Friday, August 29, 2014

Starting to Count Jews

Shabbat Zozozbra Labor Day Alert: Yes, Abq Jew announced way back in February (see Jews Don't Count and Pew, Feh, Ich, Yich) that

the Jewish Federation of New Mexico has commissioned the first ever scientific study to determine the community’s demographic composition, assess current needs of Jewish residents, and plan for the future.  
Beginning this month, the 2014 New Mexico Jewish demographic study research team will begin a two-phased process to learn more about Jewish New Mexico’s attitudes and behaviors, and to identify subsets requiring specific communal services.
The study (let's not call it a census; that sounds too much like counting) will be conducted by Kupersmit Research, a small, Denver-based strategic research firm. Marina Arbetman-Rabinowitz, PhD, will be the New Mexico project consultant.

Scarlett Johansson has nothing to do with the 2014 JFNM Population Study.
But there are reports that SodaStream is moving its Ma’ale Adumim factory to the Negev.

Great news! That's mostly all still true!
Except that
The 2014 JFNM Population Study will begin in September.
Which means you didn't miss it after all!

In fact, the latest press release (from noted Abq PR firm James Korenchen) further informs us that
The first phase of the survey will be conducted online, through a sample of emails provided by the Jewish Federation of New Mexico through a web-based survey. In addition, mailed questionnaires and telephone calls to a sample of New Mexico residents with Jewish surnames and other sources will be conducted to maximize reach.  
“It is important for everyone to complete the first phase of the survey to help us assess the needs of New Mexico’s Jewish residents,” said Marina Arbetman-Rabinowitz, Ph.D., New Mexico project consultant for the survey.  
Once the results of the survey are received, the second phase of the study will be introduced.  Phase two will consist of focus group research and interviews. It will allow for a more detailed depiction of the Jewish communities’ patterns and behaviors, and how they differ between age, gender, affiliated and unaffiliated individuals.    
“We expect the results of the landmark survey to be truly transform-ational and provide a picture of the affiliated and unaffiliated Jewish households in New Mexico. The data will help us better recognize the challenges and barriers New Mexico Jews have faced, as well as their motivations and aspirations,” said Arbetman-Rabinowitz.
Sam Sokolove, Executive Director of the Jewish Federation of New Mexico, said
The Jews of New Mexico have had an extraordinary impact on the history of the state and the cultural, political, business and social lives of people living in the Land of Enchantment. 
The results of the survey will help us plan for the future of our community as it expands throughout the state. 
In other Jewish news:

The 90th Burning of Zozobra
For the Cleansing of Sins: Redux)
takes place at Ft Marcy Park in Santa Fe
on Erev Shabbat Labor Day, August 29 2014

presenting a small problem for Santa Fe's Shomer Shabbos Yidden who wish to celebrate the annual cremation of Old Man Gloom. But the observant can observe by walking over to Ft Marcy, and tickets can be pre-purchased. Plus there are reports that the event will be streamed live on the Internet. Set your Shabbos timers!

And don't forget -

Shabbat Shalom, Albuquerque!
Good Shabbos, New Mexico!
Happy Labor Day, Everyone!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Our eScapegoat is Here!

Atonement* Sponsored by B'nai Israel: It's (finally) Rosh Hodesh Elul! And, as Abq Jew pre-announced just last week (see Welcoming Our eScapegoat), this year

Congregation B'nai Israel
 is proudly providing its very own eScapegoat
for the entire Abq Jewish community.
And we get to display our own list of sins!

In Bible times, Israelites atoned with sacrifices. 

Once a year, on what we now call Yom Kippur, the High Priest placed all the Israelites' sins on a goat and set it loose in the wilderness.

The High Priest took two goats. He sacrificed one - and then he laid his hands on the other, transferring the community's sins onto it. Then, he sent the scapegoat off into the wilderness.

From the goat's perspective, neither path ended well.

But that was then. Today, we reflect and try to clean our slates during Elul, the Hebrew month before Yom Kippur.

Yes, Elul is all about atonement, and as a fun way to engage, this year Congregation B'nai Israel is proudly providing its very own eScapegoat for the entire Albuquerque Jewish community.

B'nai Israel's eScapegoat is now roaming the Internet ( collecting sins before Yom Kippur. Here are a few choice sins our eScapegoat has collected so far:
  • Instead of learning Talmud I watch Breaking Bad all day long.
  • Thanks to my road rage, my 3 year old daughter has learned an impressive assortment of curse words.
  • I am going to Las Vegas on Yom Kippur... That cannot be good...
Check it out and add your own! Our eScapegoat is waiting for you to repent!

Atone today! Atone next week!
Atone anytime before Yom Kippur!
With the B'nai Israel eScapegoat!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Cloudy With A Chance of Rockets

Red Alert: There's An App For That! The Israel-Hamas War continues today. An Israeli strike overnight has killed three senior Hamas commanders, while the fate of a fourth remains unclear.

And back in Europe and much of what we still call The Free World, the demonization of Jews and their state continues and increases. And Deborah Lipstadt says in her opinion piece in The New York Tines, Why Jews Are Worried:
An old Jewish joke goes like this: “ 
What’s the definition of a Jewish telegram? 
‘Start worrying. Details to follow.’
I am often asked by fellow Jews about contemporary manifestations of anti-Semitism, particularly in Europe. “Is this just like 1939? Are we on the cusp of another Holocaust?” Until now, my answer has been an unequivocal “no.” 
But then she continues:
The differences between then and now are legion. When there is an outbreak of anti-Semitism today, officials condemn it. This is light-years away from the 1930s and 1940s, when governments were not only silent but complicit. Memory also distinguishes the present from previous events. Now, in contrast to the 1930s, we know matters can escalate. Jews today are resolute in their determination: “Never again.” 
And despite all this I wonder if I am too sanguine. 
Ms Lipstadt's opinion piece included the animated GIF above, which was just too cute for Abq Jew not to include here. And all this is a long way from Cynthia Ozick's 1974 essay "All the World Wants the Jews Dead."

But still.

Iron Dome     כיפת ברזל

Back to the rockets, which, after a short ceasefire break, are again falling on Israel.

Want to know where they're falling? One way to stay in touch is the

Red App Page - אפליקציית התרעות צבע אדום

You can download the Android App from Google Play here:

Or you can download the iPhone App from iTunes here:

If you're stuck at home (or at the office), you can point your browser to the

Israel Real-Time Red Alert Map

To those of us Outside The Land, this can seem too much like a video game. But if you set up the Red Alert website to Play sound when a new alert is added, you'll feel like you're more a part of it. Although you and Abq Jew are not.

The Israel Real-Time Red Alert Map even tells you how much longer you need to stay in your shelter. How user-friendly!

Three Four Five Six Seven Eight Nine Ten
Thirteen Fourteen alerts have sounded
since Abq Jew began to write this blog post.

And for Twitter fans - which @AbqJew is - you can follow @underattackbot, which automatically tweets when sirens go off in Israel. You can automatically retweet too! Just sign up here at Retweet4Israel.

The first thing you'll need to know is which Defensive Zone you're in. Here is a video that explains.

Defensive Zones Map

If you already know how to take shelter if you're indoors when a Red Alert is sounded - and you should -  the next thing you'll need to know is how is how to take cover if you're outside. Here is a video that shows what you should do.
Take Cover Outside

May God bless and protect the Land of Israel
and all who wish to live there in peace.

OK ... to end this blog post on a happier note, The Times of Israel reports that 
Police hit bomb shelter casino
All bets are now off at rocket-protection room used for gambling, drugs
Israeli police on Thursday discovered that a shelter meant to protect civilians from Palestinian rocket fire had instead been transformed into a makeshift casino, complete with a mini cannabis plantation. <Read more>
What a country! 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Welcoming Our eScapegoat

Atonement* Sponsored by B'nai Israel: Last year, Abq Jew was happy (see For the Cleansing of Sins: Redux) to announce a total of four five ways to cleanse oneself from a year's worth of sin.

The most popular way turned out to be  

2. Send A Goat To Azazel

In Bible times, Israelites atoned with sacrifices. 
Once a year, on what we now call Yom Kippur, the High Priest placed all the Israelites' sins on a goat and set it loose in the wilderness.

The High Priest took two goats. He sacrificed one - and then he laid his hands on the other, transferring the community's sins onto it. Then, he sent the scapegoat off into the wilderness.

From the goat's perspective, neither path ended well.
But that was then.

Today, we reflect and try to clean our slates during Elul, the Hebrew month before Yom Kippur. Elul is all about atonement.

Last year the folks at provided the whole world with one very busy eScapegoat.

People everywhere submitted their sins to the interactive eScapegoat, and G-dcast staff sent some of the most interesting and entertaining to a Twitter feed: @sinfulgoat. As well as to an eScapegoat website, right here.

This year, the eScapegoat program has gotten much larger, and, paradoxically, much more personal. How much more personal? Personal to the point where

Congregation B'nai Israel
 is proudly providing its very own eScapegoat
for the entire Abq Jewish community.
And we get to display our own list of sins!

*No actual Halachic atonement implied

Beginning on Rosh Hodesh Elul (Tuesday August 26 and Wednesday August 27), B'nai Israel's eScapegoat will roaming the Internet collecting sins before Yom Kippur.

To which Abq Jew can only add

Don't atone today! Atone next week!
With the B'nai Israel eScapegoat!

Monday, August 18, 2014

For Vera, Chuck & Dave

Yours Sincerely:  No, Abq Jew is not, thank God, wasting away. But he is, as of today, sixty-four (64) years of age.

From The Beatles Bible:
When I'm Sixty-Four
Written by: Lennon-McCartney
Recorded: 6, 8, 20, 21 December 1966
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Geoff Emerick

Released: 1 June 1967 (UK), 2 June 1967 (US)

Paul McCartney: vocals, piano, bass
John Lennon: backing vocals, guitar
George Harrison: backing vocals
Ringo Starr: drums, chimes
Robert Burns, Henry MacKenzie, Frank Reidy: clarinets

The first of the Sgt Pepper songs to be recorded, When I'm Sixty-Four was originally intended to be the b-side to Strawberry Fields Forever.

The song dates back to The Beatles' earliest days. Paul McCartney had composed it on the family piano at 20 Forthlin Road, Liverpool "when I was about 15".
Back then I wasn't necessarily looking to be a rock 'n' roller. When I wrote When I'm Sixty-Four I thought I was writing a song for Sinatra. There were records other than rock 'n' roll that were important to me.
Paul McCartney
McCartney used to perform a variation of the song in their Cavern Club era, on piano, when the group's equipment used to stop working.
When I'm Sixty-Four was something Paul wrote in the Cavern days. We just stuck a few more words on it like 'grandchildren on your knee' and 'Vera, Chuck and Dave'. It was just one of those ones that he'd had, that we've all got, really; half a song. And this was just one that was quite a hit with us. We used to do them when the amps broke down, just sing it on the piano.
John Lennon
The song was dusted down in 1966, the year McCartney's father Jim turned 64. When I'm Sixty-Four focuses on a young man anxiously looking towards old age; the vocals were sped up in the studio to make them sound more sprightly.

The music is suitably old-fashioned, with a music hall melody and an arrangement prominently featuring George Martin's clarinet score.
 A small cultural note from Wikipedia:
McCartney's children recorded a special version of "When I'm Sixty-Four" at Abbey Road Studios as a surprise present for McCartney's 64th birthday in June 2006, and played it for him at his birthday party. They changed the lyrics to fit the occasion with the help of Giles Martin.
At the time, by unfortunate coincidence, McCartney was recently separated from his second wife, Heather Mills; they later divorced.

Thank you, everyone, for all your birthday wishes.
To paraphrase Allan Sherman
(Shticks and Stones, from the album My Son, The Folksinger):
Thank God for Obamacare and the Blue Cross
and next year (God willing)
I'll be on Medicare!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Speaking Out in Closed Societies

Norma Libman @ Osher: The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of New Mexico is pleased to present Lecturer and Workshop Leader Norma Libman discussing "Speaking Out in Closed Societies.”

Osher Lifelong Learning Institute
Norma Libman
 Speaking Out in Closed Societies
Wednesday August 20 2014 ~ 2:00 pm
UNM Continuing Education ~ North Building

In pre-Communist China women in the small villages of Hunan Province developed their own secret writing system. They used this script to communicate with each other because they were not allowed to go to school and learn Mandarin.

Their script is called Nu Shu, which means women’s writing. It was usually sewn into household linens as decoration, in order to disguise its true purpose. Norma Libman has written a novel, Lonely River Village, based on actual writings preserved from this era.
If women's tears were gathered
they would make a river wider
and longer than the Yangtze River.
- Anonymous Nu Shu

She will tell us how she discovered the Nu Shu, how she obtained translations and how she wrote this story of women who refused to be silenced in a culture that did not value their contributions.

Norma Libman is a journalist and lecturer who has been collecting women's stories for more than twenty years. Her areas of concentration are crypto-Jews and Conversos, Chinese women writers of Nu Shu, and diaries of women pioneers.

She has published more than 500 articles in newspapers nationwide on many topics, and has also written for textbook publishers and newsletters.

Currently Norma lectures for Elderhostel/Road Scholar educational touring programs, teaches classes for OASIS, an older adult educational program, leads writing workshops, and lectures around the country about crypto-Jews.

Norma has degrees in education and literature from Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago. She has taught writing, literature and humanities at universities and colleges in Illinois and New Mexico, and has written The Memoir Writing Workbook for use in her writing workshops.

If you can't make it to Norma Libman's class at Osher, here are a few more places where she will be discussing Lonely River Village and similar themes:
  • Sunday September 14 @ 3:00 pm. Congregation Albert Authors Panel. Talk and book signing for Lonely River Village.
  • Thursday October 23 @ 12 Noon. Congregation Albert  Open MInd. Lecture on  "Compromised Jewish Communities Around the World."
  • Thursday November 6 @ 10:30 am. OASIS. Class on "The Secret Nu Shu Language of China."
 The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute was established through a grant from the Bernard Osher Foundation in 2007 and membership in the Osher community is open to adults age 50 plus who are seeking intellectually challenging, psychologically probing and spiritually engaging learning opportunities.
Membership is only $20 per calendar year and entitles the holder to several discounts and benefits on and off-campus. For more information, please contact Maralie BeLonge, Osher Program Supervisor at 277-6179 or or visit the website at http://ce.unm.ed

Monday, August 11, 2014

There Is No 'Why' Here

Holocaust Photographs of Karl Koenig: The Albuquerque Photographers' Gallery is proud to present the first New Mexico exhibit of the Holocaust photographs of Karl Koenig, author of Fragments: Architecture of the Holocaust, An Artist's Journey Through the Camps.

There Is No 'Why' Here
Holocaust Photographs of Karl Koenig
Albuquerque Photographers' Gallery
In Plaza Don Luis, Old Town
August 16 ~ September 20, 2014

When Italian chemist Primo Levi arrived at Auschwitz, after a winter train ride jammed into unheated box cars with 650 other Jews, he was thirsty. Hanging from the eave of a building were icicles. Levi asked a guard if he could have one. The guard said, “No”. Levi asked why. The guard responded, “There is no why here.”

Levi survived Auschwitz along with only 20 of the 650 Jews who arrived there with him. Millions more were murdered in the death camps. As the magnitude of the Holocaust became clear, Winston Churchill said, “We are in the presence of a crime without a name.” The word genocide resulted from Churchill's comment.

Art often doesn't need a name or a word to explain something. 

Seventy years later there is still no “why” in the remains
of the Nazi extermination camps. 

Artist Karl Koenig's photographs stand as haunting,
evocative portrayals of the senseless evil. 

Over a span of ten years, from 1994-2004, he photographed what was left of the camps and turned those photographs into unique art works that give viewers a glimpse, a fragment, of what the camps were.

Koenig was a New Mexico artist of international renown. That fame rested, in large part, on the decade of work he spent photographing the remnants of ten Nazi death camps. He was haunted by the questions raised by the Holocaust and sought answers through his art.

Beginning with straight photographs, Koenig developed them into majestic, harrowing works of art using a unique printing process he invented and perfected. The end result was a transformational body of art that explores the pure evil of the camps.

The resulting gumoil prints, each of which took several weeks to produce, are powerful photographs of the remains of Holocaust concentration camps.

His work has been exhibited in galleries and museums all over the world, but never before in his native New Mexico. Now his photographs are coming home.

You can see them for yourself
at the Albuquerque Photographers' Gallery
from August 16 through September 30. 
The Opening Reception is on Saturday August 16,
from 5:30 through 9:00 pm.

The original prints, shown at the Houston Holocaust Museum exhibition are scheduled to be shown on a national and international tour after our New Mexico show.

A very limited number of original gumoil prints from the broader Holocaust body of work will be available for purchase as will copies of Koenig's book, Fragments: Architecture of the Holocaust, An Artist's Journey Through the Camps.

Albuquerque Photographers' Gallery is located in Albuquerque's Old Town at 303 Romero Street. You'll find it on the second floor, in the Northeast corner of Don Luis Plaza, across the street to the west of the church. (There is an elevator on the south side of the building.)

The gallery will be open during the exhibition every day from 10:00 am until 6:00 pm.

Further information is available at the gallery's website 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Protective Edgy

Defending Israel on Twitter: As we approach Shabbat Nahamu, the Sabbath of Consolation that follows the fast of Tisha b'Av, Abq Jew is thinking about hashtags.

As many of his readers know, Abq Jew regularly but passively defends Israel on Facebook and Twitter. Why "passively"? Because he mostly shares good content on Facebook and retweets good content on Twitter.

Abq Jew posts and tweets original content a few times a week - sometimes about Israel, but very often not. There are a lot of things going on in Jewish Albuquerque that Abq Jew wants to share with you.

And Abq Jew is aware of  - and very wary of - getting trapped by our new technology.

In our hand we hold a small device that has access to much of the world's accumulated knowledge and some of its wisdom.
And what do we use it for? To watch cat videos and
to argue with people we don't know.

Here are three (3) stories about hashtags.

Hashtag Story #1

With all this in mind, @AbqJew retweeted a blog posting by Tel Aviv-based writer and coach @Julie_Gray, with the clever yet succinct introduction, Good Advice from Israel.
A Simple Guide for Talking to Your Jewish & Israeli Friends
Here are some simple Do’s and Don’ts to help you discuss the current conflict in Israel with your Israeli or Jewish friends on social media. These suggestions are tongue-in-cheek. Except they aren’t. Because most everybody I know who lives in Israel has received one or more of these types of messages and folks – this is not helping.
Hey! I’m angry about this! Why is your A) country B) government C) army D) people committing A) genocide B) such cruelty C) racism D) apartheid?!
Hey, this is really awful, are you okay? Can you help me understand what is going on? 
OMG! Be safe! Arabs are all A) terrorists B) animals C) stupid D) all of the above! You should A) get rid of them! B) hate them! C) cheer on the world to wipe them out!
Hey, this is really awful, are you okay? Can you help me understand what is going on? 
I just love and support blessed Israel so much because the messiah and Jesus and stuff and bless Israel and I’m sending you a tee-shirt and our prayer group is praying for you because my agenda (aw, poor Jews) my agenda (if they’d only listened before) my personal belief system (this is so biblical!) my agenda. LOVE YOU!
Hey, this is really awful, are you okay? Can you help me understand what is going on? 
Click here for more.
Tongue-in-cheek, sorta kinda. Not exactly fire-and-brimstone. With a clear point-of-view, yet stated with humor, tact, and (mostly) good will.

Who could object?

Abq Jew and, he is sure, Julie Gray, received a large number of supportive retweets and favorable replies. And then there were these:

Before @Abq Jew's retweet, @Julie_Gray and Abq Jew did not know or even know of each other. Now we're in the hashtag war together.

Except that we've chosen to avoid arguing with people we don't know. That's what friends and family are for.

Hashtag Story #2

Chloe Valdary published an opinion piece in Tablet Magazine on July 28 that Abq Jew thought was very well written and slightly incendiary. You know - perfect.

So Abq Jew shared the piece on Facebook and tweeted the piece on Twitter.
To the Students for Justice in Palestine, a Letter From an Angry Black Woman 
‘You do not have the right to invoke my people’s struggle for your shoddy purposes’
A protest led by Students for Justice in Palestine
at the University of Maryland, College Park in 2009.
(Gerald Martineau/The Washington Post/Getty Images)
The student organization Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) is prominent on many college campuses, preaching a mantra of “Freeing Palestine.” It masquerades as though it were a civil rights group when it is not. Indeed, as an African-American, I am highly insulted that my people’s legacy is being pilfered for such a repugnant agenda. It is thus high time to expose its agenda and lay bare some of the fallacies they peddle. 
  • If you seek to promulgate the legacy of early Islamic colonialists who raped and pillaged the Middle East, subjugated the indigenous peoples living in the region, and foisted upon them a life of persecution and degradation—you do not get to claim the title of “Freedom Fighter.”
  • If you support a racist doctrine of Arab supremacism and wish (as a corollary of that doctrine) to destroy the Jewish state, you do not get to claim that the prejudices you peddle are forms of legitimate “resistance.”
  • If your heroes are clerics who sit in Gaza plotting the genocide of a people; who place their children on rooftops in the hopes they will get blown to bits; who heap praises upon their fellow gang members when they succeed in murdering Jewish school boys and bombing places of activity where Jews congregate—you do not get to claim that you are some Apollonian advocate of human virtue. You are not.
Click here for more.
The response? Once again, a goodly number of favorites and retweets. And this:

Not to worry.

One bad apple spoils the barrel? Not really. 

But then - Abq Jew is neurotic enough to be writing about it!

Hashtag Story #3

Here is the best hashtag story - the one really good story that sort of makes the two previous stories go away.

@Abq Jew was watching CNN (apologizes to everyone concerned) last Friday afternoon, when Twitter alerted him that he had a new follower: @gershonbaskin.

Who, you may ask, is Gershon Baskin? Abq Jew didn't know, either. But then Abq Jew looked at the TV - and there was our chaver, @wolfblitzer, interviewing Gershon Baskin.

Really. You can click here for the transcript of that interview. Or click here to watch a different Blitzer-Baskin interview.

In any event, Gershon Baskin, PhD, was
the initiator and the person responsible for the secret back channel between Israel and the Hamas that successfully negotiated the release of Israeli abducted soldier Gilead Schalit.
Dr Baskin was the Israeli Co-Director and founder of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI) - a joint Israeli-Palestinian public policy think and “do”-tank located in Jerusalem. 
Since January 2012 he is the Co-Chairman of IPCRI’s Board of Directors. He initiated the founding of IPCRI in 1988 following ten years of work in the field of Jewish-Arab relations within Israel, in Interns for Peace where he lived for two years in the Israeli-Palestinian village of Kufr Qara, the Ministry of Education and as Executive Director of the Institute for Education for Jewish-Arab Coexistence (established by the Israeli Ministry of Education and the Prime Minister’s Office at Baskin’s initiative).
So here is the point:

Gershon Baskin checked with Abq Jew,
then went on CNN to talk with Wolf Blitzer.

Just sayin'.

And while we're talking: You might think, after reading Dr Baskin's bio above, that he is a left-leaning, Israel-bashing, "pro-Palestinian" Jewish intellectual type. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Dr Baskin is a practical, pragmatic political activist.
A problem-solving, reality-based peace engineer.

Abq Jew invites his readers to visit Gershon Baskin's website; to follow him on Twitter; and to read his bookThe Negotiator: Freeing Gilad Schalit from Hamas.

And in spite of the renewal of fighting this morning
Shabbat Shalom, Albuquerque!
Good Shabbos, New Mexico!
!שׁבּת שׁלום ומבורך, ארץ ישׂראל

Thursday, August 7, 2014

An Introduction to Judaism

RACAA Rolls Out 2014 Intro Class: With knowledge, some of the bewildering aspects of Judaism and its practices can be resolved. Other aspects contribute to an enduring and lively debate.

RACAA, the Rabbinical and Cantorial Association of Albuquerque, presents

Introduction to Judaism Class 2014 
Wednesdays August 13 through December 17
7:00 to 9:00 pm at Congregation Albert

The classes run on Wednesday evenings through December 17, and end with a celebratory Sabbath dinner on December 19.

Non-Jewish or Jewish - all are welcome

The class fee is $54. Payment, made payable to Rabbi Brin Discretionary Fund, should be sent to Congregation Albert.

There are two required books and seven additional suggested resources. Participants would acquire their own books. All books are available from Amazon new and used; all but one are available in Kindle versions; books may be ordered through a bookstore; a few are available from the library.

Some of the topics covred include: Who is a Jew, God and Faith, Jewish texts, comparison to other faiths and traditions, Anti-Semitism and Zionism.

For registration and  additional information,
please contact Cassidy Smith at (505) 883-1818.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Drasha Diamond Number 6

Shabbat Hazon 2014: In recent months*, Abq Jew has highlighted exceptional drashot that he felt deserved to be brought to the attention of a wider audience.

And Abq Jew invited any and all of the reported 24 ordained rabbis who currently reside in the Land of Enchantment to join in the fun. Today, we turn again to Rabbi Arthur Flicker of Congregation B'nai Israel of Albuquerque.

This drasha - another jewel - deals with the meaning of Tisha b'Av for Jews of today. It is reprinted here by permission. Rabbi Flicker's got the copyright; all rights reserved.

Drasha Diamond Number 6
Shabbat Hazon

Rabbi Arthur Flicker
Congregation B'nai Israel

Fasting on Tisha b'Av

Monday night marks the beginning of Tisha b’Av.

Tisha b’Av is the day when we commemorate the destruction of the two holy Temples in Jerusalem and the exile of the Jewish People from the land of Israel. For some Orthodox sects, it is also the day when the Holocaust is commemorated.

In observing Tisha b’Av, one is to fast for twenty five hours, just as on Yom Kippur, share in special Torah readings and read the Book of Lamentations. The idea is that these tragedies which we remember on that day, occurred because of the actions of the Jewish People. So, we mourn and remember as a way of repentance for the sins of the past.

I have always been troubled by Tisha b’Av. While the destruction of each holy Temple marked a low point in Jewish history, I am a firm participant in Rabbinic Judaism.

I do not believe in the need for animal sacrifices. I am not in favor of building a third Temple. And, although my family tells me that I am a Kohayn, a descendant of Aaron the first High Priest I have no desire to be a Priest in some future Temple in Jerusalem. I am very happy as the Conservative Rabbi in Albuquerque.

So, since I do not yearn for the re-establishment of the Temple cult, and we are again blessed with a free and independent Jewish State of Israel, I am challenged about how to and even whether to observe this holy day which commemorates events that took place thousands of years ago.

As a student of history, I believe it is important to study and remember the past. However, doing so with a twenty five hour fast for the traditional reasons seems a little extreme.

Most Jews no longer buy into the theology that everything bad that happens to us is a form of punishment from God for our own actions. The death of the six million smashed that theology. Since 1945 or so, we began defending ourselves, understanding that we are not the bad ones. We are not the ones to blame for 2000 years of Jewish suffering.

Therefore, the question remains, “Why observe Tisha b’Av? What does Tisha b’Av mean in our modern world?”

Unfortunately, the reality is that tragedies and challenges continue to effect Jews in our modern world. There is discrimination and persecutions in countries around the world. Recently, Jews have been attacked in synagogues in France. The hate against us continues.

More important, our beloved Israel is, once again, facing a battle for its existence. 

Rockets from Hama, which used to be like fireworks, now threaten over 70% of Israel. Were Hezbullah in Lebanon to join in the battle, all of Israel would fall under the threat of attacking rockets. In addition, Israel has discovered mile after mile of underground tunnels beneath Gaza,

in some cases built to hide weapons and rocket launching facilities for Hamas, and in other cases, built to go under the border with Israel and provide Hamas fighters the opportunity to sneak into Israel and carry out terrorist attacks or kidnappings in the Israeli farms and villages near the Gaza border.

Were any other country in the world to face this kind of challenge to its very existence, there would be absolutely no question about that country’s right to defend itself.

Yet, as Israel tries to defend itself by trying to restrict Hamas’ ability to bring weapons into Gaza, by attacking missile launching sites and by searching for and destroying tunnels, the world demands that Israel stop.

President Obama doesn’t call Arab leaders and demand that they get Hamas to stop firing missiles. The President doesn’t call for the demilitarization of Gaza. Instead, he calls Netenyahu and demands that Israel stops its acts of defense.

The truth is, that as free as we are as Jews in America, there are many places in the world in which Jews are not only not as free, but often even threatened. Anti Israel protests often go beyond peaceful protest to include attacks on Jews or Jewish institutions.

Even here in the United States, the news coverage often focuses on the suffering of the Palestinians in Gaza, without explaining the facts behind the destruction of their homes, schools and mosques.

The suffering of innocents in Gaza is tragic. But all they have to do to stop the suffering is to get their leaders to stop launching rockets into Israel. When the rockets stop, Israel will stop. It is that simple. But the world and the media don’t always see that. It is easier to blame Israel. It is easier, as it has been throughout history, to blame the Jews.

The truth is that Jewish suffering is not a uniquely Jewish problem. It is a human problem. 

We live in a cruel, often heartless world and for us, as Jews - that is simply not acceptable.

So, as Jews, we take responsibility for our own contributions to that cruelty and heartlessness through our actions or lack of actions. We may not be able to change the whole world, but we can learn to solve the hatred and cruelty within ourselves and our community.

I think that is where we find our message for Tisha b’Av in a modern world. We fast and we pray, not so much in memory of the Temples, rather as a response to hatred and cruelty.

We will fast and pray in memory of Jews who have been persecuted or killed throughout history. We will fast and pray in the hope for world understanding of the challenges faced by the land of Israel.

We will pray and fast for peace in Israel. And we fast for the countless victims of shootings and hatred throughout our country, because while we Jews have and continue to suffer, we don’t have a monopoly on suffering or pain and we DO sometimes, unfortunately, play a role in the suffering.

Will our fasting change the world? Probably not. But perhaps our fasting will change us and help change our community, just a tiny bit. Because unless we remember our own suffering and sorrow, we can never understand the suffering of others.


Rabbi Arthur Flicker was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio. A graduate of Northwestern University, with an MA in Jewish History from the Ohio State University, Rabbi Flicker was ordained by Rabbi Rueben Luckens in 1990.

Prior to coming to Congregation B'nai Israel, Rabbi Flicker served congregations in Tyler, Texas; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Columbus, Ohio. He always been active in community affairs, having been awarded the Martin Luther King, Jr. Spirit Award by the Cincinnati Baptist Ministers Conference. 

In Albuquerque, Rabbi Flicker has served on the board of the Samaritan Council, the Public Safety Partnership, the Governor’s Homeland Security Religious Advisory Taskforce and as a Chaplain for the Albuquerque Police Department.

A former public school teacher and coach, business owner and synagogue administrator, Rabbi Flicker brings a unique collection of skills to the rabbinate. Partnering with volunteers within  the congregation, Rabbi Flicker has brought diverse services and programming to our community. He has also encourage the participation of members of all ages in our religious services.