Friday, November 29, 2013

Arik Einstein, Musician, Dies at 74

The Soundtrack of Israeli Life: The Times of Israel sadly and emotionally reports:
Arik Einstein, a musician who transcended cultures to inspire and console a nation 
The singer with the aching baritone, who died Tuesday at 74, sang for children and for optimists, for the elderly and the pained… for all of Israel
When an icon as beloved and talented as Arik Einstein dies suddenly, the reactions are strong, emotional and raw. 
Einstein, 74, suffered a severe aortic aneurysm at his home late Tuesday night and was declared dead at Sourasky Medical Center, referred to as Ichilov hospital, in Tel Aviv, soon afterwards. He was laid to rest on Wednesday afternoon at Tel Aviv’s Trumpeldor cemetery. 
Considered the father of Israeli rock, the musician who moved the country from its early folk standards to a moderately harder-hitting rock ethos, he symbolized the spirit of the State of Israel. 
He was not just a musician but a musical icon who accompanied, and inspired, the country and its people through its ongoing history and, along the way, managed to resonate with every type of Israeli.
Abq Jew first learned of Arik Einstein's passing during a middle-of-the-night perusal of Facebook very early Wednesday morning.

The news hit Abq Jew hard. First, as the death of a one-time musical idol (especially when Abq Jew was a young engineering student at the Technion); second, as the realization that 74 is not that far away.

And third, as clear notification that 'here today, gone tomorrow' is not just a saying.

The Jerusalem Post reported that 'Israeli leaders issued statements of shock at Einstein’s sudden death.'
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu expressed sorrow on behalf of the whole nation, calling his songs “the soundtrack of the country.” 
“Arik was the greatest of them all,” Netanyahu said. “We all grew up on his songs. You said, ‘Arik Einstein,’ and you said, ‘the Land of Israel.’ He was a wonderful singer and a wonderful person.” 
President Shimon Peres said Einstein’s “musical notes will continue to fill the country, even after his passing.” 
“He equally excited our first generations and young generations,” Peres said. “He wrote his songs during our difficult days and during our uplifting moments. I loved his songs, and knew what many others know: there was no one else like him.” 
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog said Einstein was “one of the greatest artists in the history of the State of Israel.” 
“Arik will remain in our hearts and in the heart of the nation,” said Herzog. “His songs accompanied us in our moments of greatest joy and sorrow.”

And as Chemi Shalev of The Jewish Daily Forward reported: A part of Israel passed away on Tuesday night.
Arik Einstein, Voice of Good Old Israel, Dies at 74 
He Was Our Elvis, Sinatra and Springsteen — All at Once
A part of Israel passed away on Tuesday night. A slice of its soul has departed. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis, possibly millions, have lost a close personal friend, an intimate lifelong companion. A voice of Israel – the voice of Israel, for many – will sing no more. 
His name is Arik Einstein, and he died on Tuesday night at the age of 74. He may not have been very well known outside of Israel, but he was, in many ways, the most adored of Israeli singers, the most admired, the most iconic. He was our Frank Sinatra, our Elvis Presley, our Bruce Springsteen all rolled into one.
In fond memory of Arik Einstein, Abq Jew offers videos of two of Arik Einstein's best-known songs.

אני ואתה   Ani ve'Atah

You and I, we'll change the world!

מה  איתי   Mah Iti

What's with me? I'm not getting along with myself ...

Finally, we hear (via the Times of Israel) from Boaz Cohen, a well-known disc jockey at 88 FM and Kol Yisrael.
Boaz Cohen ... listed his planned roster of three hours of Arik Einstein songs for Wednesday morning on his Facebook page, and then wrote that he had one request, and perhaps he said it best: 
“Please, please, don’t made a tribute to Arik Einstein, on the 30th year of his death, with bad and mediocre singers… who can sing and catch a ride on Einstein’s death… He was a man who symbolized more than the land of Israel.. .and only wanted to be in his house, the same house where he was born and raised all his life, with his basketball and soccer… with tea and lemon and old books and records.” 
“He had 74 years on earth,” wrote Cohen. “Now you can honor the legacy left to us. Listen to his songs. Watch his movies. It’s the best way to honor him and as honestly as possible.”

My father, Richard W Yellin, of blessed memory, chose an already memorable day - November 29 - on which to pass on to the World to Come. 

Abq Jew has written on his father's yahrzeit - last week (Seven Score and TenFor the 19th of Kislev 5774); last year (5 Years, 65 Years, 19 Years); two years ago (Boogie Woogie); and the year before (My Father's Yahrzeit).

And Abq Jew must also note last week's 35th anniversary (November 18) of the Peoples Temple / Jonestown Massacre. And the assassinations of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk, which came just days later (November 27).

Those were terrible, dark days in the Bay Area - where Mr & Mrs Abq Jew then resided. We will never forget.

But Abq Jew is writing this on Thanksgiving + Chanukah = Thanksgivvukah. 

He has much to be thankful for - family, friends, dogs, and good enough health - and Abq Jew is indeed thankful.

Cheery Chanukah, Chevreh!
Shabbat Shalom, Albuquerque!
Good Shabbos, New Mexico!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thanksgivukkah Stories

Every So Often: As Abq Jew has often noted (see Got Midrash? and Moses On The Mesa, et al), everyone loves a good story. And Thanksgivukkah - this year's rare convergence of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah - inspires some of the best.

But how rare is this convergence? Abq Jew strongly believes that - especially if the joint holiday celebration is rare - it should be well done.

The first really BIG Thanksgivukkah story is that the convergence of the two holidays has only happened once before and will only happen again in about 75,000 years.

Where do these stories come from? And - are they based on truthiness? Well ... no less a Jewish authority than Wikipedia tells us the history of Thanksgivukkah:
Thanksgiving Day has fallen during Hanukkah at least twice between 1863 (when Thanksgiving was proclaimed a U.S. federal holiday by President Abraham Lincoln) and 2013: in 1888 Thanksgiving was the first day of Hanukkah, and in 1899 it was the fourth day.  
Thanksgiving occurred later in those two years than is possible under current U.S. law (as a result of changes between 1939 and 1941); as a result of this confusion, some media reports have mistakenly claimed that Thanksgivukkah has never occurred since Lincoln. 
Because the Gregorian and Jewish calendars have slightly different average year lengths, over time they drift out of sync with each other. As a result of this, Thanksgiving Day will not fall entirely within Hanukkah again in the foreseeable future.  
One physicist has calculated that, if the Jewish calendar is not revised, Thursday, November 28 will not fall during Chanukah again until the year 79811.
However, since the Jewish day does not begin at midnight, but on the sunset before it, those celebrating both holidays will light the second candle of Hanukkah 2013 the evening of Thanksgiving Day, the first candle having been lit on Wednesday, November 27; there will continue to be occasional years in which Hanukkah and Thanksgiving partially overlap, with the first night of Hanukkah beginning in the evening of Thanksgiving.  
For example, 2070 will be one such year, when the first night of Hanukkah will be the evening of Thursday, November 27. 1918 was another such year.
But if you really want to hear stories of Thanksgivukkah, by Thanksgivukkah, and for Thanksgivukkah - and if you live in, or can get to, Albuquerque - you are in luck!

This Thanksgivukkah weekend, famed D.C. storytellers Rabbi Mark Novak and Renée Brachfeld will be (God willing, if the weather holds, Billy Nader) joining us.

The weekend will begin with Friday evening Kabbalat Shabbat Chanukah services at Congregation Nahalat Shalom; continue with a Lunch and Learn, also at Nahalat Shalom; and conclude with a joyous Motzei Shabbat performance of Honey From the Rock at the Albuquerque JCC.

The weekend's events are co-sponsored by Congregation Albert, Congregation B'nai Israel, Congregation Nahalat Shalom, the Jewish Federation of New Mexico, the Jewish Community Center of Greater Albuquerque, Hillel at UNM, the Rabbinical and Cantorial Association of Albuquerque, and the Jewish Academy of Arts and Sciences.

More About Mark & Renée

Renée Brachfeld and Mark Novak are master storytellers. Since 1993, this husband-wife duo have been presented as Scholars in Residence for Shabbatonim and retreats at over 130 synagogues across the US and Canada, leading services, presenting workshops, and performing for both adult and family audiences.  Their recording, King Solomon's Daughter, was awarded the Parents' Choice Gold Award.  They have been featured presenters at LimmudFest in England, Ruach HaAretz,  Routes, and the Seattle International Storytelling Festival.

Mark is a community rabbi (ALEPH 2012), hazzan, musician, and storyteller. He serves as spiritual guide of Minyan Oneg Shabbat, Washington DC's Renewal minyan. Mark has served as hazzan and rabbi at Congregation Adas Israel, as well as many other DC area congregations.  He is also the leader of the eponymous Mark Novak Band, a popular choice for Jewish weddings celebrations throughout the DC area. Mark began his music career as a child, singing in a professional Jewish choir, and appearing on Broadway in the musical Oliver. From 1977-1986 he was the music director of Living Stage at Arena Stage in Washington, DC. His original theater pieces have been performed at Wolf Trap Center for the Performing Arts and The Smithsonian.

Renée has been a professional storyteller since 1986. In addition to performing she teaches a variety of workshops, including family storytelling, integrating storytelling in the classroom, and building community through storytelling. Renee also leads High Holiday services for young families at Congregation B'nai Israel in Rockville, MD.  Her work has been published in Penina Schram’s Chosen Tales, and Goldie Milgram’s Mitzvah Stories.

Happy Thanksgiving, Albuquerque!
Cheery Chanukah, New Mexico!
Happy Thanksgivukkah, U.S.A.!

Friday, November 22, 2013

For the 19th of Kislev 5774

Let Me Say This About That: This has been a solemn week for those who remember history.

Although Abq Jew took the liberty of injecting a touch of humor into the Gettysburg Address (see (Seven Score and Ten), the theme of this week has overwhelmingly been -


It was one hundred and fifty years ago that Abraham Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg Address, and one hundred and fifty years ago that the United States of America reeled from the costs of the battle.

This week, and always, we honor those who "gave the last full measure of devotion" for this, our beloved country.

And, as Abq Jew has already mentioned (see Seven Score and Ten and Boogie Woogie), today (Friday) is also the sixth yahrzeit of his beloved father, Richard W Yellin.

And today also marks fifty years since the worst day many of us can recall. December 7th and September 11th were indeed terrible days. But to many of us, November 22nd was worse; November 22nd was personal.

On that Black Friday, the United States not only lost a young, vital president who (despite his physical infirmities) embodied

Youth.  Hope.  Vigor.

On that day of evil, the United States began to lose its trust in its government and its confidence in its future. Calamities followed - more assassinations, more wars, more scandals, more crises. But that was when our slide began.

To help us remember - and to help the young understand - what American life was like during the Kennedy years, here is a video of comedian Vaughn Meader performing a few cuts from his album The First Family.

Do you remember Vaughn Meader?
Meader began his career as a musician but later found fame in the early 1960s after the release of the 1962 comedy record The First Family
The album spoofed President John F. Kennedy – who was played by Meader – and went on to win the Grammy Award for Album of the Year in 1963. 
At the peak of his popularity, he performed his Kennedy impersonation on variety shows and in nightclubs around the country and was profiled in several magazines. 
Meader's career came to an abrupt end after President Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963. 
Abq Jew remembers how beloved John Fitzgerald Kennedy was - had he not been, Vaughn Meader could not have made us laugh.

And Abq Jew remembers people - many people, old, young, and from every corner of America - crying in the streets all through those terrible, seemingly hopeless days.

But good things have happened, do happen, and God willing will continue to happen on the 19th of Kislev. For Chabadniks worldwide, the 19th of Kislev is a day of celebration.
The 19th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev is celebrated as the “Rosh Hashanah of Chassidism.” It was on this date, in the year 1798, that the founder of Chabad Chassidism, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (1745–1812), was freed from his imprisonment in czarist Russia. 
More than a personal liberation, this was a watershed event in the history of Chassidism, heralding a new era in the revelation of the “inner soul” of Torah. 
The public dissemination of the teachings of Chassidism had in fact begun two generations earlier. The founder of the chassidic movement, Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698–1760), revealed to his disciples gleanings from the mystical soul of Torah which had previously been the sole province of select Kabbalists in each generation. 
This work was continued by the Baal Shem Tov’s disciple, Rabbi Dov Ber, the “Maggid of Mezeritch” - who is also deeply connected with the date of 19 Kislev: on this day in 1772, 26 years before Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s release from prison, the Maggid returned his soul to his Maker. 
Before his passing, he said to his disciple, Rabbi Schneur Zalman: 
“This day is our yom tov (festival).”
Shabbat Shalom, Albuquerque
Good Shabbos, New Mexico

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Seven Score and Ten

Or: Twenty-One Touchdowns and a Field Goal: Abq Jew has already covered the Gettysburg Address (see How To Remember Gettysburg). Seriously.

New information about the day of the Gettysburg Address - November 19, 1863 - is still coming out, one hundred and fifty years later.

For example: You may realize that the above image is not an actual photograph of the event. But they had cameras then; so how come there aren't any photos?

First answer: Because the president's speech was over before the photographer had time to take one. Think about that. Second answer: There are photos. We're just not sure which captured image is that of Abraham Lincoln.

And we still marvel at How the Gettysburg Address Worked:
Quick, finish this sentence: "Fourscore and seven years ag­o…" Most of us rec­ognize the famous openin­g of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, and some might be able to stumble through a few more phrases. If you grew up in the United States school system, chances are at one time you memorized the Gettysburg Address (or at least you were assigned to have it memorized). 
What is it about this particular speech that has inspired the American school system to deem it so important (besides the fact that it's short enough for kids to memorize)? The Gettysburg Address has impact well beyond the schoolyard, too - historians and modern political theorists often use it to explain how the American government is supposed to work.
. . . . 
But somehow, the Gettysburg Address has endured as one of the most important documents in U.S. history, ranking up there with the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. What did Lincoln say that was so meaningful -- and did people immediately recognize how influential the speech would turn out to be? How did 300 words change the way we view our government, our country and our society? 
The answer to that middle question is: Yes, people immediately recognized how influential the Gettysburg Address would turn out to be. Allen C Guelzo (in The New York Times' Opinionator) tells us:
The surprisingly short story of the Gettysburg Address is that it was a surprisingly short speech — 270 words or so — delivered by Abraham Lincoln as part of the dedication ceremonies for the Soldiers’ National Cemetery at Gettysburg, on Nov. 19, 1863, four and a half months after the climactic battle of the American Civil War. 
But the long story is that no single American utterance has had the staying power, or commanded the respect and reverence, accorded the Gettysburg Address. It has been engraved (on the south wall of the Lincoln Memorial), translated (in a book devoted to nothing but translations of the address), and analyzed in at least nine book-length critical studies over the last century. 
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow put down his morning paper’s report of the address and wrote to his publisher that “Lincoln’s brief speech at Gettysburg … seems to me admirable.” Longfellow’s friend Charles Sumner wrote, “Since Simonides wrote the epitaph for those who died at Thermopylae, nothing equal to them has ever been breathed over the fallen dead.” He added: “The world noted at once what he said, and will never cease to remember it. The battle itself was less important than the speech.”
 Drafts of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address do exist, the Library of Congress tells us:
Of the five known manuscript copies of the Gettysburg Address, the Library of Congress has two. President Lincoln gave one of these to each of his two private secretaries, John Nicolay and John Hay. 
The other three copies of the Address were written by Lincoln for charitable purposes well after November 19. The copy for Edward Everett, the orator who spoke at Gettysburg for two hours prior to Lincoln, is at the Illinois State Historical Library in Springfield; the Bancroft copy, requested by historian George Bancroft, is at Cornell University in New York; the Bliss copy was made for Colonel Alexander Bliss, Bancroft's stepson, and is now in the Lincoln Room of the White House.
Much more important than these manuscript copies, of course, is the Gettysburg Address Powerpoint Presentation.
And now please welcome President Abraham Lincoln. 
Good morning. Just a second while I get this connection to work. Do I press this button here? Function-F7? No, that's not right. 
Hmmm. Maybe I'll have to reboot. 
Hold on a minute. Um, my name is Abe Lincoln and I'm your president. 
While we're waiting, I want to thank Judge David Wills, chairman of the committee supervising the dedication of the Gettysburg cemetery. It's great to be here, Dave, and you and the committee are doing a great job. 
Gee, sometimes this new technology does have glitches, but we couldn't live without it, could we? Oh - is it ready? OK, here we go:

This is, of course, the work of Google Director of Research Peter Norvig.

Much of Peter Norvig's thinking on Powerpoint  is influenced by the work of Edward Tufte. And who, Abq Jew hears you ask, is Edward Tufte? Wikipedia tells us:
Edward Rolf Tufte (/ˈtʌfti/; born 1942) is an American statistician and professor emeritus of political science, statistics, and computer science at Yale University. He is noted for his writings on information design and as a pioneer in the field of data visualization.
. . . . 
Tufte is an expert in the presentation of informational graphics such as charts and diagrams.  
Tufte's writing is important in such fields as information design and visual literacy, which deal with the visual communication of information. He coined the term "chartjunk" to refer to useless, non-informative, or information-obscuring elements of quantitative information displays. 
Not surprisingly, Edward Tufte takes a decidedly dim view of Powerpoint.
Tufte has criticized the way Microsoft PowerPoint is typically used. In his essay "The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint", Tufte criticizes many properties and uses of the software:
  • It is used to guide and to reassure a presenter, rather than to enlighten the audience;
  • It has unhelpfully simplistic tables and charts, resulting from the low resolution of early computer displays;
  • The outliner causes ideas to be arranged in an unnecessarily deep hierarchy, itself subverted by the need to restate the hierarchy on each slide;
  • Enforcement of the audience's lockstep linear progression through that hierarchy (whereas with handouts, readers could browse and relate items at their leisure);
  • Poor typography and chart layout, from presenters who are poor designers and who use poorly designed templates and default settings (in particular, difficulty in using scientific notation);
  • Simplistic thinking, from ideas being squashed into bulleted lists, and stories with beginning, middle, and end being turned into a collection of disparate, loosely disguised points. This may present a misleading facade of the objectivity and neutrality that people associate with science, technology, and "bullet points".
Tufte uses the way PowerPoint was used by NASA engineers in the events leading to the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster as an example of the many problems. The software style is designed to persuade rather than to inform people of technical details. Tufte's analysis of a NASA PowerPoint slide is included in the Columbia Accident Investigation Board’s report—including an engineering detail buried in small type on a crowded slide with six bullet points, that if presented in a regular engineering white paper, might have been noticed and the disaster prevented. 
Instead, Tufte argues that the most effective way of presenting information in a technical setting, such as an academic seminar or a meeting of industry experts, is by distributing a brief written report that can be read by all participants in the first 5 to 10 minutes of the meeting. Tufte believes that this is the most efficient method of transferring knowledge from the presenter to the audience and then the rest of the meeting is devoted to discussion and debate.
Within the technical writing community of which Abq Jew was, once upon a time, part, Edward Tufte is revered as the Prophet of Information Display. He continues to teach and write; and, of course, he has a website.

LST 273
Which brings us back to the text of the Gettysburg Address, and the all-important question: How many words are there in the Gettysburg Address?

As stated above, there are several versions. The version on the Lincoln Memorial has 274 words. However ....

This Thursday evening (19th of Kislev), Abq Jew will observe the sixth yahrzeit of his father, Richard W Yellin, of blessed memory. As Abq Jew wrote in 2011 (see Boogie Woogie), Dad served in the Navy during World War II, mostly aboard LST 273.

"LST" officially stands for "Landing Ship, Tank", whose job it was to drive right up onto the beach into direct enemy (in this case, Japanese) fire, and deposit its load of tanks, supplies, and troops.

"LST" unofficially stands for "Large, Slow Target".  LST 273 was aka "The Grey Ghost".  But she brought Dad home safe and sound, making "273" the family's lucky number.

Here's to Abq Jew's mother, Roselyn L Yellin, of blessed memory, a "strong willed redhead" in her own right who waited for Abq Jew's father to come home from the war.  And - here's to you, Dad!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Jewish Jokes for Dark Days

A Jew from Jersey Again: Last week, Abq Jew (see Laughing at Pew) directed your attention to the Pew Research Center, which recently published A Portrait of Jewish Americans. The Center calls their study (and it is generally acknowledged to be) a "landmark new survey of American Jews."

These are dark days, and they will be getting darker until 10:11 am (Albuquerque Time) on Saturday, December 21 - the Winter Solstice. Has Abq Jew mentioned that a Lumanella (see Lumanella Enlightens) Chanukah Menorah (or other candleholder) will brighten things up a bit?

Back to Pew, which, all kidding aside, reported in its Report that
  • Far more respondents said having a good sense of humor was essential to their Jewish identity than observing Jewish law — 42 percent compared to 19 percent.
Which brought us to Andrew Silow-Carroll, Editor-in-Chief of the New Jersey Jewish News, who recently wrote a column about his career in comedy. And to Abq Jew's Rules of the Game.
Abq Jew's Rules of the Game 
If and only if Abq Jew sees that a significant number of you, his readers, click on this link and read Andrew Silow-Carroll's column in its entirety, at its source: Abq Jew will endeavor to not continue to expound on Mr Silow-Carroll's jokes in future blog posts. 
But if Abq Jew sees that a significant number of you, his readers, do not click on this link and read Andrew Silow-Carroll's column in its entirety, at its source: Abq Jew will (Billy Nader) continue to expound on Mr Silow-Carroll's jokes in future blog posts.
Does all this sound familiar? It should. And while a great number of you, dear readers, did indeed click on that link - the number was not so great that Abq Jew would deprive you of the joy of laughter.

So here is Andrew Silow-Carroll's next joke.
A Bratslaver hasid is driving in the mountains and sees a sign: “Narrow bridge ahead.” “No problem,” he says.
Please continue reading once you have stopped laughing.

If you are not laughing, here is the explanation.
One of the best known sayings of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav is, “All the world is a very narrow bridge, and the most important thing is not to be afraid.”
And here is Andrew Silow-Carroll's next joke.
A Lubavitcher hasid wakes up from a coma and rushes to Brooklyn to thank the Rebbe for his good fortune. 
He tells the guard at Chabad headquarters, “I’ve come to see the Rebbe.” 
The guard says, “The Rebbe passed away.” “I’ll wait,” says the hasid.
Still not laughing? Here is the explanation.
Some factions of the Chabad-Lubavitcher hasidic movement believe their late Rebbe will return as the Messiah.
One more of Andrew Silow-Carroll's jokes, just for good measure.
The gematria expert is found dead in his home, with a noose around his neck and a gunshot wound in his temple. 
“It just doesn’t add up,” says the detective.
Still not laughing? Here is the explanation.
Gematria is the art of interpreting Hebrew words and phrases according to numerical values assigned to each letter in the aleph-bet. 
For example, the Hebrew letters of chai (life) add up to 18, which is why 18 is a lucky number.
Will the jokes get any better?, Abq Jew hears you ask again. And again, Abq Jew replies:
The jokes really can't get much worse. So click here and get it over with!

Shabbat Shalom, Albuquerque!
Good Shabbos, New Mexico!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

'The Matchmaker' in New Mexico

2 x Albuquerque + Santa Fe: The Albuquerque Film and Media Experience (AFME), Santa Fe Jewish Film Festival, and Israeli Consulate to the Southwest present Avi Nesher’s acclaimed film, with Israeli Academy Award Nominee Eyal Shechter.

The Matchmaker
UNM Student Union Building
Tue 19 Nov 2013 ~ 4:30 pm 
CCA Santa Fe
Tue 19 Nov2013 ~ 7:30 pm 
Albuquerque JCC 
Thu 21 Nov 2013 ~ 6:00 pm 

This acclaimed film mixes comedy with drama as it tells a tender coming-of-age story that also serves as commentary on life in Haifa in the late sixties.

Arik, a teenage boy, gets a job working for Yankele Bride, a mysterious matchmaker and Holocaust survivor during the summer of 1968.

As Arik begins to learn the mysteries of the human heart through his work with Yankele, the disparate parts of Arik’s life collide in unexpected, often funny and very moving ways.

The Matchmaker goes beyond the traditional coming-of-age story, causing us to look at how we treat those on the fringe or outside the norm.

Tickets are free in Albuquerque. 

Click here to purchase Santa Fe tickets.
And be sure to check out the other fine films and special events
that are part of The Chosen - A Mini Festival of New Israeli Cinema!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Living Talmud: Eilu Metzios

These Found Objects: Many years ago, when Abq Jew first began to study Talmud (at the Jewish Theological Seminary), one of the first chapters he learned was Eilu Metzios, the second chapter of the tractate Bava Metzia.

Eilu Metzios (or, as we said at the Seminary, Eilu Metziot) deals with found objects.

The Torah, of course, tells us that we must return a found lost object to its owner. But ... Under all circumstances? In every case? What if we don't know who the owner is?

Eilu Metzios tells us:
דף כא,א משנה  אלו מציאות שלו ואלו חייב להכריז אלו מציאות שלו מצא פירות מפוזרין מעות מפוזרות כריכות ברשות הרבים ועגולי דבילה ככרות של נחתום מחרוזות של דגים וחתיכות של בשר וגיזי צמר הלקוחין ממדינתן ואניצי פשתן ולשונות של ארגמן הרי אלו שלו דברי רבי מאיר ר' יהודה אומר כל שיש בו שינוי חייב להכריז כיצד מצא עגול ובתוכו חרס ככר ובתוכו מעות רבי שמעון בן אלעזר אומר כל כלי אנפוריא אין חייב להכריז 
There are found articles which belong to the finder without any proclamation [yes, ancient advertising to find the owner]; namely, scattered fruits or scattered money in a public thoroughfare, small sheaves, strings of pressed figs, bread of a baker (as all bread of the baker is alike; home bread, however, differs, and is recognizable), strings of fish, pieces of meat, and shorn wool from the country where it was shorn, cleansed flax, and stripes of scarlet wool--all these belong to the finder (when it was found in such a place where people pass). So is the decree of R. Meir.  
R. Jehudah, however, maintains: If there is a change in the found article, which usually ought not to be, as, e.g., he found a fragment of a clay vessel in pressed figs, or he found a coin in a loaf of bread, he must proclaim. R. Simeon b. Elazar says: All stew vessels which are for sale he need not proclaim.
This chapter, Eilu Metzios, is important. Because people find lost things all the time. Take Rabbi Noach Muroff of New Haven, for example. Stephanie Butnick, Associate Editor of Tablet Magazine, tells the story:
Rabbi Buys Craiglist Desk, Finds $98,000 Inside
Noach Muroff returned the loot, saying
                                       ‘That’s what a Jew is supposed to do’
It looks like a New Haven rabbi is giving subway nap hero Isaac Theil a run for his money — literally. Noach Muroff, a high school teacher at Yeshiva of New Haven, is making headlines after a desk he bought for $150 on Craigslist turned out to have $98,000 inside, which he promptly returned to the owner.
. . . . 
Within minutes, he said, they decided to return the money. The woman selling the desk had told them she bought it from Staples and assembled it herself, so the money was obviously hers. “We called her up to return the money to her, and she was ecstatic and beyond words, in total shock and disbelief that someone would call and return the money.” It was apparently her inheritance, which had fallen behind the desk drawer and was presumed lost. 
“If Hashem wants us to have this $98,000, he will make sure we have it in a way he sees fit,” Muroff told me, laughing. “There’s a reason why it didn’t fit in the room and why we had to take the desk apart."
You may think that this selfless act is unprecedented. But you'd be wrong. Noach Muroff is, as one blogger says. a modern day Shimon ben Shetach.

Who, Abq Jew hears you ask, is Shimon ben Shetach? Wikipedia tells us:
Simeon ben Shetach (c. 120-40 BCE) was a Pharisee scholar and Nasi of the Sanhedrin during the reigns of Alexander Jannæus (c. 103-76 BCE) and his successor, Queen Alexandra Salome (c. 76-67 BCE), who was Simeon's sister. He was therefore closely connected with the court, enjoying, at least initially, the favor of Alexander.
And what did Shimon ben Shetach do?
Simeon lived in humble circumstances, supporting himself and his family by conducting a small business in linen goods. 
Once his pupils presented him with a donkey which they had purchased from a gentile merchant. Using the legal formula prescribed by the Talmud, they said 
"When we pay you, 
this donkey and everything on it is ours." 
After receiving the gift, Simeon removed the saddle and discovered a costly jewel. The students joyously told their master that he might now cease toiling since the proceeds from the jewel would make him wealthy - the legal formula of the sale meant that the jewel was now his property. 
Simeon, however, replied that the even though the letter of the law said they were right, it was clear that the seller had no intention of selling of the Jewel along with the animal. 
Simeon returned the gem to the merchant, who exclaimed, 
"Praised be the God of Simeon ben Shetach!"

Abq Jew would be remiss if he did not point out that ... we don't have to go to the Jewish Theological Seminary, or Yeshiva University, or, in fact, any yeshiva or any university, in order to study Talmud.

Thanks to Al Gore (Gorelick? Gorevich? What do you think?), it's all on the Internet.

For example, here is Torah Cafe's Rabbi Simcha Cohen explaining the opening words (the Mishna) of Eilu Metzios:

Watch on TorahCafé.com!

Abq Jew would also be very remiss if he did not point out that ... going to the Jewish Theological Seminary, or Yeshiva University, or, in fact, any yeshiva or any university, in order to study Talmud, is the best way for us to learn.

And why should we learn? So that we may practice! So that, in all our dealings with others throughout the world, they may also say

"Praised be the God of Simeon ben Shetach!"

Monday, November 11, 2013

Jewish Academy Opens Registration for 2014-15

New Year, New School: Local Jewish families have an extra reason to be grateful this Thanksgiving season, because educational options for their children just got brighter.

The newly invigorated Jewish Academy of Arts & Sciences, serving kindergarten through fifth grade, is now accepting new students for the 2014-2015 school year. 

In response to the changing needs of families throughout the community, the Jewish Academy overhauled its curriculum and created dynamic programs to serve families more effectively.

“We start our planning, of course, with calendars and budgets, but what's most important at this time is that we recruit students for the new school year,” said Steve Barberio, Head of School. “We are grateful to have a wonderful community of families at the Jewish Academy this year, including returning families who have helped make our new families feel welcome. The energy here is vibrant.”

This year, the Jewish Academy boasts its largest-ever kindergarten class, with 13 students – a robust number, yet small enough to maintain a class size that allows teachers to provide students the individualized attention that remains one of the school’s highest priorities.

Every private school needs to make the case for why a family should choose their institution over another, public or private, and the Jewish Academy has a strong case, indeed.

In addition to small class sizes, the school promises an outstanding education in core academic subjects, grounded in the Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core Standards in English Language Arts and Math, both adopted last spring. 

Students receive instruction and inspiration through the school’s arts curriculum, a dynamic program that develops creativity, collaboration skills and confidence.

At the heart of the Jewish Academy is a Jewish Studies and Hebrew program that instills deep connections to heritage and culture. 

Finally, the school’s popular new program, Kadima, provides families with affordable, enriching, on-site after school care for their children.

As if that were not enough, the Jewish Academy is expanding its programs in a number of ways. This month, the Jewish Academy introduced a Family Education pilot program, featuring single-session evening classes in a range of subjects, including Jewish Studies, parenting, and specialized courses for educational and medical professionals. An expanded Family Education program is expected to launch in January 2014.

Several events are in the works for prospective families to learn more about the school. The school held its first open house of the year in October, and will be sponsoring the children’s area at the upcoming JCC Chanukah Festival scheduled for Sunday November 24, noon to 4 pm, at the Embassy Suites Hotel, 1000 Woodward Place NE.

The next open house is scheduled for Monday December 9, 6:30 to 8:00 pm, at the Jewish Academy, 5520A Wyoming Blvd NE.

Families who wish to explore the Jewish Academy may also call (505) 232-2325 or email to ask questions or request a tour.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Laughing at Pew

A Jew from Jersey: The Pew Research Center recently published A Portrait of Jewish Americans, which the Center calls (and is generally acknowledged to be) a "landmark new survey of American Jews."

The good news?
American Jews overwhelmingly say they are proud to be Jewish and have a strong sense of belonging to the Jewish people, according to a major new survey by the Pew Research Center. 
The bad news?
But the survey also suggests that Jewish identity is changing in America, where one-in-five Jews (22%) now describe themselves as having no religion.
And that's only the first paragraph!

Other findings from the Pew Research Center survey include:
  • Jews have high levels of educational attainment. Most Jews are college graduates (58%), including 28% who say they have earned a post-graduate degree. By comparison, 29% of U.S. adults say they graduated from college, including 10% who have a post-graduate degree.
  • Fully one-quarter of Jews (25%) say they have a household income exceeding $150,000, compared with 8% of adults in the public as a whole. At the same time, 20% of U.S. Jews report household incomes of less than $30,000 per year; about six-in-ten Jews in this low-income category are either under age 30 or 65 or older.
  • Roughly four-in-ten U.S. Jewish adults (39%) say they live in a household where at least one person is a member of a synagogue. This includes 31% of Jewish adults (39% of Jews by religion and 4% of Jews of no religion) who say they personally belong to a synagogue, temple or other congregation.
  • Jews are heavily concentrated in certain geographic regions: 43% live in the Northeast, compared with 18% of the public as a whole. Roughly a quarter of Jews reside in the South (23%) and in the West (23%), while 11% live in the Midwest. Half of Jews (49%) reside in urban areas and a similar number (47%) reside in the suburbs; just 4% of Jews reside in rural areas.
  • As a whole, Jews support the Democratic Party over the Republican Party by more than three-to-one: 70% say they are Democrats or lean toward the Democratic Party, while 22% are Republicans or lean Republican. Among Orthodox Jews, however, the balance tilts in the other direction: 57% are Republican or lean Republican, and 36% are Democrats or lean Democratic.
But you sort of knew that, didn't you?

So along comes Uriel Heilman, Managing Editor of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), who picks up on what Abq Jew considers a much a more significant theme:
  • Far more respondents said having a good sense of humor was essential to their Jewish identity than observing Jewish law — 42 percent compared to 19 percent.
Which brings us to Andrew Silow-Carroll, Editor-in-Chief of the New Jersey Jewish News. Mr Silow-Carroll recently wrote a column about his career in comedy.
Laugh, and no one laughs with you
by Andrew Silow-Carroll
NJJN Editor-in-Chief
October 23, 2013

I’ve written before about my short-lived comedy career, during which I told jokes so Jewish and insidery that I limited my audience essentially to synagogues and Jewish day schools. When it comes to humor, I sometimes feel like the guy who does fantastic impressions of his aunts and uncles: No matter how good they are, they don’t mean that much outside the family. 
That’s why I had given up on thoughts of a career in comedy — that is, until a friend sent me a link to an article on The Most Intellectual Joke I Know. The 50 nominees include jokes of the “a physicist, a mathematician, and an engineer walk into a bar” variety; linguistic meta-jokes (“Is it solipsistic in here, or is it just me?”); and head-scratchers that reward people who stay awake during Nova, like this one: Q: What does the “B” in Benoit B. Mandelbrot stand for? A: Benoit B. Mandelbrot. 
Not to be outdone, I just knew I could write jokes that were just as obscure and pretentious, or at least indecipherable without a Jewish education. So here, as a public service, I present “The Most Intellectual Jewish Jokes I Could Come Up With.” 
If they enter the Jewish canon, I’ll be sure to thank the rabbis and teachers who put up with so many questions from an am ha’aretz like me. If they don’t, I’ll blame anti-Semitism — because, you know, Jews can’t get a break in the world of comedy. 
Don’t worry if you don’t get them — explanations follow.
Let's take a break here and see where we are.

Solipistic: From solipism, a theory in philosophy holding that the self can know nothing but its own modifications and that the self is the only existent thing.
Get it? And here's Wikipedia on Benoit B. Mandelbrot.
Benoit B. Mandelbrot: Mandelbrot (20 November 1924 – 14 October 2010) was born in Warsaw into a Jewish family from Lithuania.

He was a mathematician, noted for developing a "theory of roughness" in nature and the field of fractal geometry to help prove it, which included coining the word "fractal".
He chose his own middle initial, but it doesn't stand for anything. It is, however, widely rumored in popular culture that his middle initial B. stood for Benoit B. Mandelbrot, an allusion to recursion and fractals. 
If you still don't get it ... Abq Jew is proud to refer you to Albuquerque's own Jonathan Wolfe; Jonathan's Fractal Foundation; and, of course, First Friday Fractals (on Saturday December 7!) at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science.

Which finally brings us (who said "at last"?) to Andrew Silow-Carroll's first joke. But first - here are Abq Jew's Rules of the Game.
Abq Jew's Rules of the Game 
If and only if Abq Jew sees that a significant number of you, his readers, click on this link and read Andrew Silow-Carroll's column in its entirety, at its source: Abq Jew will endeavor to not continue to expound on Mr Silow-Carroll's jokes in future blog posts. 
But if Abq Jew sees that a significant number of you, his readers, do not click on this link and read Andrew Silow-Carroll's column in its entirety, at its source: Abq Jew will (Billy Nader) continue to expound on Mr Silow-Carroll's jokes in future blog posts.
Now that we have read and understood Abq Jew's Rules of the Game, here is Andrew Silow-Carroll's first joke.
It’s 11th-century France. A rabbi walks into a bar wearing a frown, looks around, and leaves. The bartender goes, “What’s bothering Rashi?”
Please continue reading once you have stopped laughing.

If you are not laughing, here is the explanation.
“What’s bothering Rashi?” (mah kasha l’Rashi) is a technique, popularized by the late Bible scholar Nechama Leibowitz, for interpreting the commentary of the Torah sage Rashi. 
It’s sort of like Jeopardy! — Rashi supplies an answer; you come up with the question.
Will the jokes get any better?, Abq Jew hears you ask. And Abq Jew replies:
The jokes can't get much worse. So click here and get it over with!

Shabbat Shalom, Albuquerque!
Good Shabbos, New Mexico!