Friday, March 28, 2014

Body and Soul Language

Rabbi Marc Angel on Parshat Tazria 2014:  As noted in previous blogs (among them Since You've Asked), the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals 

offers a vision of Orthodox Judaism that is "intellectually sound, spiritually compelling, and emotionally satisfying".

The Institute was founded in October 2007 by Rabbi Dr. Marc D. Angel, formerly of Congregation Shearith Israel, the historic Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue of New York City.

And speaking of Tazria, the creative and talented folks at remind us:
Tazria is possibly the grossest parsha in the entire Torah, full of scaly skin, sprouting sores and breakouts of Biblical proportions. 
But this week, Rabbi Angel - a prolific and award-winning author - turns his attention to body and spirit, examination of character and purification. In his article Body and Soul Language, Rabbi Angel begins with Rabbi Yitzhak Luria, and what the great kabbalist was able to see.

Note: for your convenience, Abq Jew has reprinted the entire article below.  But you are strongly encouraged to visit the Institute's website - - to learn more about the Institute's work, and especially to read and view Rabbi Angel's thoughts and opinions.
It was said of Rabbi Yitzhak Luria, the great kabbalist of 16th century Safed, that he was able to see into people’s souls when he looked at their faces. By looking into one’s eyes, he could gain clear insight into that individual’s personality. 
For this reason, many people were ashamed to appear before Rabbi Luria, believing that he could detect their character flaws and inadequacies. 
Actually, one does not need to be a saintly kabbalist to assess people’s character traits on the basis of external observation. Psychologists have pointed out that people often reveal their personalities through their facial expressions and body language. 
A careful observer can learn much about others simply by paying close attention to their expressions and gestures. While these observations may not be as accurate as those of Rabbi Luria, they nonetheless provide insight. 
In our own experience, we find ourselves drawn to warm, smiling and kindly-looking people. We find ourselves repelled by mean, scowling and arrogant faces. We raise our guards when we feel we are in the presence of smooth-talking hypocrites; we feel at ease when we are in the presence of compassionate and thoughtful individuals. 
We shape our views of others by looking into their eyes, by examining their demeanor, by reading their facial expressions. Surely, our judgments may be wrong at times; yet, we intuitively feel that there is an intimate connection between physical appearances and spiritual / emotional / psychological qualities. 
This week’s Torah portion deals with “tsara’at” (often translated - incorrectly - as leprosy), providing details that are very difficult for us to understand. Yet, the underlying message seems to be: spiritual impurity may manifest itself in a physical blemish. 
When a person is stricken with “tsara’at,” a purification ritual is required to bring body and spirit back into proper alignment. 
Our inner feelings and personality traits are indeed reflected in our physical appearances. While some people are better able to camouflage their emotions, even they will inevitably betray their real selves in moments of weakness. 
Our goal should be to maintain a healthy spiritual/emotional life so as to have nothing to hide! We can all strive to be good, compassionate and sensitive human beings - and these qualities should be easily detected in our faces and our physical appearance. We can all strive to avoid the negative qualities associated with the arrogant, the bullies, the egotists. 
We can all hope to be approachable and kind, so that others will be drawn to us rather than be alienated from us. 
The manifestation of a “tsara’at” wound was a wake up call to ancient Israelites, demanding that they self-reflect and then purify themselves. Although we lack the “tsara’at” of biblical times, we have mirrors. If we look honestly at ourselves, we might detect some character traits that need improvement, and we can work to purify ourselves. 
If we look into the mirror and don’t see character flaws that need improvement, then we can be fairly sure that we indeed do have “tsara’at,” that we have become content with ourselves … and therefore have become spiritually numb. 
Even if we do not see our own spiritual / emotional / character shortcomings, others can observe them clearly enough by looking at our facial expressions, our gestures, our physical demeanor. 
We need to live our lives in such a way that we would not be ashamed to stand before Rabbi Yitzhak Luria … or anyone else.
But far be it from Abq Jew to leave you on Erev Shabbat with such a serious, thought-provoking message. For whenever Abq Jew thinks of Parshat Tazria, he (truly) cannot help but conjure

Jewish music (Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Joshua Sondheim, Jerome [Wilson Rabinowitz] Robbins) at its very very best.And so here for your pre-Shabbos and forever after enjoyment is

Shabbat Shalom, Albuquerque!
Good Shabbos, New Mexico!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Ultimate Mitzvah

A Call for Chevre Kaddisha Volunteers: We are taught, Rabbi Min Kantrowitz tells us, that anonymous giving is the highest type of assistance we can offer another human.

The ultimate anonymous mitzvah is that of participating in tahara, the ritual purification of the body of a Jewish person before that person is buried.

Why? Because the person cannot thank you!  

In fact, the family is not supposed to know who participated, so they cannot thank the members of the tahara team. It is an act of chesed shel emet, true lovingkingness.

In Albuquerque, we are blessed with a community-wide
Chevre Kaddisha (Holy Society).

The Chevre Kaddisha is group of trained volunteers, men and women, who perform this mitzvah for any Jew in the community. The group is very varied: some people are quite observant, some don't even belong to a congregation. They all share, however, a sense of how profound and how important this act of love can be.

But there are often not enough Chevre Kaddisha members
available to perform a tahara with ease.
We need new volunteers.
(We especially need men right now.)

The time commitment is not large. Each tahara takes one hour (or sometimes a bit more), and we are rarely asked to do more than one a month.

We will be scheduling a Chevre Kaddisha training session for new volunteers within the next few weeks. Please consider participating.

Coming to the training does not obligate you to participate in the Chevre Kaddisha - it simply introduces you to the mitzvah, its history and procedures.

Ask your Rabbi about it. Ask your friends. Ask who else in your congregation currently participates (you may be surprised!).

Please consider coming to the Chevre Kaddisha training session - and possibly joining.

Before participating in training - and particularly before performing their first tahara - many people are concerned about how emotionally challenging this work can be.

Be assured that Chevre Kaddisha members usually find that the mitzvah is much more spiritually satisfying than emotionally difficult.

To learn more, please contact

Chevra Kaddisha of Greater Albuquerque
Rabbi Min Kantrowitz
(505) 239-5299
Marc Yellin
(505) 792-4322

You will not be thanked by the individual you help along his or her final journey, but the Albuquerque Jewish community as a whole will appreciate your generosity and your love.

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Holocaust Survivor's Story: Gabrielle Falk

New Mexicast Presents: After decades of wondering what happened to his family members during the Holocaust, Stephen Falk turned his curiosity into a quest, and uncovered fascinating stories of survival and connection.

Gabrielle Falk
A Holocaust Survivor's Story
Thursday March 27 ~ Saturday April 12
Comcast Channel 27 (uABQ)
And anytime on YouTube

New Mexicast founder and former TV news anchor / reporter Rosa Linda Román presents a four-part series that shares Stephen Falk’s discoveries about his mother, Holocaust survivor Gabrielle Falk, and their family.

The four parts of the story will be presented in two half-hour New Mexicast episodes.

Episode 10

Part 1: Family Historian
In Part 1, New Mexicast talks with Stephen Falk, the son of a Holocaust survivor, who is working to piece back together the fractured pieces of his family tree.
By combing through archives and traveling the world, he finds the tiniest clues that help him reconstruct his family history after so much was lost.

Part 2: Gabrielle
In Part 2, New Mexicast introduces you to Holocaust survivor Gabrielle Falk.
Through what she calls “incredible  luck,” she managed to slip through the grasp of the Nazis and now shares her story  publicly for the first time.
With the help of her son, Stephen Falk, Gabrielle’s amazing story of survival is being preserved for, and shared with, future generations.

Episode 11

Part 3: Kristallnacht
In Part 3, we take a closer look at the terror Gabrielle and her family faced in Nazi Germany.
Specifically, this episode focuses on Gabrielle and her parents, Walther and Ellinor Freund, during the war.
The title comes from a night of  violence inflicted on Germany's Jewish community Novemer 9 - 10, 1938, known as Kristallnacht. A night Gabrielle, and many other German Jews, will never forget.

Part 4: Falk Finale
In Part 4, the final installment of this four part series, we learn the ultimate fate of Gabrielle and her father and mother; Walther and Ellinor Freund.
We also finally discover the role Swiss Chocolate played in  one family member's survival.
After seeing this story, it is hard not to agree with Gabrielle’s assertion that she and her family had some "incredible luck!"

Shown below is the latest information Abq Jew has about the Comcast schedule. Please check here just to be sure you don't miss anything!

Episode 10                  Episode 11

Thu March 27 @ 11:00 am     ---
Sat March 29 @  9:30 am     ---
Mon March 31 @ 10:00 am     Mon March 31 @ 10:30 am
Thu April  3 @ 10:30 am     Thu April  3 @ 11:00 am
Sat April  5 @  9:00 am     Sat April  5 @  9:30 am
---                         Mon April  7 @ 10:00 am
---                         Thu April 10 @ 10:30 am
---                         Sat April 12 @  9:00 am

However ... If you do happen to miss an episode, or if you would just rather watch on your own schedule, or if you are not a Comcast customer, do not despair!

Abq Jew has thoughtfully provided the YouTube links at the appropriate spots above!

And if you'd like to watch all four parts at one time, just click here for the playlist!

About New Mexicast

New Mexicast was created by former TV news anchor / reporter Rosa Linda Román after the birth of her second daughter in 2007.

Now a mother of three, Rosa Linda continues to use her broadcasting background and independent film experience to introduce you to interesting people and places in New Mexico and beyond.

Each episode of New Mexicast is a testament to what is possible, as Rosa Linda makes the journey from the mainstream media to motherhood to independent storytelling.

Want to start at New Mexicast's beginning? Here is a great introduction and history.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Got Red Heifer?

Shabbat Parah 2014: Yes, we have once again reached the famous Sabbath of the Red Heifer, which in yet one more way reminds us that

Pesach is coming!

So about this Red Heifer, tells us

Shabbat Parah ("Sabbath [of the] red heifer" שבת פרה) takes place on the Shabbat before Shabbat HaChodesh, in preparation for Passover.  
Numbers 19:1-22 describes the parah adumah ("red heifer") in the Jewish temple as part of the manner in which the kohanim and the Jewish people purified themselves so that they would be ready ("pure") to sacrifice the korban Pesach.
But the story gets even weirder. The Taste of Torah Blog tells us

The ritual of the red heifer is confusing,
self-contradictory, arcane, and downright bizarre.
But this is far from a new or modern observation.

So what's the problem? The kohen takes the ashes of the red heifer, mixes them with water, and sprinkles them on a person who is in a state of ritual impurity through contact with the dead. OK ... here is the problem:

The sprinklee becomes ritually pure,
while the sprinkler becomes ritually impure.

Here's some more bad news. We are all  in a state of ritual impurity through contact with the dead. Yet we cannot purify ourselves because a) the Temple is not operational; and b) we ain't got no red heifer.

But not to worry. As Abq Jew has pointed out (see If You Build It, He Will Come and Walking the Temple Grounds), we've got people working on both parts of the problem. And we don't really need to be ritually pure until the Temple is operational.

In other Pesach news, Abq Jew is happy to inform you that (according to the next time the First Seder will be on Saturday night is

March 27, 2021 (5781)

Why is this date important? Because a lot of things have to halachically change when the first day of Passover falls on a Sunday. And - as you can tell - it doesn't happen all that often. But more about that (G-d willing!) later. In the meantime

Shabbat Shalom, Albuquerque!
Good Shabbos, New Mexico!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Chaldeans Apologize, Urge Jews To Return

And Offer Citizenship:  Goodbye, Duke City! Farewell, New Mexico! Chaldea, here we come! Abq Jew courageously announces another way to tell that Pesach is coming: the Purim issue of the Forward arrives in the mail.

This year's Backward (as the Purim section is called) includes the title article, provided by Abq Jew in its entirety, with the understanding that you will click here to read the other Purim pieces; these range from the mildly amusing to the truly hilarious.

Chaldeans Apologize
Urge Jews To Return and Offer Citizenship
Destruction of Temple Was Just Big 'Misunderstanding'

In what may be the comeback surprise of the year, the Chaldean Empire has returned to the world stage after 2,500 years, and it comes bearing apologies, and citizenship offers, to the Jews.

“On behalf of all Chaldeans everywhere, I’d like to formally apologize to the Jews for sending forth their ancestor Abraham and for the destruction of Solomon’s Temple if that was us,” said Emperor Nabopolassar II, formerly Costas Sidiqqui. 

“We are eager to welcome back Jews, as well as Hittites and Medes, as full citizens to rebuild a better Chaldea.”

Though it originated in the alluvial plain separating the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers and, at its peak, expanded to cover much of the Middle East, the current Chaldean Empire is currently limited to a storefront in a Queens Village shopping plaza, half of which is devoted to travel insurance and DVD rentals. However, Nabopolassar II has great plans for expansion.

“With the situation so chaotic and violent in places like Iraq and Syria, I think people are nostalgic for the golden age of the 6th century BCE,” Nabopolassar II said on a recent sleepy Thursday morning in his shop.

Nabopolassar II claims that he is a direct descendant on his father’s side from the Chaldean royal line dating back to Nebuchadnezzar, although he admitted that he has, to date, gotten no further than an unsuccessful search for his paternal grandfather’s birth certificate. His mother is Greek-American.

Though there is not yet a physical Chaldean homeland, Nabopolassar II argues that citizenship still offers great benefits, including a link to the cradle of civilization, kinship with the builders who created the Hanging Garden of Babylon and a two-for-one discount on all DVD rentals every Friday.

In contrast to the biblical prophet Habakkuk’s description of the Chaldeans as “a bitter and swift nation,” Nabopolassar II says that the process of restoring the Chaldea of yesteryear will be deliberate and grounded in outreach.

“We want to build an inclusive Euphrates United region and to that end we invite not just Hebrews, but native speakers of proto-Sumerian, fluent cuneiform scribes, any descendants of attempted human sacrifice and men with the Hittite haplotype to come back and help us rebuild the region,” Nabopolassar II said, before excusing himself to answer a customer enquiring as to whether there was reimbursement for a flight missed due to illness. (No.)

Nabopolassar II added that he was hoping that Jews could be helpful in securing much-needed political support and aid from the both the E.U. and America.

Orange Is The New Black: To celebrate the release of the new Netflix series
‘Rambam is the new Rashi,’ thousands of Hasids took to the streets of Los Angeles.
Purim 'til it's Pesach!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Pesach Watch 2014 Begins!

How Can You Tell When Pesach is Coming?  Yes, Abq Jew covered this exciting event last year (see Pesach Watch 2013 Begins!), as well as in the now classic 2012 blog post Pesach Watch Begins! 

In any event, Abq Jew is here to tell you that Pesach is indeed coming again this year!  How can he tell?

Here are a few signs that Pesach is coming:

1.  The first Albuquerque sighting of Pesach food is reported.  This year it was Moreen Siegel of Congregation B'nai Israel who told Abq Jew after Shabbat services on March 1 (29 Adar 1) that the Albertson's at Montogmery and San Mateo had displayed some Passover items.

That's 2 whole weeks before Purim, almost as early as the ShopRite in Livingston, New Jersey, which raises Abq's Pesachdikity a few points.

In 2013, it was Rabbi Arthur Flicker of Congregation B'nai Israel, who emailed Abq Jew on February 12 (2 Adar) with the news that the Smith's at Constituion and Carlisle has started to assemble what in past years has become (thanks to Rabbi Flicker's efforts) the Mother Lode of Passover Food.

In 2012, the first sighting took place on February 27 (4 Adar). 

2.  Abq Jew opens up his Pesach Watch page.

3.  Abq Jew moves his Pesach Countdown Timer from his Calendar and Pesach Watch pages (where it perennially resides) to his Home page. Right at the top.

Please help your Jewish community!
Email, call, or Fan Wall (see The Abq Jew App) Abq Jew
and let him know where you have spotted Pesachdik food.
Then Abq Jew will let everyone know!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Sixty-Minute Seder

Goldilocks At The Table: Abq Jew has had the pleasure of reviewing new and old Passover Haggadot before (see A Haggadah Revue and Journey of Questions and Faith).

But he has never looked at a new Pesach Haggadah with as much eager-to-pounce skepticism as he did this year's Sixty-Minute Seder, by Nellie and Cass Foster.

After all, the Haggadah itself proclaims

And the more one tells of the departure from Egypt,
the more is he to be praised.

But the Sixty-Minute Seder website tells us
Sixty-Minute Seder™: Preserving the Essence of the Passover Haggadah is not about taking the traditional Seder and turning it into something so modern the reader loses all sense of tradition. 
This conservative Jewish couple condensed the Seder – which normally runs from two to five hours – into one hour. 
Although it is abridged, everyone can use it to honor and celebrate the annual Passover Seder as intended. Readers will welcome the instructions on how to keep chametz (unleavened products forbidden during Pesach) for use following the eight days of Passover, as well as Nellie’s delicious Seder meal recipes.
So why cut the Pesach Seder ceremony short at sixty arbitrary minutes?

First of all - sixty minutes is not arbitrary. Sixty minutes, we all know, is the exact length of one good TV show. More and more, sixty minutes defines the outer limit of attention span for our youngest and increasingly for our oldest, too. Sixty minutes, it turns out, is a goodly amount of time.

So the next question is, of course

Which parts of the Pesach Seder do we drop?

But wait! Before we answer that, let's look at the parts of the Pesach Seder that are still in the Sixty-Minute Seder:
Kiddush; Washing; Eating green vegetable; Ha Lachma Anya (This is the Bread of Affliction); the Four Questions; the Four Sons; the Ten Plagues; the Three Symbols; Washing; HaMotzi; Hillel Sandwich. Dinner. 
Birkat HaMazon (Grace After Meals); Hallel; Dayenu; Chad Gadya. the Four Cups of Wine. Open Door for Elijah.
Alright ... so which parts of the Pesach Seder does the Sixty Minute Seder drop?

The Sixty-Minute Seder drops all the "Talmudic" passages that Abq Jew finds so enchanting but that seem to put everyone else to sleep. And you know exactly which paragraphs they are!
It happened that Rabbi Eliezer, Rabbi Yehoshua, Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah, Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Tarphon were reclining [at a seder] in B'nei Berak ....
One may think that [the discussion of the exodus] must be from the first of the month. The Torah therefore says, `On that day.' ....
Go forth and learn what Laban the Aramean wanted to do to our father Jacob ....
Rabbi Yosi the Gallilean said: How do you know that the Egyptians were stricken by ten plagues in Egypt, and then were struck by fifty plagues at the sea? ....

Two more things that Abq Jew thinks you should consider before racing to Abq Jew's Amazon Store:
  1. The Sixty-Minute Seder is largely written in English and transliterated Hebrew. This will not satisfy the pure Hebrew junkies out there.
  2. The entire Pour Out Thy Wrath paragraph is missing. For those of us who understand how this paragraph came to be inserted in the Haggadah - losing this paragraph in America, in this day and age, may be just fine.
The Sixty-Minute Seder is pretty much what Abq Jew likes to think he would have done if he had only thought of it. So, as Butch asked Sundance,

Who are those guys?

The creative team, says the Sixty-Minute Seder website, starts with the co authors.

Cass Foster, Professor Emeritus of Theatre, continues to be actively involved in the theatre as an educator, director and playwright. In the early 1990s, he wrote a series of Sixty-Minute Shakespeare plays, so the standing joke at his long, drawn-out Passover Seders was: “How about a sixty-minute Seder this year?”  
He admits, “Over the years I’ve put many a Seder guest to sleep, and as I got older, I found I was even putting myself to sleep. So I figured an hour-long version might not be a bad idea.”  
It occurred to Cass that others might appreciate a condensed version of the Seder as well. “I suspected they’d appreciate a service lasting less than two to five hours that provided everything they needed to know and everything they needed to do to provide a traditional Passover Seder.”  
Nellie Foster spent her entire adult life in the medical field, from managing and creating medical labs to working as an educator in the field of infertility, to serving as the director of clinical operations in a naturopathic college in Tempe, Arizona. 
When Cass approached her with the idea of a condensed Seder, she was immediately onboard. “What a great opportunity to be able to help so many properly prepare for Passover and the Seder,” she says.  
Her experience in preparing Seder meals every year for as many as 50 guests resulted in her delicious recipe contributions for both the Seder meal and the week of Passover. When not directing her energies in Passover-related areas, she keeps busy as an actor and with her natural allergy-relief practice. The couple lives on the Garden Isle of Kauai, Hawaii.
OK ... now you can race to Abq Jew's Amazon Store.

Sixty-Minute Seder.
Not too short. Not too long.
Just right.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Israel's Chief Rabbinate Seeks Arrest

Of Rabbi Avi Wiseguy: Every year since time immemorial, The Jewish Week [of New York] has published a Purim Spoof. And why should this year (2014) be an exception?

This year, Abq Jew remembered to visit before Purim, and did not wait to receive the Purim issue in the mail.

Thereby and forthwith, in order to continue the Purim celebration, Abq Jew proudly relaunches

Purim 'til it's Pesach!

the four-week long celebration of which allows ... no, encourages ... no, requires Abq Jew to publish this article in its entirety:
Israel’s Chief Rabbinate Seeks Arrest Of Rabbi Avi Wiseguy

Jerusalem — The Chief Rabbinate of Israel, the supreme religious authority for Jews in Israel, announced this week that it would take disciplinary action against Rabbi Avi Wiseguy, due to certain “un-Orthodox” views that the Modern Orthodox rabbi holds.
Asked for specific examples of Wiseguy’s heretical views, Rabbi David Loud, Israel’s Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi, enumerated the following “questionable rulings”:

In September 2013, Rabbi Wiseguy announced that riding in an airplane on the Sabbath would be permitted, provided the passenger kept his seatbelt fastened during the entire flight, because then it would be considered as if the person were “wearing the plane.”

In December of last year, Rabbi Wiseguy ruled that a man could attend an opera, despite the religious ban on kol isha (a man hearing a woman chant a melody). The rabbi stated, “He’s not over till the fat lady sings.” (In Hebrew, over means “committing a sin.”)

Rabbi Wiseguy’s most recent controversial ruling came in February 2014, when he was asked what a mourner should do if he cannot not find ten men for a minyan, the required quorum to say kaddish. Rabbi Wiseguy replied that the mourner may pray with five people and say chatzi kaddish (half kaddish).

Happy Purim, Shushan!
Happy Shushan, Purim!

Friday, March 14, 2014

New Mexico and Massachusetts Swap States

Two Governors Proclaim New Era: It's an unprecedented move that was completely unanticipated by the White House, Congress, or even CNN:

Governor Susana Martinez of New Mexico and
Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts
will formally announce on Sunday March 16
that their respective state governments have agreed
to a complete exchange of territory.

Land Yes, People No

Under the agreement, Abq Jew has learned, the territory we have all come to know and, in some cases, love as the State of New Mexico will become the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. And vice versa, he is sure.

The governors will also announce that the populations of both territories will remain In Situ, as soon as the exact location of Situ can be determined. Until then, residents of New Mexico and Massachusetts are instructed to hunker down in place.

What This Means for Today's New Mexicans

Governor Susana Martinez was enthusiastic about the upcoming state swap.

"At last," said the Governor, "Santa Fe will get the harbor it's always wanted. We'll finally be able to replace those long, boring stretches of I-25 and I-40 with long, boring stretches of the New Mex Pike. And everyone will have easy access to the beach."

Moreover, she said, "We'll increase the numbers of Irish bars and Italian restaurants, which can never be a bad thing. And people will be able to find us on the map!"

But the biggest advantage, said the Governor, is that "New Mexico's employers will get the educated workforce they're always talking about."

Is there a downside?

"Sure," said the Governor. "Winters will be a lot colder. They'll last longer, too. Taxes will go up - to pay for education. But our citizens will be able to read books and keep themselves informed and entertained."

What This Means for Today's Massachusetts

Governor Deval Patrick was equally enthusiastic about the upcoming state swap.

"At last," said the Governor, "Boston will get the mountains it's always wanted. We'll finally be able to replace those long, boring stretches of the Mass Pike with longer, even more boring stretches of  I-25 and I-40. And everyone will have easy access to the high desert. Lots of high desert."

Moreover, he said, "We'll lower our cost of living, and have more space between our vehicles when we drive. That could lower our insurance rates."

But the biggest advantage, said the Governor, is that "Massachusetts will get the blue skies they're always talking about, from horizon to horizon."

Is there a downside?

"Sure," said the Governor. "All that money we put into public education will be lost. But our citizens won't have to suffer through another winter like this one ever again."

Shabbat Shalom, Albuquerque!
Good Shabbos, New Mexico!
Happy Purim, World!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

A Sara Koplik Moment

Kosher Easter Bunny: Moment Magazine, for many years one of Abq Jew's favorite Jewish publications, has recognized Albuquerque Jew Sara Koplik for her academic achievements, social activism, and powerful advocacy on behalf of the New Mexico Jewish community.

Way to go, Sara!

Well ... that's not exactly true. But Sara did send in this here photo of a Kosher Easter Bunny that she found for sale somewhere in Duke City - with the tag line

An essential part of any Easter basket.

And Moment published her photo in their March-April 2014 Special Anti-Semitism Issue's last-page Spice Box, wherein are published all sorts of Judaica curiosita.

Moment also published (for example) an advertisement for Matzo Pizza (Hold the pepperoni!), submitted by Paula Miller of East Brunswick, New Jersey.

Matzo Pizza (left); Machu Picchu (right)

Abq Jew always gets Matzo Pizza confused with the City of the Incas, although you can clearly see the difference.

Sara's Kosher Easter Bunny is, by the way, certified as kosher by Kosher Supervision of America (KSA), which promotes themselves (and why shouldn't they?) as

The largest, recognized and accepted, Orthodox kosher certification agency based in the western United States.

OK ... Abq Jew knows what you're going to ask next.

Why would a kosher certification agency
certify the kashrut of an Easter bunny?

To which Abq Jew must respond (he must, he must)

Why not? Business is business.

To support this claim, Abq Jew and KSA point you to the recent Forbes article

OK ... Abq Jew knows what you're going to ask next.

Where is the market for a kosher Easter bunny?

To which Abq Jew must respond (he must, he must) that it's

An essential part of any Purim basket.

Happy Purim, World!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Update: Spring 2014 @ OASIS Abq

Great Courses @ OASIS: Abq Jew has featured OASIS Albuquerque on several occasions, most recently Winter & Spring 2014 @ OASIS Abq.

OASIS Albuquerque has just updated their Winter-Spring 2014 line-up of classes.

This session's NEW! courses and instructors now include:

The Arab in Israeli Literature
Thu 20 Mar 2014 @ 10:30 am - #50
Instructor: Paul J Citrin
What It Is: We will examine how these two peoples have viewed one another and their struggle over the past century. We will encounter short story passages and selections from novels to discern the prejudices, the self-images, and experiences of Arabs and Jews portrayed by some of Israel's greatest writers.
Rabbi Paul Citrin received his BA in history from UCLA and an MA in Hebrew Letters from Hebrew Union College. He has served congregations since he was ordained by the Hebrew Union College in 1973. Rabbi Citrin has authored a children's novel and children's prayer books and edited an anthology of scholarly essays on the Hebrew language. He is active in issues of social justice and interfaith relations. This presentation made possible by a grant from the Jewish Federation Council of New Mexico.
Ethiopian Jews in Israel - A Photographic Journey
Mon 14 Apr 2014 @ 1:00 pm - #20
Instructor: Irene Fertik
What It Is: In a series of airlifts between 1948 and 2013, 90,000 Ethiopian Jews were brought to the State of Israel. Known as Falash Mura, they claim links to Jews who converted to Christianity generations ago and sought to return to Judaism. Coming from isolated mountain villages to a modern technological society has meant huge adjustments for old and young alike. For the past two decades, Irene Fertik has been photographing their absorption and transition to their new world.
Irene Fertik has been documenting Ethiopian Jews in their new/ancient home of Israel since 1991. This fascinating culture has also led her to other long-range projects documenting non-profit organizations in Ethiopia and the Ethiopian Diaspora around the world. Her work has been on display at international galleries and embassies. She was a staff photographer at Vermont’s The Burlington Free Press and for the University of Southern California.

Just as a reminder, this session's upcoming courses and instructors also include:

Yiddish: The Language of Literature & Revolution
Tue 18 Mar 2014 @ 1:00 pm - #49
Instructor: Michael Nutkiewicz
What It Is: Yiddish - a hybrid of mainly German and Hebrew - was the main language of Central and Eastern European Jews from the middle ages until the Holocaust. In the 20th century Yiddish writers produced a rich literature of novels, poetry, theater, and film. Labor and revolutionary movements reached the Jewish working classes through Yiddish. We will explore Yiddish history, literature and music, including famous (Sholem Aleichem and I.B. Singer) and less known but fascinating personalities.

American Songwriters: Burt Bacharach
Thu 27 Mar 2014 @ 1:00 pm - #58
Instructor: Jane Ellen
What It Is: Our series on American songwriters continues with the legendary Burt Bacharach (1928- ). A popular composer whose most familiar works date from the 1950s-1980s, and perhaps best known as half of the duo Bacharach and David, his earliest hits were for established performers such as Marty Robbins and Perry Como. Hitting his stride in the 60s, his most famous songs were associated with Dionne Warwick, who would eventually record over three dozen of his works.

Friday, March 7, 2014

A Page (or Two) of Talmud: Part 4

The Learning Continues: Here is another review and continuation of the Talmud class that Abq Jew led at this year's very successful A Taste of Honey (see The Talmud @ A Taste of Honey and A Page (or Two) of Talmud: Part 2 and A Page (or Two) of Talmud: Part 3).

Last week, we talked about What The Talmud Is. This week we'll discuss

What a Page of Talmud Looks Like

So - what does a traditional page of Talmud look like? Well - sort of like this:

What is all that stuff? 
Words, surrounded by words, surrounded by more words, and framed by even more words!
Abq Jew relies on Joshua Parker for the answers. Who, you may ask, is Joshua Parker? You can find out here. Anyway, Mr Parker says:
[1] MISHNAH: The Mishnah (Hebrew, ‘repetition’) is the primary record of the teaching, decisions, and disputes of a group of Jewish  religious and judicial scholars, known as Tannaim, who were active from about 30 BCEto 200 CE, mostly in the areas now known as Israel and Palestine. Originally transmitted orally, the Mishnah was redacted  into its current form and committed to writing around the year 200 CE by R’ Yehudah haNasi. The language of the Mishnah is  Hebrew. The Mishnah is divided into sixtythree  ‘tractates,’ which are organized into six ‘orders’ according to their subject matter. 
[2] GEMARA: The Gemara (Aramaic, ‘study,’) is an analysis of and expansion upon the material presented in the Mishnah. Taken together, the Mishnah and Gemara make up the Talmud. The Gemara records the oral discussions of a group of scholars, known as Amoraim, who were active from about 200 to 500 CE, in the areas of present  day Iraq, Israel, and Palestine. These discussions often center around statements of the Tannaim and are structured by the anonymous voice of a redactor (or group of redactors) known as the stam (Heb., ‘plain’ or ‘unattributed’).  
There are two versions of the Gemara. The Yerushalmi (also known as the ‘Jerusalem’ or ‘Palestinian’ Talmud) was compiled in what is now northern Israel around 400 CE. The Bavli or Babylonian  Talmud was redacted about a hundred years  later  in the Jewish communities of Mesopotamia.  Traditionally the redaction of the Bavli is attributed to R’ Ashi and his student Ravina. The Talmud Bavli is the more commonly studied of the two and is considered to be more authoritative when the two offer different legal rulings.  
The primary language  of the Gemara in both versions is Aramaic, although quoted material in Hebrew is common (mostly from biblical texts or earlier tannaic material), and words in Greek, Latin, or other languages occasionally occur.  In literary form, the Gemara is a complex combination of  legal debate, case law, legend, textual analysis, and philosophical inquiry. Its subject matter covers nearly every imaginable facet of ancient Jewish life, ranging from religious, civil, and criminal law to biblical interpretation to speculation about and investigation of the  natural world. 
[3] RASHI: Rashi (an acronym for R’ Shlomo Yitzchaki) was an eleventh century  scholar active in France. Rashi  compiled the first complete commentary  on the Talmud. His commentary focuses on helping students understand the  plain meaning of the text. Both the Mishnah and Gemara are written in a brief, terse style, without the use of punctuation or vowel markings. Rashi’s comments are therefore directed toward helping  readers work their way through the text and understand its basic form and content. Rashi also offers explanations of unusual or rare vocabulary and concepts and occasionally indicates preferred readings in cases where manuscripts differ.  
Rashi’s commentary is always set in a semi-cursive typeface called ‘Rashi script,’ is positioned on the gutter side of a printed  page of Talmud. 
[4] TOSAFOT: The Tosafot (Hebrew, ‘additions’) are medieval commentaries on the text of the Talmud composed mainly in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The Tosafot are not the product of a single author or school of commentators, but are rather the work of a variety of talmudic scholars living mainly in France, Germany, and Spain.  
While Rashi’s comments focus on the plain meaning of the text, the tosafists tend to concentrate  on analysis of difficult passages, exploring issues, contradictions, and problems raised by the text of the Gemara.  
Often the Tosafot approach a subject using the logic and style of inquiry of the Gemara. Occasionally Tosefot address an interpretation  or explanation offered by Rashi to examine it more thoroughly or to present an alternative  approach to the subject.  
On a printed Talmud  page, the comments of the Tosafot are set in a semi-cursive typeface known as ‘Rashi script,’ and they always appear immediately adjacent to the Mishnah and Gemara in the large block of text positioned opposite Rashi’s commentary.
12th Siyyum Hashas (Daf Yomi Talmud Completion Celebration) held at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey in August 2012. Approximately 90,000 men and women participated in the celebration, which marked the completion of seven and a half years of study of the Talmud.

Your next question, Abq Jew is sure, is bound to be:

Why Does A Page of Talmud Look Like That?

Funny you should ask. Wikipedia explains:
A page of Talmud looks the way it does because of Daniel Bomberg, a Christian (!), who published the first complete edition of the Babylonian Talmud in Venice around 1523.  
In addition to the Mishnah and Gemara, Bomberg's edition contained the commentaries of Rashi and Tosafot.  
Almost all printings since Bomberg have followed the same pagination. This includes the edition of the Talmud published by the Szapira brothers in Slavuta in 1795, which was particularly prized by many Hasidic rebbes.  
In 1835, after a dispute with the Szapira family, a new edition of the Talmud was printed by Menachem Romm of Vilna. Known as the Vilna Shas, this edition (and later ones printed by his widow and sons) has been used in the production of more recent editions of Talmud Bavli.
And to help you find your way. Wikipedia further explains:
A page number in the Talmud refers to a double-sided page, known as a daf; each daf has two amudim labeled א and ב, sides A and B (Recto and Verso).  
Page references are made in the format [Tractate daf a/b] (e.g. Berachot 23b). In the Vilna edition of the Talmud there are 5,894 folio pages.

Note to Prospective Talmud Students
Abq Jew is currently learning Shekalim. 
If you would like to learn along - please contact Abq Jew!

Support Abq Jew! Buy your Koren Talmud here!

Shabbat Shalom, Albuquerque!
Good Shabbos, New Mexico!
הדרן עליך תלמוד בּבלי קורן ירושׁלים

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

ABQ Jewish Film Fest: Hava Nagila

Celebrating the Jewish Experience Through Film: The ABQ Jewish Film Fest is proud to present:

Hava Nagila (The Movie)
Tuesday March 11 ~ 7:00 pm
Albuquerque JCC

It’s to music what the bagel is to food – musical shorthand for anything Jewish, a happy party tune that you dance to at weddings, bar mitzvahs and even at Major League Baseball games.

Follow this infectious party song on its fascinating journey from the shtetls of Eastern Europe to the cul-de-sacs of America and for the first time, to the neighborhoods and mesas of Albuquerque.

In its own believe-it-or-not way, Hava Nagila (The Movie) encapsulates the Jewish journey over the past 150 years.

It also reveals the power of one song to express and sustain identity, to transmit lessons across generations and to bridge cultural divides and connect us all on a universal level.

Hava Nagila (The Movie) uses the song as a springboard to explore Jewish history and identity and to spotlight the cross-cultural connections that can only be achieved through music.

Purchase tickets here. View the trailer here.

You have certainly heard the song ... over and over, again and again and again. But the movie? Not so much?

To help you decide that you really need to attend, here are reviews from the Chicago Tribune,, Rotten Tomatoes, and The New York Times.

But perhaps Harry Belafonte puts it best:
When you find a song that says ‘Let us rejoice,’ there’s no better song to leave an evening with.
Hava Nagila tells us who we should be and what we, in a fundamental sense, aspire to be — peoples of love and joy and peace.
And when it comes to singing Hava Nagila, there is Harry Belafonte - and then there is everyone else (for example: Glen Campbell, who also appears in Have Nagila (The Movie).

And when it comes to Harry Belafonte, there is (in Abq Jew's family tradition) the double album Harry Belafonte at Carnegie Hall (recorded April 19 and April 20, 1959) - and then there is every other Harry Belafonte album in the world.

Nu? Abq Jew invites you to join him at the JCC!