Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Dance Up Close in August

Ballet Fundraiser for Congregation B'nai Israel

Dance Up Close

A ballet performed by renowned ballerina Alisha Brach, a New Mexico native currently with the Royal Danish Ballet.

Joining her will be Da'Von Doane, a professional dancer from the Dance Theater of Harlem in New York.

The program will include a a variety of solo, pas de deux, and ensemble pieces choreographed by Ms. Brach and Beth Griffin.

There will be a pre-performance reception during which guests can preview and participate in a silent auction featuring works of art, jewelry, clothing and gift certificates from local restaurants and businesses.

After the show, guests are invited to attend a "Meet The Artists" Dessert reception, where they will be joined by Alisha, Da'Von, and the corps de ballet.

Proceeds from the performance will be used to generate funding to bring artists, lecturers and entertainers into our community, further enhancing the Jewish tradition of support for the arts.

Ticket prices are as follows: 
Adults $97, Children up to 10 years old $27; Students $47

Special Children's Event! 
Dance Up Close for Kids on Thursday August 9!

Dance Up Close for Kids
a FREE (donation requested) children's event
with Alisha Brach and Da'Von Doane

Thursday, July 26, 2018

The Pine Tar Game + 35

Like It Was Yesterday: Under normal circumstances, Abq Jew would wait until '2xChai' to memorialize such an important event. But circumstances these days are nowhere near normal. And Abq Jew isn't getting any younger. So here goes.

And besides which. Abq Jew's good friend Steve Goldstein posted this on Facebook yesterday, along with a video about 'The Pine Tar Game':
35th anniversary of the Pine Tar Game. I was there at the original Yankee Stadium with my friend Marc Yellin. We were sitting in the 2nd deck (mezzanine) in right field, directly above the spot where Brett's home run ball cleared the fence. For a split second, as the ball clears the fence, Marc and I are in the video.
To which Laura G, Steve's ex-wife and also our good friend, responded:
Uh, can you actually SEE yourself in the video? I can't!
And Steve replied:
I know exactly where we were sitting. Consequently, I know which people in the stands are us. There were not many people sitting near us. 
And Abq Jew said:
OMG, 35 years. Yep, it's just like Steven Goldstein says. That's exactly where we were sitting. Like it was yesterday. And of course we're in the video. You just have to look hard enough!

For those of you, Abq Jew's loyal readers, who were either a) too young; or b) could not have cared less about the 1983 New York Yankees - Wikipedia will explain.
The Pine Tar Incident (also known as the Pine Tar Game) was a controversial incident during an American League Baseball game played between the Kansas City Royals and New York Yankees on July 24, 1983, at Yankee Stadium in New York City. 
With his team trailing 4–3 in the top half of the ninth inning, with two outs, George Brett of the Royals hit a two-run home run to give his team the lead. 
However, Yankees manager Billy Martin, who had noticed a large amount of pine tar on Brett's bat, requested that the umpires inspect his bat. The umpires ruled that the amount of pine tar on the bat exceeded the amount allowed by rule, nullified Brett's home run, and called him out. 
As Brett was the third out in the ninth inning with the home team in the lead, the game ended with a Yankees win. 
The Royals protested the game, and American League president Lee MacPhail upheld their protest and ordered that the game be restarted from the point of Brett's home run. The game was restarted on August 18 and officially ended with the Royals winning 5–4.

 And for those who are really, really interested:
The bat is currently on display in the Baseball Hall of Fame, where it has been since 1987. During a broadcast of Mike & Mike in the Morning, ESPN analyst Tim Kurkjian stated that Brett used the bat for a few games after the incident until being cautioned that the bat would be worthless if broken. 
Brett sold the bat to famed collector and then partial owner of the Yankees, Barry Halper, for $25,000, had second thoughts, repurchased the bat for the same amount from the collector and then donated the bat to the Hall of Fame.
The home run ball was caught and sold by journalist Ephraim Schwartz to Halper for $500 plus 12 Yankees tickets, as well as Schwartz's ticket stub. Halper also acquired the signed business card of Justice Orest V. Maresca, who had issued the injunction, and the can of Oriole Pine Tar Brett had used on the bat. Gossage later signed the pine-tar ball, "Barry, I threw the fucking thing."

On a more somber note: This week also marks the 53rd anniversary of that fateful day, July 25, 1965, when Bob Dylan went electric (for a performance of Maggie's Farm, et al) at the Newport Folk Festival.

For those of you, Abq Jew's loyal readers, who were either a) too young; or b) could not have cared more about Komodo dragons and other endangered species - Wikipedia reminds us.

In the 1990 movie The Freshman, Bert Parks, portraying a version of himself and acting as event MC and musical host, performs a cover of Maggie's Farm during the final gathering of the Gourmet Club, a group of wealthy individuals who attend a covert and expensive dinner in order to dine on the last of an endangered species (which is actually an elaborate con, with the real meal consisting of more traditional ingredients).
And yes, Bert Parks also sang Tequila!

Abq Jew reminds us all, himself included:

Monday, July 23, 2018

Denial: Zuckerberg Meets Lipstadt

A ChizFilm Guest Blog: In 1966, Robert F. Kennedy delivered a speech that included:
There is a Chinese curse which says “May he live in interesting times.” Like it or not, we live in interesting times. They are times of danger and uncertainty; but they are also the most creative of any time in the history of mankind.
It turns out that "interesting times" is not a Chinese curse (or anyone else's curse) at all. Nevertheless, Abq Jew thinks we will all agree that we live in interesting times. Danger and uncertainty surround us; we just need more creativity to sustain us.

And therefore: Jonathan Chisdes of ChizFilm Jewish Movie Reviews (see Restored! The City Without Jews) has just published a review of the 2016 film Denial.

Which Abq Jew would like to encourage you, his loyal readers, to read and reflect upon. To encourage you to do that (Abq Jew knows you hate to click) - here it is!

2000 Libel Trial Even More Relevant Today

The last few days have seen renewed controversy over Holocaust denial thanks to comments Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made the other day.

In defending Facebook’s policy of refusing to take down accounts that promote false information, Zuckerberg said, “I think there are things that different people get wrong. I don’t think that they’re intentionally getting it wrong … It’s hard to impugn intent and to understand the intent.”

Zuckerberg argued he was trying to balance the priorities of “giving people a voice” and “keeping the community safe” by drawing a fine line between direct incitement to violence and false information. Those who claim the Holocaust never happened often stop short of telling people what to do with those lies.

As a Jew, Zuckerberg should know better. Holocaust denial has a long history of rousing up anti-Semites to believe Jews have tricked the world into getting preferential treatment and should therefore be punished.

The deniers claim that they have a right to their opinion over whether or not it happened. But we sometimes forget, in the Trump era, that while everyone is entitled to their own opinion, they are not entitled to their own facts. “Alternative facts” is a euphemism for “lies.”

The 2016 film Denial puts it more eloquently: “Freedom of speech means you can say whatever you want; what you can’t do is lie and then expect not to be held accountable. Not all opinions are equal.”

Actually, I think this week is a good time to take another look at that film. Though only two years old, it was made in the pre-Trump era when most people considered the issues it debated merely academic. The film was mostly glossed over. Now, it seems far more relevant.

Denial tells the true story of the British court battle between famous Holocaust denier David Irving (Timothy Spall) and American university professor Deborah Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz) who called him a liar in a book she wrote. Irving sued Lipstadt for libel in 1996 and the trial took place in 2000.

The movie is basically a straightforward legal drama—nothing particularly noteworthy about its style or artistry—but it does a good job of presenting its issues and legal points of the case. There is particularly good acting from Tom Wilkinson who plays Lipstadt’s barrister and from Spall who does a remarkable job of transforming himself into the despicable, self-assured bigot.

There is some interesting drama revolving around disagreement between client and lawyer over whether Lipstadt and Holocaust victims should testify at the trial. (Lipstadt has to come to grips with the legal advice that she must hold back in order to win.)

But ultimately the real issue of the trial comes down to the question over whether Irving is simply a sloppy historian who has made some honest mistakes in his work, or if he has deliberately misinterpreted historical documents to falsify the record to exonerate Hitler and condemn the Jews.

It seems a fine legal point, but in this libel trial, the question is not whether the Holocaust happened or didn’t; the question is, does Irving honestly believe it didn’t? The judge clarifies, “You can’t accuse someone of lying if they actually believe what they are saying.”

In other words, are Holocaust deniers stupid and deluded, or outright dishonest? Neither is good, but one is legal and one isn’t. (This is the same distinction Zuckerberg was trying to make last week, as if stupidity should be given a pass.)

Much of the film is cerebral, but the real emotional show-stopper is a small sequence when Lipstadt and her legal team visit Auschwitz. (It was actually filmed there.) It’s an overwhelming moment and most of the characters can hardly speak.

But Tom Wilkinson’s character seems almost disrespectful and heartless as he examines the scene. Lipstadt takes offense and Wilkinson’s assistant calms her down by saying “This isn’t about memorializing; it’s about forensics.”

So I think if the film has a real “flaw,” that’s it in a nutshell. It’s not a memorial to the victims or survivors of the Holocaust, but rather an unemotional look at fine points of British libel law. Despite its condemnation of Holocaust denial, the film as a whole doesn’t really change anything.

Which brings us back to Facebook and Zuckerberg. The day after he made the controversial comments, Zuckerberg tried to walk it back by saying, “I personally find Holocaust denial deeply offensive, and I absolutely didn’t intend to defend the intent of people who deny that.” But that was never the issue to begin with. It’s what do we do about it?

You can accuse someone of being a liar, but that doesn’t stop them from lying. Free speech protects them from being arrested, but someone who provides a platform for the liars (be it a publisher or a website like Facebook) has an ethical responsibility to remove that platform. Otherwise, they are just as morally guilty as the liars themselves for spreading the lies.

The film Denial lays out the foundations for calling out the liars. But now what are we going to do about it to stop them?

Remember, it wasn’t Lipstadt who tried to stop Irving from speaking; all she did was rightly call him a liar. He responded by trying to stop her from speaking. That put her on the defensive. I think it’s time we flip that.

Read more of Jonathan's reviews at

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Jerusalem, England

A Green and Pleasant Land: These are the Nine Days - the first days of the Hebrew month of Menachem Av. This coming Shabbat we will note, and beginning on Motzei Shabbat will observe, the Fast of Tisha b'Av.

And we will remember what was Jerusalem.

And rejoice that there'll always be an England.

OK ... not really. Abq Jew will explain. But first - a story.

Once, in the late spring of 1981, when Mr & Mrs Abq Jew were living in what was only just becoming Silicon Valley, we decided to drive up to Marin County for the day. We hopped (we were younger then) into our brand new Dodge Colt (with manual transmission!) and took off.

And then it started to rain. No, not just raindrops; sheets of rain. Incessant. Rain that would have made Noah look for a bigger boat. And our Colt was no Ark.

So we changed our plans (Abq Jew was spontaneous in those days), turned around, and did what any self-respecting New Yorker would do on a suddenly rainy day.

We went to the movies.

And the movie that we saw that day was Chariots of Fire.
Chariots of Fire is a 1981 British historical drama film. It tells the fact-based story of two athletes in the 1924 Olympics: Eric Liddell, a devout Scottish Christian who runs for the glory of God, and
Harold Abrahams, an English Jew who runs to overcome prejudice.
It was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won four, including Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. It is ranked 19th in the British Film Institute's list of Top 100 British films. 
The film is also notable for its memorable electronic theme tune by Vangelis, who won the Academy Award for Best Original Score.
The original phrase "chariot(s) of fire" is from 2 Kings 2:11 and 6:17 in the Bible.
The movie begins at the 1978 funeral service for Harold Abrahams. Two of Harold’s teammates, now elderly men, reminisce about when they had “hope in their hearts and wings on their heels.”

And then the iconic Vangelis theme begins. And we see the team of strong, exuberant young men running on the beach.

Everyone remembers the Chariots of Fire theme. It sets the mood for the entire movie - driving, uplifting, powerful. Full of life (remember, the movie takes place right after World War I), full of youth, full of hope. Full of dreams.

It still, invariably, brings tears to Abq Jew's eyes.

Harold Abrahams wins the the Olympic Gold Medal on July 7, 1924.

End of story. But at the end of the movie, we return to Harold Abrahams' funeral service. Wikipedia tells us
The film's title was inspired by the line, "Bring me my chariot of fire," from the William Blake poem adapted into the popular British hymn Jerusalem; the hymn is heard at the end of the film. 

And did those feet in ancient time,
Walk upon Englands mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In Englands green & pleasant Land.

Yep. Jerusalem, England. Wikipedia tells us
The [William Blake] poem was inspired by the apocryphal story that a young Jesus, accompanied by Joseph of Arimathea, a tin merchant, travelled to what is now England and visited Glastonbury during his unknown years.
The poem's theme is linked to the Book of Revelation ... describing a Second Coming, wherein Jesus establishes a New Jerusalem. 
Churches in general, and the English Church in particular, have long used Jerusalem as a metaphor for Heaven, a place of universal love and peace.
So here is the point that Abq Jew would like to make -

Jerusalem is not a metaphor for any other place. Not even for Heaven. 
Not for (lehavdil) England. And not for the Goldene Medina or any city therein.

And that is why we must still mourn the loss of Jerusalem, the loss of Jewish independence, the loss of Jewish freedom. Even as

We celebrate what is Jerusalem rebuilt.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Alan Johnson, Choreographer, 81

Democracy Dies in Darkness: Yes, but Comedy and Artistry Live in Limelight. Witness the timeless work of choreographer Alan Johnson.

Of whom, Abq Jew must admit (he must! he must!), he had never heard. But then, Abq Jew read the classy obituary by The Washington Post's Harrison Smith - and he realized that he and Alan Johnson were practically on speaking terms.

Choreographer Alan Johnson worked on Broadway musicals as well as Mel Brooks comedies.
(Rose Eichenbaum/Masters of Movement-Portraits of America's Great Choreographers)

Yes, Abq Jew greatly enjoys reading obituaries about once-living people who are now dead. Especially ... OK, only ... when they're not written about him.

Someday in the way, way distant future, if he is ... lucky? ... Abq Jew may have the pleasure of writing his own obituary. Knowing that it will never be as good as Art Buchwald's Hi, I'm Art Buchwald and I Just Died video self-obit.

But it will be as good as it can be, considering the circumstances. Like, the obituee.

Anyway, it turns out that Alan Johnson was Mel Brooks's choreographer.

Yes, Ken O'Hara, Mel Brooks just turned 92. Till 120!

And yes, you know Alan Johnson's work. As Mr Smith explains:
Alan Johnson, a Broadway choreographer who partnered with Mel Brooks to stage some of the most delightfully farcical dance numbers ever filmed — including the goose-stepping showstopper from The Producers, Springtime for Hitler — died July 7 at his home in Los Angeles. He was 81.
Mr Johnson was highly esteemed in the business, choreographing solo shows and revues for performers including Ann-Margret, Bernadette Peters, Tommy Tune and Shirley MacLaine.
Yet Mr. Johnson remained best known for his work with Brooks, the comic mastermind behind television’s Get Smart. Following an introduction by director and lyricist Martin Charnin, Mr. Johnson served as Brooks’s choreographer beginning with “The Producers” (1967), which starred Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder as a pair of Broadway fraudsters. 
The film was centered on a fictional musical — Springtime for Hitler: A Gay Romp With Adolf and Eva at Berchtesgaden — designed to alienate audiences and enrich its makers, who relied on a bit of “creative accounting” to make a killing from a surefire flop. 
While Brooks came up with the idea of the show, generating lyrics like 
Don’t be stupid, be a smarty, 
come and join the Nazi party!
Mr. Johnson created the campy, Busby Berkeley-like staging. 
Seen from above, high-stepping Nazis marched in the shape of a rotating swastika; black-uniformed SS officers pranced like characters from West Side Story.

Mr Smith continues with the list of credits:
Settling in Los Angeles to work with Brooks, Mr. Johnson choreographed the burlesque number I’m Tired for the director’s 1974 western spoof Blazing Saddles; Madeline Kahn, mimicking a world-weary Marlene Dietrich, strutted across the stage as a group of infantrymen danced with their rifles.
That same year, Mr. Johnson created a soft-shoe routine for Young Frankenstein in which a cadaver, newly brought to life by a mad scientist, bursts into a white-tie-and-tails rendition of Puttin’ on the Ritz.
For History of the World: Part I (1981), he choreographed a “Spanish Inquisition” number featuring a chorus line of monks and a bevy of swimming nuns.

And if you want a serious tribute to the life and work of Alan Johnson - here is a montage of the highlights of his amazing career. (If you don't have time to view all the videos Abq Jew has thoughtfully provided for you, his loyal readers - this is a nice, short version.)

Created for his Lifetime Achievement Award at the American Choreography Awards, the short film features his choreography for Mel Brooks' films, his Emmy award winning appearances, as well as his stage and commercial work.

Your choreographic brilliance has added lustre and class
to every movie you have ever done with me.
- Mel Brooks -

And for all of you, Abq Jew's loyal readers, who called, emailed, or otherwise confronted Abq Jew with the worry that the Abq Jew Blog (or Abq Jew himself) was going away forever - and you both know who you are - 

It's only the Abq Jew App, and - if things go well - it's only a vacation.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

A New Milestone: 700,550 Page Views

To Life! To Life! L'Chaim!  Sometime on July 8, 2018 - right after Shabbat Pinhas, just as we began yet another beautiful week in New Mexico - this Abq Jew Blog achieved 700,550 All Time Page Views.

We achieved 613,000 All Time Page Views
on October 2, 2017 - about 9 months ago.

That's about 310 Page Views per Day.
Plus 4,500 Facebook Likes and 2,700 Twitter Followers.
Thank you!

Thursday, July 5, 2018

The Abq Jew App Takes Vacation

We'll Meet Again: Due to a wide range of circumstances beyond Abq Jew's control - which includes almost an entire panoply of accidents, miscues, and others' strange behavior - the Abq Jew App has decided to take a short vacation.

The first thing Abq Jew would like to tell you about this is

The Abq Jew Website, Blog, 
and Events Calendar
will continue to be available -
but on the Web only.

Let us, for just a moment, fondly recall (see Holy Frappe! The Abq Jew App! et al) the introduction of the Abq Jew App in September 2013:
It is with great pleasure that Abq Jew announces the exciting development you've all been waiting for:
The Abq Jew App
Take Abq Jew with you - wherever you go!
Jewish Life in Albuquerque and Beyond?
There’s an app for that!
Abq Jew, the website (AbqJew.com) and blog (AbqJew.net) that have provided “a guide to Jewish life in Albuquerque and beyond” for almost three years, is launching a new way to bring the Jewish community together – the Abq Jew App
The Abq Jew App is available – for free download – from Google Play (for Android phones and devices) and from Apple iTunes (for iPhones and iPads).

What others said at the time:
Rabbi Arthur Flicker of Albuquerque’s Congregation B’nai Israel says 
The Abq Jew App  What a wonderful addition to my iPhone! Abq Jew always keeps me up to date with happenings in our Jewish community. Now I have all of that information right on my phone. Thank you, Abq Jew
Rabbi Harry Rosenfeld of Albuquerque's Congregation Albert says 
I love the Abq Jew App! It makes accessing the Albuquerque Jewish community so much easier. Keep up the good work!
And what Abq Jew himself said:
The Abq Jew App is pretty unique. Websites? Blogs? Sure, everyone’s got them. 
And the Abq Jew website and blog will always be great ways to find out what’s happening in the Jewish community of Albuquerque and beyond. 
But the Abq Jew App really takes it to the next level. This is cool.
The second thing Abq Jew would like to tell you about this is

Almost 5 years and more than 600 downloads after its September 2013 launch, the Abq Jew App's success will be remembered with great joy.

The third thing Abq Jew would like to tell you about this is

We'll meet again!
We'll Meet Again is a 1939 British song made famous by singer Vera Lynn with music and lyrics composed and written by Ross Parker and Hughie Charles. 
The song is one of the most famous of the Second World War era, and resonated with soldiers going off to fight and their families and sweethearts.
On 7 November 2009, Hayley Westenra performed again at the Festival of Remembrance, singing We'll Meet Again, made famous by Dame Vera Lynn during WWII, at the Royal Albert Hall. 
During the performance, an old recording of Lynn performing the song was played behind on the big screen. Lynn was present, as well as Her Majesty the Queen