Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Autumn, Red, Linen and Wool

Jewish New Mexico - Our Future: As you know from Abq Jew's blog post NM Jewish Population Survey Results Announced, preliminary results of the only established permanent floating Jewish Population Survey in New Mexico have just been released.

And if you've been following (you have, haven't you?), you must surely expect that the beautiful and talented Stav Shaffir has nothing at all to do with the JFNM Population Study.

What she does have to do with (as the youngest female Knesset member in Israel's history) is speaking out for and supporting a wide array of social justice-related issues – from affordable housing for young Israelis to the rights of Women of the Wall.

And as of March 17 - Israel's upcoming Election Day, curiously scheduled for St Patrick's Day - she could be something altogether different. Haaretz reports:
It’s not just the big messy mane of red hair that distinguishes this high-energy lawmaker from her Knesset colleagues, who often refer to her as the gingit, Hebrew for “redhead.” 
At 29, Shaffir is the youngest member of the outgoing Knesset and the youngest woman ever to serve as an Israeli lawmaker. 
If the Zionist Camp ends up forming the next government, which recent opinion polls indicate is a distinct possibility, she could very well become the youngest woman ever to sit in the Israeli cabinet.
A video of Shaffir's 3-minute January 21, 2015 Knesset speech (which Abq Jew has thoughtfully provided below) has gone viral (with English subtitles). In it, Ms Shaffir sharply attacks Israel's right wing politicians, saying,
Don't preach to us about Zionism, because real Zionism means dividing the budget equally among all the citizens of the country. 
Real Zionism is taking care of the weak. 
Real Zionism is solidarity, not only in battle but in everyday life.

You can learn more about Ms Shaffir here and here and here (she's been getting an awful lot of press lately). Oh - her first name, Stav, is Hebrew for Autumn.

She's here to attract your eye and your brain, dear reader. How's she doing?

Let's see what the Survey has to say - by the numbers - about the New Mexico Jewish community.

87% from someplace else? 84% raised Jewish? Neither number surprised Abq Jew.

The first thing Abq Jew noticed about these numbers was the 78% -
  • The 78% who said they were emotionally attached to Israel (always good to see); and
  • The 78% who said it is important to be involved with the Jewish community.
But the second thing Abq Jew noticed about these numbers was the 56% -
  • The 56% who said they are members of a synagogue.
And the third thing Abq Jew noticed about these numbers was the 30% -
  • The approximately 30% who said they are members of a Jewish organization.
Oy. Back in the good old days, when you said you were "involved with the Jewish community" it meant you were a) a member of at least one synagogue; and b) a member of at least one Jewish organization.

These days in NM, there is a noticeable gap between those who say it is important to be involved and those who are actually involved - at least, in the old-fashioned way we used to think about involvement.

As Abq Jew has pointed out (see The Shuls Where We Don't Belong) -

It's a whole new ballgame; the old rules no longer apply.

And another point:

What we should be after is not just
involvement, but commitment. 
Jews should be committed to institutions.

What's the difference? It's like (you should pardon the simile) the difference between ham and eggs:

And while we're talking about percentages - did you know that

Redheads are only about 1% of the world population.

Which brings Abq Jew to the subject of


What the heck is shatnez? Abq Jew hears you exclaim. And what does shatnez have to do with the results of New Mexico's Jewish Population Survey?

Wikipedia (and Chabad and Chabad and My Jewish Learning and Aish) explains:
Shatnez שַׁעַטְנֵז is cloth containing both wool and linen (linsey-woolsey), which Jewish law, derived from the Torah, prohibits wearing. 
The relevant parts of the Torah (Leviticus 19:19 and Deuteronomy 22:9–11) prohibit an individual from wearing wool and linen fabrics in one garment, the interbreeding of different species of animals, and the planting together of different kinds of seeds (collectively known as kilayim).
The important thing to keep in mind here is that

Some things just don't belong together. 

When we consider the full report of Phase One of the Demographic and Attitudinal Survey of the Jewish Population of New Mexico, two such things are

1691  |   and   |  24K

1691 was not the year of Abq Jew's Bat Mitzvah. That was 1963, the year of Chubby Checker and the Twist. 1691 is the number of people who responded to the Survey. Who are these people? Abq Jew hears you ask. New Mexico Jewish eLink Editor Sara Koplik tells us in her Survey Results Synopsis:
Survey respondents were solicited primarily from lists that synagogues and Jewish organizations provided to the Jewish Federation of New Mexico. We also had some random digit dialing based on lists of known Jewish surnames, and sent out press releases to the larger media. 
But for the most part, the responses shown here come from people who want to be found, people who want to be counted as Jewish, and who are already connected in one way or another, be it with a synagogue, the JCC, PJ Library or the Santa Fe Jewish Film Festival. 
24K does not, at least here, refer to the carat rating of pure gold. 24K (24,000) is the number of Jews scientifically estimated to live in New Mexico. Where did this number come from? Abq Jew hears you ask. The original press release (see NM Jewish Population Survey Results Announced) reported
In conjunction with the work of the Steinhardt Social Research Institute at Brandeis University, the preliminary results of the survey revealed that New Mexico has a growing Jewish population with approximately 24,000 residents, double the amount [sic] the Jewish Federation of New Mexico previously estimated. 
But alas, the press release was. at best, misleading, and at worst, just plain wrong. Although it was announced at the same time as the Survey results, the number 24K did not come from the Survey; it was derived from a completely different scientific analysis of population data.

Abq Jew (and, he hopes, you, dear reader) had a lot of fun mixing 1691 with 24K in The Shuls Where We Don't Belong.

But it's shatnez! 
Two things that just don't belong together.

And while we're talking - did you know that (says Wikipedia)
Scotland has the highest proportion of redheads; 13% of the population has red hair and approximately 40% carries the recessive redhead gene. 
Ireland has the second highest percentage; as many as 10% of the Irish population has red, auburn, or strawberry blond hair. It is thought that up to 46% of the Irish population carries the recessive redhead gene.
Here's to Abq Jew's mother, Roselyn L Yellin, of blessed memory,
a "strong willed redhead" (see Boogie Woogie) in her own right.

Stay tuned! There's more to come!

Complete preliminary results of the Survey are now posted at


Sara Koplik's synopsis of the Survey is now posted at


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