Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Shear Mishegas

Fleece Navidad: A team of scientists from Uruguay have genetically modified a flock of nine young sheep, causing the lambs to glow in the dark whenever they are exposed to ultraviolet light. 

RedOrbit.com reports:
According to Slashgear’s Brian Sin, the scientists altered the creatures using the fluorescent protein from an Aequorea jellyfish. The sheep, which were born last October at the Animal Reproduction Institute of Uruguay, give off a glowing green color when exposed to some types of UV rays but are said to be developing normally.

“We did not use a protein of medical interest or to help with a particular medicine because we wanted to fine-tune the technique,” lead researcher Alejo Menchaca said, according to James A. Foley of Nature World News. “We used the green protein because the color is easily identifiable in the sheep’s tissues.”

Menchaca added that the lambs have been spending as much time out in the field as their non-genetically modified counterparts, but in “better conditions, not the traditional breeding system.” He also was quoted by Foley as saying that the creatures were being “well looked after, well fed and very much loved.”
Abq Jew first caught this story on CNN's website and was, of course intrigued. As Conan asked at the White House Correspondents' Dinner: 

You're watching CNN?

Well, no. But Abq Jew does occasionally read CNN.com online. Anyway, here is a video about the glow-in-the-dark sheep.

When Abq Jew published this story on his personal Facebook page, the first comment he received was the question:


RedOrbit.com answers
Menchaca, who worked on the project alongside Martina Crisp of the Pasteur Institute, told Merco Press, “The technique is complex and demands much work and is one of the limiting factors, so despite the global interest and demand it is still a slow process. Our focus is generating knowledge, make it public so the scientific community can be informed and help in the long run march to generate tools so humans can live better, but we’re not out in the market to sell technology.”

Menchaca explained that scientists can select a specific gene with biological or pharmaceutical value to humans, and then add it to the embryo of a cow, lamb, goat or similar creature so that the gene is incorporated into that animal’s DNA. Once it grows and matures, the creature can produce milk that contains that substance of interest. That milk then undergoes a complex procedure which makes it available for consumption so that people can benefit from it.

“While these sheep may be the first glow-in-the-dark sheep to exist, they’re not the first living creatures that scientists have genetically modified,” Sin said. “Scientists have also genetically modified zebrafish using the same green fluorescent protein from the Aequorea jelly fish to make them glow-in-the-dark. These zebrafish were them renamed ‘GloFish’ and have since been genetically modified using various other [fluorescent color] proteins.”
Isn't this fascinating? Abq Jew certainly thinks so. And so, Abq Jew thinks, would Jay Neugeboren, Michael B Friedman, and Lloyd I. Sederer, MD. 

Who are these guys? Funny you should ask.  

Tablet Magazine reports that they are the authors of the newly published

Diagnostic Manual of Mishegas
A different version of the famed manual of mental disorders
Potchkied together and .com-piled by Jay Neugeboren, Michael B. Friedman, and Lloyd I. Sederer, M.D.

Based on a newly discovered document by the brilliant if frequently farmisht Dr. Sol Farblondget, M.D., Ph.D., P.T.A.

The Diagnostic Manual of Mishegas (DMOM) is a delightful parody of the American Psychiatric Association’s “Bible of psychiatry,” the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).
In a playful send-up of the DSM, the authors—all of whom are distinguished writers with deep roots in the field of mental health—cut through the hundreds of categories in the 1,000-page DSM by dividing all mental disorders into two realms: mishegas major and mishegas minor. The full manual can be purchased here.
Abq Jew has not read, and has certainly not studied, the DMOM. Furthermore, Abq Jew has no particular expertise in diagnosis or statistics. And Abq Jew has little experience with mental health, except for the rabbinical school exam, which he failed.

Nevertheless, Abq Jew strongly recommends that you buy this book (or, actually, any book) from Abq Jew's Amazon Store. After all - what could it hurt?

Leonard Bernstein Commemorative Recital

Albuquerque JCC Presents: A rare opportunity to hear accomplished professional pianists and singers perform some of the well-known and lesser known compositions of Leonard Bernstein.

Leonard Bernstein
Commemorative Recital
Saturday May 4 ~ 7:00 pm
Albuquerque JCC

The first half of the program will be solo pieces, and the second half will include duets for soprano and baritone as well as piano for four hands.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Atom Eve

Fundraiser for Jewish Academy of Arts and Sciences: New Mexico’s only Jewish day school plans to introduce and celebrate its new name and growth plans at its annual fundraiser, beginning at 7:30 pm Saturday, May 4 at the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History, 601 Eubank Blvd SE. The event is open to the entire community.

Atom Eve ~ Fundraiser
Jewish Academy of Arts & Sciences
Saturday May 4 ~ 7:30 pm
National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

Solomon Schechter Day School of Albuquerque, which serves Jewish children from kindergarten through fifth grade, will officially become the

Jewish Academy of Arts and Sciences

Head of School Steve Barberio said the 17-year-old school  needed a name that better reflected the diverse Jewish community the school has served. 

“We want the name to say exactly who we are and what we do,” he said. “The new name also reflects our commitment to high  academic standards and a comprehensive Jewish education for  our students.”

Barberio, who has a long history of managing programs in arts and education and moved to Albuquerque last year to oversee the school, said he is excited about the school’s recent undertakings and eager to share them with the community.  

“We hope people will enjoy  themselves, contribute to the school, and become advocates for the Jewish Academy,” he said.

Thanks to its scientific locale, this year’s fundraiser is being billed as “Atom Eve” and aims to raise scholarship funds for its students. 

Guests will be treated to party appetizers and drinks, guided museum tours and a short Havdalah service beginning at  8:30 p.m.  (Havdalah is a Jewish ritual marking the symbolic end of the Sabbath.)

Tickets are $36 per person and can be purchased at the door, at the school’s website at www.ssdsabq.org or by calling (505) 232-2325.

Corporate and/or individual sponsors interested in making a tax-deductible charitable contribution should call Randi Bressler at (505) 348-4442.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Blog Be'Omer

Counting Up, Counting Down: Are you still counting the Omer? Abq Jew isn't (at least, not with the blessing), but many Jews throughout the world are continuing to count.

What are we counting? Why are we counting? Why isn't Abq Jew counting? One of Abq Jew's most favorite websites - the Homer Calendar - explains:
On the second day of Passover in ancient times, our ancestors brought the first sheaf of barley (amounting to a measure called "an omer") reaped that season as an offering to God.
From that day, they began counting the 49 days to Shavuot, when they would celebrate the beginning of the wheat harvest by offering the loaves made of the first wheat. Even after the Temple was destroyed and offerings were no longer brought, they continued to count the days from Passover to Shavuot in accordance with the biblical injunction.

In this way our ancestors linked Passover and Shavuot as occasions for thanking God for the fruits of the field. We, too, thank God for the renewal of life which nature proclaims at this season.

However, as Passover and Shavuot acquired historical significance, their linkage through the counting of the intervening days took on new meaning. Passover celebrates the liberation from Egypt, and Shavuot celebrates the receiving of Torah at Sinai. By counting the omer, we symbolically connect liberation with the idea of Torah.
That seems clear enough. And you'd think it would be a simple thing, starting on Pesach and counting up the days of the Omer while at the same time counting down the days until we receive the Torah - on Shavuot.

But it's not so simple. People are people, and people sometimes forget. Then what happens? The Homer Calendar explains:

Each evening, while standing, one first recites the blessing for the mitzvah of counting, and then declares the number of days and weeks of the omer count.
Traditionally, if one forgets to count at night (D'oh!), the count may be made the next day without a blessing. One then resumes the regular count that evening.
If, however, one skips an entire day, then Orthodox practice is to continue counting until Shavuot, without the blessing (but see this).
Did you see this? Abq Jew suggests you follow the link - to Forgetting to Count the Omer, an essay by Rav Doniel Schreiber. Here we learn that nothing - nothing - in Judaism is as simple as 1, 2, 3.

For centuries, Jews have thought up ways to keep the Omer count going. The Homer Calendar is one way. Charities send out Omer Calendars each year, with, of course, the suggestion that a donation would be nice.

These days - there are apps for that, like Sefira Reminders Lite. And Omer Alert Services, like MyZmainim.com.

But the 49 days of Counting the Omer are also a time of spiritual introspection and renewal. And for that - there are blogs.


One of the best Omer blogs (who knew there'd be such a category?) is Blog Be'omer.

Blog Be'omer is written by Rabbi Adam J Rosenbaum, who happens to be the former rabbi of  Abq Jew's former Temple Beth Shalom in Livingston, New Jersey. But these days, Rabbi Adam is
Rabbi of Synagogue Emanu-El, the Conservative, egalitarian synagogue of Charleston, SC. Husband, father of three, teacher and baseball enthusiast.
Each night during Sefira, Rabbi Adam posts a short Dvar Torah - along with the correct count and the appropriate blessing. Here is Rabbi Adam's post for Day 25:
Day 25: Halfway home

It’s always tough to be in the middle, to feel that we are in the midst of an unresolved journey. And after the week that was, a lack of resolution is most unwelcome. As residents of Boston and its surrounding towns know well, uncertainty may feel like the scariest thing of all.

One of my favorite quotes was said by Rabbi Tarfon in the Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers): It is not for you to finish the task, nor are you free to abstain from it. As we reach the mid-point in our counting of the Omer, we are reminded that mid-points are not always welcome or comforting, but they are very much part of our human reality, and the fact that we have the power to start and continue that which is most important to us is something we can learn to value.

Another excellent Omer blog is simply called Counting the Omer. Counting the Omer is written by Albuquerque's own Rabbi Min Kantrowitz, and is based upon her recent book of the same title:
Counting the Omer is a Kabbalistic meditation guide to understand the in-depth meanings of each of the forty-nine days between Pesach (Passover) and the Shavuot celebration of the revealing of the Torah.
Rabbi Kantrowitz follows Kabbalistic guidelines to show how the unique values of the sephirot interact each day, giving the reader insight into the strengths of the day. Through this guide the reader is led to meditate on the mystical qualities of life and self.
Each night during Sefira, Rabbi Min posts a short Dvar Torah / meditation. Here is Rabbi Min's 's post for Day 16:
Day 16: Gevurah she b’Tiferet
Discernment within Harmony
Discernment in Gevurah is based on knowing the underlying structures and disciplines upon which to make good judgments. The term ‘halacha’, Jewish law, comes from the Hebrew root “h”"l”"ch” which refers to walking, or ‘the way’. Halacha is the structure which guides decisions and allows people to live together in harmony.

In Navajo tradition, harmony is the natural, balanced state of the world. If a person is ill or if there is trouble in the community, something is assumed to be out of balance. A structured ritual ceremony known as the Blessing Way is performed to restore harmony. Gevurah provides the order that facilitates the return to the natural order of balance, harmony and beauty.

We focus today on the importance of regular practice, of developing structure in our lives which contributes to enjoying a balanced life.

The first 32 days of the Counting of the Omer are traditionally a period of semi- mourning. Which is to say - we don't get haircuts or married.

Rabbi Adam explains (Day 23) the reason why:
They say that, during the 2nd century CE, the great sage Rabbi Akiva taught numerous disciples in defiance of Roman laws forbidding Jewish learning. But the Babylonian Talmud (Yevamot 62b) says that included among these disciples were 12,000 pairs of students — 24,000 students in all — who had not yet learned to respect one another and each other’s opinions. So, during the course of the Omer, these students died in a plague.
The plague lifted on Day 33 - Lag (ל״ג) Be'Omer, which is celebrated (this Sunday!) as a day of festivity throughout the Jewish world. Even in Albuquerque!

And even in Santa Fe!

It's only Thursday, but
Shabbat Shalom, Albuquerque!
Good Shabbos, New Mexico!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Spring & Summer 2013 @ OASIS Abq

Great Courses @ OASIS:  You know about OASIS, right?  Abq Jew has featured OASIS Albuquerque on several occasions, and lists OASIS Abq courses of Jewish interest on his Learn/FiftyPlus page.

OASIS (as stated on the organization's website) is

 ... a unique educational program for adults age 50-plus who want to learn, grow and explore new ideas. We promote successful aging through lifelong learning, health programs and volunteer engagement. OASIS Albuquerque has just announced their Spring / Summer 2013 line-up of classes.

Registration opened on May 1

As usual, Executive Director Michael Nutkiewicz has made sure there are plenty of courses of Jewish interest.  This session's courses and instructors include:

Hoover vs Roosevelt: The Presidential Election of 1932
Mon 20 May 2013 @ 10:30 am - #28
Instructor:  Noel Pugach
What It Is:  In the midst of the Great Depression, American voters went to the polls to select a president. They had to choose between the incumbent Republican Herbert Hoover and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the popular governor of New York State. FDR won in a virtual landslide. Why did the electorate choose FDR over Hoover? How did the Depression affect the vote? We will explore these and other aspects of this significant election.

Pioneer Jews in Mora County
Mon 03 June 2013 @ 10:30 am - #83
Instructor:  Noel Pugach
What It Is:  In the middle of the 19th century, German Jewish immigrants settled in various parts of the recently acquired territory of New Mexico. What brought them? How did they deal with this unfamiliar environment? What role did they play in in the territory's economy and society? We will focus on Mora County where Jewish merchants maintained a continuous presence for almost one hundred years.

Some of My Favorite Poets Are Israeli
Wed 12 June 2013 @ 10:30 am - #43
Instructor:  Paul J Citrin
What It Is:  This sampler course is a doorway to experience--in English translation--poetry which reflects Israel's character as a society: its struggles, joys, challenges, and dreams. While the poems reflect personal concerns of the poets, they will also help us understand the political and social context of Israeli life.

Elijah: Jewish Prophet, Christian Saint, Muslim Guide
Thu 20 June 2013 @ 10:30 am - #67
Instructor:  Christopher Zugger
What It Is:  Elijah is an important Hebrew prophet. But he is also the spiritual founder of the Carmelite Order of the Catholic Church, a mystical guide for Muslims, a popular saint for Arab Christians, and the announcer to Eastern Christians of the coming of Jesus. How did Elijah evolve into so many figures? Can such different people of faith find any unity in this man of the desert?

Christians, Jews, & Pagans in the Second Century
Wed 10 July 2013 @ 10:30 am - #34
Instructor:  Warren Smith
What It Is:  Christian, Jewish, and pagan authors around 200 CE sought ways to win the debate against their opponents. Christian apologists (Minucius Felix, Justin Martyr) downplayed Jesus' crucifixion (too negative) and stressed the mainstream morality and patriotism of Christians. Jewish apologists (Josephus) showed Judaism as having the respectability of age and argued that Greek philosophers learned from the Mosaic law. We will consider these as well as pagan authors.

Between the Testaments: From BCE to CE
Mon 29 July 2013 @ 10:30 am - #69
Instructor:  Frank Yates
What It Is:  This presentation will explore the fascinating developments, personalities, and ideologies current among the Jewish people from the Maccabees (166 BCE) to the destruction of the Second Temple (70 CE). The literature of the period will be touched upon, especially the writings that eventually came to be called the Pseudepigrapha and Apocrypha. Further lectures will deal more specifically with these particular writings.

Hallelujah: The Life and Times of Leonard Cohen
Wed 07 August 2013 @ 1:00 pm - #57
Instructor:  Jane Ellen
What It Is:  Singer, songwriter, musician, poet, novelist--there seems to be no limit to the talents of Canadian Leonard Cohen. A man of remarkable complexities and seeming contradictions (he is a devout Jew and an ordained Buddhist monk, for example), his work is intelligent and evocative, and it explores all the definitive issues of human life. With a recording career approaching five decades, his newest album, "Old Ideas", was released in 2012.

Far from Fiddler on the Roof: The Religious Thought of Hasidism
Tue 20 August 2013 @ 10:30 am - #72
Instructor:  Michael Nutkiewicz
What It Is:  Eastern European Jewry before the Holocaust is often romanticized as folksy, pious, and powerless. The 18th century, however, saw the rise of Hasidism - a religious movement that swept the imagination of a large segment of Jewish society. Initially branded as heretical by rabbinic authorities, it was finally accepted as part of Judaism. Hasidism, however, offered a unique approach that blended traditional Jewish concepts, mysticism, and psychology. This fascinating movement still exists.

Then be sure to attend -

Monday, April 22, 2013

Goldilocks & The Jews

Hello? Exoplanets? Is Anyone There? The New York Times has published an Earth Day Pop Quiz, which it introduces with:
It makes sense that NASA, the people behind the Kepler mission to find potentially habitable planets, would pay attention to Earth Day (April 22). This year, scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab at the California Institute of Technology put together questions on exoplanets — planets beyond our solar system — and what makes Earth so remarkable.
Also, Ben R. Oppenheimer, chairman of the Department of Astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History, addresses the odds of finding planets like Earth in questions 11 to 14. Are there natural environments like ours? How many might there be? For more information on exoplanets, visit NASA’s PlanetQuest Web site.
First - you must be wondering how Goldilocks got into this discussion. The answer to Question 1 therefore tells us:
A Goldilocks planet falls within a star’s habitable zone and is neither too close nor too far from a star to rule out liquid water on its surface, and thus life. Earth is a Goldilocks planet.
The answer to Question 11 tells us:
Our sun is one of about 200 billion stars in the Milky Way, but it is not typical. In fact, only about 5 percent of stars are similar in mass and luminosity to the sun. There are 10 billion stars in the galaxy similar to our sun.
Question 12 teaches us that:
The maximum number of Earth-size planets orbiting sunlike stars in the galaxy is 2.3 billion.
And them, with further math and a few conservative assumptions, we learn that - of the 150 stars similar to the sun within 70 light-years of our solar system - we could expect 3 or 4 of them to host an Earth-like planet. And yet -

They don't call, they don't write, they don't visit.

This is also what Ross Douthat talks about in his column, Worlds Away From Here. Douthat points out that
we discovered another world last week. Two, actually — both somewhat larger than Earth, circling a star with the sadly unromantic name of Kepler 62, 1,200 light-years away.
These planets are not the first Earth-like bodies astronomers have discovered, but their size and position make them particularly promising candidates to have liquid water — and with it, perhaps, some form of life.

But their promise only adds to a mystery that’s been building the further our probes and telescopes have pushed into the unknown. If Earth-like planets are relatively common, as scientists increasingly believe, then
Where are all the Earth-like civilizations?
Douthat continues:
This mystery is known as the Fermi paradox, after the physicist Enrico Fermi, who raised it at lunch with fellow scientists in 1950. He pointed out that our Sun is a relatively young star, and billions of other suns are billions of years older. If even a tiny fraction of those suns have planets like ours, and even a tiny fraction of those planets developed life, and even a tiny fraction of those life forms achieved human-level intelligence ... well, the number of civilizations capable of interstellar communication and travel should be theoretically large enough to crowd our galaxy with signals, ships, artifacts.

In which case, Fermi asked,
Where is everybody?

If you look up Fermi paradox in Wikipedia, you'll see that the suite of possible explanations runs to just over 10,000 words. (Douthat counted; Abq Jew didn't.)  The article begins:
The Fermi paradox (or Fermi's paradox) is the apparent contradiction between high estimates of the probability of the existence of extraterrestrial civilization and humanity's lack of contact with, or evidence for, such civilizations. The basic points of the argument, made by physicists Enrico Fermi and Michael H. Hart, are:
  • The Sun is a young star. There are billions of stars in the galaxy that are billions of years older; 
  • Some of these stars likely have Earth-like planets[2] which, if the Earth is typical, may develop intelligent life; 
  • Presumably some of these civilizations will develop interstellar travel, a technology Earth is investigating even now; 
  • At any practical pace of interstellar travel, the galaxy can be completely colonized in a few tens of millions of years.
According to this line of thinking, the Earth should have already been colonized, or at least visited. But no convincing evidence of this exists. Furthermore, no confirmed signs of intelligence elsewhere have been spotted, either in our galaxy or the more than 80 billion other galaxies of the observable universe. Hence Fermi's question:
Where is everybody?

And what, Abq Jew hears you ask, does this have to do with us Jews? For one answer, let's turn to the Virtual Beit Midrash. In a shiur (lesson) on Parshat Bereishit, Rav David Silverberg notes:
The Midrash in Bereishit Rabba (3:7; 9:2) cites the comment of Rabbi Avahu that the Almighty created numerous universes prior to the creation of the world we know. Each time He created a universe, He destroyed it. The Midrash explains that Rabbi Avahu extracted this theory from the verse in Parashat Bereishit (1:31), which tells that after creation, "God saw all that He made, and behold, it was very good." The word "ve-hinei" ("and behold") suggests a novelty of some sort, that this creation, as opposed to God's previous "attempts," was "very good."
Wait a minute! Abq Jew hears you cry. Does this mean that the Holy One Blessed Be He had to go through some trials and errors before He got it right? (Trials we can accept, Abq Jew claims. But errors? One world was too hot; one world was too cold; but our Goldilocks Earth was just right?

It turns out that this ... possibility ... also bothered Rabbi Joseph B Soloveitchik zt"l, aka The Rav. As we read in last week's double parsha,

You shall be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.

In other words - we are to imitate God. And how can we possibly even attempt to do that? Hama bar Hanina, interpreting the verse "After the Lord your God you shall walk" (Deuteronomy 13: 5), teaches us:
Just as God clothes the naked, so you shall clothe the naked. Just as God visits the sick, so you shall visit the sick. Just as God comforts the bereaved, so you shall comfort the bereaved. Just as He buries the dead, so you shall bury the dead."
Rav Silverberg continues:
A famous concept in Judaism teaches that to whatever extent possible, we must follow God's lead and imitate His conduct. The Torah and Chazal depict for us God's "conduct" in anthropomorphic terms so that we can behave in our lives in a manner similar to His behavior.
In his famous essay, "The Lonely Man of Faith," Rav Soloveitchik develops the idea that this obligation to imitate God extends to God's capacity to create, as well. We are to build, create and produce in the world, just as the Almighty Himself built and created and produced the universe.
The Rav claimed that this is what is meant by the concept of "tzelem Elokim," that man is created in the "image of God" (see Bereishit 1:26-27). Man resembles God in that he, too, is endowed with this creative power. The obligation to follow God's lead thus includes the responsibility to build and develop.

This would then explain why, as the Midrash records, God built and destroyed several worlds before creating the world we know ... God taught us a critical lesson about the art of building: sometimes, we make mistakes and must start again.
Well before the universe was created, God saw to it that mankind would not become discouraged after failure. It goes without saying that God could have "gotten it right" the first time around. But He wished for us to learn that in the process of building and growing, we will often encounter setbacks that mustn't deter us from pursuing our goals.
As we go through life, we will all make mistakes – some bigger and more consequential than others. When we commit these mistakes, we must have the courage to "destroy the worlds," to change course and start anew, to try again, to continue building.
This is the message of the universes that were created and destroyed, of the worlds that God created to show us the importance of moving forward even after suffering a setback.
So, where are we now?
  • We've got worlds out there that don't call, don't write, don't visit. 
  • We've got one Goldilocks Earth right here that God expended a good deal of time and effort to create. 
  • And we have the Jewish principle that we should be more like God.

 In a statement about Environmental Ethics in Judaism, the New South Wales Board of Jewish Education (Abq Jew loves the Internet!) states:
From Bereshit (Genesis 1:28), the first chapter in the Torah, we see that God wants human beings to both use the natural world for their needs but at the same time to preserve the world and prevent its destruction. We need to work out how to achieve both. Destroying anything in the world needlessly is called ‘Bal tashchit’in Hebrew and Jews are commanded “not to cause any damage or loss”.

Any use of the natural world or its resources that satisfies a legitimate human need is not considered destructive. A monetary benefit is considered a human need. This was agreed to and codified as law by Maimonides. Also, when the environment would be harmed without destruction taking place, it becomes legitimate. If when performing a mitzvah destruction occurs, it is considered legitimate. Two examples of this are the tearing of one’s shirt as a sign of mourning, and the burning of chametz before Passover.

Judaism has a heightened sensitivity to the environment, reflected by the Torah, and the Rabbis and their later rulings. Judaism created specific laws that are more sophisticated than most of the environmental laws that exist today.

The laws of shemitta, where the land must lie fallow every seven years, are to preserve the earth and make it more fertile. It is dictated that there must remain distance between city and rural areas to create a healthy ecological balance. Garbage must not pollute public property. Maimonides states that damage causing air pollution through smoke, dust, and noxious smells is not permitted even if no one protests. Water must not cause damage or pollution. Noise cannot create a hazard to the human environment.

The Midrash states that once the world is destroyed, the damage is irreparable. It is our ethical responsibility to prevent this happening.

Happy Earth Day!

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Baal Shem Tov in Santa Fe

A Few Things To Do On Sunday:  Planning to sleep all day Shabbos to recover from The Klezmatics @ The KiMo? Or planning to attend shul In Honor of the JFKs? Whatever you think your plans are - the New Mexico Jewish community has even better plans for you.

Starting with the Baal Shem Tov, who will be speaking Sunday at Temple Beth Shalom in Santa Fe. (If we can see Elijah in Albuquerque, why not ... ?) Oh ....

The New Mexico Jewish Historical Society invites you to join psychologist Dr Karen Milstein as she explores What’s in a Name: the Baal Shem from the Shtetl to New Mexico.

What's in a Name
The Baal Shem
from the Shtetl to New Mexico

Dr Karen Milstein
Sunday April  21 ~  2:00 pm
Temple Beth Shalom, Santa Fe

The Baal Shem was a name given to healers in the shtetl, and the Baal Shem Tov became the most famous, as well as being the founder of Hasidism. She will talk about the name/title and how it was used in the Jewish community.

Dr Milstein’s grandfather’s family name was Baal Shem before migrating to the Americas and settling in Montreal. Dr Milstein eventually settled in New Mexico and has continued that tradition of healing.

We have access to a recent documentary on the life of the Baal Shem Tov that could be scheduled in relation to this talk if appropriate.


Other events on Sunday include, but are by no means limited to:


All righty, then ... let's close out the week with Chava Alberstein & Bethany Yarrow & The Klezmatics!

Shabbat Shalom, Albuquerque!
Good Shabbos, New Mexico!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Klezmatics @ The KiMo!

One Night Only:  Since their emergence more than 25 years ago, the Klezmatics have raised the bar for Eastern European Jewish music, made aesthetically, politically and musically interesting recordings, inspired future generations, created a large body of work that is enduring, and helped to change the face of contemporary Yiddish culture.

AMP Concerts and Abq Jew are pleased to announce that the Klezmatics will be performing this Friday in Albuquerque!

The Klezmatics
The KiMo Theatre
Friday April 19
8:00 pm

Please join us for a pre-concert Shabbat ceremony at 7:30 pm. 

Hosted by cantorial soloist Beth Cohen of Congregation Nahalat Shalom.

Often called a “Jewish roots band,” the Klezmatics have led a popular revival of this ages-old, nearly forgotten art form.

"The Klezmatics aren’t just the best band in the klezmer vanguard; on a good night, they can rank among the greatest bands on the planet." (Time Out New York)

Tickets:  $25 / $30 / $35. Available at the KiMo Ticket Office and from Hold My Ticket.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Opening A Doorway

After JFSNM:  As Abq Jew first reported in late January (JFSNM Closes Its Doors), the Jewish Family Service of New Mexico ceased operations as of Friday, February 1, 2013.

But things are starting to look up, if just a bit. The Jewish Federation of New Mexico - on its website and in The New Mexico Jewish Link - has announced
New Programs Created to Meet Our Community’s Social Service Needs

Following the closure of Jewish Family Service of New Mexico, the Jewish Federation of New Mexico has been working with its partner agencies to meet the social services needs of our most vulnerable Jewish community members.

"What guides our Federation is 'Kol Yisrael arevim zeh la-zeh', meaning that all Jews are responsible for one another," says JFNM President Linda Friedman. "We take this mandate seriously, and direct our efforts toward it."
As a result, two new initiatives have been created:
The Holocaust Survivors Support Program 
To provide Holocaust survivors in the Albuquerque metropolitan area with a caring support system, on March 25th the Holocaust Survivors Support Program was launched under the auspices of The Holocaust & Intolerance Museum of New Mexico, with funding provided by the Jewish Federation of New Mexico.

The purpose of the Holocaust Survivors Support Program is to provide a dedicated case worker for the estimated thirty Holocaust survivors in the Albuquerque metropolitan area in order to enhance their quality of life.

As part of the Holocaust Survivor's Support Program, caseworker Susan Minkus, who has extensive experience with the survivor population, will meet ongoing clients needs by providing emotional support; conducting needs assessments including ensuring that client medical, prescription and nutritional needs are being met; coordinating housekeeping services and staffing a quarterly socialization event.

Minkus is contracted to work ten hours a week, housed at the Jewish Federation of New Mexico offices. A  Survivors Support Program Task Force comprised of community representatives will be convened in April to help guide the program.

"We are enormously grateful to the Holocaust & Intolerance Museum of New Mexico leadership for having the vision and deep commitment to our survivors to administer this important program," says JFNM executive Director Sam Sokolove.

Holocaust survivors in need of Support Program assistance may contact Susan Minkus at (505) 217-4212.
The Jewish Care Program of Albuquerque

To provide Jewish community members at all stages of life, in crisis, transition or in physical/emotional distress with one-on-one counseling and advocacy, the Jewish Care Program of Albuquerque, a program administered by the Jewish Community Center of Albuquerque, with funding provided by the Jewish Federation of New Mexico, will be launched May 1st.

The Jewish Care Program caseworker, an employee of the Jewish Community Center, will be hired to provide ongoing case management services to clients; provide advocacy services, including interceding on behalf of clients to gain access to needed services and supports; refer clients to additional services and consult with Jewish clergy and congregational staff for client referrals. The caseworker will work twenty hours a week, and will also be housed at the Jewish Federation of New Mexico offices.

Says Dave Simon, the JCC's Executive Director, "The JCC is committed to doing our part to help community members in times of need. We're confident that the Jewish Care Program will offer a service that will enrich our mission, and promote the healthfulness of mind, body and spirit that's at the core of all JCC offerings."

In Santa Fe, the JFNM Board approved funding to allow Miryam Levy to perform her Jewish Chaplaincy duties under the auspices of CHRISTUS St. Vincent Regional Medical.

"I am so pleased that, between the Jewish Federation and CHRISTUS St. Vincent Regional Medical Center, we will be able to offer these most critical chaplaincy services to our patients and families," says Dr. Dennis P. Gonzales, Christus Vice President, Mission & Spirituality.

In the coming weeks, the JFNM will assess the progress of these initiatives with their partnering agencies, and make modifications as needed.

Community members interested in supporting these initiatives may contact the Jewish Federation of New Mexico office at (505) 821-3214.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

From Mordechai to Mordechai

The Beginning of Modern Jewish History: Seventy years ago, modern Jewish history began when the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto rose up to combat their tormentors.

 Yes, Abq Jew is aware that this statement oversimplifies and overlooks. The website of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum tells us:
Between 1941 and 1943, underground resistance movements developed in approximately 100 ghettos in Nazi-occupied eastern Europe (about one-fourth of all ghettos), especially in Poland, Lithuania, Belorussia, and the Ukraine. Their main goals were to organize uprisings, break out of the ghettos, and join partisan units in the fight against the Germans.
Jews fought back, both spiritually and physically. Jews fought back, in camps and in ghettos. Nevertheless:
The Warsaw ghetto uprising in the spring of 1943 was the largest single revolt by Jews. Hundreds of Jews fought the Germans and their auxiliaries in the streets of the ghetto. Thousands of Jews refused to obey German orders to report to an assembly point for deportation. In the end the Nazis burned the ghetto to the ground to force the Jews out. Although they knew defeat was certain, Jews in the ghetto fought desperately and valiantly. 

Since the 12 century, there has been a saying: 

From Moses to Moses, there was none like Moses.

Which is to say: from Moshe Rabbenu until Maimonides (Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon), there was none like Moshe.

Abq Jew would like to propose a new saying:

From Mordechai to Mordechai,
there was none like Mordechai.

Which is to say: from Mordechai the Jew in Shushan the Capital until Mordechai Anielewicz the Jew in Warsaw the Capital, there was none like Mordechai.

Mordechai Anielewicz (1919 – 8 May 1943) was the leader of Żydowska Organizacja Bojowa (Jewish Combat Organization), also known as ŻOB, during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. 

Wikipedia further states:
Anielewicz was instrumental in the first act of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, preventing the majority of a second wave of Jews from being deported to extermination camps. This initial incident of armed resistance was a prelude to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising that commenced on 19 April.

Though there were no surviving eyewitnesses, it is assumed that he took his own life on 8 May 1943, along with his girlfriend and many of his staff, in a mass suicide at the surrounded ŻOB command post at 18 Miła Street. His body was never found and it is generally believed that it was carried off to nearby crematoria along with those of all the other Jewish dead; nevertheless, the inscription on the obelisk at the site of the Miła 18 bunker states that he is buried there.
 The Midrash tells us:

Mordechai, in his generation, was equal to Moshe in his.


Just a few kilometers south of Ashkelon (Abq Jew's former home in the Land of Israel), just north of the Gaza Strip, stands Kibbutz Yad Mordechai.

Monument to Mordechai Anielewicz at Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, by Nathan Rapoport

Yad Mordechai - named, of course, in honor of Mordechai Anielewicz - is often skipped over on Holy Land tours. In Jerusalem, tourists and worshipers visit Yad VaShem. In the north, they often visit Kibbutz Lochmei HaGetaot (Ghetto Fighters).

But Yad Mordechai holds a special place in Jewish and Israeli history - because of the bravery shown there during a few days in May 1948. Wikipedia tells us:
The Battle of Yad Mordechai was fought between Egypt and Israel in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, at the Israeli kibbutz of Yad Mordechai. The Egyptians attacked the communal village several times throughout May 19 and May 20, but failed to capture it.
A final attack was launched on May 23, in which the Egyptians succeeded in capturing part of Yad Mordechai, following which the Israeli defenders withdrew. Yad Mordechai finally fell to the Egyptians on May 24 after hours of bombardment of the vacated kibbutz.

The kibbutz residents, aided by twenty Haganah fighters, imposed a five-day delay on the Egyptians. This gave Israeli forces time to prepare for the Egyptians' northward advance, and they succeeded in halting the Egyptian advance at Ad Halom less than a week later.

In five years, the Jewish People moved from the Warsaw Ghetto to Yad Mordechai; from the doomed Uprising to the victorious War of Independence. In just five years.

The Forward reports (via Haaretz):
Polish President Bronisław Komorowski [last] week announced his sponsorship of events commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the Nazis’ destruction of Warsaw’s Great Synagogue.
מי ימלל גבורות ישׂראל

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Israel @ 65

And Forever: On Monday evening and Tuesday, Israelis and Jews all over the world will celebrate Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel Independence Day. This year marks the 65th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel. And celebrate we will!

But on Sunday evening and Monday, Israelis - but relatively few Jews all over the world - will observe Yom HaZikaron, Israel's Memorial Day. On Yom Hazikaron, we remember the fallen of the Israel Defense Forces, whose sacrifice has made this Yom HaAtzmaut and every Yom HaAtzmaut possible.

From the IDF:
Tonight, our eyes close as we remember every soldier who has fallen defending our country.
With heavy hearts, conscious of our responsibility, we IDF soldiers mourn those who came before us, those who gave their lives to protect ours.
We will never forget their sacrifice.
The IDF will continue to defend our nation ceaselessly - because it is the only nation we have.
For Jews around the world, Israel is not the only nation we have. And, Abq Jew wonders, perhaps this is why Yom Hazikaron is seldom observed Outside The Land.

But In The Land, the transition from Yom HaZikaron to Yom HaAtzmaut is among the most poignant in Israel's public life. As one, the entire country moves

from slavery to freedom
from despair to joy
from mourning to celebration
from darkness to great light

Santa Fe's first community-wide
celebration of Israel Independence Day
Temple Beth Shalom, Santa Fe
Sunday April 14 ~ 5:45 pm

Gesher II
Albuquerque's annual community-wide
celebration of Israel Independence Day
Albuquerque JCC
Tuesday April 16 ~ 5:30 pm

On Tuesday
Remember to Stop By 
Gourmet to Go

for Falafel!

Abq Jew warmly invites you to check out this new Yom HaAtzmaut hit - Hope (Tikva) by The Fountainheads!  Celebrate! Happy 65th Birthday, Israel!

The Fountainheads are a group of young Israeli dancers, singers, actors and artists, all graduates and students of the Ein Prat Academy for Leadership, who have have joined forces to create new Jewish artistic content for today's Jewish World. 

All members of the group have spent time living and studying at the Ein Prat Academy, working to create a new Israeli-Jewish identity and building a strong and diverse community that celebrates Jewish life.

The Fountainheads are planning their next
U.S. tour for late October.

Abq Jew
would like to bring them to New Mexico.
How about you?
Let Abq Jew know!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Nineteen and Twenty-Eight

Sun, Moon, and Planets: In 1900, a storm blew a boatload of sponge divers off course and forced them to take shelter by the tiny Mediterranean island of Antikythera.

Diving the next day, they discovered a 2,000 year-old Greek shipwreck. Among the ship's cargo they hauled up was an unimpressive green lump of corroded bronze.

The PBS website (Nova: Ancient Computer) tells us more about this bronze lump:
Rusted remnants of gear wheels could be seen on its surface, suggesting some kind of intricate mechanism. The first X-ray studies confirmed that idea, but how it worked and what it was for puzzled scientists for decades. 

Recently, hi-tech imaging has revealed the extraordinary truth: this unique clockwork machine was the world's first computer.

An array of 30 intricate bronze gear wheels, originally housed in a shoebox-size wooden case, was designed to predict the dates of lunar and solar eclipses, track the Moon's subtle motions through the sky, and calculate the dates of significant events such as the Olympic Games.

No device of comparable technological sophistication is known from anywhere in the world for at least another 1,000 years.
But that's only background. One of the statements during the broadcast was:

The Greeks knew that 19 solar years are
equal to 235 lunar months are equal to 6940 days.

 To which Abq Jew responded:

Of course they did! And so did the Jews!

Why is this important? Abq Jew hears you ask. Well, let Abq Jew explain. Even better - let's let the folks at Judaism 101 explain. There is nothing simple about Jewish time!

First of all, you should understand that
The Jewish calendar is based on three astronomical phenomena:
  1. the rotation of the Earth about its axis (a day); 
  2. the revolution of the moon about the Earth (a month); 
  3. and the revolution of the Earth about the sun (a year).
That's simple enough. But, of course, it get more complicated:
These three phenomena are independent of each other, so there is no direct correlation between them. On average,
  • the moon revolves around the Earth in about 29½ days. 
  • The Earth revolves around the sun in about 365¼ days, that is, about 12.4 lunar months.
When we Earthlings decide to build a calendar, the length of one Earth day gives us our basic measurement. But then - we Jews have got choices!
  • We could build a completely solar calendar (like the Christians) that would keep holidays in their correct seasons. But we Jews have been commanded to really care about months. The year would be 365¼ days long. But how could we be sure to celebrate a holiday on the right day of the month?
  • We could build a completely lunar calendar (like the Moslems) that would keep months steady. But 12 months x  29½ days = 354 days. That's about 11 days shorter than a completely solar calendar.  The holidays would drift backward 11 days every year. Pesach could be any time of the year - and we Jews know that Pesach must be in the spring.
What would be the most difficult way to build a calendar? (We Jews are always up for a challenge.) How about if we built a calendar that keeps the months more or less steady AND keeps the holidays in their correct seasons? Wouldn't that be cool? Judaism 101 explains:
To compensate for this [11-day] drift, the Jewish calendar uses a 12-month lunar calendar with an extra month occasionally added. The month of Nissan occurs 11 days earlier each year for two or three years, and then jumps forward 30 days, balancing out the drift.
In ancient times, this month was added by observation: the Sanhedrin observed the conditions of the weather, the crops and the livestock, and if these were not sufficiently advanced to be considered "spring," then the Sanhedrin inserted an additional month into the calendar to make sure that Pesach (Passover) would occur in the spring (it is, after all, referred to in the Torah as Chag he-Aviv, the Festival of Spring!).
So what's with this "observation" thing? Abq Jew hears you ask. We don't do that now, do we? We ain't got no Sanhedrin, so how do we set the calendar? Funny you should ask. Judaism 101 explains:
In the fourth century, Hillel II established a fixed calendar based on mathematical and astronomical calculations. This calendar, still in use, standardized the length of months and the addition of months over the course of a 19 year cycle, so that the lunar calendar realigns with the solar years. Adar I is added in the 3rd, 6th, 8th, 11th, 14th, 17th and 19th years of the cycle. The current cycle began in Jewish year 5758 (the year that began October 2, 1997).
In other words:

The Jewish calendar operates on a 19 year cycle.

FYI - there are (like you're suprised?) a few other calendar rules that we Jews have to observe:
Yom Kippur should not fall adjacent to Shabbat, because this would cause difficulties in coordinating the fast with Shabbat, and Hoshanah Rabbah should not fall on Saturday because it would interfere with the holiday's observances. A day is added to the month of Cheshvan or subtracted from the month of Kislev of the previous year to prevent these things from happening. This process is sometimes referred to as "fixing" Rosh Hashanah.
But wait! There's more!

The Jewish calendar also operates on a 28 year cycle.

That's because every 28 years the sun is in the exact position in the sky as it was when it was created, on the exact same day of the week, at the exact same time of the day. Right place, right time.

The Torah tells us:
G-d made the two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night . . . And it was evening and it was morning, a fourth day.
                                                                            -Genesis 1:14, 19
And the Talmud explains:
One who sees the sun at its turning point [tekufat Nissan] should say, "Blessed is He who reenacts the works of Creation." And when is this? Abaya said: every 28th year.
                                                -Berachot 59b, Babylonian Talmud
Wait a minute! Abq Jew hears you cry. How did we get out to 28 years? Oy. Let's let Judaism 101 explain:
The Torah teaches us that the sun was created on the fourth day (Tuesday night / Wednesday day), and tradition teaches that it was created at the tekufat Nissan (the beginning of Spring; another tradition says the world was created on Rosh Hashanah).
In fact, there is a special blessing (Birkat HaChamah) that is recited once every 28 years, to commemorate the work of Creation and acknowledge G-d as the Creator of all things. ArtScroll has even published (in 1980) a 160-page book about this one-line blessing.
For this reason, we remember the work of Creation by reciting this blessing upon seeing the sun fully risen on the morning after a tekufat Nissan that occurs at the beginning of the fourth day of the week (that is, at 6 pm on a Tuesday), which occurs only once every 28 years.
But, if you are thinking Aha! At last I understand! - let Abq Jew (or, more correctly, Judaism 101) disabuse you of that notion:
Because this blessing is fundamentally related to the sun, its date is calculated using a solar calendar, rather than the usual Jewish lunisolar calendar. The Jewish solar calendar, like the ancient Julian calendar, assumes that the solar year is exactly 365¼ days. This calendar was established by the Talmudic sage Samuel and recorded in the Babylonian Talmud, Eruvin 56a.
The rabbis of ancient times were well aware that this calculation was not entirely accurate - indeed, Rav Ada in Talmudic times developed a somewhat more accurate calendar - but the rabbis opted for simplicity over astronomical precision so the mitzvah could be understood and observed even by the mathematically challenged. In addition, if a truly accurate calendar were used, tekufat Nissan would never occur at precisely the beginning of the fourth day of the week, eliminating this observance altogether!
Nevertheless, the discrepancies have already become quite significant over time. Birkat Hachamah was recited on March 25 of the Julian calendar (which was the equinox about 2400 years ago), but it is currently recited on April 8 of the more precise modern Gregorian calendar, about 18 days after the equinox. 
Oh - one more thing, as Peter Falk's Columbo used to say. One might think that Birkat HaChamah should be recited precisely at tekufat Nissan - on Tuesday evening. But since we can't see the sun at night, the rabbis ordained that Birkat HaChamah be recited on the following Wednesday morning - if and only if we can see the sun through the clouds (not a problem in New Mexico).

Abq Jew has been blessed with the opportunity to recite Birkat HaChamah in 1981 and 2009. The next time Birkat HaChamah will be (G-d willing) recited  is

Wednesday April 8, 2037

To make sure you don't miss this (if one is fortunate) thrice in a lifetime event, Abq Jew has thoughtfully provided a Countdown to the Sun Blessing on his Calendar page. Don't get excited - there about 8,762 days to go.

And Abq Jew brings all of this up because

Today is the 2nd Day of Rosh Hodesh Iyar
and the 1st Day of the Month of Iyar.

Go figure! Anyway, you can learn more about the Antikythera device here.

But if you've just about had enough of this - chill out! Here is Tony Bennett singing - what else? -  Fly Me to the Moon:

It's only Thursday, but
Shabbat Shalom, Albuquerque!
Good Shabbos, New Mexico!