouTube, and found a marvelous Moroccan version.  This you gotta hear!

This moved Abq Jew to ask, in the famous words of Butch Cassidy, "Who are those guys?"

Well, the chief "guy" is composer and lyricist Eyal Bitton.  Bitton's website says:
Eyal Bitton is currently the Cantor of Beth Jacob Synagogue in Hamilton, Ontario, where he combines traditional Ashkenazi and Moroccan melodies along with his own pieces.
His choral compositions and arrangements have been performed in Montreal, Ottawa, Massachusetts, New York, California, and Israel. He has conducted choirs for The Spanish & Portuguese Synagogue (Canada's first congregation), Adath Israel Poale Zedek, Jewish Peoples and Peretz Schools, La Chorale Kinor of the Communauté Sépharade Unifiée du Québec, and others.
From 2003-2009, Eyal served as Music Director of Toronto's Beth Tikvah Synagogue Choir, formerly conducted by Srul Irving Glick.
So as long as we're listening to Moroccan versions - let's listen to the Moroccan version of El Nora Alila, which usually is on the B side of the 45.  Anyone not on Social Security know what Abq Jew is talking about?

It turns out that Abq Jew learned this melody from Cantor Jeffrey Shiovitz, since 1988 of Congregation Sons of Israel in Briarcliff Manor, New York - but formerly of Temple Beth Ahm in Aberdeen, New Jersey.  That must have been about 25 years ago ....

In any event -  

Abq Jew wishes you an easy fast and a meaningful day.
If Abq Jew has offended you or caused you any pain
during the past year, please forgive him.
G'mar Hatima Tova!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Rabbi Min on Shmirat HaLashon

Watch What You Say - Basic Jewish Value #14:  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.

Shmirat HaLashon (watch what you say / avoid gossip). There is a well known Hassidic story about the harmful effects of gossip. A man went through the community spreading lies about a rabbi. One day the man felt remorse and asked the rabbi for forgiveness, indicating willingness to do anything to make amends. The rabbi told the man to take several feather pillows, cut them open and scatter the feathers to the wind. He did so and returned to the rabbi to say he’d followed the instructions. The rabbi then told him to go and gather ALL of the feathers. The man protests, “But that’s impossible.” “Of course it is,” replied the rabbi. “And although you may regret the evil you have done and truly desire to correct it, it is as impossible to repair the damage done by your words as it is to recover every single one of the feathers.”

Many JFS clients live in apartment complexes, nursing homes, assisted living facilities or other settings where a wide variety of people reside in closer proximity to each other. Living situations such as these are breeding grounds for gossip. Fortunately, the JFS Health and Wellness Team is able to bring activities, education, and field trips to people in these settings, providing positive socialization opportunities for the residents. In addition, our Care Managers help connect people like these with various services they need, reducing isolation. Other needs such as companionship, friendship, and assistance to people in their own homes are provided by JFS Housekeeper Companions. Such shared positive experiences, whether among residents who are JFS clients, or JFS staff members at meetings, help to counteract the tendency toward gossip.

At this time of the year, when Jews ask for forgiveness and set new intentions before the Jewish New Year (Rosh HaShana), it is timely to remember the Jewish value of being careful about what comes out of our mouths. Remember the feathers!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Oldest Living Jewish Parrot Tells

Oldest Known High Holiday Joke:  Aaron buys a parrot and, each morning, it listens as Aaron puts on his tefillin and says his prayers.

After a few weeks the parrot asks Aaron what he is doing. Aaron tells the parrot, who demands tefillin of its own. So Aaron goes out and buys a hand-made miniature set for the bird.

Now the parrot  listens to Aaron praying each day and, over time, memorizes the prayers. Soon it demands more instruction, so Aaron teaches it Hebrew.

On Rosh Hashanah, Aaron dresses and is leaving for the synagogue. The parrot demands to go with him.

"Look, synagogue is no place for a bird," he says, but the parrot makes such a fuss that Aaron puts it on his shoulder and off they go.

At the synagogue, the rabbi, the cantor, and the congregation refuse to allow Aaron to bring the parrot into the sanctuary. But Aaron insists the bird knows all the prayers, and if anyone wants to - let them bet against the bird.

Thousands of dollars are bet that the parrot can't daven, speak Hebrew (or Yiddish, even). Then services begin.

The bird says nothing, does nothing.

Aaron starts panicking, whispering to it, "Daven. You know how. Daven! Everyone's looking!"

Silence. Nothing.

After the end of services, the tally is taken. Aaron is about ten thousand dollars in the hole. He promises to bring it next week and pay everyone off, then heads home in a rage.

Once there, the parrot starts singing hymns and chanting prayers.

Aaron explodes. "You miserable bird," he says, "you cost me ten thousand dollars. After all I did for you,  you do this to me?"

"Shush," the parrot says. "Think of the odds we'll get on Yom Kippur."