Thursday, February 23, 2017

ABQ JCC: No More Bomb Threats

Our Options Have Changed: As we are all aware, another series of Jewish Community Centers across the country received bomb threats last Monday. Presidents Day. Go figure.

Albuquerque police officers help evacuate the Jewish Community Center
Monday. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

As Nicole Perez reported in the Albuquerque Journal:
Albuquerque’s Jewish Community Center on Monday went through what’s becoming a familiar routine. 
Someone called the center around 9:30 a.m. with a disguised voice claiming there was a bomb in the building. About 150 people evacuated immediately, and officers and police dogs did a sweep. 
An hour and a half later, it was business as usual.
Abq Jew feels, as he is sure you do -

These bomb threats must stop!

Abq Jew "spoke" with Dave Simon, Executive Director of the Albuquerque JCC, about how he plans to thwart these, alas, ongoing bomb threats.

"Our first thought," said Mr Simon, "was to move the JCC - at least temporarily - to the Trump Hotel Albuquerque. We figured we'd be relatively safe there, especially when @POTUS is in town."

But Mr Simon soon discovered that Trump Enterprises has no physical edifices (which is to say, hotels, casinos, resorts, or office buildings) in New Mexico.

Hence, there is no Trump Hotel Albuquerque.
And @POTUS is not expected to visit anytime soon.

Moreover, @POTUS's plans for a border wall with Mexico remain highly suspect. On which side of the border do you think @POTUS will place us?

What to do?

"We decided to use the latest technology available," said Mr Simon.

Here's how it works.

The JCC simply added "Option 9" to their menu of telephone instructions.

If you would like to leave a bomb threat, please press 9.

When the caller presses 9 and is transferred, he is warmly welcomed with the entire Philip Glass soundtrack of the 1982 blockbuster Koyaanisqatsi - all 76 minutes and 21 seconds.

Every few minutes, the system announces the caller's place in the queue.

Your bomb threat is number 109 ...
Your bomb threat is number 108 ...
Your bomb threat is number 107 ...
Please hold.

And whenever the telephone's sophisticated software signals that the caller is about to hang up, the system reminds him that

Here's the clincher: As soon as the system announces

Your bomb threat is number 1 ...

Or, to be more precise: the system disconnects the caller.

Said Mr Simon,

"This is bound to stop them. And they won't call back!"

Oh - in case you're wondering -

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Opening La Puerta del Cielo

Natural Jewish Burial: A Jewish woman died in Albuquerque last week. She was not just anyone; she was a very special person with whom Abq Jew became acquainted, alas, only after her death.

When a Jew dies in Albuquerque, his or her remains are usually delivered to a local funeral home, where those remains are prepared for burial.

The funeral home usually works with a local rabbi to schedule a funeral service, and often (not always) calls in the Chevre Kaddisha (Jewish Burial Society) to wash, purify, and dress the deceased, and place him or her in a kosher casket.

The deceased is then usually transported to a local cemetery, where the funeral service is performed and the deceased is buried.

All of this is done with dignity and respect.

And all of this (except, of course, the services of the Chevre Kaddisha) costs money.

The family of the special person whom Abq Jew met last week did not have enough money to follow the "usual" procedure.

In such a case, what is the responsibility of the Albuquerque Jewish community? And how does the Albuquerque Jewish community fulfill that responsibility?

Respectful treatment and burial of the dead
is one of the greatest mitzvot. 

When the family of the deceased cannot perform this mitzvah for financial reasons, the Albuquerque Jewish community - through the Jewish Federation of New Mexico - steps in. 

Through the JFNM's Indigent Burial Fund, the mitzvah of
kavod hamet כּבוד המת (honoring the dead) is fulfilled.

The JFNM's kosher pine caskets are usually procured through Fathers Building Futures, a local organization that helps
ensure parents and families experiencing barriers from incarceration have the best opportunities for stability - emotionally, socially and financially.  
This project has been inspired by the courageous men who have, and who will continue to, overcome obstacles in order to succeed as providers for their children and community.

And JFNM's burial plots? While Fairview Memorial Park in Albuquerque and Vista Verde Memorial Park in Rio Rancho still have some plots available for Jewish burials, there is a new alternative: La Puerta Natural Burial Ground -
a 40-acre private, serene, conservation burial site at the base of the Manzano Mountains. Fully certified by the national Green Burial Council, La Puerta's mission is to ensure low cost, environmentally sound, and respectful burial for all.

La Puerta is located about 15 miles southeast of Belen. That's about an hour's ride from downtown Albuquerque - about half an hour on I-25, a quick swing through Belen, and then onto Highway 47.

Yes, it's a bit of a schlep, but the reward for those visiting La Puerta is blue sky, beautiful mountains, acres upon acres of magnificent open fields ... and trains.

The Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway runs through Belen and then heads southeast, crossing Highway 47 just north of the La Puerta turnoff.

The 40-car, 60-car, 80-car freight trains that move across the tranquil La Puerta horizon - silently and powerfully - only add to the serenity of the place. The trains convey continuity - a feeling that, whatever happens, we will go on.

For the very special lady Abq Jew helped bury last week - well, her family (also very special) said she would have been pleased. Which is all we can ask for.

The JFNM has been proud to assist in the proper Jewish burial of several indigent New Mexicans during the past few months. But -

The Indigent Burial Fund is almost empty.
Can you help the JFNM perform this important mitzvah? 

Click here to donate to the Jewish Federation of New Mexico, and please direct a portion of your contribution to the Indigent Burial Fund.

Thank you!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Love Trumps Hate: 24 Hours

As Fame Briefly Visits: Thanks to The New York Times' This Week in Hate series (and to writer Anna North and photographer Adria Malcolm), Abq Jew last week received the 15 minutes of fame to which he is due in this lifetime.

Mr. Yellin was somewhat afraid when he read the messages, but mostly
disgusted and disappointed. He wondered, “Have we come to this?”
15 minutes of fame is short-lived media publicity or celebrity of an individual or phenomenon. The expression was inspired by Andy Warhol's words "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes", which appeared in the program for a 1968 exhibition of his work at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Sweden. 
Photographer Nat Finkelstein claims credit for the expression, stating that he was photographing Warhol in 1966 for a proposed book. A crowd gathered trying to get into the pictures and Warhol supposedly remarked that everyone wants to be famous, to which Finkelstein replied, "Yeah, for about fifteen minutes, Andy."

Abq Jew's 15 minutes actually lasted close to 24 hours. Which is almost exactly how long Hateful Threats Against a Jewish Blogger was in the main Times newsfeed.

And as our comparatively pretty good former president once said

The fact that my 15 minutes of fame has extended a little longer than 15 minutes is somewhat surprising to me and completely baffling to my wife. 

Abq Jew fully expected to receive shiploads of hate messages after the Times article was published. He received: zero zilch nada. Efes. Not one, Ken O'Hara.

Instead, Abq Jew received only messages of hope, understanding, and support. From family, friends, aquaintances, and colleagues. And from many, many people Abq Jew doesn't even know.

Here are some of these messages. You can read more here.
Keep going! We need to speak up for what we believe in. 
So sorry to read in NY Times about the threats you received. Please stay safe and stay strong. 
I just read about this in the New York Times' "This Week in Hate" column. So appalling and sickening. You are obviously a mensch to be able to keep your sense of humor through all this. Take care. #NoHateInNM 
Thank you for sharing your story in the NY Times; although I am very sad and very distressed that such a story had to be shared. As much as I now write my representatives and sign petitions, I am also determined to make more of an effort to support others during these trying times. I just wanted to say: Please keep blogging! You are not alone! Sending you good wishes from across the Atlantic (Belgium). 

Here is the second message that Abq Jew received. This one made him cry.
I grew up in 'Burque in the way back when era ... and was absolutely horrified to read about what has been happening in my hometown. 
It saddens me that these bits of behavior have now become normalized. I just want to say ... my best to everyone ... my deepest sorrow .... 
My tio [uncle] liberated Dachau ... and he refused to talk to me about what he witnessed .... 
In solidarity with you and my love to everyone.

To all those who responded, Abq Jew says

Thank You!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Documenting Hate

The New York Times & ProPublica: Last week, Abq Jew blogged about the hate messages he and the Albuquerque Jewish community have recently received (see You've Got Hate Mail!).

This week, the story is in The New York Times.

Here is how this all came about.

First, you should know (but Abq Jew is very sad to tell you) that the Times has (and Abq Jew follows) a feature series titled This Week in Hate. The Times explains -
Why We Need a Project to Document Hate Crimes
This Week in Hate highlights hate crimes and harassment around the country since the election of Donald Trump. 
Reliable data on hate crimes is hard to come by. As reports of racist, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic harassment and attacks poured in after the election of Donald Trump, many Americans wondered whether they represented a nationwide increase in hate crime. 
While the Southern Poverty Law Center saw a dramatic increase in reports after the election, it’s not yet clear whether this indicates a nationwide trend. 
That’s one reason This Week in Hate is joining with ProPublica and a coalition of other organizations to work on Documenting Hate, a project that aims to gather data on hate crimes and incidents of bias around the country. 
Documenting Hate will analyze information from law enforcement, news reports, nonprofit groups and individuals in order to investigate topics like how many hate crimes occur annually, which parts of the country have the highest prevalence and whether the frequency or severity of hate crimes has changed since the election of Mr. Trump. 
This Week in Hate and several news organizations will publish results from those investigations.

Abq Jew went to the Documenting Hate website, and read
America does not do a good job of tracking incidents of hate and bias. 
We need your help to create a database of such incidents across the country, so we all know what's going on. 
By filling out the form below, you are sharing your story with Documenting Hate, a coalition of organizations led by ProPublica, a nonprofit investigative newsroom. 
We may share this information with our partner newsrooms around the country and with some civil rights organizations who are working with us on this project. 
We will not share your name and contact information with anybody outside our coalition without your permission. 
Abq Jew said to himself, "I'm a victim & I want to TELL MY STORY."  He filled out the form, recording in very basic terms what had happened to him. He clicked Submit, and figured that was the end of it.

Documenting Hate said

Thank you so much for telling your story.
Someone may be in touch to follow up.

"Sure," said Abq Jew.

And then he got an email from Anna North, who is a member of the New York Times editorial board and the writer of many of the This Week in Hate pieces. (She's also a novelist.)

Telephone interview yesterday, photo (by Albuquerque's own Andria Malcolm) today, and voilà - we've made the Times!

Abq Jew would have been so much happier if the esteemed New York Times had recognized him for his good work, and for the service he believes his website and his blog provide to the Jewish community.

Or, as Abq Jew's kids told him -

"The anti-Semitism sucks, but the article is pretty cool."

To which Abq Jew replied -

If the Times is going to write about you - 
better This Week in Hate than

Shabbat Shalom, Albuquerque!
Good Shabbos, New Mexico!
Sabbath Peace, World!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Celebrating 41

The Triple Concerto: This week Mr & Mrs Abq Jew joyfully celebrated their 41st Wedding Anniversary (see Celebrating 40 for last year's festivities).

Now, Anniversary  #41 is not particularly auspicious. The Chicago Public Library listed nothing as the traditional #41 gift.

And traditionalists that they are, Mr & Mrs Abq Jew gave each other nothing (but 41 years of love).

Ah, but the memories. Which is where Beethoven's Triple Concerto comes in.
Ludwig van Beethoven's Concerto for Violin, Cello, and Piano in C major, Op. 56, more commonly known as the Triple Concerto, was composed in 1803 .... 
The choice of the three solo instruments effectively makes this a concerto for piano trio, and it is the only concerto Beethoven ever completed for more than one solo instrument. A typical performance takes approximately thirty-seven minutes.

Which then brings us to Carnegie Hall

On the evening of Wednesday, December 29, 1976, the New York String Orchestra, a renowned youth ensemble conducted by Alexander "Sasha" Schneider, presented an Homage to Pablo Casals. This was the second of two concerts celebrating the centenary of Pablo Casals' birth.

Mr & Mrs Abq Jew, then living in Manhattan and married less than a year, knew exactly how to get to Carnegie Hall: the subway. So they went. (Or perhaps they were just walking around 57th Street and discovered the imminent concert.)

They were escorted inside and stood up (all seats having been sold out) in the back of a box of the Side Second Tier of what is now called Isaac Stern Auditorium.

Now apparently, the program started with Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major (one of Abq Jew's favorities) by Johann Sebastian Bach; followed by several other pieces.

Abq Jew remembers none of them.

What Abq Jew clearly recalls is the introduction of the three very young men who would perform the Triple Concerto: Shlomo Mintz, violin; Yefim Bronfman, piano; and this wonderfully-named 21-year-old kid playing cello: Yo-Yo Ma.

It was the most magical performance Mr & Mrs Abq Jew 
(yes, standing all the way) had (or have) ever heard.

Yes, more than one composer has written a Triple Concerto. Yes, many musicians have performed Beethoven's (here we have Zubin Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra; with Pinchas Zukerman, Yefim Bronfman, and Amanda Forsyth). But

Oh, What A Night!

And if you want to see and hear Yo-Yo Ma
when he was really young - watch this!
Leonard Bernstein introduces Yo-Yo Ma
with a powerful pro-immigration message.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

You've Got Hate Mail!

Sleepy in Albuquerque: On Friday January 13th (wouldn't you know), Abq Jew became yet another proud and sorrowful Jewish journalist / blogger to receive not one, but two! yes two! hate mail messages from an unknown antagonist.

Now, technically, these were not hate mail messages. They were submitted via the Contact Form on the Abq Jew website, and not from any of the email programs we have all come to know and ... love.

That actually makes these messages a bit scarier.

The antagonist actually entered his contact information into the Abq Jew Contact Form. Sort of.
  • Name: William Pierce (1933 - 2002), Wikipedia tells us, was "was an American white nationalist and political activist. He was one of the most influential ideologues of the white nationalist movement for some 30 years before his death."
  • Email: is what's known as a disposable email address. Use it once, throw it away. Very difficult to trace.
  • Phone: (505) 266-0155 turns out to be the number for Congregation B'nai Israel of Albuquerque, which is listed on the Abq Jew website.
It was not necessary to enter the information into any of these boxes. The Contact Form can be submitted (and, alas, often is) without any of this information.

But the antagonist did have to complete the CAPTCHA (for Completely Automated Public Turing Test To Tell Computers and Humans Apart) form to prove that he is a human and not a robot.

And, of course, he had to enter his messages. Individually. Twice.

Usually, Abq Jew receives unsigned messages like this one. If the sender is willing to take the time to enter the message and complete the CAPTCHA form - there may not be much that can be done.

If you would like to see what these two hate messages said, please go ahead and click Abq Jew Peace Love Messages. CAUTION! Extremely offensive language!

But first, please allow Abq Jew to summarize for you.
  • The antagonist did use the antiquated, almost cute terms of uncertain etymology
  • The antagonist did issue curses of more than Biblical intensity (see the Tochecha, the Big Rebuke, Parshat Ki Tavo, Deuteronomy 28:15-69).
  • The antagonist did, almost poetically, allude to many eras and types of anti-Jewish persecution, with the firm implication that much worse is yet to come. Imminently.
  • Depending (of course) on how (or if) one wishes to read these two hate messages, the antagonist did threaten Abq Jew, his family, the Jewish community of Albuquerque, and, indeed, Jews everywhere. Personally, as well as universally.

Extremely offensive language

Again - if you would like to see what these two hate messages said, please go ahead and click Abq Jew Peace Love Messages. But if you would not like to see - that's OK. Just keep reading. There's lots more to talk about.

So, Abq Jew hears you, his loyal readers, ask

What can you do about these messages?

Well, the first thing that Abq Jew did was to notify local rabbis, synagogues, and Jewish organizations that these hate messages had been received.

Starting with the the New Mexico Region
of ADL, the Anti-Defamation League.

As it turned out - that was all Abq Jew had to do. Our New Mexico Regional ADL Director - very quickly and intently - notified everyone who needed to know that this incident had occurred.

This included the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the highest levels of the Albuquerque Police Department (APD), and several other cyber-hate investigators and agencies. All of them responded.

But Abq Jew has gotta tell ya - the best response came from Mikey Weinstein, the founder and leader of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF). Reminder: Abq Jew most recently wrote about Mikey in Onward, Christian Soldiers! 

America's Best Christian™ Battles America's Toughest Jew

Mikey was quick to share some of the hate messages he receives, just so we could compare. You could write a book with all the hate messages Mikey gets - and Mikey's wife Bonnie has.

Now, Abq Jew has been posting blogs for more than six (6) years, and these are the first really hateful messages that he has received. 

But Mikey was impressed!

He even congratulated Abq Jew for making it BIG, right out of the box!

9.5 on the parallel bars! Rookie of the Year!

Abq Jew tried to follow Mikey's advice to take a different route to work. Since his bedroom and office are just a hallway apart, Abq Jew decided to go outside and come around to the front door.

And so Abq Jew had the opportunity to meet members of the Albuquerque Armed Response Team and the the Albuquerque Police Department - after he set off the alarm, scared himself, slammed the door, and got locked out of the house.

Still and all, Abq Jew is proud and sorrowful to say he has earned his echoes.

The use of triple parentheses or triple brackets, also known as an (((echo))), is an antisemitic symbol that has been used to highlight the names of individuals of a Jewish background. Use of the notation was brought to mainstream attention in June 2016, and has been classified as a form of hate speech by the ADL.
Tweeters, both Jews and non-Jews, now place their own names within triple parentheses as a sign of solidarity.

An Albuquerque police officer blocks traffic after a bomb threat was called in to the Jewish Community Center near Academy and Wyoming Tuesday morning. (Jim Thompson/Journal)

But let's be serious for a moment.

On Tuesday January 31st, a bomb threat was phoned in to the Jewish Community Center of Greater Albuquerque. This was just one of the more than 50 bomb threats that JCCs all over North America have received during the last few weeks.

Nicole Perez has written about this incident in the Albuquerque Journal. The JTA, of course, has covered the series of bomb threats - including what they sound like.

This must not be allowed.

More importantly, this blatant, open anti-Semitism
must not be allowed to become the new normal.