Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Mayim Bialik Dates Klezmer Zombies

In Yiddish With Aerobics: It has been a wild and crazy week, and Abq Jew is happy to be able to present to you, his loyal readers, a cornucopia ... nay. a smorgasbord ... or perhaps a Viennese Table ... well, a few samples of what one may learn if one sits on the Internet all day.

1. Mayim Bialik Speaks Yiddish

Abq Jew sort of suspected this would be the case, especially since Ms Bialik already speaks 14 other languages - including PhD (in neuroscience) -ese.

Here she is in an episode of YidLife Crisis titled The Double Date.
Drinking in the very best that Montreal's multicultural Mile End has to offer, Chaimie and Leizer, best friends and debating adversaries, tackle life, love, and lactose intolerance in this foodie centric web series done entirely in their grandparents' Yiddish.

Abq Jew might have missed out on this had it not been for Renee Ghert-Zand of The Times of Israel, who wrote
Mayim Bialik does mammeloshen in Yiddish valentine 
Actress plays no-nonsense neurosurgeon ‘pre-screeing’ her schmendrick suitors in less-than-romantic ‘YidLife Crisis’ episode
Ms Ghert-Zand explains:
“Big Bang Theory” actress and attachment parenting guru Mayim Bialik guest stars in the episode as Chaya, a high-powered, no-nonsense neurosurgeon apparently set up by her mother on a blind date with Leizer, the slightly nebbishy character played by [Eli] Batalion. 
The two meet at a kosher sushi restaurant in Los Angeles, which is far from the series’ usual setting of Montreal. Chaya comes to the blind date with a long list of questions to ask Leizer. It’s her way of cutting to the chase and not wasting any of her precious time.
You can read the whole article by clicking here. In Yiddish here.

2. Aerobics and Klezmer Make a Good Shidduch

As everyone knows. klezmer music goes with everything ... or at least everything Jewish. And what, Abq Jew asks, could be more Jewish than exercising without hardly moving?

Here is Rabbi Daniel Bremer, creator of Klezmer Aerobics.

Abq Jew might have missed out on this had it not been for Rose Kaplan of Tablet Magazine, who wrote
Puttin’ on the Schvitz
Daniel Brenner, the rabbi and musician behind Klezmer Aerobics, hopes to have you schvitzin’ like it’s the 1880s
Ms Kaplan explains:
Last year, Daniel Brenner had a dream. As he slept, he heard the Klezmorim’s album Streets of Gold, the 1978 classic that helped launch an American klezmer revival. The next day Brenner went to his local YMCA and put on the album to pump him up while he exercised. 
“People were streaming by me, coming out of Zumba class,” he said, “and the thought that came to me was: it is time for Klezmer Aerobics.
You can read the whole article by clicking here.

3. Amazon is Ready for the Resurrection of the Dead

As Abq Jew first pointed out  - back in 2010, in Torah and Talmud and Zombies - we're not really sure where the idea of the dead rising from the grave entered Judaism. But there it is.

As The Guardian and a slew of techie websites have discovered, Amazon's Terms of Service for its new Lumberyard Materials development tools take it all in stride.
Amazon’s web services arm has updated its terms of service with a special clause that kicks in in the event of corpses consuming human flesh and the fall of civilisation. 
The changes come with the release of its new Lumberyard Materials development tools, which allow developers to create games that run on its AWS servers. The terms state that Lumberyard is not to be used with drones, medical equipment, nuclear facilities, manned spacecraft or live military combat in normal times, but have a special exception. 
Clause 57.10 of the AWS terms of service states: 
This restriction will not apply in the event of the occurrence (certified by the United States Centers for Disease Control or successor body) of a widespread viral infection transmitted via bites or contact with bodily fluids that causes human corpses to reanimate and seek to consume living human flesh, blood, brain or nerve tissue and is likely to result in the fall of organised civilisation.
Please note that Clause 57.10 will (apparently) still apply when the dead simply rise from their graves after the coming of the Messiah. Only in the case of human corpses seeking to consume human flesh etc - and even then, only in certain circumstances - will the restriction be lifted.

Oh - and by the way,

Be careful out there!

Friday, February 19, 2016

ChizFilm is Here!

ChizFilm Jewish Movie Reviews: Abq Jew is highly honored and extremely pleased to introduce you, his loyal readers, to Jonathan Chisdes and

Welcome to ChizFilm Jewish Movie Reviews!

The brand new and quite gorgeous ChizFilm website tells us:
Jonathan Chisdes reviews films that reflect the Jewish experience.  
Film defines us. Film reflects us. Film helps us understand our world and ourselves. Film shows us where we’ve been, where we are, and where we may be going. Film enriches; film inspires; film challenges. 
What better modern-day medium is there for Jews to raise issues about our own community and our place in the larger world? This site is dedicated to film reviews, articles, and blogs that reflect the Jewish experience. 
I was raised in both the Reform and the Conservative movements, and I care deeply about contemporary Jewish life and how it is portrayed on screen. 
      — Jonathan Chisdes
The Grey Zone

Jonathan's most recent review is of the film The Grey Zone. Here is how he begins:
Perhaps you have heard some of the buzz around the recent Hungarian film Son of Saul,” which is making the rounds at festivals and has made the short list of nominees for the Best Foreign Film Oscar. 
I had a chance to see this powerful film last month and I can tell you that this artistic triumph, which focuses on a fictional member of the Auschwitz Sonderkommando, certainly deserves all the praise it is getting—not only for its disturbing subject matter but for its very unique style of storytelling. 
However, I would argue that this incredibly worthy film could never have been made if Tim Blake Nelson hadn’t first made The Grey Zone fifteen years ago, in 2001. 
While “Son of Saul” is told only from the point of view of Saul and mostly in close-ups of his face, “The Grey Zone” gives a much better picture of the Twelfth (out of thirteen) Sonderkommando which rebelled against the Nazis and managed to blow up two of the crematoriums.
Abq Jew strongly recommends that you

And Abq Jew will now proceed happily to tell you

More About Jonathan Chisdes

Jonathan Chisdes is an independent film critic based in central New Mexico; he wrote his first movie review in 1986. Jonathan founded the Chizfilm Movie Reviews website in 2006; three years later, the focus was narrowed as a response to changing times and it was reconceived as Chizfilm Jewish Movie Reviews.

Jonathan has worked as a writer for the Virginia Film Festival, he ran the Congregation Beth Israel [Charlottesville, Virginia] Jewish Film Series, the Temple Israel [Winter Springs, Florida] Jewish Film Series, and he helped to found the Charlottesville Jewish Film Festival.

Jonathan has also worked in the industry as an Associate Producer for Light Speed Productions, written a screenplay, and and acted in seven short films shot in Florida, New Mexico, and Colorado.

He was Associate Producer of the independent films “Where We Started” and “Teddy Boy,” and he continues to support many independent films and film festivals throughout the US.

ChizFilm is an Underwriter of the Sante Fe Jewish Film Festival, and is eager to support and participate in Jewish film screenings and programs in New Mexico.

Jonathan's reviews and articles have appeared in numerous publications including the Orlando Spectator, the Rollins Sandspur, the Orlando Reporter, the Valdosta Spectator, the Bet Chaim L’Chaim, Content of Character, and Persona Jon Grata. “Jerusalem Jones and the Mystery of the Dead Sea Scrolls,” a play he co-authored and produced, had a number of performances. He is currently working on a novel.

To sum up here: Jonathan Chisdes is a film guy. He is available to review films, give talks, and help organize Jewish film festivals.  He can be contacted directly through A good guy to know. You're welcome.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Wanna Be Our Rabbi?

Just Answer These Five Three Questions: As many of us in the Albuquerque Jewish community are aware, Rabbi Arthur Flicker of Congregation B'nai Israel is planning to step down at the end of June.

Accordingly, B'nai Israel has established a search committee that is following the procedures, guidelines, and best practices of the Conservative Movement's Rabbinical Assembly to identify and secure the future services of a "new" rabbi.
The RA has told the committee:
The task of a search committee seeking a rabbi for a synagogue, for the kehillah kedoshah may appear to be secular or mundane. 
But understanding that we are a sacred community reminds us that the task before us has as its ultimate purpose securing a religious leader to guide the membership on the path to becoming and enduring as a sacred community. 
As it says in Genesis 28:16: “Surely, the Lord is present in this place, and I did not know it.” 
We hope that the rabbinic placement process of the Joint Placement Commission (JPC) of the Conservative Movement, is for you to discover Divine presence in your search process.
Members of the search committee have just returned from the Jewish Theological Seminary (Abq Jew's alma mater!) to interview rabbinic candidates, Soon, a select few will be invited to visit us here in the Land of Enchantment.

Which of course brings to Abq Jew's misfiring mind the glorious flick Monty Python and the Holy Grail

What are the questions that Abq Jew would like to ask each candidate? Abq Jew joyfully recalls (as he is sure you also do) The Bridge of Death. As every Monty Python fan knows, the first two questions are always

What is your name? What is your quest?

The third question, we surely recall, varies, with distinctly varying outcomes. Here are some of Abq Jew's possibilities. You're welcome!
1. How many roads must a man walk down before they call him a man? Yes and how many roads must a woman walk down before they call her a woman? Are these numbers the same? Discuss. 
2. You live in T or C. You are a guest at a Sunday wedding that will inexplicably take place at a megashul in downtown Pittsburgh. You are staying the weekend at the Steeler Stele, a 42-storey architectural wonder that offers self-directed elevators and electronic room keys. Your room is on the 27th floor. The Friday night Oneg Shabbat runs a bit late, and you stay at shul for the Hashkama Minyan on Saturday. Describe where, when, how, and why you take your Shabbos nap. 
3. You are the new rabbi in a a well-established congregation. Every week on the Sabbath, a fight erupts during the service. When it comes time to recite the Shema prayer, half of the congregation stands and the other half sits. The people who are standing yell at the people who are sitting, "Stand up!" while the people who are sitting yell at the people who are standing, "Sit down!" Should the congregation stand or sit for the Shema? What is the tradition? 
Hint: The Story of Shabbat 505
4. According to some (but, of course, not all) commentators, the purpose of performing mitzvot is to guide us in living good lives, being good people, and doing good things in the world. Describe in discrete mathematical terms the exact correlation between performing mitzvot and being a good person. Carefully but completely explain why there is a need for kosher food in our prison system.
5. Your local JCC offers excellent facilities for exercise and very good Jewish programming. It also offers no pleasantly functional performance space ("theater") and no kosher food service (although pescatarian fare is available). Your synagogue currently offers a beautiful sanctuary (with comfortable seats, good sight lines, and superb acoustics) and full meat and dairy kosher food service. How can your synagogue work with the JCC to provide a magnificent performance space, outstanding kosher dining, and terrific Jewish programming? 
6. Your new synagogue has a strong tradition of congregational singing during worship services, often with instrumental accompaniment. You are not comfortable with this arrangement. If the instrumentalists promise not to tune their instruments, will this ameliorate your concerns? If not, describe the concrete steps (or earthen ramp) you will take to transform the choir into a powerhouse a capella group (like Pizmon or, lehavdil, the Maccabeats) suitable for weddings and b'nai mitzvah.
7Who wrote the Five Books of Moses? Who wrote the Book of Mormon? Who wrote the Book of Love?
Maftir. If and only if the candidate responds both earnestly and meaningfully to the above questions, he or she may be entitled to attempt the tie-breaker. Which is (Abq Jew's favorite!)
Define the universe. Give three examples.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Celebrating 40

The Money Pit @ 30: Different couples who have been married 40 years may choose to celebrate their 40th anniversary in different ways.

Mr & Mrs Abq Jew celebrated with flowers (of course), a magnificent roast beef dinner, a bottle of Casa Rondena Meritage wine, and The Money Pit.

For those too young to recall ... or for those who have never "owned" a house and (perhaps) cannot relate ... Wikipedia tells us:
The Money Pit is a 1986 American comedy film, directed by Richard Benjamin, and starring Tom Hanks and Shelley Long as a couple who attempt to renovate a recently purchased house. 
It was filmed in New York City and Lattingtown, New York and is a remake of the 1948 film Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, starring Cary Grant and Myrna Loy. It was co-executive produced by Steven Spielberg.
And how long should this renovation take, HGTV fans? When will Tom Hanks and Shelley Long be able to reside therein in comfort and splendor?

And about that house. The real estate site informs us
Erected in 1898 in Locust Valley on Long Island's North Shore, The Northway House was, at the time of filming, owned by Eric Ridder, Sr., a prominent publisher and sailor who successfully defended the 1964 America's Cup as co-skipper of the yacht Constellation. 
In the film's world, the fragile mansion is sold for just $200K, but last traded hands in 2002 for more than ten times that amount, $2.125M. Still, at the time, one broker told the Post that the price was "low for a property of those proportions in Locust Valley." 
The buyer heard that loud and clear and, in 2009, the house was briefly listed for sale with the sky-high asking price of $7.9M.
Over 40 years, Mr & Mrs Abq Jew have learned to appreciate the value of real estate.

And the real estate that Mr & Mrs Abq Jew has owned has tended to appreciate in value - sometimes when they were actually living there.

Abq Jew (but, strangely, not Mrs Abq Jew) has often been asked

What is the secret of a good marriage?

In The Everyday Torah, Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson writes:
I sometimes feel amazed that I can live with myself all the time. 
That my wife chooses to do so is altogether remarkable.
Abq Jew agrees like totally.

And here is a tale from the Midrash, which you can also read on

The Ultimate Matchmaker 
In context of Jacob leaving Beersheba in order to find a wife – the Midrash states: "A person's marriage partner originates from no one else but G‑d," and cites sources in all three section of Tanach. "Sometimes a man goes to his designated mate (as it was with Jacob); sometimes his designated mate comes to him (as it was with Isaac)." 
The Midrash then continues: 
Rabbi Yehudah bar Simon opened "G‑d sets the solitary into a family." 
A Roman matron asked Rabbi Yosei bar Chalafta: "In how many days did G‑d create His world?" 
"In six days," he replied. 
"And what has He been doing ever since?" she asked. 
"G‑d sits and matches couples," Rabbi Yosei told her. 
"Is this G‑d's occupation?" she asked derisively, "I could do that too! I possess a great number of men servants and maid servants and would be able to pair all of them off in one hour!" 
"You may think it is easy, but for G‑d, it is as difficult as parting the Red Sea," he said. 
After Rabbi Yosei left, the matron formed rows of her men servants and maid servants, a thousand in each row, and said to them, "This man shall marry this woman," pairing them off as she walked down the line for the night. 
But when they returned to work the next morning, one had an injured head, one was missing an eye and one had a broken foot. 
"What is going on here?" the matron asked. 
"I don't want this one," they all said. She saying, "I will not take him"; he saying, "I will not take her."  
She sent for Rabbi Yosei and told him, "There is no G‑d like your G‑d. When you explained to me that G‑d is busy making matches, you spoke wisely."
The Talmud echoes this belief by stating that before a person is born G‑d designates his and her mate: "A heavenly voice emerges and calls out 'this woman to this man.'"

But the greatest advice Abq Jew ever received about happy marriages - he received not from Torah, not from Talmud, not from Midrash ... not even from his parents, of blessed memory.

Abq Jew learned this one from TV baseball announcers who were discussing player trades and the subsequent uprooting of families therefor.

A Happy Wife leads to A Happy Life

That should be easy to remember ....

OK, back to The Money Pit!

Here is the trailer:

And here is "the stair scene" - Mr & Mrs Abq Jew's favorite (although "the kitchen wiring scene" is a close second):

Thursday, February 4, 2016

A Taste of Honey 2016

Back For A 13th Great Year: A Taste of Honey, the Jewish community’s annual, stimulating, educational event - offering an opportunity to savor Jewish life at its best - is scheduled to take place at the Albuquerque JCC on Sunday, February 21st.

ATOH  brings together all of the New Mexico community to explore our understanding of Judaism and the Jewish experience. This year,  the event is organized around five topical areas - culture, history, music, spirit/soul, and international intrigue.

ATOH 2016 welcomes several new presenters and welcomes back favorite presenters, returning with new topics. A total of ten carefully curated classes are offered; each will last 75 minutes (instead of only 60).

Keynote Speaker

Steven Ovitsky
Executive Director, Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival
Jewish Composers
Who Created 
the Sound of American Movies

Session A courses are:

A-1: Celebrating Yiddish! Harvey Buchalter

Yiddish stories and sayings will be celebrated by everyone who has ever been touched by Yiddishkeit and mameh loshen, the Yiddish language. The story of our ancestors bringing their language and culture to America - the institutions they built and the hardships they endured - will provide a context for Yiddish sayings and expressions that have endured for generations. No Yiddish knowledge is required.

A-2: Kabbalah & Zohar: Experiment in Jewish Mystical Prayer - Rabbi Min Kantrowitz

This is an experiential workshop, encouraging participants to try a different approach to traditional prayer. Rabbi Min will introduce background material explaining how to approach a traditional prayer through the lens of Kabbalah. Participants will then have an opportunity to explore that approach. She will lead participants through the short prayer of the Shma and/or the Shechiyanu. The class will analyze the initial experience, then delve deeper. These familiar prayers will be understood and experienced in a new, possibly transformative, way.

A-3: It Doesn’t Sound Jewish - Steven Ovitsky

Jewish music sounds different in different parts of the world. What elements make Jewish music sound Jewish? This class offers an ear-opening experience, especially for those who think all Jewish music sounds like Fiddler on the Roof and My Yiddishe Momme.

A-4: Hi Ho* at the Houhai** - Rabbi-ing for Beijing’s Ex-Pat Jewish Community - Rabbi Jack Shlachter

Kehillat Beijing is a progressive, lay-led community of American and international ex-patriots, business people, and travelers. Rabbi Jack has served as visiting rabbi-in-residence for the congregation since High Holidays 2014. In this slide-show/talk, Rabbi Jack shares his experiences interacting with and serving Beijing’s Jewish community and some general observations of China.

*Hi Ho – shorthand for High Holidays **Houhai – pronounced ‘hoe hi’ – a lake in central Beijing.

A-5: Spain and the Jews: Then and Now. Should Jews Return to Spain? Norma Libman

For hundreds of years the Jews were persecuted in Spain, including formal expulsion in 1492. Now Spain has offered a path to citizenship for Jews who can prove they are descended from expelled Sephardim. Why is Spain doing this? And why would Sephardic Jews accept the offer? Based on information from Jews who are eligible to return, this lecture puts the story in perspective and attempts to answer these provocative questions.

Session B courses are:

B-1: Jewish Funeral Traditions on Film - Gail Rubin

Jewish traditions regarding death, funerals, treatment of the body, burial, cremation, mourning, and annual remembrances are very different from Christian practices. This talk illuminates Jewish funeral traditions before, during, and after a funeral – highly beneficial for interfaith families. Partcipants will view clips from two comedic films from Mexico: My Mexican Shivah, and Nora’s Will; as well as American movies: This Is Where I Leave You, The Cemetery Club and Two Weeks.

B-2: The Sabbath – A Different Look At How We Rest - Erin Tarica

Traditionally we understand that God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. For this reason, we tend to think of the Sabbath as the absence of creation. Yet, another interpretation of Genesis 2:2 suggests that God, by establishing Shabbat as a day set apart from the rest of the week, actually created rest. Join us as we explore various ways in which the Sabbath can teach us how to create rest and be mindful of the present.

B-3: Jewish Poets of Tin Pan Alley: The Lyricists of the Great American Songbook - The Muldawers

The Muldawers will discuss how the lyricist works with the composer to help resolve that old question: ‘Which comes first, the words or the music?’ They will provide biographic information on several Jewish songwriters from 1915-1945, including Berlin and Gershwin. They’ll also perform representative songs of this period.

B-4: A Tale of Two Spy Missions - Shlomo Karni

The class will read the Biblical narratives of two missions: Moses’ twelve spies, and Joshua’s two spies, carried out before the children of Israel entered the Promised Land. Participants will then discuss critically what was right and what was wrong in each mission in its various stages: giving the orders, the operatives, gathering intelligence and assessing it, making subsequent strategic and tactical recommendations through the normal chain of command. Biblical text will be supplied. Bring your common-sense perspective - no CIA experience required!

B-5: The ‘American Kindertransport’: A Little-Known Chapter of Jewish History - Rosemary Zibart

Winner of the 2015 NM-AZ Book Award for Historic Fiction, Zibart’s book Forced Journey: The Saga of Werner Berlinger is the fictional account of a boy who leaves Nazi-held Hamburg in 1939 for New York City. He was one of the 1400 Jewish children from Nazi Europe who found refuge in the US when immigration for Jews was virtually impossible. After the book’s publication, Zibart met a number of these former refugee children, learning their unique stories, some of which she will share.

And don't forget -

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

All About KlezmerQuerque 2016

Klezmer! Nahalat Shalom! Presidents Day Weekend!  Yes, Abq Jew has mentioned this before. But here we go once again, even as we look forward to this years A Taste of Honey:

KlezmerQuerque 2016
 14th Annual
Presidents Day Weekend
February 12-14
Congregation Nahalat Shalom
Verestski Pass
Avia Moore

Here is the plan:

The 14th Annual KlezmerQuerque is a three-day festival of concerts, workshops and dance parties featuring ‘Klezmer’ which is the traditional dance and instrumental music based in the ancient wedding ceremonies of the Eastern European Jewish people.

The festival will take place from February 12-14, 2016 (Friday evening through Sunday evening) over Presidents Day weekend.

KlezmerQuerque is produced by Congregation Nahalat Shalom, its 23-piece inter-generational Community Klezmer Band and Rikud Yiddish dance troupe. The festival presents a wide variety of events for all ages and abilities with prices ranging from free to $20 per event.

Highlights of the festival include 
  • performances by the guest artists on Friday evening February 12 as part of Der Freylekher Shabbes; 
  • performance and a dance party on Saturday evening, February 13, featuring the guest artists; 
  • three 90 min. hands-on workshops for instrumental music plus a “Lunch ‘n Learn’ on Sunday, February 14 between 10:00 am and 5:15 pm.
See you there!

Here is a forshbite (that's Yiddish for hors d'oeuvres, one of the most-looked-up words on the Internet) of what's in store for Albuquerque: Veretski Pass plays Yankee Doodle Dandy at one of their workshops - first straight, then in a Jewish hosidl style, then in a Ukranian kolomeyke style.