Friday, December 14, 2018

A New Milestone: 750,000 Page Views

To Life! To Life! L'Chaim!  Early in the evening of Tuesday, December 11, 2018 - in the middle of a cold yet (as always) beautiful week in New Mexico - this Abq Jew Blog achieved 750,000 (three-quarters of a million!) All Time Page Views.

We achieved 700,550 All Time Page Views
on July 8, 2018 - about 5 months ago.

That's about 315 Page Views per Day.
Plus 4,500 Facebook Likes and 2,800 Twitter Followers.
Thank you!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Wanna Be Our Interim Rabbi?

Just Answer These Five Three Questions: As many of us in the Albuquerque Jewish community recall, Rabbi Arthur Flicker of Congregation B'nai Israel stepped down at the end of June 2016.

B'nai Israel then established a search committee that identified and secured the services of a "new" rabbi.

Not as well as we all had hoped.
As many of us in the Albuquerque Jewish community also recall.

There is a new B'nai Israel search committee now, that has just posted what used to be known (way back, when Abq Jew was very, very young) as a Help Wanted ad on the website

Yes, amazingly (or perhaps not), there is such a website.
The goal of is to continue helping connect rabbis with opportunities for paid work anywhere (full-time, part-time, or even one-time): pulpit work, nonprofit, Hillel, school, or a new kind of venue. 
Rabbis Without Borders is a program of CLAL- The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.

You can read the full ad right here. It begins
Seeking Interim Rabbi in the Land of Enchantment 
Congregation B’nai Israel, a vibrant Conservative egalitarian Jewish community in Albuquerque, New Mexico, seeks an experienced interim rabbi for 1-3 years to serve our spiritual, communal, and educational needs in the heart of the Southwest.  
After a few years without consistent rabbinical leadership, our community seeks an individual to guide our lay membership. We are looking for a steady hand who can help us heal from past divisions and guide us toward a unified future.

Which of course brings to Abq Jew's misfiring mind the glorious flick Monty Python and the Holy Grail
And his 2016 classic Wanna Be Our Rabbi?

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.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Sunday in the Park

Art Institute of Chicago: “Bedlam,” “scandal,” and “hilarity” were among the epithets used to describe what is now considered Georges Seurat’s greatest work, and one of the most remarkable paintings of the nineteenth century, when it was first exhibited in Paris.

A Sunday on La Grande Jatte—1884, Georges Seurat

Abq Jew is proud to announce that he has just learned that the website of the Art Institute of Chicago has recently been redesigned.

Actually, Abq Jew is just thrilled to announce that he is capable, at his advanced age, of learning anything. But Abq Jew digresses.

Famed art blogger Jason Kottke informs us that, as part of their first website design upgrade in 6 years -
The Art Institute has placed more than 52,000 high-resolution images from their collection online, available to all comers without restriction.
Which means that you can see La Grande Jatte - depending on your device, of course - at a resolution of 1692 x 1127, instead of the above 468 x 312.

Of La Grande Jatte, the Art Institute tells us
Seurat labored extensively over A Sunday on La Grande Jatte—1884, reworking the original as well as completing numerous preliminary drawings and oil sketches (the Art Institute has one such sketch and two drawings). 
With what resembles scientific precision, the artist tackled the issues of color, light, and form. Inspired by research in optical and color theory, he juxtaposed tiny dabs of colors that, through optical blending, form a single and, he believed, more brilliantly luminous hue. 
To make the experience of the painting even more intense, he surrounded the canvas with a frame of painted dashes and dots, which he, in turn, enclosed with a pure white wood frame, similar to the one with which the painting is exhibited today. 
The very immobility of the figures and the shadows they cast makes them forever silent and enigmatic. Like all great master-pieces, La Grande Jatte continues to fascinate and elude.
The Touch, Linda Apple

Which, for better or for worse, reminds Abq Jew of a story ....
A young couple, Wilbur and Kay, were exploring the exhibits at the Art Institute of Chicago one Sunday afternoon, when they came upon George Seurat's masterpiece of pointillism, A Sunday on La Grande Jatte-1884.

Wilbur, excited to experience this famous painting up close, immediately called his wife over and exclaimed -
Kay, Seurat! Seurat!

More impressed with the Art Institute's other collections, she took one bored look at the painting and replied -
Whatever, Wilby, Wilby.

Abq Jew would like to apologize to everyone he has offended with this old, obscure reference to old, but hardly obscure, Doris Day. And her famous song.
"Que Será, Será (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)", first published in 1956, is a popular song written by the songwriting team of Jay Livingston (born Jacob Harold Levison) and Ray Evans (born Raymond Bernard Evans). 
The song was introduced in the Alfred Hitchcock film The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), starring Doris Day [born Doris Mary Kappelhoff on April 3, 1922, and still going strong, Ken O'Hara] and James Stewart (born James Maitland Stewart)in the lead roles.

To show how Abq Jew's mind works these days - when it works at all ....

Abq Jew learned about the Art Institute of Chicago's web redesign etc from Jill Wine-Banks (born Jill Wine and raised in Chicago, where her father was a CPA), whom he follows (@JillWineBanks) on Twitter.

ICYMI - She is a United States lawyer who was one of the prosecutors during the Watergate scandal, and is now an NBC News and MSNBC Contributor. Who tweeted -
The Chicago Art Institute has a great treasure trove of beauty that I have enjoyed from childhood to today. Thanks [Pleasantville (@watercooler13)]for sharing this link so you don't have to be in Chicago to see the collection. It's one of the best museums in the world.
This turns out to be a very Jewish story ....

Sunday, December 2, 2018

From Darkness to Lights

Hanukkah Lights, That Is: Alas, Mr & Mrs Abq Jew are just now standing up after a non-traditional yet solemn week of sitting shiva for Great Grand Mama.

Only to discover that light will tonight overtake the darkness, as we and Jews all over the world begin our celebration of Chanukah, the Festival of Lights.

There is a story in the Talmud of two processions – a wedding procession and a funeral procession – that meet at an intersection too narrow to allow both to pass. One of the processions will need to step aside to allow the other to progress; but which one should go first? 
The rabbis concluded that the wedding procession should get the right of way. Why? Because hope and optimism about the future (as represented by the bride and groom) should always take precedence over the past. We are a people who believe in the future – even in the face of sadness.

And thus we celebrate!

1. Lior Zalzman of Hey Alma reminds us that 
Gal Gadot as a Singing Mermaid is the Best Hanukkah Present 
Ten years ago, a Hanukkah miracle took place. I would’ve gone my whole life without knowing about it, but then I put “Hanukkah” and “Gal Gadot” into Google (don’t ask), and my life changed forever, through one glorious music video of… 

This song is from the Festigal, Israel’s most theatrical event for kids: Parents pay the big bucks for their kids to attend this musical theatrical event, which takes place once a year, always during Hanukkah. It features a bunch of Israeli celebs (not all professional singers) all singing songs on one theme, which is how I discovered that… 
This song is from 2008: Looking back at the themes of Festigals through the years, the 2008 one had a nautical theme. It was titled “Tfos Ta’Festigal” which is a play on words on the Hebrew saying “tfos ta’gal” which means to catch a wave. Or catch a Gal — a Gal Gadot! (That’s right, Gal Gadot’s first name literally means wave, and Gadot is riverbanks, so she was obviously born for this!!!)
And BTW - Hey Alma is "for ladies with chutzpah. A new place for women to talk about working, dating, TV-binging, yummy eating, bat mitzvah reminiscing, quasi-adulting, and the world around us." Abq Jew knows quite a few such ladies. Many, blessedly, in his own family.

2. Students at the Technion shows us
Lighting the Hanukkah Menorah the Hard Way at Technion 
Happy Hanukkah from Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. Students from the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering don't take the the easy way out when lighting the menorah this year.

3. Jewish a capella group Six13 presents
Bohemian Chanukah 
Is this just fantasy? No, it's our Chanukah tribute to one of the greatest and most epic songs of all time. Ready, Freddie? Kindle the lights, remember the Maccabees, and rock on. CHAG SAMEACH!

According to other faith traditions, the month of December may (or may not) bring a variety of non-Hanukkahish holidays. In recognition thereof, yet knowing that once you see this you cannot unsee it, Abq Jew presents -

Monday, November 26, 2018

Glorified and Sanctified

Farewell, Great Grand Mama: More, Abq Jew hopes, to follow. But for now -

1991 | Grandma Fran; Great Aunt Lil; Great Grand Mama | Together Again

Glorified and sanctified 

be God’s great name throughout the world
which He has created according to His will.

May He establish His kingdom
in your lifetime and during your days,

and within the life of the entire House of Israel,
speedily and soon; 
and say, Amen.

May His great name be blessed forever and to all eternity.

Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted,
extolled and honored, 
adored and lauded be the name
of the Holy One, blessed be He, beyond

all the blessings and hymns, praises and consolations
are ever spoken in the world; and say, Amen.

May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life,
for us 
and for all Israel; and say, Amen.

He who creates peace in His celestial heights,
may He create peace for us and for all Israel;
and for all who dwell on Earth;

and say, Amen.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Onomatopoeia and The Jews III

Say That One More Time?  First posted on November 14, 2011, reposted on November 24, 2014, Onomatopoeia and The Jews has become an Abq Jew Thanksgiving classic for everyone who remembers it.

For those of you dear readers who don't, and for those of you who were inexplicably or even explicably not yet following Abq Jew - here it is again! You're welcome!

An onomatopoeia (or onomatopœia, from the Greek ὀνοματοποιία), is a word that imitates or suggests the source of the sound that it describes.

Common occurrences of onomatopoeias include animal noises, such as "oink" or "meow" or "roar".

Animal names - especially bird names - are often onomatopoeic. For example: Winnie the Pooh got his name from the sound he made when trying to blow a bee off of his nose.

The turkey's name, however, is not onomatopoeic - although he onomatopoeically says"gobble, gobble".  At least in English.  There are several opinions as to what a turkey says in Turkey.

But speaking of turkey - it's time to get ready for Thanksgiving!  For some of us this means lining up a kosher bird from Trader Joe's, which goes great with kosher pareve stuffing from Natural Grocers.  But that's only for those of us who eat meat.

Now, there are several good, Jewish reasons not to eat meat.  Humans were, before all, intended to be vegetarians.  It was only after Noah and the Flood that God allowed us to eat meat.  And even kosher animal slaughter is still - well, the slaughter of animals.

On the other hand, how's this for onomatopoeia:  m-m-m-m-m-m-meat!

But what to do if there are vegetarians in your family who will be at your Thanksgiving table?   Or worse - vegans? 

(Abq Jew apologizes for claiming that vegans are from a planet orbiting the star of that name.  That was wrong, and ... insensitive.)

But how's this for onomatopoeia:  TO-FU!

Oops!  Insensitive again!  And speaking of insensitive - here is the famous (well, Abq Jew remembers it) Tofu Turkey Thanksgiving scene from Everybody Loves Raymond.

Happy Thanksgiving, New Mexico!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Stan Lee, Jewish Literary Hero, 95

Jews & Comics: In the midst of what has turned out to truly be a Blue Wave (see Reflections On The Elections), there has been some sadness this week.

Observing Armistice Day (now Veterans Day); worrying about the hundreds of rockets fired on Ashkelon and Southern Israel; and remembering Stan Lee.

Tablet Magazine's Jacob Siegel tells us:
Stan Lee, who was almost certainly the most famous man in comics, has died at 95 ... Over the course of his life, Lee worked as a writer, editor, and publisher of Marvel Comics and became the face of the company. 
He created or had a hand in creating titles like Spider-Man, the X-Men, Iron Man, the Fantastic Four, and the Incredible Hulk among countless others. 
Lee was born Stanley Martin Lieber in New York City in 1922, a first generation son of Romanian Jewish parents. In 1940 he entered the comics business by going to work at Timely Publishing. 
There, he met and worked alongside the artist Jack Kirby, another son of New York City and Jewish immigrant parents whose name would become legendary among followers of comic books and American popular culture.
But you knew that, didn't you?

While we mourn his passing, we also recognize that Stan Lee lived a good, long life. Not a perfect life - but a good one. Tablet Magazine's Liel Leibovitz concludes his tribute:
But if you’re looking to understand what makes Judaism’s edicts eternal, what makes American popular culture so widely resonant, and how the two intersect, you could do much worse than picking up a Stan Lee comic book and following it into a world where good and evil still do battle, even if down here they’ve settled into a dance of mutual convenience. 
We’ve had great comics masters before Lee and since; what we’ve never had is one so adept at breathing new life into old ideas, so attuned to the ancient stories and so wise to realize how much they still matter.

Since his passing, tributes to Stan Lee have been published and broadcast ... well, almost everywhere. Here is just one example - a video tribute from Marvel stars.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Reflections On The Elections

A Blue Wave Big Enough: Abq Jew would be happy to report that all of the eager and anxious waiting before Tuesday's midterm elections was worth it. However, as we have since learned - some of it was, and some of it wasn't.

Here in our beloved Land of Enchantment, a a lot of the ... anticipation ... was definitely worth it.

It turns out we are sending three (3) Democratic Representatives to the House of. And outside NM, Max Rose, Kevin Thomas, Mikie Sherrill, et al, won their races. Perhaps not overwhelmingly terrific ... but not too shabby, either.

And then there was Florida's [Constitutional] Amendment 13. Which on Tuesday Floridians approved, 69%-31%.

The Florida Bar Journal explains (sorta) what's in the Amendment.
The humane treatment of animals is a fundamental value of the people of the State of Florida. After December 31, 2020, a person authorized to conduct gaming or pari-mutuel operations may not race greyhounds or any member of the Canis familiaris subspecies in connection with any wager for money or any other thing of value in this state, and persons in this state may not wager money or any other thing of value on the outcome of a live dog race occurring in this state. The failure to conduct greyhound racing or wagering on greyhound racing after December 31, 2018, does not constitute grounds to revoke or deny renewal of other related gaming licenses held by a person who is a licensed greyhound permitholder on January 1, 2018, and does not affect the eligibility of such permitholder, or such permitholder’s facility, to conduct other pari-mutuel activities authorized by general law. By general law, the legislature shall specify civil or criminal penalties for violations of this section and for activities that aid or abet violations of this section.
Or, in simpler terms -

Florida has banned greyhound racing,
effective December 31, 2020.

Florida is now home to 11 of the 17 greyhound racing tracks still operating in the US. An estimated 7,000 greyhounds will need to be re-homed during the next two years.

But that's just counting the dogs at Florida's tracks. There are thousands more greyhounds in the breeder / trainer 'pipeline' - being bred and trained specifically for racing, all over the country.

Abq Jew declines the invitation to join the highly-charged argument about whether greyhound racing is humane or cruel or just 'is'. It doesn't matter anymore.

We have work to do.

But let's get back to the Blue Wave for a moment.

Has Abq Jew ever mentioned that he 'grew up' - as much as anyone can - in the then-beautiful Santa Clara Valley (before it turned to Silicon) of Northern California? When (and where) everybody went surfing?

Here are three things that Abq Jew has learned about surfing.
  1. Surfboards are pricey. Even when you could buy a Sunnyvale home for thousands (not millions), surfboards cost more than groceries. Or books.
  2. Getting to the beach (as they call it there, as opposed to the Jersey Shore) meant tying your surfboard onto (or into) your 'woody' (or your mom's Dodge Dart) and traversing the Santa Cruz Mountains via Highway 17. One of the most dangerous roads in the state, country, world, and, perhaps, universe.
  3. If you make it to Santa Cruz, and are able to find a place to park near the beach, then shlep your feshluggeneh (that's a technical term) surfboard out into the 'blue' waves, you discover that
Geez, the water is cold!

Nevertheless ... there were The Beach Boys.
The Beach Boys are an American rock band formed in Hawthorne, California, in 1961. 
The group's original lineup consisted of brothers Brian, Dennis, and Carl Wilson; their cousin Mike Love; and their friend Al Jardine. 
Distinguished by their vocal harmonies and early surf songs, they are one of the most influential acts of the rock era. 
The band drew on the music of jazz-based vocal groups, 1950s rock and roll, and black R&B to create their unique sound, and with Brian as composer, arranger, producer, and de facto leader, often incorporated classical elements and unconventional recording techniques in innovative ways.
The Beach Boys began as a garage band, managed by the Wilsons' father Murry, with Brian's musicianship dominating their creative direction. 
In 1963, they gained national prominence with a string of top-ten hits reflecting a southern California youth culture of surfing, cars, and romance, later dubbed the "California Sound". 

 There's a Jewish connection!

Yes, really. Jews for Surfing! It begins with that second paragraph.
The group's original lineup consisted of brothers Brian, Dennis, and Carl Wilson; their cousin Mike Love; and their friend Al Jardine. 
It all depends, you see, on how you count. Among the first members of the group was none other than David Marks.
David Lee Marks (born August 22, 1948) is an American guitarist who was a member of the Beach Boys from February 1962 to August 1963.
At age seven, [he] moved into a house across the street from the family home of the three Wilson brothers, Brian, Dennis, and Carl Wilson, later to become the founding members of The Beach Boys. 
David is Jewish. He was ... a frequent participant at the Wilson family Sunday night singalongs. 
Marks performed on the Beach Boys' first four albums, Surfin' Safari (1962), Surfin' U.S.A. (1963), Surfer Girl (1963), and Little Deuce Coupe (1963), before leaving the band due to personal issues with manager Murry Wilson. 
Since Marks did not appear on the 1961 single "Surfin'", the first performance by the band that would become "the Beach Boys", most historians discount him as a true founding member of the group.
As you watch the video, kindly remember - we all were young, once.

As Abq Jew is preparing to release this blog post to the world, details of the latest gun-shooting mass tragedy - this one in Thousand Oaks, California - are beginning to emerge. And although we may not have heard of the others -

This is not the first mass shooting since Pittsburgh.

Representative Eric Swalwell (D-CA15) says:
It’s absolutely heart-wrenching to listen to #borderlineshooting victims’ families describe their loss. Life is fragile. Take a second today to tell a loved one what they mean to you. Or even better, a break to just hold them. 
It was college night. They were dancing. Yet, now we mourn the loss of their innocent lives. May memories of the #BorderLineShooting victims always be a blessing to those who loved them. 

Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA28) says:
The mass shooting in Thousand Oaks is horrific, and all too familiar. Once again we are devastated by the loss of life. And we are grateful to the first responders, one of whom lost his life. Our response must not be familiar. We must do something about gun violence.  
We must ACT.

Monday, November 5, 2018

For What It's Worth

Thalia Gets Religion: Waiting. That's what we're all doing, Abq Jew suspects. Don't want to say anything until the midterm elections are over and counted. And we find out whether the American People and our Constitution have won. At least a little.

In the meantime, the Search for Truth
and Lost Guitar Picks continues.

Guitar Players! Friends & Family of Guitar Players! Jews All Over! 
Do you know about Thalia Capos?

Thalia's are the most gorgeous, scientifically-designed, and pricey guitar capos on the market. Yes, Abq Jew has one. (It was a gift.) And loves it. For what it's worth.

So Abq Jew - who is not working on commission here - is happy to announce that

Thalia Capos have got religion!

For example ... Thalia's Blue Abalone & Chai MOP (Mother-of-Pearl) / Chrome Capo, pictured above. About which Thalia says
Chai, which means "Life" in Hebrew, is one of the most recognizable symbols of the Jewish faith. Comprised of the letters Chet and Yud, together they form the word "Chai" - a word that reflects the importance of life in Judaism. 
According to the Gematria, a Jewish mystical tradition that assigns a numerological value to Hebrew letters, the Chet has a value of 8 and the Yud has a value of 10, adding up to the number 18.  
Because of this, the number 18 represents good luck and gifts are often given in multiples of Chai, or 18. It symbolizes giving the recipient the gift of "life" or luck.
In case you're wondering - Thalia's theological capos come in lots of other ... flavors, too. Your OM, your Cross, your Trinity Knot, your Infinity, your Dove. Your Alchemical Elements. Your Dragon Scales. And for atheists and agnostics - no insignia at all!

But if you're shopping for Chanukah or Hanukkah - Thalia now offers rosewood picks with a Chai or Magen David, too! Just sayin'. For what it's worth.

But while we wait - eagerly and anxiously for election results, here's a little Buffalo Springfield.

For what it's worth.

For all you kids out there -
Buffalo Springfield was a Canadian-American rock band active from 1966 to 1968 whose most prominent members were Stephen Stills, Neil Young, and Richie Furay. The band released three albums and several singles, including For What It's Worth
The band combined elements of folk and country music with British invasion and psychedelic-rock influences, and, along with the Byrds, were part of the early development of folk-rock. 
With a name taken from a brand of steamroller ....

And while we're still alive and kicking ... Abq Jew urges you all (if you haven't done so already) to get out there on Tuesday and

ICYMI ... Abq Jew ® LLC is not a 501(c)(3) organization.
We are thus free to attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of our activities; and we may participate in any campaign activity
for or against political candidates.

Alright ... cue the Better Angels!

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Securing Our Jewish Institutions

Two Important Community Conversations: The Jewish Federation of New Mexico, in partnership with the JCC of Greater Albuquerque and congregations across the state, announces two important community conversations on securing our Jewish institutions:

  • Wednesday, November 7, 7:00 p.m. at the JCC of Greater Albuquerque,
    5520 Wyoming Boulevard Northeast
  • Thursday afternoon (time TBD), November 15, at Temple Beth Shalom,
    205 East Barcelona Road, Santa Fe
Each session will include a panel of Jewish communal lay and professional leaders, as well as representatives from the FBI's New Mexico field office.

Panelists will discuss how congregations, organizations, and law enforcement agencies are working to ensure that Jewish spaces remain safe, after which the forum will open to the audience for questions and discussion.

These events are free and open to the public.


Please contact the Jewish Federation of New Mexico
at (505) 821-3214 or

As we mourn the loss of life in the attack on the Etz Hayim /Tree of Life synagogue, Zach Benjamin, Executive Director of the Jewish Federation of New Mexico, talks about the loss and steps being taken for the safety of Jews and Jewish institutions in New Mexico.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Avenge. Redress. Vote Democratic.

More Lessons, More Commentary: This has been a terrible week in the history of Jews, in the history of America, and in the history of Jews in America.

Many different people - Jews, non-Jews, Americans, Citizens of the World - have reacted to the Pittsburgh Pogrom, the Tree of Life Massacre, in many different ways.

Most have stressed the theme Stronger Than Hate. That is, Love Is Stronger Than Hate. Abq Jew takes little consolation in this sentiment.

So Abq Jew has turned to the traditional Jewish liturgy.

Av HaRachamim (אב הרחמים‬ "Father of mercy" or "Merciful Father") is a Jewish memorial prayer which was written in the late eleventh or early twelfth century, after the destruction of the Ashkenazi communities around the Rhine River by Christian crusaders during the First Crusade. 
First appearing in prayer books in 1290, it is printed in every Orthodox siddur in the European traditions of Nusach Sefarad and Nusach Ashkenaz and recited as part of the weekly Shabbat services, or in some communities on the Shabbat before Shavuot and Tisha B'Av.
The Yizkor service on Jewish holidays concludes with the Av HaRachamim, which prays for the souls of all Jewish martyrs.
Here is an English translation of the prayer.
The Father of mercy who dwells on high
in His great mercy
will remember with compassion
the pious, upright and blameless
the holy communities, who laid down their lives
for the sanctification of His name.  
They were loved and pleasant in their lives
and in death they were not parted.
They were swifter than eagles and stronger than lions
to carry out the will of their Maker,
and the desire of their steadfast God.  
May our Lord remember them for good
together with the other righteous of the world 
Up till here, these are very nice, uplifting sentiments. If you're in the mood for Stronger Than Hate - if you find it comforting - you should stop here.

But Av HaRachamin continues.
And may He redress the spilled blood of His servants
as it is written in the Torah of Moses the man of God:  
"O nations, make His people rejoice
for He will redress the blood of His servants
He will retaliate against His enemies
and appease His land and His people".  
And through Your servants, the prophets it is written: 
"Though I forgive, their bloodshed I shall not forgive
When God dwells in Zion". 
And in the Holy Writings it says: 
"Why should the nations say, 'Where is their God?'"  
Let it be known among the nations in our sight
that You avenge the spilled blood of Your servants.  
And it says: 
"For He who exacts retribution for spilled blood remembers them
He does not forget the cry of the humble".  
And it says:  
"He will execute judgement among the corpse-filled nations
crushing the rulers of the mighty land;
from the brook by the wayside he will drink
then he will hold his head high".

Redress and retaliate.
Avenge and render vengeance.

George Washington in the Oval Office. Doug Mills/The New York Times

Thomas Friedman, in The New York Times, endorses
George Washington for President
Patriots put love of their own people first, while nationalists put hate for other people first. 
Dear Reader. I think you know, after 23 years of my writing this column, that I’m not lazy. I always try to come up with fresh ideas. 
Today, though, I am fresh out of fresh ideas. 
More than any time in my career, I think our country is in danger. It has a disturbed man as president, whose job description — to be a healer of the country in times of great national hurt and to pull us together to do big hard things that can be done only together — conflicts with his political strategy, which is to divide us and mobilize his base with anger and fear. And time and again he has chosen the latter.
Mr Friedman calls for constructive action to avenge the blood. All the blood.
In the midterm elections, vote for a Democrat, canvass for a Democrat, raise money for a Democrat, drive someone to a voting station to vote for a Democrat
I repeat: In the midterm elections, vote for a Democrat, canvass for a Democrat, raise money for a Democrat, drive someone to a voting station to vote for a Democrat. 
I repeat: In the midterm elections, vote for a Democrat, canvass for a Democrat, raise money for a Democrat, drive someone to a voting station to vote for a Democrat. 
Beyond that, nothing else matters. 
He then cedes "the rest of his space"
... to President George Washington and the letter he wrote, after a visit to Newport, R.I., where he was enthusiastically received by, among others, members of the local Jewish community. It was dated Aug. 18, 1790. [You can read the full text here.]
But the key part - which we all know by heart is
For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support. 
The letter ends with his blessing
May the Children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid. 
May the father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in his own due time and way everlastingly happy.
Finally - the protests in Pittsburgh, when the president and his entourage showed up - uninvited, and expressly told (as much as one can tell this president anything) not to appear - to "pay their respects" to the dead and injured Jews.

You may have wondered - what is that chant they're chanting? Well, Abq Jew is happy (as happy as he can be under the circumstances) to tell you.

The words, of course come from The Song of the Sea (Exodus 15). And, it turns out, the melody comes from New Mexico's Rabbi Shefa Gold.

Rabbi Shefa Gold
Rabbi Shefa Gold develops and leads Hebrew chants based on Jewish sacred texts for transformative spiritual growth.
With her focus on Hebrew chanting, Rabbi Shefa presents workshops based on chanting, ecstatic meditation, and Jewish subjects. Also, she is available for performing services as a rabbi. She developed and taught the Kol Zimra Chant Leaders’ Training program (through ALEPH) for many years.
May Rabbi Shefa's chant bring us peace,
as we prepare for the first Shabbat
after the Pittsburgh Pogrom.

Abq Jew does not use the word pogrom lightly or without forethought.

Stanford University's Steven Zipperstein (with whom, Abq Jew fondly recalls, he used to play guitar at UCLA Hillel in the 1970s,) writes:
Pogrom: The word's origins can be traced to the Russian for thunder or storm. A dark remnant of the Old World, it retains the capacity to feel as immediate as yesterday's outrage on morning services in Jerusalem
"The sight of Jews lying dead in a Jerusalem synagogue, their prayer-shawls and holy books drenched in pools of blood, might be drawn from the age of pogroms in Europe." -The Economist, November 22, 2014.
But we were talking about peace and harmony.