Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Ethics of Voting

Voting Early and Often: You recall, of course (it was only last week; see B'nai Israel's Everyday Hero) that Abq Jew encouraged you to vote for "Mr Jay" Bainbridge, who has been nominated for a national AFT award.

As the May 29 voting deadline approaches, Abq Jew feels it important to tell you this story.
A man entered a village and went to the yeshiva at the center of town, where he was welcomed by an ancient rabbi, the wise man of the village. 
The visitor said, “I am deciding whether I should move here or not. I’m wondering what kind of neighborhood this is. Can you tell me about the people here?” 
The ancient rabbi said, “Tell me what kind of people lived where you came from.” The visitor said, “Oh, they were highway robbers, cheats and liars.” 
The rabbi said, “You know, those are exactly the same kinds of people who live here.” The visitor left the village and never came back. 
Half an hour later, another man entered the village. He sought out the wise old man and said, “I’m thinking of moving here. Can you tell me what kind of people live here?” 
Again the rabbi said, “Tell me what kind of people lived where you came from.” The visitor said, “Oh, they were the kindest, gentlest, most compassionate, most loving people. I shall miss them terribly. 
The ancient rabbi said, “Those are exactly the kinds of people who live here, too.”

And as Abq Jew has pointed out, "Mr Jay" is one of only five nominees in the Early Childhood division for the AFT Everyday Hero award.

Who among the nominees will win the award? The Award website tells us:
The finalist who gets the most votes in each division will be named his or her division’s 2016 Everyday Hero and will be honored at this year’s AFT convention.
The voting instructions further tell us:
Cast your vote for your favorite AFT Everyday Heroes. You can vote in any or all of the categories, but please submit only one ballot. 
Voting closes at midnight on May 29, 2016.

Abq Jew must point out (he must! he must!) that the AFT webform does not enforce the principle of "one person, one vote" rigorously. As in, probably not at all.

Which is to say, one can, apparently, submit more than one ballot. But should one? More importantly, should you?

That is a complex ethical conundrum whose solution depends upon how you (and Abq Jew) answer the question

What kind of people vote here?

If (and only if) you believe that the AFT voters are all entirely honest and forthright, then it follows that each will comply with the AFT's request to submit only one ballot. Therefore, to ensure an outcome that matches the AFT's ideals, you (and Abq Jew) should also submit only one ballot.

But if (and only if) you believe that even one of the AFT voters is not entirely honest and forthright and will not comply with the AFT's request to submit only one ballot, then you  (and Abq Jew) should submit more than one ballot - to protect the integrity of the AFT voting result, and to defend your candidate from that one AFT voter who threatens to undermine that integrity.

What? You thought this was going to be easy?

Abq Jew has (obviously) experimented with the AFT's voting process. But he has not sat in front of his computer all day clicking and voting.

Are a few extra votes acceptable, where a few hundred would not be?

This is much too complex for Abq Jew to address here. So please (please!) let him conclude by simply exhorting you, his loyal readers, to

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

B'nai Israel's Everyday Hero

"Mr Jay" Bainbridge: Do you know "Mr Jay"? Well, Abq Jew didn't either, until he learned through the B'nai Israel grapevine that "Mr Jay" has been nominated for a national American Federation of Teachers (AFT) award.

"Mr Jay" Bainbridge
AFT Everyday Hero
AFT Early Childhood Educator

"Mr Jay" is (among many other things) the Pre-K Lead Teacher at Congregation B'nai Israel's Pre-School. And one of only five nominees in the Early Childhood Educator division for the AFT Everyday Hero award.

Who among the nominees will win the award? First of all , "Mr Jay" and Abq Jew share the perspective of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences:

It's an honor just to be nominated.

But back to the "winning" part. Voting is going on right now. And we all get to vote. The Award website tells us:
Finalists from each AFT division have been chosen, representing teachers, PSRPs, higher education staff and faculty, public employees, healthcare professionals, early childhood educators and retirees. 
Read about fellow members who epitomize the spirit of public service, camaraderie and compassion, and inspire us all to reclaim the promise in our chosen fields and in our communities. 
Then, vote for one Everyday Hero from each constituency group. Voting is open through May 29, 2016. 
The finalist who gets the most votes in each division will be named his or her division’s 2016 Everyday Hero and will be honored at this year’s AFT convention.

Here is what the AFT has to say about "Mr Jay":
Jay Bainbridge is not one to follow the beaten path. As a newly minted college graduate with a degree in art education, Bainbridge moved from the Midwest to New Mexico and took up work as a cook in an Albuquerque preschool. It was something that easily could have amounted to a temporary career move, but the energy that Bainbridge saw in the classrooms convinced him otherwise. 
"It was the way the kids' eyes lit up, just because they were going to learn something new—and for them, everything was new," he remembers. There were very few men teaching early education at the time, but that was a nonissue. "I knew that I could give these children my best," he says. 
Bainbridge was able to put his expertise to good use. He designed an age-appropriate arts curriculum that went beyond what he calls unimaginative, "let's make a fish, let's make a kitty" seatwork. In its place, he was able to sneak in a little "red week, blue week" color theory, and weave in trips to museums. 
He showed up in class with posters from the masters, encouraging students to explore the art through questions for which "there is no wrong answer." Over the years, he says he's constantly refined the approach, balancing and rebalancing the ingredients of play and rich exposure that take his students beyond the ordinary. 
And Bainbridge, who serves as New Mexico Early Educators United's vice president for political action, has proven to be just as courageous when it comes to advocating for the needs of kids and the rights of the profession. 
You'll find him frequently roaming the corridors of the statehouse in Santa Fe, urging legislators to do the right thing and use available resources to improve early learning across the state. 
"I have this scary superpower I didn't realize I had—I can talk with politicians," he says. "I look like this kindly, nice grandpa, and they don't see it coming. When it's about fighting for the rights of children, parents and teachers, I can get pretty feisty."

Click here to vote for "Mr Jay".
Voting closes at midnight on May 29.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Peace in the High Places

Oseh Shalom: Of the many blessings that Congregation B'nai Israel's Candidate Rabbi Evelyn Baz brought the community this past Shabbat, Abq Jew will focus on one:

עוֹשֶׂה שָׁלוֹם  Oseh Shalom

May the One
who makes peace in the heavens
make peace for us and all Israel
and for all who dwell on earth
and let us say Amen

עוֹשֶׂה שָׁלוֹם בִּמְרוֹמָיו הוּא יַעֲשֶׂה שָׁלוֹם עָלֵינוּ
 וְעַל כָּל יִשְׂרָאֵל וְעַל כָּל יוֺשְׁבֵי תֵבֶל וְאִמְרוּ אָמֵן

"Wait a minute!" 

Abq Jew hears you exclaim. "I've been davening the various forms of the Kaddish for more than 60 years, and I've never heard the phrase "וְעַל כָּל יוֺשְׁבֵי תֵבֶל" anywhere!"

Rabbi David Steinberg of Temple Israel (Duluth) quotes his teacher, Rabbi David Teutsch, who explains:
Adding the rabbinic phrase v’al kawl yoshvei tevel (and for all who dwell on earth) logically completes the concentric circles of our aspirations – our care starts with our minyan, extends to the entire Jewish people, and radiates outward from there to all who share our planet.
OK, so this additional phrase is logical. But where, Abq Jew hears you ask, did it come from? Wikipedia (what, you were expecting Saadia Gaon?) tells us:
This effort to extend the reach of Oseh Shalom to non-Jews is said to have been started by the British Liberal Jewish movement in 1967, with the introduction of v'al kol bnai Adam ("and upon all children of Adam"); these words continue to be used by some in the UK.

Abq Jew does nothing better than keep up with the times. (You can read that however you'd like.) Well, The Times. Anyway, his times - not anyone else's.

So it was that - just a few weeks ago - Abq Jew came upon, via Facebook, this video. And heard the phrase "וְעַל כָּל יוֺשְׁבֵי תֵבֶל" for the first time.

WARNING! This is what happens when you daven exclusively at stodgy, old, set-in-their-ways, "traditional" Conservative shuls. You miss a lot of the fun.

The video you have just watched (you have watched it, haven't you?) shows how the Israeli group Nava Tehila brings the fun back to fundamentalism.

And who, Abq Jew hears you ask, is ... are ... whatever ... Nava Tehila?
Nava Tehila is a Jerusalem based NGO for Jewish renewal. One of our main foci is creating musical and engaging prayer spaces where people feel comfortable to come as they are. 
Nava Tehila’s musical spiritual leaders generate new prayer modalities, compose new music for prayer, and train Jewish leaders, including rabbis, cantors and students, in the art of musical and innovative prayer leading. 
The Nava Tehila leaders travel to Reform, Conservative and other communities in Israel, the US and Europe to share the ideas that have proven so successful in drawing in not only nonaffiliated Jews, but also speaking to long term members of these communities. 
Our  prayers are egalitarian and inclusive. We welcome people of other religions and "spiritual, but not religious" people who want to pray and sing with us. Our prayer is experiential because we are constantly seeking ways of connection to the Living God in each and every moment.
Jewish renewal? Foci? Experiential?
Connection to the Living God?
Not for us! We're Conservative!

Anyway, Nava Tehila is currently in the late middle of a tour of the good old US of A. Sorry, Albuquerque - we missed them. Maybe next time. However,

Sunday May 15 @ 7:30 pm
Temple Sinai (Reform) Brookline
Open to the public and free!

So back to Rabbi Evelyn Baz. When she davened Kaddish last Shabbat at B'nai Israel, she used the phrase "וְעַל כָּל יוֺשְׁבֵי תֵבֶל". This instantly reconnected Abq Jew to the joy he cannot help but feel whenever he watches the Nava Tehila video.

And woke him to the possibility that Rabbi Evelyn Baz knows good stuff. And new ways of doing good stuff.

The members of B'nai Israel overwhelmingly voted to offer the position of Rabbi to Rabbi Evelyn Baz. She's thinking it over. We're hoping she says YES.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Passover and Over and Over Again

Good News On The Way: ICYMI (see CU Later, Better), Abq Jew's recent cataract surgery on his "good" right eye went very well.

In fact, Abq Jew can now tell - when he watches ball games on TV from his not-really-that-distant couch - both a) which trams are playing; and b) what the score is.

But wait! There's more!

Depending on the sport, Abq Jew can even now tell a) what the count and out are; or b) how much time is left in the quarter. And he can a) drive his car; and b) read street signs from six blocks away.

But wait! There's less!

What Abq Jew cannot do right now is a) read Torah in shul; and b) read books of any kind anywhere - his arms are not long enough. He can, however, c) do some work on the computer - but if and only if he really jacks up the fonts.

In short: after a lifetime of two-dimensional nearsightedness, Abq Jew is now two-dimensionally farsighted. This, Abq Jew is told, is just the way it works.

But Abq Jew is - after his "not so good" left eye is done next month - going to need new prescriptions for new eyeglasses.

And Passover is over. Abq Jew hopes you enjoyed your holiday at least as much as he enjoyed his. Except for the Chol HaMoed root canal and eye surgery.

Maestro Rabbenu Placido Domingo did an excellent job (did we expect anything less?) davening Musaf on the first two days of Pesach at Congregation B'nai Israel. And his rendition of Chad Gadya at the Second Seder was simply ... out of this world.

"And Passover is over" brought to what is left of Abq Jew's mind the very imitable Dave Clark Five and their 1965 hit, "Over and Over."

Did you know that the DC5 were originally called the Dave Clark Quintet? The band had to change their name because their fans didn't understand what the word "Quintet" meant. Really! Wikipedia not only confirms this, but adds:
The Dave Clark Five (also known as "The DC5") was an English pop rock group. 
Their single "Glad All Over" knocked the Beatles' "I Want to Hold Your Hand" off the top of the UK Singles Chart in January 1964; it peaked at number 6 in the United States in April 1964. 
"Over And Over" was a number 1 single in the United States for the group in December 1965. 
The Dave Clark Five was the first British band of the British Invasion to tour the US, and they made 18 appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show – the most of any British Invasion group.
The group disbanded in late 1970. On 10 March 2008, the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

"Wait a minute!" Abq Jew hears you exclaim. "These are the Sixties! Where are all the deeply sensitive and sharply meaningful lyrics? Where are all the psychedelia? And how about those go-go dancers!"

Please allow Abq Jew to explain. Or even better, Wikipedia.
"Over and Over" is a song written by Robert James Byrd and recorded by him using the stage name Bobby Day. Day's version entered the Billboard Top 100 in 1958, the same week a version of the same song by Thurston Harris entered the chart. 
Ah. So you see - "Over and Over": is actually a Fifties song that the DC5 "covered," as we say in the music biz. No deep meanings - or even rhyming verses! - required. The song is permitted to be just fun to sing and dance to.

And speaking of "fun to sing and dance to" - was that a great Mimouna celebration in Madrid, or what?

Abq Jew must remind you (he must! he must!) that there are now fewer than 340 days (see the Abq Jewish Event Calendar) left before Pesach 5777 / Passover 2017.

Next year, Easter will fall on Sunday (you knew that) April 16 - just days after Passover, which starts on the evening of Monday April 10.

Here in Albuquerque, this means that the traditional Passover foods which this year were placed on supermarket shelves in time for Easter (even though Easter was one month before Passover) should next year be available right on time.

We can always hope.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Summer 2016 @ OASIS Abq

Great Courses @ OASIS:  Abq Jew is pleased to announce that

OASIS Albuquerque has just announced
their Summer 2016 line-up of classes!
Registration opens on Wednesday May 4
but you can Wish List your selections now.

The mission of OASIS (as stated on the organization's website) is

To promote healthy aging through a three-fold approach: 
lifelong learning, healthy living and social engagement. 
OASIS Albuquerque Executive Director Kathleen Raskob continues to work enthusiastically to bring you new and interesting class offerings, and continues to make sure there are plenty of courses of Jewish interest. This session's courses and instructors include but are by no means limited to:

Expulsion and Memory: Conversos & Crypto-Jews in New Mexico
Wed 1 Jun 2016  @ 10:30 am - #112
Instructor: Norma Libman
What It Is: NM is home to descendants of Jews expelled from Spain during the Inquisition. Some do not know their heritage; others know but continue practicing Christianity; still others are Christian but include Jewish rituals in their practice or secretly consider themselves Jews, engaging in a Crypto-Jewish lifestyle. In this class we will screen the film Expulsion and Memory and discuss the Converso story. This class is a good preparation for class #123, a tour of the new NM History Museum exhibit on this subject.

Fractured Faiths: Spanish Judaism, The Inquisition, and New World Identities
Wed 1 Jun 2016 @ 8:30 am - #123
Instructor: Norma Libman
What It Is: The museum exhibit Fractured Faiths: Spanish Judaism, The Inquisition, and New World Identities tells the story of how Spain's Jewry found a tenuous foothold in North America. Despite continued persecution and investigation, its people persisted to finally make a mark as successful merchants, artists, and philanthropists in New Mexico.

Working with institutions in Spain, Mexico City, and New York, exhibit curators Josef Díaz and Roger Martínez-Dávila gathered evidence which reunited Spanish artifacts with New World counterparts to reveal the history of the Spanish Sephardim - the stalwarts, the converts and the hidden Jews - and their long heritage within the Americas. A global story that played out on New Mexico soil, this monumental exhibit details one of history's most compelling chronicles of human tenacity and the power of cultural identity.

Travel to Santa Fe with Norma Libman, who provides introductory information on the bus about the Fractured Faiths exhibit. At the NM History Museum, take a tour with Josef Diaz, the Museum's curator of Southwest and Mexican Colonial Art and History Collections. After time to explore the Museum, lunch is on your own in the Santa Fe Plaza area. On the return trip, there will be an opportunity for participants to discuss the exhibit with Norma Libman.

In preparation for the trip, we also recommend "Expulsion and Memory: Conversos & Crypto-Jews in New Mexico" (Class #112 on June 1) with Norma Libman.

Healing the Spirit, Transforming the Mind, Deepening Love
Thu 16 Jun 2016 @ 10:30 am - #88
Instructor: Shefa Gold
What It Is: Words of creation, transformation, and healing are hidden in plain sight. When you find the divine breath within and resuscitate those words, they come alive and become a vehicle of power and healing. In this workshop, explore the power and magic of Hebrew Chant as we transform the words of prayer into spiritual practice. All are welcome. You do not have to be Jewish or know how to sing or meditate.

Legendary Leaders in Albuquerque's History
Thu 7 Jul 2016 @ 10:30 am - #117
Instructor: Richard Melzer
What It Is: Spanish settlers founded Albuquerque in 1706. The settlement developed from a small farming community into NM's largest city. Richard Melzer discusses dozens of the notable men and women participated in this remarkable growth. Legendary locals in Albuquerque include those who played important roles in politics and diplomacy; the military; law and order; religion and education; art and literature; culture and entertainment; business and tourism; health, science, technology, and space; and sports.

American Songwriter: George Gershwin
Mon 1 Aug 2016 @ 1:00 pm - #69
Instructor: Jane Ellen
What It Is: George Gershwin (1898-1937) was one of the first great voices of "American" music in the 20th century. At the time of his death, he was slated to win the first Pulitzer prize for musical comedy (awarded posthumously), had written an opera, composed for stage and screen, and had created symphonic works that served to whet the appetites of modern concert-goers in the US. This class will explore Gershwin's major works as well as his popular tunes.

Joseph in Three Dimensions: Literature, Visual Art, & Music
Wed 10 Aug 2016  @ 10:30 am - #93
Instructor: Paul Citrin
What It Is: Joseph is one of the most fascinating, multi-dimensional Biblical figures. We will examine his life from literary, philosophical, ethical, and aesthetic viewpoints, and explore his life for universal values which apply to our time.