Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Three Weeks 2016

No Half-Fast: Abq Jew must tell you that he does not like to fast. (Does anyone?) Even the thought of going without food gives Abq Jew headaches - which, the rabbis tell us, is sufficient reason to break a fast.

How convenient.

Yet here we are at the beginning of the The Three Weeks.
The Three Weeks or Bein ha-Metzarim (Hebrew: בין המצרים, "Between the Straits") (cf "dire straits") is a period of mourning commemorating the destruction of the first and second Jewish Temples.  
The Three Weeks start on the seventeenth day of the Jewish month of Tammuz — the fast of Shiva Asar B'Tammuz — and end on the ninth day of the Jewish month of Av — the fast of Tisha B'Av, which occurs exactly three weeks later. 
Both of these fasts commemorate events surrounding the destruction of the Jewish Temples and the subsequent exile of the Jews from the land of Israel. 
According to conventional chronology, the destruction of the first Temple, by Nebuchadnezzar II, occurred in 586 BCE, and the second, by the Romans, in 70 CE. 
We traditionally "observe" The Three Weeks by minimizing (but, pointedly, not eliminating) our joy and celebration.

How? No shaving, no haircuts, no (lehavdil) listening to music. No reciting a shehecheyanu blessing on new clothes. And no weddings or other simchas.

Although, as the rabbis say, "communities and individuals vary in their levels of observance of these customs."

But wait!
There are special rules for 5776 / 2016!

"How so?" Abq Jew hears you ask.

There are special rules because the 17th of Tammuz actually fell on Shabbat. We are not allowed to fast on Shabbat - in fact, we've got to get three full meals in. So we postponed the observance of Shiva Asar B'Tammuz until the next day - Sunday.

And we will do similarly for Tisha B'Av.

So now, Abq Jew will  ask the simple and provocative question that he knows you, his loyal readers, are also asking.

If we're going to postpone 
Shiva Asar B'Tammuz and Tisha B'Av
for a day, why not postpone them forever? 
Why are we fasting, anyway?

For as Rabbi Daniel Greyber, rabbi of Beth El Synagogue in Durham, NC, pointed out last year in The Forward:
The Book of Lamentations, which we read on Erev Tisha B’Av, begins with stark words: “Lonely sits the city once great with people.” The text tells the story not only of Israel in 586 BCE, when the First Temple was destroyed and we were exiled to Babylonia, but also of thousands of years of Jewish history: “Her enemies are now the masters, / Her foes are at ease because God has afflicted her.” 
But the present reality of Israel couldn’t be more different. We are not exiled. Our enemies are not our masters. Our foes are not at ease. Instead, we have a powerful army. Jerusalem is a bustling, modern city full of life and vitality. The words of Lamentations contradicted the truth of my experience. Was I really supposed to ignore all that and fast and mourn and cry?
Rabbi Greyber then offers this insight:
Talmudic scholar Moshe Benovitz, a former teacher of mine, has one of the most original - and important - responses to that question. 
Benovitz is a Zionist, and he celebrates Israel’s Independence Day, but he argues that Yom Haatzma’ut - a holiday created by Israel’s Knesset - is not the Jewish tradition’s way of celebrating our people’s return to our land. 
What is? 
Turning Tisha B’Av into a day of feasting and joy.
The prophet Zechariah predicted long ago that one day Israel’s fast days “will be for the house of Judah joy and gladness.” 
When Jews have sovereignty, as we do now! Because we have a State of our own, Benovitz even argues we are living in the messianic era.

But, Abq Jew bets you're not surprised to hear, Benovitz's is not the majority opinion.

For that, Abq Jew turns (and returns) to the Conservative Movement, whose anthem of Tradition and Change speaks to his heart and to his brain.

Rabbi Professor David Golinkin, President of the Schechter Institute, asks his version of our question:
In light of the rebirth of the State of Israel and the reunification of Jerusalem, should we continue to fast on Tisha B'av and the other three fasts which commemorate the Destruction of the Temple?
And offers a long, detailed, and comprehensive answer in a Responsum which begins:
In order to answer this question, one needs to examine three aspects of Tisha B'av, historical, halakhic and ideological.
Abq Jew, for historical reasons, is most interested in the historical aspect. When the Second Temple was standing, did we fast or otherwise observe Tisha b'Av?
It seems clear that, during the Second Temple period, when the Temple stood and a large percentage of the Jewish people dwelt in its own land, the Jewish people continued to fast on Tisha B'av and apparently on the other three fast days instituted in memory of the Destruction of the First Temple. 
This is not the answer that Abq Jew was hoping for. How about a half-fast - fasting for only half a day on Tisha b'Av, especially when its observance was postponed to Sunday?
We can derive from [one] episode [in the Tosefta] that during the period of the [Second] Temple the members of [one] particular family fasted for half a day when Tisha B'av was moved to the tenth of Av because of Shabbat. But the rest of the Jewish people fasted the entire day on Tisha B'av.
Rabbi Professor Golinkin  reaches this conclusion:
What should we do? 
We should fast all day on Tisha B'av, while ruling that the other three fasts are optional. 
This is the approach of Rav Pappa in Rosh Hashanah 18b as codified by the Geonim and Rishonim who ruled according to the simple meaning of the Talmudic passage. 
By so doing, we acknowledge the miracles of the rebirth of the State of Israel in 1948 and the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967 by downplaying the three fast days, while indicating that we are still far from peace by fasting on Tisha B'av.

Rabbi Daniel Greyber concludes his article in The Forward by stating:
Part of the strength of Zionism was its willingness, even desire, to forget Jewish history. Forgetting a history of passivity and suffering may have helped Zionists summon the chutzpah to found the State of Israel. 
But forgetting history is also a weakness; Zionism sometimes entails so much forgetting of the Jewish past that we are too quickly left without roots. 
Our challenge is to create an approach to Judaism that is neither so tethered to the past that we deny the miracles unfolding before us, nor so disdainful of history that we forget our identity and the gift of an ancient tradition.
And by asking:
Could Tisha B’Av become a Jewish festival? 
Could Jews knowledgeable of Jewish history and dedicated to observance of God’s laws gather around the table on Erev Tisha B’Av, recall the suffering of our ancestors and, over a glass of wine and a sumptuous feast, recite blessings of thanks for returning us to our land? 
I don’t know. I have yet to find - or foster - a community within which to do so. I remain part of the Jewish community at large and continue to fast. 
Still, as Tisha B’av rolls around again ... I wonder about what could be.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Laurel and Hardy Do Yemenite

Dance-Off! Laurel and Hardy are, in some sense, associated with dance. But as far as Abq Jew knows, they are not usually associated with the Yemenite tradition of dance.

Yet change may be in order.

Social media, when not cracking up about Melania Trump's 2016 RNC "adaptation" of portions of Michelle Obama's 2008 DNC address, have promulgated a video of the famed duo viewing, with favor, a group of Yemenite dancers. And even joining in.

Which Abq Jew is only too happy to share with you, his loyal readers.

But first - a history lesson!

First of all - Laurel and Hardy.
Laurel and Hardy were a comedy double act during the early Classical Hollywood era of American cinema. The team was composed of thin Englishman Stan Laurel (1890–1965) and heavyset American Oliver Hardy (1892–1957). 
They became well known during the late 1920s through the mid-1940s for their slapstick comedy, with Laurel playing the clumsy and childlike friend of the pompous Hardy.
The duo's signature tune is known variously as "The Cuckoo Song", "Ku-Ku", or "The Dance of the Cuckoos". It was played over the opening credits of their films and has become as emblematic of the duo as their bowler hats.
Or two!

Next - Yemenite Jews.
Yemenite Jews or Yemeni Jews (Hebrew: יהודי תימן‎‎ Yehudey Teman; Arabic: اليهود اليمنيين‎‎) are those Jews who live, or once lived, in Yemen. The term may also refer to the descendants of the Yemenite Jewish community.  
Between June 1949 and September 1950, the overwhelming majority of Yemen's Jewish population was transported to Israel in Operation Magic Carpet. After several waves of persecution throughout Yemen, most Yemenite Jews now live in Israel, while small communities are found in the United States and elsewhere. Only a handful remain in Yemen. The few remaining Jews experience intense, and at times violent, anti-Semitism on a daily basis. 
Yemenite Jews have a unique religious tradition that marks them out as separate from Ashkenazi, Sephardi and other Jewish groups. Yemenite Jews are generally described as belonging to "Mizrahi Jews", though they differ from the general trend of Mizrahi groups in Israel, which have undergone a process of total or partial assimilation to Sephardic culture and Sephardic liturgy.
Or three! 

Finally - the Yemenite Step.
The Yemenite step (Hebrew: צעד תימני‎‎, Tsa'ad Temani) is a dance step widely used in Yemenite Jewish dancing and Israeli folk dancing. 
The basic Yemenite step provides a swaying movement that changes the dancer's direction of motion, although the dancer may face forward throughout the step.  
It is usually a sideways movement, but may be done moving backward and forward (or vice versa). It consists of three steps, with a short pause on the final step for a "quick, quick, slow" tempo. 
The most common variations are known as a right Yemenite (or Yemenite right), and left Yemenite (or Yemenite left).
Ready? Here we go!

Shabbat Shalom, Albuquerque!
Good Shabbos, New Mexico!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

3rd Annual Abq Jewish Film Fest

Jewish Films in Abq! Abq Jew is very happy to announce (if you haven't seen the Albuquerque JCC's advertisements) the 3rd Annual Abq Jewish Film Fest.

The lineup of films is lined up below. Click here to purchase tickets.

Celebrate the Jewish experience
through acclaimed films from
Morocco, Israel, England, and the U.S.

Thursday, July 21, 7:00 pm
The Midnight Orchestra

Directed by Jérôme Cohen Olivar. This comedy/drama tells the story of the son of a once famous Jewish musician, Marcel Botbol. After leaving Morocco amidst racial tensions spurred by the Yom Kippur war, the son travels to his home country to bury his father. As he meets the members of the band, The Midnight Orchestra, his life unexpectedly transforms.

The story is full of vibrant characters traumatized by the unexpected departure of Marcel Botbol, characters that we remember long after the moving and poignant finale. (2016, Morocco; 102 min; Arabic, French, English with English subtitles)

Saturday, July 23, 7:30 pm

Directed by Jonathan Goldschmidt. Starring Jonathan Pryce (Game of Thrones, Pirates of the Caribbean), Dough is a hilarious film that tells the story of an unlikely duo working at a failing bakery. An old Jewish baker (Pryce) takes on a young Muslim apprentice (Jerome Holder) to save his London kosher bakery. When his apprentice's marijuana stash accidentally falls in the mixing dough, the challah starts flying off the shelves! 

Dough is a warmhearted and humorous story about overcoming prejudice and finding redemption in unexpected places. "Sweet…Funny…Appealing" — The New York Times (2016, U.K.; 95 minutes; English)

Sunday, July 24, 1:30 pm
In Search of Israeli Cuisine

Directed by Roger Sherman. Israeli lunch precedes the film at 12:30 and may be pre-purchased for $10. The film is a portrait of the Israeli people told through food. It puts a literal face on the culture of Israel. Profiling chefs, home cooks, farmers, vintners, and cheese makers drawn from the more than 100 cultures that make up Israel today — Jewish, Arab, Muslim, Christian, Druze a rich, complex and human story emerges.

The chef/guide is Michael Solomonov, the James Beard award winning chef/owner of Zahav and a number of other restaurants in Philadelphia. His book Zahav: A World of Israeli Cuisine was recently released and is on the New York Times bestseller list. (2016, U.S.; 97 minutes)

Monday, July 25, 7:00 pm
Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You

Directed by Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing. Starring Norman Lear, George Clooney, Jon Stewart, Rob Reiner and Amy Poehler. Arguably the most influential creator, writer, and producer in the history of television, Norman Lear brought primetime into step with the times.

Using comedy and indelible characters, his legendary 1970s shows such as All in the Family, Maude, Good Times, and The Jeffersons, boldly cracked open dialogue and shifted the national consciousness, injecting enlightened humanism into sociopolitical debates on race, class, creed, and feminism. (2016, U.S.; 90 minutes)

Tuesday, July 26, 7:00pm
Rabin: In His Own Words

Directed by Erez Laufer. Winner - Best Documentary, Haifa International Film Festival 2015. The film relays the personal and political life of the man and the myth—as he lived it. Like any good protagonist, his narrative is well-rounded: sacrifice, heroism, hubris, humor and heartache.

Yitzhak Rabin was a complex, contradictory character- honest, innocent and timid while forceful, determined and resilient; a loyal friend who spent much of his time in solitude; blessed with a sense of resolve paralleled only by the doubt that shadowed it; calm and collected like a dormant volcano bound to erupt one day; courteous and contained, he was a gentleman with a fiery temperament. (2015, Israel; 113 minutes; Hebrew with English subtitles)

Monday, July 11, 2016

How to Publicize Your Event

From the Jewish NM Calendar: Remember just three weeks ago when Abq Jew showed you How to Submit Your Event, the follow-up to A New Calendar Look?

Let's keep the party going!

When we left off, Abq Jew was confronted with the calendar's Submitted Event List, where he was forced to approve / edit / reject your submitted event.

Let's say that Abq Jew hits the Approve Event button.

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta
is posted on the Jewish New Mexico Calendar!
Go ahead - click the image!

So now let's say that you want more information, or different information, or a new image, or the time has changed ... or whatever.

Just Contact Abq Jew and he'll take care of it. Your posting is always editable.

OK ... Now what?

First, let's click on Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta and see what we've got.
  1. We've got a full, nicely-formatted, easy-to-read explanation of exactly what the Balloon Fiesta is and why people should attend.
  2. We've got the location of the Balloon Fiesta and a map to it. 
But wait! There's more!

See that row of icons across the top of the Balloon Fiesta posting? That's where you can
  1. Click the Twitter icon and share the Balloon Fiesta with your followers.
  2. Click the Facebook icon and share the Balloon Fiesta with your friends.
  3. Click the LinkedIn icon and share the Balloon Fiesta with your groups and contacts.
  4. Click the Google+ icon and share the Balloon Fiesta with your circles and communities.
  5. Click the Calendar icon and save the Balloon Fiesta in your calendar.
  6. Click the Link icon and copy the Balloon Fiesta link to your clipboard. You can then insert the link on your website, in an email, or wherever.
  7. Click the Email icon and email the Balloon Fiesta posting to your email contacts.
We're not done yet!

Depending on how you and Abq Jew have set up your event posting, you can click a tab to Buy Tickets, get More Info, and/or RSVP for your event.

As everyone here on the Upper West Side knows,
balloons can drop by anywhere, anytime.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Get Your Goat On!

First Ever! Kosher Cabrito 2016! The Jewish Federation of New Mexico invites you to get your goat on at

Kosher Cabrito 2016

The Jewish Federation of New Mexico will be hosting its first ever “Kosher Cabrito” on Sunday July 10. The community celebration will include a kosher goat roast buffet, beverages, and music, and is open to everyone.

In Portuguese, the word cabrito is used to describe a young goat or kid. The goat is traditionally slow-cooked over a charcoal fire for about eight hours, though in this case, the meat will be grilled. 

Rabbi Ron Wittenstein of Kol BeRamah Jewish Learning Center in Santa Fe is New Mexico’s only trained shochet, or kosher butcher. He will slaughter and prepare the animal in accordance with Jewish law during a private ceremony earlier that day.

$10 Advance  /  $15 Door
To Register in Advance
Contact Kristen Gurule at the Jewish Federation of New Mexico
(505) 348-4457 or kristen@jewishnewmexico.org

Abq Jew must tell you that, unlike last year's La Cueva Bear Tree Imbroglio (see All Ye Faithful), two goats will be killed (but, per tradition, not hurt) just hours before Kosher Cabrito 2016.

This may present a problem for all of us who believe that kosher meat comes directly from Heaven in cellophane-wrapped packages.

Mr & Mrs Abq Jew have seen too many videos like this one to really feel good about killing (or having others kill) large, sentient animals. Or small, cute ones.

But we know that pure veganism, or even plain old vegetarianism, will just be too hard for us.

We thought about becoming pescetarian, but consuming all that fish a) involves too much mercury; and b) is just as expensive as eating red meat. Also, when we told people, they thought we were becoming Presbyterian. Too Scottish!

So Mr & Mrs Abq Jew have decided to become


To explain (per Balashon):
The Yiddish term for "chicken leg" or "drumstick" is pulke (פולקע), and it has entered Hebrew as well (פולקה). 
Stahl writes that the origin is in the Russian word pol, meaning half or side. This root is found in a number of Slavic languages, including Czech, where it appears as pul. This is the source of the dance Polka - which according to this site, is Czech for "half-step", referring to the rapid shift from one foot to the other. 
On [Balashon] we find that pul derives from a more ancient Indo-European root meaning "split or half", which leads to many words in the various languages of the Indo-European family, including such words as split and splice.
And we'll start our chicken and turkey diet, Billy Nader,  just as soon as our current supply of frozen Pesachdik red meat runs out. (We're not that crazy!)

And speaking of goats ...

Here are Abq Jew's favorite goats (see All Ye Faithful), singing Jingle Bells!

Abq Jew, you may recall, (see One Giving Tree) has come out strongly in favor of

Peace, Love, Understanding - and Respect

These fine qualities will be in great supply later this year, as our Jewish community and their Christian communities come together to celebrate Chrismukkah.

Yes, this year, the first night of Hanukkah falls on Christmas Eve. Just like Louis Bamberger z"l always hoped it would.

Goat Ready!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Elie Wiesel, Witness, Dies at 87

A Lamed-Vavnik Passes: During the course of his brief (by his standards) life so far, Abq Jew has been blessed to stand in the physical and moral presence of two of the 36 Righteous People upon whose merit the world continues to exist.

The first, of course, was the Rebbe.
Menachem Mendel Schneerson (April 5, 1902 OS – June 12, 1994), known to many as the Rebbe, was a Russian Empire-born American Orthodox Jewish rabbi, and the last Lubavitcher Rebbe. 
He is one of the most influential Jewish leaders of the second half of the 20th century. 
As leader of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, he took an insular Hasidic group that almost came to an end with the Holocaust and transformed it into one of the most influential movements in world Jewry, with an international network of over 3,000 educational and social centers. 
The institutions he established include kindergartens, schools, drug-rehabilitation centers, care-homes for the disabled and synagogues.[
One Shabbos morning in 1975, Abq Jew walked all the way across Brooklyn (a bit over three miles), from East Midwood to Crown Heights, to daven at 770 Eastern Parkway, Lubavitcher (Chabad) Headquarters.

The awe, the reverence, the electricity in the room when the Rebbe entered was like nothing Abq Jew had ever felt - or has felt since. But there were two that came close.

They were, of course, when Abq Jew and his son, Dov Yellin the Film Editor (et al), traveled from Aberdeen, New Jersey to the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan - twice! - to hear Elie Wiesel teach.
Eliezer "Elie" Wiesel KBE (September 30, 1928 – July 2, 2016) was a Romanian-born American Jewish writer, professor, political activist, Holocaust survivor, and Nobel Laureate.  
He was the author of 57 books, written mostly in French and English, including Night, a work based on his experiences as a prisoner in the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps.  
Wiesel was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, at which time the Norwegian Nobel Committee called him a "messenger to mankind," stating that through his struggle to come to terms with "his own personal experience of total humiliation and of the utter contempt for humanity shown in Hitler's death camps", as well as his "practical work in the cause of peace", Wiesel had delivered a message "of peace, atonement and human dignity" to humanity.
Twice! - because Abq Jew thought it was important that his son (then in high school) hear Elie Wiesel's testimony and experience his presence in person.

Once, we did the trip - 50 miles each way - by car; the other time, by public transportation. Abq Jew does not remember - it's more than 15 years ago (heck, it's more than 15 minutes ago) - which was first, but Abq Jew & Son vowed never to do that again, and chose the alternate method for the second trip.

Here in the Land of Enchantment, Mr & Mrs Abq Jew can go from our home in Abq's Upper West Side to "downtown" Santa Fe in under an hour - also about 50 miles.

But the trip to the 92nd Street Y took about two hours in (against rush hour); and, late on a weeknight, more than three hours back (inexplicably). By both methods.

And it was worth every minute.

To hear Elie Wiesel teach (whenever he spoke, he taught), in person, with force, with power, with moral conviction - this is why he was here. Learning directly from him was an honor and a privilege.

Which brings us back to the 36 Righteous People - the Lamed-Vavniks.

The website Lamed-Vav.com explains:
The Jewish legend of the Lamed Vovniks describes thirty-six righteous men in every generation upon whose merit the world is kept from entire destruction. 
Based in part on the story of Abraham and his conversation with the Lord about the destruction of Sodom in Genesis 18, the Lamed Vovniks are those who, by virtue of their compassion for others and the prayers they offer, cause the Lord to answer, “I will spare all the place for their sakes” (Genesis 18:26). 
Most versions of this legend declare that the hidden thirty-six are unknown to the world and cannot be known, to others or to themselves. 
They are humble servants of their fellows, tirelessly working to dry tears, show compassion, and shoulder the burdens of those who suffer. 
Like the Israelites in the Sinai wilderness, they have felt of the Shekhinah, the Divine Presence. They have recognized the power of God in their lives-the pillars of cloud and of fire-which guides them and protects them. 
The Lamed Vovniks are not powerless in this wicked world. Rather, they use the gifts and talents which they possess to lift all those around them. They help to save us all.
By now, Abq Jew struggles but believes, the Holy One, Blessed Be He, has answered all of Elie Wiesel's questions. Or, an alternative: By now, Elie Wiesel has been called as the Final Witness in The Trial of God.

For us, the questions remain.