Monday, November 23, 2015

Thanksgiving 2015

Happy Thanksgiving: This Thanksgiving week, let's be happy.

And let's give thanks - to God, to the Fates, or to Fortune - for who we are, for where we stand, and, yes, for what we have.

And let us pray that hard times - poverty, war, destruction, disease, or random events that just seem to happen in the world - come again no more.

Here is the song Hard Times Come Again No More, written by Stephen Foster in 1854.

The song is here performed (as part of The Original Transatlantic Sessions) by Kate & Anna McGarrigle and friends: Rufus Wainwright (son of Kate), Emmylou Harris, Mary Black, Karen Matheson, and Rod Paterson.

Let us pause in life's pleasures and count its many tears,
While we all sup sorrow with the poor;
There's a song that will linger forever in our ears;
Oh! Hard times come again no more.

'Tis the song, the sigh of the weary,
Hard times, hard times, come again no more
Many days you have lingered around my cabin door;
Oh! Hard times come again no more.

Happy Thanksgiving!
Or, as we say in Yiddish:
Only Simchas!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A Victory for Religious Freedom

The Pastafarian Tradition: Just like you, Abq Jew has been watching the news this week. There has been a lot of news, and, as we all know, most of it has been bad.

But some of it has been good, and Abq Jew is eager to tell you about it. But first -

The Flying Spaghetti Monster

During his many years at The Jewish Theological Seminary of America (see Wanna Be A Rabbi? and Rabbi School Dropout), during his subsequent years studying the religious traditions of the world, Abq Jew not once (to his failing memory) encountered the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

You know - the Pastafarians.

Wikipedia succinctly explains:
The Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM) is the deity of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster or Pastafarianism (a portmanteau of pasta and Rastafarian), a social movement that promotes a light-hearted view of religion and opposes the teaching of intelligent design and creationism in public schools. 
Although adherents describe Pastafarianism as a genuine religion, it is generally seen by the media as a parody religion.
And the media - what do they know about religious truth? (Or any truth, for that matter.) Wikipedia continues:
The "Flying Spaghetti Monster" was first described in a satirical open letter written by Bobby Henderson in 2005 to protest the Kansas State Board of Education decision to permit teaching intelligent design as an alternative to evolution in public school science classes.\ 
In that letter, Henderson satirized creationism by professing his belief that whenever a scientist carbon-dates an object, a supernatural creator that closely resembles spaghetti and meatballs is there "changing the results with His Noodly Appendage."
Henderson argued that his beliefs were just as valid as intelligent design, and called for equal time in science classrooms alongside intelligent design and evolution. 
After Henderson published the letter on his website, the Flying Spaghetti Monster rapidly became an Internet phenomenon and a symbol of opposition to the teaching of intelligent design in public schools. 
Lindsay Miller of Lowell, Mass.

Which brings us to Lindsay Miller of Lowell, Mass. - a courageous Pastafiarian who insisted upon and achieved her right to be photographed for her Massachusetts driver's license with a colander (that's a spaghetti strainer, by the way) on her head.

Ms Miller (says the New York Daily News) was previously denied a license renewal in August under Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles policy that does not permit hats or head coverings except for religious reasons.
"They were kind of laughing at me," Miller told the Boston Globe
"I thought of other religions and women and thought that this was not fair. I thought, 'Just because you haven't heard of this belief system, [the RMV] should not be denying me a license," she said. 
"The fact that many see this is as a satirical religion doesn't change the fact that by any standard one can come up with our religion is as legitimate as any other. And *that* is the point,” according to a posting on the church’s web site.
So you want to join the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster yourself and become a Pastafarian? Well, you can start with the entertaining and informative WikiHow article How to Become a Pastafarian.

Or you can visit the Church's website and view this entertaining and informative video:

And then there's the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, led by New Mexico's own Mikey Weinstein, which actually fights for religious freedom in the US military. But only because it has to.

The MRFF's latest victory involves this sign at a Hawaii Army base -

which the MRFF strongly suggested should be taken down - that it's an affront to the Muslims who are our friends (and members of the US Army) as well as an unnecessary provocation to the Muslims who are our enemies.

Plus offensive to Jews (who remember the Crusades differently than Muslims or Christians) and plenty of others.

The sign was taken down.

New Jersey Jets vs Buffalo Bills

And that brings us to Abq Jew's final entry in this week's What Were They Thinking? competition - the game between the "New York" Jets and the Buffalo Bills played last Thursday - November 12 (Rosh Hodesh Kislev!) that The New York Times even wrote about.

The Jets (Gang Green) wore their usual plain green uniforms, with two white stripes down the leg, two white stripes at the shoulder, and white helmets.

The Bills, for the NFL's Color Rush promotion, wore red uniforms, with one white stripe down the leg, two white stripes at the shoulder, and white helmets.

To the colorblind (8% of males, 0.5% of females), the game was in good old black and white. As The Times reported:
“It was just a shock to my system,” [E. J. Arnold] said. 
Arnold is among that subset of the population with red-green colorblindness, and the all-green uniforms worn by the Jets and the all-red ones of the Bills turned the viewing experience into headache-inducing misery. 
The Jets’ green looked green to Arnold. But so did the Bills’ red. To him, everyone looked like a Jet, even though they were never penalized for having too many men on the field. 
On punts, he did not know who was blocking whom. When a pass was caught, he did not know if it was a reception or an interception. 
“I’d watch for three, four minutes and then I’d just say, ‘I can’t figure it out’ and change the channel,” said Arnold, the special teams coordinator at Division II Northwood University in Midland, Mich. 
“If the graphics from the NFL Network weren’t on the bottom of the screen, I couldn’t tell if the Jets or the Bills had the ball.”
It was not what he had expected when he turned on the television after putting his three children to bed. He said he asked his wife, Mandy, to watch “to make sure I wasn’t going crazy."
Last Thursday seems like a long time ago.

This Thursday we again stand with Israel.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Moses On The Mesa On Demand

Acoma Pueblo Governor: Acoma Pueblo, the oldest inhabited community in the United States, has an unusual tie to Judaism - Solomon Bibo, about whom Abq Jew wrote in Moses On The Mesa.

As it turns out, the current Acoma Pueblo Governor, Fred S. Vallo, Jr. will be the featured guest at Congregation Albert Brotherhood’s monthly brunch on Sunday November 22.

Vallo will speak about Acoma Pueblo’s history, as well as the pueblo’s current concerns with rural electrification, gaming contracts, energy development and water concerns.

Back in August 2012, Abq Jew wrote:
Every Jew in New Mexico (claims Abq Jew) knows the story of Solomon Bibo, the German-Jewish immigrant who came to the Land of Enchantment in the 1800s, married a NAP (Native American Princess), and became a real macher in Acoma, his wife's pueblo.  
No Jew outside New Mexico (claims Abq Jew) knows the story. But (claims Abq Jew) they will soon. That's because a team led by Paul Ratner (and including his wife, Petra Ratner; noted NM actor Ron Weisberg; and Abq Jew's son,Dov Yellin the Film Editor) are about to release ... wait for it ...
Moses On The Mesa
The Ballad of Don Solomono 

Abq Jew may have mentioned the fact that the Film Editor for Moses On The Mesa (you can look it up on IMDb!) is his son, Dov Yellin the Film Editor.

Well, here is some great news - for those who have seen the film, and (especially!) for those who have not:

Moses On The Mesa
is now available on

Says the film's website,
Moses On The Mesa is inspired by the real life of a man named Solomon Bibo. He was a Jewish boy from Germany who came to the Wild West in the late 1800s. He learned how to ride a horse, how to shoot a gun, how to play poker with the outlaws and make friends with the "Indians" from his grandpa's tall tales.
He married a pueblo beauty, battled against crooked government agents and became the governor of the oldest settlement in North America. Life threw him many curves after that - he fought for progress but lost to tradition, his friends turned against him, great earthquakes and great depressions wiped him out, but he always fought back... and always remained a Jew... a Moses on the Mesa.
You can learn more about Solomon Bibo from Wikipedia. Or from Solomon Bibo: Jew and Indian at Acoma Pueblo, an article by Abq's Gordon Bronitsky

But Abq Jew strongly encourages you to take a long look at the Moses On The Mesa website, which is beautifully done and provides interviews, history, and more.

And then there's the CA Brotherhood Brunch.

To rent or purchase Moses On The Mesa, click here. Or click here to watch the trailer.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Jewish Druish Canadian

Modigliani Stonehenge McGarrigle: If you haven't noticed, it is Open Season for Health Plans. Mr & Mrs Abq Jew, along with most of America, are under more than just a bit of stress.

Indeed! It's amazing how discussing Health Plans can bring us all closer. Mrs Abq Jew takes refuge in her artwork. Mr Abq Jew takes refuge in The New York Times.

$170.4 Million (2015)
“Nu Couché,” Amedeo Modigliani, 1917-18

Which brings us to ModiglianiThe New York Times has covered some important Art & Design, and, usually separately, Sports news over the years.

So Abq Jew was especially pleased when a recent Sports event - an auction at Christie's - was covered in the Arts section. He refers, of course to
With $170.4 Million Sale at Auction, Modigliani Work Joins Rarefied Nine-Figure Club
 In an overheated art market where anything seems possible, a painting of an outstretched nude woman by the early-20th-century artist Amedeo Modigliani sold on Monday night for $170.4 million with fees to Liu Yiqian, a former taxi driver turned billionaire art collector, in a packed sales room at Christie’s. 
It was the second-highest price paid for an artwork at auction. 
The painting became the 10th work of art to reach nine figures under the hammer. The bidding was palpably tense, with six people vying for the lot, and it took nine minutes to sell, with the winning bid coming from the phone. 
Mr. Liu, who with his wife Wang Wei is among China’s most visible art collectors, confirmed on Tuesday that he is the buyer. He said he planned to bring the work back to Shanghai, where he and his wife have two private museums.
To which Abq Jew can only say

Mr Liu must have been a really good taxi driver.

In fact, The New York Times reports
As a teenager growing up in Shanghai during the tumultuous years of the Cultural Revolution, Mr. Liu sold handbags on the street and later worked as a taxi driver. 
After dropping out of middle school, he went on to ride the wave of China’s economic opening and reform, making a fortune through stock trading in real estate and pharmaceuticals in the 1980s and 1990s. 
According to the 2015 Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Mr. Liu is worth at least $1.5 billion.
And for a short and Jewish bio of Modigliani, Abq Jew turns (as he almost always does) to Wikipedia:
Amedeo Clemente Modigliani (12 July 1884 – 24 January 1920) was an Italian painter and sculptor who worked mainly in France.

He is known for portraits and nudes in a modern style characterized by elongation of faces and figures, that were not received well during his lifetime, but later found acceptance.
Modigliani was born into a Sephardic Jewish family in Livorno, Italy. 
A port city, Livorno had long served as a refuge for those persecuted for their religion, and was home to a large Jewish community. His maternal great-great-grandfather, Solomon Garsin, had immigrated to Livorno in the 18th century as a refugee. 
Modigliani's mother (Eugénie Garsin), who was born and grew up in Marseille, was descended from an intellectual, scholarly family of Sephardic descent, generations of whom had resided along the Mediterranean coastline. 
Her ancestors were learned people, fluent in many languages, known authorities on sacred Jewish texts, and founders of a school of Talmudic studies. Family legend traced the Garsins' lineage to the 17th-century Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza. 
Modigliani’s father, Flaminio, hailed from a family of successful businessmen and entrepreneurs. 
How much, Abq Jew hears you ask, have other paintings sold for at auction?
The New York Times has a delightful interactive article about, that, too!
Here are a few highlights.

$179.4 million (2015)
“Les Femmes d’Alger (Version ‘O’),” Pablo Picasso, 1955

$119.9 million (2012)
“The Scream,” Edvard Munch, 1895

$87 million (2012)
“Orange, Red, Yellow,” Mark Rothko, 1961

And that's not even counting Gustav Klimt's "Lady in Gold" (see Adele in Gold).

$135 million (2006)
"The Lady in Gold," Gustav Klimt, 1907

Which brings us, naturally, to Stonehenge. The New York Times has a great article about Stonehenge and Woodhenge, The Cursus and The Avenue.
Stonehenge Begins to Yield Its Secrets

AMESBURY, England — About 6,300 years ago, a tree here toppled over. 
For the ancients in this part of southern England, it created a prime real estate opportunity — next to a spring and near attractive hunting grounds. 
According to David Jacques, an archaeologist at the University of Buckingham, mud was pressed into the pulled-up roots, turning them into a wall. Nearby, a post was inserted into a hole, and that may have held up a roof of reeds or animal skin. 
It was, he said, a house, one of the earliest in England. 
Last month, in the latest excavation at a site known as Blick Mead, Mr. Jacques and his team dug a trench 40 feet long, 23 feet wide and 5 feet deep, examining this structure and its surroundings. 
They found a hearth with chunks of heat-cracked flint, pieces of bone, flakes of flint used for arrowheads and cutting tools, and ocher pods that may have been used as a pigment. 
“There’s noise here,” Mr. Jacques said, imagining the goings-on in 4300 B.C. “There’s people here doing stuff. Just like us. Same kids and worries.” 
About a mile away is Stonehenge.
It turns out (Abq Jew is paraphrasing here) that Stonehenge started out as a breakaway (you should pardon the pun) minyan.

And that there are plenty of other henges around. Says The Times:
The defining characteristic of a henge is not the rocks or timbers sticking upward, but a circular ditch surrounded by a raised bank. In this sense, Stonehenge today is not a true henge; its raised bank is inside the ditch.
Who knew? And that there's a whole community of sacred structures - one for Orthodox Druids, one for Conservative, one for Reform.

And one that no one ever entered.
Even on the Solstices and Equinoxes.

Which brings us to Rue Sainte-CatherineThe New York Times has a great 2010 article about The McGarrigles - who performed the song Complainte Pour Ste Catherine - published after Kate died (much too young) in that year.

Abq Jew has always loved this song, mostly - take note! - because of the bright accordion riffs and happy, jaunty beat. And has Abq Jew mentioned that he doesn't speak (or read, or sing, or in any other way comprehend) French?

But that's OK. Here are the original French lyrics, and here are the lyrics translated.

The song begins with
Me, I walk along Ste Catherine
Getting the warmth from the Métro
I don’t look through shop windows
When it’s thirty below zero
We’ve been in politics for a long time
and ends with
Twenty years of war against mosquitos
Don’t believe that we’re not Christians
On Sundays we walk our dogs
and has a bunch of in-jokes and hard-to interpret lines in between.

Be that as it may.

The song just makes Abq Jew feel good. And he hopes it will do the same for you.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Abq Jew Wows Focus Groups

NM Jewish Population Study Reports:  Yes, the reports from the multiple Focus Groups engaged with the 2014 New Mexico Jewish Population Study are out.

Here is what the Focus Groups want:

1. A complete Calendar of Jewish Events.
2. An efficient platform for social networking.
3. An end to the "silos" that fragment the community.

Abq Jew Web

Abq Jew Blog

Abq Jew Blog Email

Abq Jew Facebook Page

Abq Jew Twitter Page

Abq Jew App

Exactly what Abq Jew has provided for the past 5 years.

Abq Jew is, generally, happy with the Focus Group reports. Nevertheless - there are three things that would make Abq Jew much, much happier.
  1. Knowing that those who participated in the NM Jewish Population Study Focus Groups consistently and favorably mentioned Abq Jew's five-year-long effort on their behalf. They didn't.
  2. Knowing that those who conducted the NM Jewish Population Study Focus Groups consistently and favorably mentioned Abq Jew's five-year-long effort on their behalf. They didn't.
And there you have it. No, Abq Jew did not, in fact, wow the Focus Groups.

Oh - that third thing?


HEEB Magazine's Yo Semite describes Charan-Po-Rantan as
A Japanese girl group who play weirdo klezmer mash-ups that sound [like] David Krakauer blowing on a ramen noodle. 
They dress in the kinds of technicolor costumes you expect from a J-Pop duo on the rise, with lead singer Momo Matsunaga usually grasping a stuffed pig while her sister Koharu absolutely slays on accordion. 
And while their songs glide exuberantly across the Judeo-Balkan-Gypsy spectrum, their musical foundation is fundamentally Klezmer.
Wait, Is Japanese Klezmer a Thing Now?

Focus Groups, Shmocus Groups.
Abq Jew lives and loves to share Japanese Klezmer
(and other things) 
with you, his loyal readers!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Davening With Laughter

At Temple Beth Mel: It has been a couple of years since Abq Jew shared something from Andrew Silow-Carroll, Editor-in-Chief of the New Jersey Jewish News (see Laughing at Pew; Laughing at Pew 2; and Jewish Jokes for Dark Days).

These are dark days, and they will be getting darker until 9:49 pm (Albuquerque Time) on Monday, December 21 - the Winter Solstice. Mirth is in short supply. Fortunately, Mr Silow-Carroll has once again written a column worthy of public dissemination.

Abq Jew strongly encourages you to read Mr Silow-Carroll's column in its entirety. But if you haven't the strength to click here, here are a few highlights.
Davening at the House of Brooks
In 1975, National Lampoon writer Gerald Sussman proposed The Mel Brooks Religion. It would meet in chapels called Houses of Brooks, which were “perfect replicas of the old neighborhood movie theaters Brooks used to attend as a child.” 
The faithful would chant prayers, blessings, and hymns all derived from the Brooks oeuvre — “his jokes, shticks, skits, and pieces of business from his movies, records, and TV shows.” 
After the showing of one of his films, Brooks himself would appear to deliver a sermon, an “indescribable, unpredictable piece of comic material that goes beyond comedy, into something truly ecstatic.” 
Last week, I think I attended a House of Brooks. In Newark.  
On Thursday, Oct. 15, I joined some 3,000 people at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center for a wide-screen showing of his 1974 Western parody Blazing Saddles, followed by an onstage interview with the director, writer, actor, and all-around tummler himself. 
At one point in the day, I had considered staying home to watch Game 5 of the Mets-Dodgers series. I don’t know what I was thinking; had I gone with the game I would have missed an astonishing and delightful night.
Mr Silow-Carroll ends with
On the way out I ran into a rabbi friend, who said, “I felt I was part of something historic.” I knew just what he meant. 
In Lampoon, Sussman described how services at the Houses of Brooks would end: “Several prayers to Brooks are offered, to his everlasting health, so he can bring humor and laughter to our troubled world.” 

This is a photograph of the interior of NJPAC's Prudential Hall, which is used for all types of big performances and major events. It seats - as shown -  2,868. And it is often sold out, filled to capacity, standing room only. And it's in Newark.

How is your synagogue doing? 
Temple Beth Mel fills the seats. Temple Beth El - probably not so much.

Which leads Abq Jew to suggest (see Psalm 100:2)

Serve the Lord with gladness!

To wit - The 2000 Year Old Man. To wit!