Friday, June 29, 2012

Old Key

Old Roller Skates:  Thanks, Debo Orlofsky, for reminding Abq Jew - yet again - of just how old he is.  Debo (the celebrated accordionist of The Rebbe's Orkestra, famed percussionist of Saudade, and renowned Empowerment Through Music Coordinator of the New Mexico Jazz Workshop) recently posted this picture on Facebook:

Just how old is Abq Jew?  He's so old that he knows exactly what this is.  Not to give it away ... well, yes, to give it away - the picture above goes with the drawing below:

Some of you may still be having trouble with this.  So let Abq Jew explain: this is one of a pair of roller skates.  One used to put roller skates on over one's regular shoes (one skate per shoe); the skates were then tightened (so they didn't fall off) through use of a skate key, which is the object portrayed in Debo's photo.

All of this took place in the years just before photography was invented.

Debo, working with the Archaeological Society of New Mexico (Abq Jew just made that up) was able to recover that old skate key and photograph it.  No old roller skates have ever been recovered, however, which is why Abq Jew had to use the above drawing (artist's conception).

In case you need reminding, here is what roller skates look like now:

One can see the resemblance in form and function to the roller skates of the ancients, although accurate information about when pink was introduced is missing from the historical record.

And speaking of historical records - Abq Jew is on a roll now! - here is Brand New Key, the famous song by Melanie, of whom, Abq Jew suspects, many of you have never heard.

Caution: This song was considered highly risque in its time!

What's the Jewish connection, Abq Jew hears you ask?  Well, Melanie is (thanks, Wikipedia!)
Melanie Anne Safka-Schekeryk (born February 3, 1947) ... an American singer-songwriter. Known professionally as simply Melanie, she is best known for her hits Brand New Key, Ruby Tuesday, What Have They Done To My Song Ma , and Lay Down (Candles in the Rain).

Melanie was born and grew up in the Astoria neighborhood of Queens, New York City, New York. Melanie made her first public singing appearance at age four on the radio show Live Like A Millionaire, performing the song Gimme a Little Kiss. She attended Red Bank High School in Red Bank, New Jersey, graduating in 1966. After school, her parents insisted she go to college, so she studied acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, where she began singing in the folk clubs of Greenwich Village and signed her first recording contract.
Astoria?  Red Bank High School?  Parents insisted she go to college?  Do we need further proof?  OK, how about this:  Melanie Safka is listed on the Bellevue Holiday Rentals List of Famous Jews, right between Mel Brooks (who we all know) and Mike D'Abo, former lead singer of Manfred Mann who sang on their hit The Mighty Quinn.

Shabbat Shalom, Albuquerque!
Good Shabbos, New Mexico!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Explain Me Three Things

Welcome to Scott Tyson's Universe:   Scott Tyson has written a book. That book, The Unobservable Universe, states on its cover that it provides a "paradox-free framework for understanding the universe."

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

Scott Tyson, Abq Jew believes, does understand the universe. After all, Scott spent years thinking about it and 27 exhausting, non-stop days writing about it. The Unobservable Universe was completed on November 25, 2010 - just in time for Scott to celebrate Thanksgiving with his family.

While a scientific exegesis of Scott's work is beyond Abq Jew's ken (and certainly beyond his barbie), let's just say that Scott has considered and answered questions relating to two or three interesting scientific observations.

1. The Double-Slit Experiment

Around the turn of the 20th century an experiment produced a result that could not be explained by the particle theory. This experiment is shown below, where a the light from a light bulb is shown passing through two slits and then striking a screen.

If light consists of particles, the expected result was that two images of the slits would appear on the screen--the particles would pass through the slits and strike the screen and cause two bands of light.

In fact, the experiment showed that around the two bands of light there were less intense bands that appear to be images of the "original" bands. This result was explained by the suggestion that light actually was a wave, or, at least, has some of the properties of a wave.

This illustration shows that some waves will be "in phase" and will add to produce a larger wave; others will be exactly "out of phase" and crests will cancel troughs to produce no wave at all.

These are analogous to the bright spots on the screen of the double-slit experiment and, thus, the experiment has been explained by constructive and destructive interference of the waves.

What's wrong with this picture? Well, when you run a single photon through the apparatus - you get an interference pattern. What is that one photon interfering with? He's the only one in the room!

It all comes back to quantum mechanics - and the laws of probability.  And (to put it colloquially) - the more we try to measure, the less we see.

Here is Dr Quantum's explanation (you'll get a kick out of the closed caption ... interpretations):

Wikipedia explains the importance of this finding:
The double-slit experiment (and its variations), conducted with individual particles, has become a classic thought experiment for its clarity in expressing the central puzzles of quantum mechanics. Because it demonstrates the fundamental limitation of the observer to predict experimental results, Richard Feynman called it "a phenomenon which is impossible ... to explain in any classical way, and which has in it the heart of quantum mechanics. In reality, it contains the only mystery [of quantum mechanics].", and was fond of saying that all of quantum mechanics can be gleaned from carefully thinking through the implications of this single experiment.
And if that's not enough, there's

2. The Entanglement Conundrum

Yes, as Nora Ephron, of blessed memory, [Gail Collins' NYT Op-Ed] [Dana Goldstein's Blog] made us all believe, life is all about relationships.

Here is Dr Quantum's explanation:


Here (Wikipedia again explains) is what we mean by entanglements:
Quantum entanglement occurs when particles such as photons, electrons, molecules as large as buckyballs, and even small diamonds interact physically and then become separated; the type of interaction is such that each resulting member of a pair is properly described by the same quantum mechanical description (state), which is indefinite in terms of important factors such as position, momentum, spin, polarization, etc.
According to the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics, their shared state is indefinite until measured.
Quantum entanglement is a form of quantum superposition. When a measurement is made and it causes one member of such a pair to take on a definite value (e.g., clockwise spin), the other member of this entangled pair will at any subsequent time be found to have taken the appropriately correlated value (e.g., counterclockwise spin).
Thus, there is a correlation between the results of measurements performed on entangled pairs, and this correlation is observed even though the entangled pair may have been separated by arbitrarily large distances.
So - when two or more particles are entangled, they behave as if they were one and the same, and any change to one instantaneously and identically changes those entangled with it even if they’re a universe apart.

What's wrong with this picture? Well, it's not like the two particles (or whatever) are actually talking to each other. One changes; so does the other. At exactly the same time. How can this possibly be?

When you're done explaining that one - here's another, that the Rabbis of the Mishna asked  a couple of millenia ago.

3. The First Tongs

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

Scott Tyson also believes this, although he comes to it from an entirely different direction. Scott's book, The Unobservable Universe, is really a great read - Scott is a very entertaining writer. But more than that - The Unobservable Universe is a very Jewish way of looking at the universe and its mysteries.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Workshop & Dance Party:  Congregation Nahalat Shalom (the wonderful folks who bring us KlezmerQuerque every year) are excited to announce a 2-day KlezmerQuickie Workshop and Dance Party with klezmer flute virtuoso Adrianne Greenbaum,

Adrianne Greenbaum is a nationally acclaimed klezmer and classical flutist. As a klezmer she is the founder and leader of "FleytMuzik," an ensemble with flute, violin, cimbalom and bass, and of "The Klezical Tradition" klezmer band where she performs on both flute and keyboard and leads Yiddish dance.

Adrianne has been on the faculties of Living Traditions’ KlezKamp, KlezKanada, and Boxwood, was a premier participant with FleytMuzik at the KlezMore Festival in Vienna, and presents master classes in the art of klezmer performance to classical flutists.


Klezmer Workshop
Wednesday June 27 @ 7:00 pm

Learn a klezmer tune or 2 from klezmer flute virtuoso Adrianne Greenbaum. Tune will be taught "by ear" and sheet music will be handed out at end of workshop. Recording devices are welcome. Open to all instruments.
$20 General. $15 Seniors / Students.


Klezmer Dance Party
Thursday June 28 @ 7:30 pm

Featuring guest artist Adrianne Greenbaum playing with The Rebbe's Orkestra and The Nahalat Shalom Community Klezmer Band.  Plus: Dancing led & quick-taught by the Yiddish dance troupe Rikud.
$10 General. $5 Seniors / Students / Fixed Income.  Free 12 & under.

Sylvia Ettenberg, Educator, Dies at 95

Founder of Prozdor & Camp Ramah:  The Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) reports that renowned Jewish educator Sylvia Cutler Ettenberg died June 21 at age 95:
Sylvia Cuttler Ettenberg, a veteran Jewish educator and a founder of Camp Ramah, has died.

Ettenberg, the first female senior administrator at the Jewish Theological Seminary, died June 21 at age 95. She was recognized as a dean emerita at JTS.

The Brooklyn native was at the forefront of many Conservative Jewish educational initiatives, including the Prozdor Hebrew High School program and the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education at JTS.

Ettenberg was perhaps best recognized as a founder of Camp Ramah and for incorporating the institution into JTS, a move that helped it grow from a single camp in Wisconsin into a network of a dozen camps and several informal education programs in the United States and Israel.
Abq Jew remembers Sylvia Ettenberg from his time at the Jewish Theological Seminary. In 1975, Sylvia Ettenberg made it possible for Abq Jew, a guy from California with an engineering degree and very little formal Jewish learning, to study at the Seminary with the great leaders of Conservative Judaism.

The Jewish Virtual Library provides this biography:
 U.S. Jewish educator, particularly within the Conservative movement. Born in Brooklyn, she received a B.A. from Brooklyn College and a Bachelor of Pedagogy from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (JTS). In 1940 she married Moshe Ettenberg, an engineering professor; the couple had two children.
Although her career was spent almost exclusively at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, her influence was felt in a wide range of institutions and settings. Ettenberg, the first female senior administrator at JTS, played a leading role in some of the most important and innovative projects of Conservative Jewish education.
She was directly involved in the founding of the Seminary's supplementary high school (the Prozdor) in 1951, the creation of the Melton Research Center in 1959, and the eventual establishment of the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education in 1996. She worked on the creation of a joint undergraduate degree program between JTS and Columbia University and helped supervise the Department of Jewish Education at the Seminary as it developed its M.A. and doctoral programs.
Arguably, her most notable achievement was Camp Ramah, a summer educational camping program that grew into an international network of camps. Ramah was first launched in Wisconsin in 1947 by a group of community leaders from Chicago.
 But it was Ettenberg and Moshe Davis who brought Ramah inside the world of JTS itself, creating an infrastructure for the camping system that developed over time and nurtured the powerful educational vision embodied in the camps. The Ramah camps had a profound impact on Jewish education and provided a large percentage of the future academic, lay, and professional leadership of Conservative Judaism.
Ettenberg received an honorary doctorate from JTS, the Behrman House Books – Jewish Educators Assembly lifetime achievement award, and the Samuel Rothberg Prize in Jewish education from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
When the Teachers Institute celebrated its 100 Year Anniversary in 2010. JTS Chancellor Arnold Eisen honored Sylvia Ettenberg at a luncheon.

And Dr Isa Aron, Sylvia Ettenberg's daughter, spoke about her experiences growing up and the important role her mother played in building the Teachers Institute.

May her memory be a blessing

Monday, June 25, 2012

Dr Stanley M Hordes: NMJHS Honoree

New Mexico Jewish Historical Society Honors:  Back at the end of April, Abq Jew announced that eminent Southwest historian Dr Stanley Hordes was to be honored by the New Mexico Jewish Historical Society.

The celebration did, indeed, take place as scheduled at the Albuquerque JCC.  Abq Jew was honored to be among the dozens in attendance.

Vanessa Paloma and Consuelo Luz performed, exquisitely, to open and close the occasion. And in between - there were (ahem) a few speeches.

Among those speaking - a Who's Who of Crypto-Judaic Studies - were Dr Seth Kunin, Dr Seth Ward, and Dr Roger L Martinez.

Abq Jew is pleased to present Dr Hordes' remarks at this wonderful event celebrating his achievements.


I can’t imagine any greater tribute than that offered by one’s peers.  
I am truly honored by the very kind words expressed by my friends and colleagues this afternoon.

I am particularly appreciative of the pains that so many of you took to travel here from so far away to be here to honor my work.   I also know that events like this don’t just happen.  They take a huge amount of time and thought to organize and execute, and I would like to express my profound appreciation to Ron Duncan Hart, Program Chair, and Dorothy Amsden, President of the NMJHS, for their extraordinary efforts to put this program together.

The great Jewish philosopher, Alan Koenigsberg (aka Woody Allen) once said, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.”  Well, so much of my career has been shaped by just “showing up” at the right place at the right time – and taking advantage of the many opportunities with which circumstances provided me.

I happened to grow up in the suburbs of Washington, DC, and when it was time to go to college, there was no question as to where to attend – it was “the university down the street,” or nowhere at all.   So, I enrolled at the University of Maryland, which happened to have an outstanding history department.  And the colonial Latin American historian, Professor J. Benedict Warren, just happened to have studied at the University of New Mexico under the direction of the pioneering Inquisition scholar, France V. Scholes.

And Ben Warren, having stimulated my interest in the relationship between the Inquisition and the crypto-Jews of Mexico, recommended that I pursue graduate study under Professor Scholes at UNM, I “showed up” at UNM in 1971 to do precisely that.

And it just so happened that Professor Scholes had been deemed “too old” to take on graduate students, and then a few months later it so happened that another of Professor Scholes’ students, Richard E. Greenleaf (THE leading historian of the Mexican Inquisition), was in Albuquerque visiting Professor Scholes at the same time I happened to be over there, and he encouraged me to continue my Ph.D. work at Tulane University, which I did.  And, under the guidance (and financial support) of Professor Greenleaf, I completed my doctoral dissertation in 1980 on the history of the crypto-Jews of Mexico in the 17th century.

And, “showing up” in New Mexico shortly thereafter, there happened to be a vacancy up in Santa Fe for the position of New Mexico State Historian, which I applied for and received.  And, Santa Fe being a small town, many people whose roots went back some 400 years wondered who this newcomer was, who was going to be the historian of their state.

And it just so happened that, having learned about the work that I had just done on the history of the crypto-Jews of Mexico, some people from within the Hispano community felt compelled to come into my office and whisper to me about their family, friends or neighbors lighting candles on Friday night.  Well, you all know where the story went from there.  The importance of “showing up” at the right place at the right time.

My debts of gratitude are immense.   First, to my parents and my brother, who instilled in me a love of history.  To my father, who told me when I was about 15, that by the time I was an adult there would be so many people speaking Spanish in this country, and that I should be prepared to communicate with them.  So, like a dutiful son, I started taking classes in high-school Spanish.  And, when you learn a language, you gain an appreciation for a culture, and so my father’s wise advice led me to combine my love of history with my growing appreciation for Hispanic culture. 

To my mentor, Professor Richard Greenleaf, who just passed away this past November, for his wisdom, wit, encouragement, and support – financial, as well as intellectual – I owe him so much.  

To my dedicated research associates who helped me immensely on both the New Mexico book and the forthcoming work on the history of crypto-Jewish settlement of the Spanish Caribbean Islands – Richard Salazar, Rob Martínez, Janice Martínez, Martina Will, Margarita Ochoa, Frank Álvarez, Mercedes López Wooten, and Gerald González, whose untimely death in November saddens us all.   

To my colleagues – too many to mention all of them here – Seth Kunin, Seth Ward, Roger Martínez, Tomas Atencio, Rowena Rivera, José Antonio Esquibel, Janet Jacobs, David Gitliitz, Kristine Bordenave, Orlando Romero, Adrian Bustamante, Fay Blake, Michael Perko – just to name a few – whose work has stimulated me, and whose advice kept me from ill-conceived leaps of faith.

To the descendants of crypto-Jews – to Isabelle Medina Sandoval, Michael Atlas Acuña, Dennis Durán, Glorya Tschabold, and so many others – for the inspiration that they have shown on their voyages of discovery of their rich heritage.

And even to my critics – they know who they are – who motivated me to question assumptions, and to exercise more care in developing my own conclusions.

To my friends and fellow board members in the New Mexico Jewish Historical Society and the Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies, for their tremendous efforts to promote and encourage the study of Jewish history in all of its complexity.

And most importantly to my family: to Helen who supported my career from the beginning, who worked to put me through grad school, who coped with my weeks-long absences, and who supported me during some difficult times.

To my wonderful children, Shira and Paul, and their even more-wonderful spouses, Yoav and Melissa, for their love and encouragement, and for enduring the unceasing and annoying history lectures during family drives through the countryside, and to my absolutely wonderful granddaughter, Cora (as well to the two new grandbabies to arrive later this year), for teaching me about the truly important things of life.

חזק חזק ונתחזק

Friday, June 22, 2012


Captivating in Motion:  Back in February, Abq Jew presented Circus of Pain, a stunning video by Gergedan accompanying the song by Albuquerque's own Zoltan Orkestar.

Abq Jew then wrote:
And there's Gergedan (Turkish for rhinoceros), a creative entity of unknown origin, derivation, or any form of address that seems to have produced a series of artistically stunning music videos.
Do you know Gergedan?  Inquiring minds (and minds like Abq Jew's) want to know! In the meantime, visit GergedanFilKedi's YouTube channel
And speaking of rhinoceroses ... rhinoceri ... let's go with rhinos - here is a photo of Terkel, Israel's newest baby rhino.

The Jewish entertainment blog 6 Degrees No Bacon reports that

After an 18-month pregnancy, Tanda, a 20-year-old white rhino, gave birth to Terkel, a rare white rhino calf, at the Ramat Gan Safari near Tel Aviv.

Terkel is named after zoologist Dr. Amelia Terkel, who is retiring after 30 years at the Ramat Gan Safari. His mother Tanda, who was born in South Africa, gave birth to his older brother Tibor four and a half years ago.

Since February, Abq Jew has learned absolutely nothing about Gergedan. But his inquiring mind still wants to know. To again pique (that's a French word, meaning ... well, never mind) your interest - here is another Gergedan video.

The music is by the French group Tend'm, about whom Abq Jew also knows absolutely nothing. So - just watch & listen & watch: Indifference.



Shabbat Shalom, Albuquerque!
Good Shabbos, New Mexico!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Walking the Temple Grounds

Rebuilding the Holy Temple Revisited As Abq Jew announced in If You Build It, He Will Come: Rabbi Chaim Richman, the Director of the International Department of The Temple Institute of Jerusalem, visited Roswell, Santa Fe, and Albuquerque this week.

One might think that anyone who speaks seriously about rebuilding the Temple must be a raving lunatic. Well, Abq Jew was privileged to attend Rabbi Richman's Santa Fe talk at Kol BeRamah, and he can assure you that Rabbi Richman does not rave.  (But he is something of a lunatic, in that he draws inspiration from the lunar cycles that form the months of Hebrew calendar.)

In fact, Rabbi Richman is a quiet, soft-spoken, thoughtful, well-educated scholar who asks excellent questions, provides answers that must be reckoned with, and backs up everything with authoritative statements from respected, traditional, Jewish sources. Rabbi Richman's primary question:
What is holding back the people of Israel from rebuilding the Temple today? How close are we? How will the nations of the world be affected? Are the obstacles really that insurmountable... or could we overcome them if we only try? Are we waiting for G-d to step in and perform a miracle... or is He waiting for us to take the initiative?
On the other hand - Abq Jew's two questions were:
  1. If When He [Messiah] Comes, It [Temple] Will Be Rebuilt is considered normative, how do we arrive at its mirror image If You Build It, He Will Come?
  2. If there are genuine halakhic concerns about whether Jews are allowed to walk on the Temple Mount, how can we reasonably speak about rebuilding the Temple?
Rabbi Richman answered both questions directly and plainly.


 First, the slogans, which represent diametrically opposed philosophies and mindsets.

Abq Jew has always been a big fan of Arthur Ruppin (1876-1943) - who, he realizes, few people have heard of. Known as “ the father of Zionist settlement”, he was sent by the Jewish Agency to Eretz Yisrael in 1907 - to assess the possibilities for Zionist settlement there. Ruppin became an advocate of pragmatic Zionism.  Ruppin believed that the most immediate need was to acquire land, establish Jewish settlements all over the country, and thereby build a state.

One might think that anyone who speaks seriously about rebuilding the Land must be a raving lunatic. But Arthur Ruppin did not rave - he simply went about his business.

Being by training and temperament an engineer (thanks, Dad!), Abq Jew also favors the pragmatic approach. And The Temple Institute is nothing if not pragmatic.

When He [Messiah] Comes, It [Temple] Will Be Rebuilt

As Abq Jew stated in If You Build It, He Will Come: this is the normative, traditional Jewish belief. The Temple Institute has turned this around:

When The Temple Is Rebuilt, The Messiah Will Come

The Temple Institute has, therefore, launched pragmatic programs of education and preparation - including refabricating the High Priest's garments and vestments, newly manufacturing Temple vessels, and attempting to reproduce and round up red heifers. (See Chapter 19 of Numbers for the red heifer story.)

Is The Temple Institute striving to hasten the Coming of the Messiah by rebuilding the Temple?  Yes. But no more than Arthur Ruppin and the early Zionists were striving to hasten the Coming of the Messiah by rebuilding the Land.

Think of it as taking the pragmatic approach. Ridding ourselves of the Galus mentality. Coming to realize (in Rabbi Richman's words) that it's a natural situation for the Holy Temple to be in the midst of the Jewish People.


May we visit the Temple Mount now, today, to prepare for the rebuilding of the Third House?

As Abq Jew mentioned in Hang Up The Phone: The [Conservative] Rabbinical Assembly has just published an outstanding, thorough, and very well-written guide to contemporary Jewish practice, The Observant Life.

In The Observant Life, Martin S Cohen addresses Visiting the Temple Mount (page 346) in his essay on Israel:

The question of visiting the Temple Mount is related to the nature of the sanctity of Jerusalem: is it permanent or temporal?

Cohen points out that
The crux of the matter for latter-day halakhists ... lies in a dispute between Maimonides and Rabbi Abraham ben David of Posquieres (known as the Ravad).
Cohen describes Maimonides' position:
Maimonides ... writes unambiguously that the ritual sanctifications performed by King Solomon ... made the city holy for all time; the city thus retains its sanctity even in the absence of a Temple.
and discusses what Cohen perceives to be the implications of that position:
Although people impure due to contact with a corpse may enter any other part of Jerusalem, including the outer sectors of the Temple Mount ... they may not enter the actual area on which the enclosed parts of the Temple precincts once stood. Since it is impossible  to ascertain exactly where the specific parts of the Temple actually stood in ancient times, Maimonides would thus consider it forbidden for an observant Jew visit any part of the Temple Mount today.
Then Cohen considers the Ravad's position:
He [the Ravad] goes on to say that Maimonides is incorrect, and the punishment of excision (kareit, to be inflicted on any who enter the Temple in a state of impurity ...) does not apply in our day, since the sanctity of Jerusalem was temporal and did not outlast the Temple itself.
For Conservative Jews, Cohen brings a responsum by Rabbi Reuven Hammer, a Conservative halakhic authority, who concludes that
... we may follow the Ravad in this matter and suppose that there is no prohibition whatsoever against entering any part of the Temple Mount in our day. Nonetheless, he also notes that a Jew should not actually enter the Dome of the Rock, presumed to be the site of the Holy of Holies in ancient times to which only the High Priest was allowed entry.
According to Cohen, Maimonides would appear to have the hard-line position here. But The Temple Institute asserts that that is not the case at all:
In the section of the Mishna Torah known as The Book of the Temple Service, in the chapter entitled, Laws of the Chosen House, the Rambam discusses the commandment of "revering the Holy Temple," based on the verse from Leviticus 19:30: "... and my Holy Temple you shall revere." The Rambam explains how one expresses reverence for the Holy Temple by visiting the site of the Holy Temple, even during the time of its destruction , when it is no longer physically standing. The Rambam himself had the opportunity to visit the Temple Mount, site of the Holy Temple, once in his life ....
Earlier this month, Chief Rabbis Rabbi Shlomo Amar and Rabbi Yonah Metzger, joined by other top rabbis, proclaimed the Temple Mount off limits due to halakhic issues. Among these issues:
  1. There are areas on the Mount that are expressly forbidden to Jews for various halakhic reasons.
  2. There are conflicting opinions on the locations of these areas. (Rabbis who have chosen to accept one opinion are the ones encouraging ascending to the Mount.)
  3. Even in areas that might be permitted by most opinions, there are preparations that must be made before ascending the Mount, such as immersion in a ritual bath, not wearing leather shoes, and other marks of awe. The rabbis are afraid that the laws involved will not be adhered to. The fact that groups of soldiers have been ascending the Mount without preparation may be the reason for the repetition of the prohibition.
It is also worth noting that Rabbi Richman strongly dissented from the Chief Rabbis' proclamation, citing Maimonides' example:
The recent proclamation of the Chief Rabbinate prohibiting Jews from ascending to the Temple Mount implies that ascent to the Mount is indeed forbidden by Torah law. However, this statement is inaccurate and misleading. According to the sources of halakhah, the place of the Holy of Holies and sanctified courtyards are well known and documented, and with proper study and proper preparations (such as immersion in a mikveh and the donning of non-leather shoes) one can visit this holy site without trespassing on the sacred areas.
Throughout the ages many prominent halakhic authorities personally ascended to the Temple Mount, including the celebrated Rambam (Maimonides), who ascended to the Mount at the risk of his life in Crusader-dominated Jerusalem. Indeed, as the Rambam himself testifies in his letters, he was so moved that he merited to ascend the Temple Mount to pray there, that he instructed his descendants to mark the day of his aliya (6 Cheshvan 1166) as a day of personal yom tov (rejoicing) for all generations.
Issues of Jewish law are not to be determined by personal feelings, opinions, or emotions. In the formulative process of halakhah, sources must be cited, verified and compared. Today, many prominent, respected Torah scholars, including yeshiva heads, visit the Temple Mount on a monthly basis together with hundreds of their students. To minimize or denigrate these scholars and to imply that they are acting outside of Torah law is misleading, damaging and wrong.
If we choose to ascend to the Temple Mount - after preparing ourselves to be lifted up - do we know where we are stepping?

GPS may not help, although Google Earth might. But it turns out The Temple Institute website has a guidebook! And a map!


Finally, most everyone foresees political ... difficulties ... arising from the obvious fact that the Dome of the Rock currently sits atop the Temple Mount, and directly over the ancient site of the Holy of Holies.

Rabbi Richman, however, foresees continued political difficulties only if the Temple is not rebuilt. Should we, then ... demolish the Dome of the Rock and get to work?

That is not the scenario that Rabbi Richman foresees, and this is absolutely not the course of action that he promotes.

Rabbi Richman instead believe that a day will come when all the nations on earth realize that it's a natural situation for the Holy Temple to be in the midst of the Jewish People. When that happens, the nations will ask, beg, demand that the Jewish People rebuild the Holy Temple - for the benefit of all nations on earth.

Speedily, dear G-d, in our days!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Da Doo Ron Ron

Wall Of Sound:  It's Monday afternoon. and it's getting hot out there.  This morning Abq Jew dropped off his son, Dov Yellin the Film Editor, at the ABQ International (one flight a day to Mexico) Sunport, after a wonderful but too-short visit (sort of like the wonderful but too-short visit of Abq Jew's daughter, BU Girl, a couple weeks ago).

So - on his way home from the Sunport, Abq Jew started thinking about how hard it is for folks to learn Hebrew. How, at first, everything seems like nonsense syllables.

And then Abq Jew heard this song on Sirius XM.  Or maybe he heard the song first, and then started thinking about the learning Hebrew problem.

Or maybe Abq Jew didn't even think of the learning Hebrew problem until he thought he needed some Jewish connection to post Da Doo Ron Ron on this blog.

Da Do Ron Ron, Wikipedia tells us, is
a 1963 hit single by The Crystals, produced by Phil Spector in his Wall of Sound style. The song was written by Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich and Spector. The drummer was Hal Blaine.

That's gold. That's solid gold coming out of that speaker.
    — Spector to Sonny Bono, after listening to the final playback
On May 11, 1963, it reached number three on the Billboard Hot 100. It also reached number five in the UK.
When things slow down this afternoon, as the temperature rises, Abq Jew strongly encourages you to listen to this.  As one YouTube commenter commented:
Wow - like electricity running up and down my spine.  You just cannot hear this without your pulse going up to about 160 and your body can't help but move.

Songfacts provides some, uh, additional facts about Da Doo Ron Ron, including:
  • Phil Spector produced this song. He originally had singer Darlene Love record it at Gold Star Studios in Los Angeles. After singing lead on the Crystals' previous hits "He's A Rebel" and "He's Sure the Boy I Love" with her group The Blossoms, Darlene Love was still working as a session singer and being paid scale. After singing on "Da Doo Ron Ron," she asked for an artist's contract, and Spector responded by erasing her vocals and flying in Crystals lead singer Dolores "La La" Brooks to replace the lead vocal. The backup vocals were provided by The Blossoms (including Darlene Love), and another one of Spector's favorite backing singers: Cher.
  • Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich wrote this song. The refrain of "da doo ron ron" came from nonsense syllables they stuck in as space filler, but Spector was fine with it. By this time, Spector had a lot of influence and insisted on a songwriting credit along with the writers he worked with, so he is listed as a composer of this song.
  • Although it has not been confirmed, legend has it that Sonny Bono was one of the many vocalists who sang backup for this song. Bono was a record producer at the time and knew Phil Spector.
  • With a massive drum sound, this was Phil Spector's biggest production to date, and it is generally regarded as the true beginning of the now famous Wall Of Sound recording technique. 
More interesting facts and Jewish connections:
  • Jew or Not Jew reports that, sadly, Phil Spector is a Jew.  Wikipedia reminds us that  "In 2009 Spector was convicted of second-degree murder in the 2003 shooting death of actress Lana Clarkson in his Alhambra, California home. He is serving a prison sentence of 19 years to life."
  • Hal Blaine (born Harold Simon Belsky) is Jewish.  Dawgnet reports the he was born "to Jewish immigrant parents .... "
  • Jeff Barry (born Joel Adelberg) is also Jewish (he and Ellie Greenwich were briefly married). His web site says: "Born to a working-class Jewish family, Jeff grew up in New York and New Jersey .... "
  • Ellie Greenwich was Jewish. Wikipedia reports that "Greenwich ... was born in Brooklyn, New York, to a Catholic father and a Jewish mother, who both were of Russian ancestry.  At age ten, she moved with her parents and younger sister to Levittown, New York."
Enjoy!  Da Doo Ron Ron is Jewish music!
And it's a great tune for Adon Olam ....

Friday, June 15, 2012

Hang Up The Phone

This Is Jewish Music; or Not:  Lipa Schmeltzer is a 34-year-old Skverer Chasid from New Square, New York, who has made a career as a singer at weddings and concerts. His CDs, DVDs, and YouTube videos have been big hits in Haredi circles.

Abq Jew cheerfully admits that he has lost touch with the Haredi music scene, especially since relocating to the Land of Enchantment. But Jewish Humor Central reports that Lipa Schmeltzer has recently
released a new music video called Hang up the Phone, in which he plays a robot (with a stubbly beard and peyot) among other robots who come to life in a Boro Park electronics store after the store closes for the night. The song is commentary on our ever growing infatuation with gadgets - equal parts science fiction and practical advice for today's technologically obsessed society.
The Jewish Daily Forward posted a blog, Hasidic Superstar Meets Lady Gaga - Must See, which proclaims:
Schmeltzer, the biggest act in the Hasidic world, is a long way from crossing over into mainstream pop, as this video can attest. But the production values are almost there, kind of. It’s like a late-90s boy band video with absolutely no girls in it, and really befuddling silver make-up.
You, lucky readers, can view Hang Up The Phone right here!

Abq Jew must point out that not all of Lipa's reviews - especially on YouTube - have been favorable. While many reviewers praise Lipa's talent and creativity, others accuse Lipa of following hukas hagoyim - doing what the nations do. Among traditional Jews, this is not a good thing.

The [Conservative] Rabbinical Assembly has just published an outstanding, thorough, and very well-written guide to contemporary Jewish practice, The Observant Life.

In this 935-page volume, Jeremy Kalmonofsky, in a masterful essay on Interfaith Relations, quotes a midrash from Eichah Rabbah:
If someone tells you there is wisdom among the nations, believe it. If someone tells you there is Torah among the nations, do not believe it.

How does this statement guide us in our view of Jewish music? What can we learn from the nations? And - what exactly is Jewish music, anyway?  

Abq Jew has attempted a broad definition of Jewish Arts & Artists: Jewish art is art that has Jewish content, is made by a Jewish artist, or both. Similarly, Abq Jew claims, Jewish music is music that has Jewish content, is made by a Jewish artist, or both.

This definition includes Leonard Bernstein, Paul Simon, and Neil Sedaka in the category, along with all members of the Nahalat Shalom Community Klezmer Band. The musical idioms of their day influence(d) the music of all of these artists; everyone has shared. And yet ... it's still Jewish!


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Shabbat Shalom, Albuquerque!
Good Shabbos, New Mexico!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

If You Build It, He Will Come

Rebuilding the Holy Temple:  The Temple Institute of Jerusalem is pleased to announce the forthcoming US visit of Rabbi Chaim Richman, the Director of the Institute's International Department.

Rabbi Richman has scheduled (Little Bear fire permitting) appearances in New Mexico

Roswell - Comfort Suites
Monday June 18 @ 7:00 pm

Santa Fe - Kol BeRamah
Tuesday June 19 @ 2:00 pm

Albuquerque - Hoffmantown Church
Tuesday June 19 @ 7:00 pm

The Temple Institute, according to its website, is
dedicated to every aspect of the Holy Temple of Jerusalem, and the central role it fulfilled, and will once again fulfill, in the spiritual well-being of both Israel and all the nations of the world. The Institute's work touches upon the history of the Holy Temple's past, an understanding of the present day, and the Divine promise of Israel's future. The Institute's activities include education, research, and development.
The Temple Institute appears to support the normative, traditional Jewish belief: that when the Messiah {"he") comes (speedily, in our days), the Holy Temple ("it") will be rebuilt.

When He [Messiah] Comes, It [Temple] Will Be Rebuilt

The Temple Institute has, therefore, launched programs of education and preparation - including  refabricating the High Priest's garments and vestments, and attempting to reproduce and round up red heifers.

Why red heifers? Because we Jews are all - after 2,000 Temple-less years - ritually impure.  Our Kohanim, in their present state, cannot officiate in the rebuilt Temple.

Only the ashes of a red heifer can return our Kohanim, our Levi'im, and Klal Israel to ritual purity. (See Chapter 19 of Numbers for a full description of the enigmatic - to say the least - ritual cleansing process.)

Abq Jew must emphasize that the normative, traditional Jewish belief is not overtly political. The Temple Institute, one may claim, simply wants the Temple rebuilding project to be as "shovel-ready" as practicable.

But wait! There's more! The website continues:
The Temple Institute's ultimate goal is to see Israel rebuild the Holy Temple on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem, in accord with the Biblical commandments. 
Which comes first, the Messiah or the Temple? Messiah first, then the Third House? Or is it the other way around? The If you build it, he will come tag line for Rabbi Richman's US visit plainly shows where the Temple Institute stands:

When The Temple Is Rebuilt, The Messiah Will Come  

Which is the cart, and which is the horse? In this video from the Temple Institute website, Rabbi Richman asks:
What is holding back the people of Israel from rebuilding the Temple today? How close are we? How will the nations of the world be affected? Are the obstacles really that insurmountable... or could we overcome them if we only try? Are we waiting for G-d to step in and perform a miracle... or is He waiting for us to take the initiative?

Abq Jew must emphasize that If you build it, he will come is not the normative, traditional Jewish belief, and is, as it turns out, intensely political. And not just with respect to the Islamic world, and not just because the Dome of the Rock happens to currently sit atop the Temple site.

For Jews, going up to the Temple Mount - for purposes of presence, prayer, or construction - presents a serious theological conundrum. Who may go up to the Mountain of G-d? asks The Jerusalem Post:
The divisions among different rabbinic leaders are sharp; some outlaw ascent to the Temple Mount in absolute terms on pain of spiritual excommunication; others see the refusal to go up and insist on the Jewish right to pray at the site as a deviation from Torah law.
In spite of all the perceived difficulties, the Temple Institute would, if it could, hasten the Coming of the Messiah. This does not set the Temple Institute apart from the generations of Israel that have preceded it.

Abq Jew must also emphasize that he has it on the highest authority (never having met or spoken with Rabbi Richman) that Rabbi Richman is a great guy, a terrific speaker, a true mensch who does many, many good things.

Come and listen! Think about what you hear!

And - in case you were wondering - Abq Jew knows exactly where the Messiah is at this exact moment - although he, all Israel, and indeed, the whole world still do not know when he will undertake his sacred mission.  From the Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 98a:
Rabbi Joshua ben Levi asked Elijah, "When will the Messiah come?" "Go and ask him himself." "Where is he sitting?" "At the gates of Rome." "What will identify him?" "He is sitting among the poor lepers. While all of them untie all their bandages at once, and re-bandage them together, the Messiah unties and re-bandages each bandage one-by-one, saying 'I might be needed, so I must not be delayed.'"
Speedily, dear G-d, in our days!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A New Milestone: 30K+3

To Life! To Life! L'Chaim!  On June 12, 2012, at 6:13 pm New Mexico (Mountain) Time, while Abq Jew and family were having dinner (wouldn't you know), this Abq Jew Blog achieved 30,000+3 All Time Page Views.

We achieved 23,000 All Time Page Views on April 16 - just over eight weeks ago.
That's just about 120 Page Views per Day.

Thank you!


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Monday, June 11, 2012

Nesa'iyéh / نسائيه / A Woman Thing

Mati Milstein Photography @ Marji Gallery:  Marji Gallery in Santa Fe presents an exhibit of the work of Mati Milstein, an Israeli photojournalist with strong ties to New Mexico.

Nesa'iyéh / نسائيه  / A Woman Thing
Photo Exhibit by Mati Milstein       Opening June 15 @ Marji Gallery
217 West Water Street         Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
(505) 983-1012     

From the Facebook page Palestine Women First:
This is the photographic documentation of a new generation of radical Palestinian activists who stand out from their society in the most distinct way: they are women.

These activists are on the front lines of West Bank protest, they are beaten and face arrest and sexual harassment for their bold role.

Starting with the March 15 Palestinian unity rallies in the West Bank, I [Mati Milstein] began to photograph the increasingly central role played by Palestinian women activists.

Most of these women are in their teens and 20s, they hold key organizational positions and lead protests against Israeli (and sometimes Palestinian) security forces, standing on the lines – in front of their male counterparts – and bearing the brunt of soldiers' blows. The women seek to both shake off Israeli occupation and to demand sexual equality and unity in their highly-fragmented and often chauvinist society. 
In an interview for the web magazine +972, Milstein explains how he became involved in this project.
I was in downtown Ramallah on March 15, 2011, photographing Palestinian demonstrations calling for unity between disparate political factions. I noticed that many of the protest leaders were, in fact, women. Though I did take note of this unusual fact, it initially remained filed somewhere in the back of my head. As the following weeks passed and I continued to photograph Palestinian protests in the West Bank, I realized I was seeing the same women – week after week – that I had seen at that protest in Ramallah.
I began talking to them, trying to get a grasp of this new and unusual image (at least new and unusual to me) of women leading men in Palestinian street protests. Eventually described by the international media as the “March 15th” group, these women (together with their male colleagues) were a very loose coalition of like-minded individuals, non-violent in their strategy and totally independent in their political affiliations. In parallel with photographing their political actions, I also sat and listened to them, attempting to educate myself and understand their approach and objectives: eliminating the Israeli occupation, confronting the totalitarian nature of the Palestinian Authority, altering their own place as women in a patriarchal Middle Eastern society.
I was intrigued and quite soon realized that this was something unique in our region that I wanted to document.

Milstein emphasizes that this is an exhibition of his art.
I have chosen to photograph a subject that is clearly political in nature. But this is an art exhibition. I leave it up to the women to make their own political statements. I am creating art. My intention was to capture and present visual images that cause people to stop and think and, hopefully, reconsider the manner in which they view their world. I want my photographs to shake things up.
Abq Jew finds the images that Milstein presents to be visually stunning yet difficult to look at. Is there a political message here? Yes, but there is also a very human message.


This Just In!
Mati Milstein Talk & Book-Signing
Congregation Nahalat Shalom
Thursday  June 21 @ 7:00 pm