Tuesday, October 31, 2017

A Paean to Mr Baer

From a Peterson High School Alumnus: Believe it or not, Abq Jew managed to escape ... er, graduate ... actually, be graduated from high school - Peterson High School in Sunnyvale, California, Home of the Pirates - without ever studying Biology.

Which only means that Abq Jew never had Mr Baer as a teacher. But Mr Baer was the Faculty Leader of Peterson's branch of the California Scholarship Federation (CSF), which is how (see, fittingly, The Walk of LifeAbq Jew came to know him.

Moreover, everyone knew Mr Baer. 
He was the guy with the perpetual smile on his face.

From Mr Baer's obituary:
Harry Daniel Baer, 81, died Saturday morning, Sept. 30, 2017 in St. George, Utah.  
He was born July 30, 1936 in Seattle, Washington to Harry and Dorothy Baer. Dan married Evelyn Smith on August 7, 1959 and they were sealed for time and all eternity in the Idaho Falls, Idaho temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. 
Dan “Danny” Baer spent most of his adolescence running around the Coleman Fish Hatchery in Anderson, California where his dad was the general manager. Hunting and fishing were standard daily activities, which gave Dan much of his early love for nature and all of God’s creations. He attended Anderson High School, graduating in 1954 as president of his senior class.  
Dan started his college career at Shasta College and then to Chico State University where he focused his studies on Geology. He then transferred to Brigham Young University, where he finished his degree and met Evelyn.  
After graduation and their marriage in the summer of 1959, they moved to San Jose, California where Dan earned his secondary education teaching credential at San Jose State University and began teaching at Marian A. Peterson High School. He would later earn his Master’s degree in Biology from San Jose State University. 
Dan worked as a high school science teacher at Peterson High from 1961 [actually, around 1965] until 1982. 
It was during this time that he wrote a grant to the State of California that resulted in the building of the one-acre nature area at Peterson and the beginning of the Montebello Ridge program, an alternative section of courses that focused students on natural California history, including several annual river and camping trips along the Pacific coast, Sacramento River and Lassen National Park.  
Hundreds of students' lives were changed and inspired through this program, whose members are affectionately known to this day as the “Ridge Rats”. 
Dan ended his teaching career at Wilcox High in 1991. Dan and Evelyn retired to his old stomping grounds in Cottonwood, California, where they enjoyed life on a small 25-acre gentleman’s farm. 

The concept of simcha (happiness) is an important one in Jewish philosophy.

A popular teaching by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, a 19th-century Chassidic Rabbi, is "Mitzvah Gedolah Le'hiyot Besimcha Tamid," it is a great mitzvah (commandment) to always be in a state of happiness.

When a person is happy, he is much more capable of serving God and going about his daily activities than when depressed or upset.

Happy is how Abq Jew will always remember Mr Baer.
May his memory be for a blessing.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Sad Times at Lord & Taylor

Attention, Shoppers! It is with a heavy heart that Abq Jew reports (via The New York Times, of course) an (alas) not unforeseen tragedy for all past, present, and future New Yorkers:

Lord & Taylor Building, Icon of New York Retail,
Will Become WeWork Headquarters
From the moment its doors opened more than a century ago, the Lord & Taylor building on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan has stood as a monument to old-school retail. 
Complete with a grand entrance arch and copper cornice, the 676,000-square-foot store is a temple of urban commerce — and was named a New York City landmark a decade ago. 
But now, the forces buffeting the retail industry are diminishing Lord & Taylor’s presence as a New York institution. 
The company that owns the department store chain, Hudson’s Bay, said Tuesday that it was selling off the flagship store to WeWork, a seven-year-old start-up whose office-sharing model is helping to reinvent the concept of work space.
In selling its Italian Renaissance-style building to a WeWork joint venture for $850 million, Lord & Taylor and Hudson’s Bay are acknowledging that even the grand physical shopping spaces of old are now worth more as office space catering to millennials.

To Jewish New Yorkers - especially those who grew up (or whose parents, or, more likely, grandparents grew up) in the shmatte business - Lord & Taylor has always meant two things:

1. Beautiful Christmas window displays.
2. Jokes* about the Lord & Taylor name.

* Actually, as joke mavens know, it's really only one joke. But told in so many ways! There's the Babylonian version; and the version that appears in the Yerushalmi; and, of course, the version found on a petek in the Cairo Genizah ....

The Lord & Taylor Name
Schwartz, a poor tailor, had two daughters, and he wanted to provide them both with lavish weddings but couldn't really afford it. 
One day in the temple, he was deep in prayer and asked God to help him find a way to give his first daughter a beautiful wedding. God whispered into his ear, "Make wide lapels.....make wide lapels....." 
So Schwartz the tailor started manufacturing hundreds of suits, all of which were made with wide lapels. These suits sold like wildfire and were the new rage, bringing Schwartz plenty of money to entertain many wedding guests with an opulent feast at his first daughter's wedding. 
A few years later, his second daughter was getting married and Schwartz was in temple again, praying to God to help him out. After much beseeching and pleading, God whispered, "Make narrow ties.....make narrow ties." 
So Schwartz started turning out thousands of narrow ties, which turned out to be the latest trend in men's neckwear. This brought him lots and lots of money and his second daughter was able to have a wonderful, expensive wedding, too. 
After his daughters were married, Schwartz the tailor went back to the synagogue and prayed to God, thanking Him for helping out. 
He was so grateful to God that Schwartz told Him he would be opening up a store and would name it "God and Schwartz" to honor him. 
Then he heard a little voice from God in his ear: "No......Call it Lord & Taylor!"

The Lord & Taylor Name
A Jewish tailor moved to the United States and decided to start a tailor shop in his suburb. He named it "Schneider" meaning Tailor. 
He did alright, but one night he was praying to God and asked, "How can I have better business?" to which God replied, "Add my name to to your shop" so he renamed his shop "God and Schneider" and he did even better. 
In fact, he did so well, he decided to move to the city. In the city, he did not do so well, so again he prayed to God and asked, "God, I'm not doing well anymore, how can I make my store prosperous again?" to which God replied, "You must make your name more English for the city people." 
So he again renamed his store, this time to "Lord and Taylor."

The Lord & Taylor Name
Three Jewish men arrive in NYC from Europe, and decide to meet again in 20 years to see how they all made out in America. 20 years pass... 
The first man asks the second, "So, nu? How’d you do?" 
He replies: Vell, you know...ven I came to this country I had no idea vhat to do with myself to make a livink. So I looked at my last name. Goldstein. So I vent into the gold business. And oy, did I make a FORTUNE!" 
He turns to the next man and asks, "So nu, how ‘bout you?" 
He says "Vell, like you I had no idea vhat I vas going to do in this vast country to make a livink, so I too, looked to my last name. Silverberg. So I vent into silver. And oy, did I make a fortune!" 
So they both turn to the last man and say, "And you? Vat happened to you?" So the third man said, "Vell, I too had no idea how I vas to make a livink here in America, so I looked at my last name. 
Taylor. I said, das no good. I never make money as a tailor. So I went to shul and prayed. I said "God, if you make me a wealthy man, I promise to make You my partner." 
So the first man said, "So, vat happened?" 
The man replied, "Vas the matter? You never heard of Lord and Taylor?"

Abq Jew knows what you, his loyal readers, are asking now -

How will we get into the Christmas spirit
without Lord & Taylor?

To which Abq Jew offers just one response:

Happy Holidays!
Yes, it's only October ....

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Yontif Ends, Creation Begins

And Now It's Time For Noah: The traditional among us have just pulled through the last of Tishrei's "Three-Day Yontifs." All of us have re-read, for the gazillionth (yet it always seems like the first) time, the Bible's stories of Creation.

Stegosauruses had beautiful singing voices, and they knew
all the words to The Seekers' greatest hits.

And this coming Shabbat (a Shabbat Rosh Hodesh!) we will again have the honor of re-reading the story of Noah. And lamenting the tragic loss of Earth's entire dinosaur population, who (quite literally) missed the boat.

In particular, we mourn the loss of the stegosaurus branch of the family. For as the renowned satirical website Clickhole informs us -
There’s still a great deal that we don’t know about dinosaurs, but researchers have just made an exciting announcement that gives us a clearer picture of what these extraordinary beasts were like when they roamed the Earth millions of years ago: 
Prominent paleontologists from around the world have collectively agreed to start saying that 
stegosauruses had beautiful singing voices, 
because it’s a nice thought and it’s not like they’re hurting anyone. 
Wow. This is an incredible scientific discovery that, while not technically true, is innocuous enough that we can probably all just roll with it. 
Paleontologists arrived at the monumental agreement earlier this week at the 2017 North American Paleontological Conference in Ann Arbor, MI where they decided that they couldn’t think of any real negative consequences to telling everyone that stegosauruses liked to sing happy songs when they were around other friendly dinosaurs and scary songs when they ran into T. rexes ....
The carnival is over.

But yes, the carnival of Yontif after Yontif after Yontif is over, and another Tishrei (the 5,778th) fades into history.

Did you remember to make Eruv Tavshilin (whereby one prepares a cooked food prior to a Jewish holiday that will be followed by the Shabbat)?

Never mind. If you forgot (as did Abq Jew, every week) you may rest assured that the rabbis of our community did not forget, and made E T on behalf of all of us.

It's what rabbis do.
Abq Jew thought you'd like to know.

Once they were young, but The Seekers are now old. Not as old as the dinosaurs ... but getting there. Still, their version of The Carnival Is Over is (in Abq Jew's unhumble opinion) the best of all time.

So now that Tishrei 5778 is almost over, what do we New MexiJews have to look forward to?
  1. Rosh Hodesh MarCheshvan, which begins on Thursday night, October 19, and continues through the end of Shabbat, October 21. Why a two-day Rosh Hodesh? Because of the Rosh Hashanah postponement rules, of course!
  2. The entire month of MarCheshvan ("Bitter" Cheshvan, wherein we ain't got no holidays). You'd think the Holy One, Blessed Be He, could have have spread the festival joy around a bit ... but you'd be wrong. 
  3. Chanukah, Hanukkah, and the Festival of Lights all begin with the Lighting of the First Candle on Tuesday night, December 12. (The Abq Bio Park's River of Lights, btw, runs from Saturday, Novembr 25, through Saturday, December 30, with time off for Christmas.)
  4. Pesach! The First Seder will be Friday night, March 30, 2018. Thus, the Second Seder will be Saturday night, March 31, 2018.
For those of us (Abq Jew included!) who are really, really keeping score, we look very forward to

The First Seder of Pesach 2021 will be Saturday night, March 27.

Things go all gaflooey (that's a technical term) when Passover begins on a Saturday night. You could write a whole Wikipedia article about it. Or do lots of research on how, why, and what happens. And then write a blog post. Just wait!

In conclusion, Abq Jew reminds you that all this started with the dinosaurs. And Abq Jew reminds you that The Walk of Life Project offers a Jurassic Park ending that superbly fits this occasion.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Sarah Aroeste Sings in Albuquerque!

Finally: Abq Jew is thrilled to confirm that internationally-known Ladino singer Sarah Aroeste will be with Albuquerque's Congregation Albert for Kabbalat Shabbat services this Friday, October 13.

This is, as the saying (Abq Jew seems to recall) once went, way cool.

Surely you, Abq Jew's loyal readers, will recall his most recent (OK, it was July 2012) write-up of Sarah Aroeste (see Laugh! Sing! Last Chance!). In which he quoted from Ms Aroeste's website:
Sarah Aroeste, inspired by her family's Sephardic roots in Greece and Macedonia, has spent the last 15 years bringing her contemporary style of original and traditional Ladino music to audiences around the world.  
Aroeste writes and sings in Ladino, the Judeo-Spanish dialect that originated by Spanish Jews after their expulsion from Spain in 1492. Those who left Spain, including Aroeste’s family, carried the medieval language with them to the various points where they later settled, primarily along the Mediterranean coast and North Africa. In time, Ladino came to absorb bits and pieces of languages all along the Mediterranean coast, including some Greek, Turkish, Portuguese, French, Italian, Hebrew, and more. 
This exotic pan-Mediterranean language has, unfortunately, been fading away. But the continued musical legacy of Spanish Jews highlights the strength of an oral tradition that spans many centuries and crosses many geographic boundaries. 
American born and trained in classical opera at Westminster Choir College and Yale University, Aroeste became drawn to her Sephardic musical past after spending a summer in 1997 performing at the Israel Vocal Arts Institute in Tel Aviv ....

So what's new? A trio of things.

First - newer albums.
In the last decade, Aroeste has amassed a large and loyal following across the US and abroad, and has been featured in both national and international press. 
To date, Sarah Aroeste has released five recordings, A la Una: In the Beginning (2003), Puertas (2007), Gracia (2012), Ora de Despertar (2016), the first all-original Ladino children's album, and ... 

Second - Ms Aroeste's most recent album, Together/Endjuntos, the recording of which was (partially) funded via a Hatchfund project, to which Abq Jew was happy to contribute.
The album includes 10 original songs with interwoven lyrics in English and Ladino that highlight holidays throughout the Hebrew calendar. There are songs for the Sabbath, Rosh Hashanah (the New Year), Sukkot (the harvest), Tu B'shvat (the Hebrew arbor day), Hanukah, Passover and much more. 
And there are musical styles for all tastes (bhangra, fiddle folk, merengue, French electro cabaret and more!) to show how universal Ladino is. This is music that can be enjoyed by all ages and that we hope will bring many people together.

Third - the New Mexico connection. About which Abq Jew had no idea. But about which you can read in (where else?) The New York Times.

 Which makes this a family visit - with music!
 The best of all worlds! Enjoy!

Monday, October 2, 2017

A New Milestone: תרי"ג Thousand

To Life! To Life! L'Chaim!  Sometime between the fastive Holiday of Yom Kippur and the festive Holiday of Sukkot, right around Rosh Hodesh October - this Abq Jew Blog achieved 613,000 All Time Page Views.

We achieved 500,000 All Time Page Views
on December 17, 2016 - about 10 months ago.

That's about 400 Page Views per Day.
Plus 4,600 Facebook Likes and 2,480 Twitter Followers.
Thank you!

613, according to our tradition,
is the number of mitzvot in the Torah.
613K in 7 blog years is a good number.

Even as sorrow and misfortune swirl all around us ... 

May we help all those we can ... in all the ways we can.
And may we celebrate the Holiday of Sukkot with joy.

On Sukkot we remember the brevity of our days, the fragility of our works,
and the eternity of our God. - Rabbi David Wolpe