Tuesday, December 29, 2020

2021 Days Are Here Again

May They Be Happy: Back in November, we were all prepared to sing about it. Now, on the cusp of the 2017th year of the Common Era, many of us are no longer sure.

Abq Jew wrote those words exactly
four unbelievably strange years ago.

Covid Zombie Protest

A lot has happened since then.

So let's do a little updating and have another go at it.

Back in November, we were all prepared to sing about it. Now, on the cusp of the 2021st year of the Common Era, many of us are still not sure.

Happy days are here again
the skies above are clear again
let us sing a song of cheer again
Happy days are here again

All together shout it now
there's no one who can doubt it now
so let's tell the world about it now
Happy days are here again

Happy Days Are Here Again is a song copyrighted in 1929 by Milton Ager (music) and Jack Yellen (lyrics) .... 
The song was recorded by Leo Reisman and His Orchestra, with Lou Levin, vocal (November 1929), and was featured in the 1930 film Chasing Rainbows.  
The song concluded the picture, in what film historian Edwin Bradley described as a "pull-out-all-the-stops Technicolor finale, against a Great War Armistice show-within-a-show backdrop." 
This early example of 2-strip Technicolor footage was, along with another Technicolor sequence, later cut from the 1931 re-edited release of the otherwise black-and-white film, and is believed to have been lost in the 1967 MGM Vault 7 fire.

For those who look happily toward the New Year, here are Ben Selvin and the Crooners.


For those who look toward 2021 with anxiety and fear ... here is Barbra, performing in August 2016. Remember those days? How hopeful we were; the dreams we had!

Your cares and troubles are gone
there'll be no more from now on


To A Happy & Healthy 2021!

Happy New Year Abq

Cartoon Mask

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Greyhounds, Reindeer, and Goats

A Jewish Animal Christmas: Among the many difficult questions we New MexiJews face come this time of year is: Why is Santa's sled pulled by reindeer, when so many other animals are, perhaps, even more suitable to the job?

Greyhound Antlers

This turns out to be not a strictly-Jewish problem, as the Greyhound Adoption League of Texas (especially our NM branch) and other sighthound rescue organizations can attest. For, as many greyhound "owners" have learned -

Santa Greyhounds
There is a reason why Santa employs
reindeer - and not greyhounds.

As it has turned out (since 1939), Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is particularly well-suited to the Lead Reindeer position. And - surprise! - this is where The Jews come in, as we always seem to. And not just for Rudolph's ... distinctive ... nose.


Wikipedia tells the story thusly:

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a fictional reindeer created by Robert Lewis May. Rudolph is usually depicted as the ninth and youngest of Santa Claus's reindeer, using his luminous red nose to lead the reindeer team and guide Santa's sleigh on Christmas Eve. 

Rudolph first appeared in a 1939 booklet ... published by Montgomery Ward, the department store. The story is owned by The Rudolph Company, LP and has been adapted and shaped in numerous forms including a popular song by Johnny Marks.

This is the story of Robert Lewis May -

Robert May (1905-1976) grew up in an affluent, secular Jewish home in New Rochelle, New York. He had a brother and two sisters. 

One of the sisters, Evelyn May, is the grandmother of the well-known economist Steven D. Levitt, who wrote the book Freakonomics. The other sister, Margaret, married songwriter Johnny Marks in 1947. May graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Dartmouth College in 1926.

May's parents were hard hit by the Great Depression (1929) and lost their wealth. Sometime in the 1930s, May moved to Chicago and took a job as a low-paid in-house advertising copywriter for Montgomery Ward. 

In early 1939, May's boss at Montgomery Ward asked him to write a "cheery" Christmas book for shoppers and suggested that an animal be the star of the book.

And this is the story of Johnny Marks -

John David Marks (1909-1985) was an American songwriter. He specialized in Christmas songs and wrote many holiday standards, including Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer (a hit for Gene Autry and others), Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree (a hit for Brenda Lee), ... and I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day (introduced by Bing Crosby).

Marks was born in Mount Vernon, New York. A graduate of McBurney School in New York, NY, and Colgate University and Columbia University, Marks later studied in Paris. 

He earned a Bronze Star and four Battle Stars as a Captain in the 26th Special Service Company during World War II. 

Marks, who was Jewish, was the great-uncle of economist Steven Levitt. His wife, Margaret May Marks, was the sister of Robert L. May, who wrote the original story of Rudolph.

White Christmas

Here, Abq Jew must point out that White Christmas made Christmas a holiday about snow. And that, along with Easter ParadeHappy Holiday, and of course, God Bless AmericaIrving Berlin helped make it possible for Jews to live as full and equal citizens in America. 

Want to learn about 11 Iconic Christmas Songs That Were Written By Jews? Just click! Among those classics of the genre: Rudolph, at #7! Written by Robert May and Johnny Marks!

 All I Want Is Goat

Yes, it was early one morning (don't ask) just five years ago (see All Ye Faithful) that Abq Jew came across the perfect response to all the mishegos (that's a technical term) that had smogged up the atmosphere that week.

Well, it's now five years later. The atmosphere is still smogged up, and it's still because of all the mishegos (that's a technical term). Perhaps even more so.

And yes, Abq Jew's response still involves goats. In fact - the more goats (singing goats!) the better. This time - with Rudolph (Goat Edition).

“When it’s cold outside and the darkness of winter
prevails, the Christmas goat invites us all
to an emotional moment by the fireplace."

Elf On The Shelf

Alright! Abq Jew hears you, his loyal readers, asking - If we're gonna talk about Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, shouldn't we also talk about Elf On The Shelf

Mensch On A Bench

Or, at least, the Mensch On A Bench?

Well, Abq Jew will go it one better (you're welcome!). Here is the very Italian (and therefore almost Jewish) -

Fauci on a Couchi!

Abq Jew sincerely wishes his Christian friends a happy and meaningful Christmas. And to his Jewish friends (even though it's only Wednesday), Abq Jew says

Goat Shabbos

Goat Shabbos!

Monday, December 21, 2020

Spring 2021 @ OASIS Abq

Great Courses of Jewish Interest

Jewish Star

Abq Jew is pleased to inform you that
OASIS Albuquerque has just announced
their Spring 2021 line-up of classes!
Registration opens on
Wednesday January 6
but you can Wish List your selections now.

OASIS Albuquerque Executive Director Kathleen Raskob and her staff continue (as always) to bring you new and interesting class offerings, and continues to make sure there are plenty of courses of Jewish interest.

Because of the uncertainty of our current circumstances, please note that class dates, 
locations, and other details are subject to change. Please visit the Oasis website
or call the Oasis office (505) 884-4529 for up-to-date information.

This spring, OASIS Albuquerque will offer classes three ways - livestream (via Zoom) only; in-person only (when safe); and their hybrid model - livestream & in-person (when safe) at the same time. 

This session's courses and instructors include, but are by no means limited to:

On Being Human:
Tue 2 Feb 2021 @ 2:30 - #87zm
Instructor: Paul Citrin
What It Is: During a time of social and political unrest, we need a mooring and a compass point to help us navigate the challenges of living with others of different views and needs. Examine a variety of texts from Jewish tradition which guide us toward our better selves for the betterment of human society.

The Book of Job:
Lessons for a Time of Pandemic

Tue 9 Feb 2021 @ 12:30 - #89zm
Instructor: Harry Rosenfeld
What It Is: How many of us would like to reboot 2020? We can't, so we need to find ways of coping with the hardships of the pandemic. When the pandemic is over (some day), how will we go back to living life to its fullest? In the Book of Job, we find some answers. Faith. Doubt. Questioning ourselves, the world, and God. We use these for inspiration on how to find our own answers.

Shamrock Ranch NM

Jews in New Mexico Ranching
Wed 10 Feb 2021 @ 10:00 - #111zm
Instructor: Noel Pugach
What It Is: Jews are usually associated with trade and finance. But they played a significant role in sheep raising and cattle ranching in New Mexico. That was true in the 19th and 20th centuries. And they still have a presence today. In this class, Noel Pugach details their activities and explains how and why they were involved in the ranching industries.

Kings & Prophets
in the Old Testament
Wed 17 Feb 2021 @ 10:00 - #90zm
Instructor: Shlomo Karni
What It Is: Explore the unique relationship that evolved between kings of Israel-Judea and their contemporary prophets. Fiercely independent and uncompromising, these prophets were the living conscience of their times. They preached for social justice and denounced society and kings for moral, political and religious corruption -- often at the risk of their own safety. Their writings include some of the finest prose and poetry in the Bible.

The Perplexingly
Radical Book of Jonah
Wed 17 Feb 2021 @ 12:30 - #91zm
Instructor: Dov Gartenberg
What It Is: The Book of Jonah reveals a flawed prophet with all sorts of personality problems. The prophet has a complicated relationship with God which leads to some revealing confrontations between them. This is the only Biblical book that ends with an unanswered question. We pose some deep questions and sort out the answers in this close reading of a classic biblical text.

Fire and Water

Thinking About Evil: 
Approaches Past & Present
Mon 22 Feb 2021 @ 10:00 - #92zm
Instructor: Michael Nutkiewicz
What It Is: Before the Age of Enlightenment (18th century), thinkers did not distinguish between moral evil (e.g., war) and natural evil (e.g., a devastating earthquake), and all evil was ultimately explained as originating with God. Philosophers after the Enlightenment thought of evil in a completely different manner. Their approach, however, may not satisfy everyone's opinions about this difficult topic. We explore the history of thinking about evil from the 18th century to the present.

Memoir Writing Workshop:
How to Tell Your Story
Wed 21 Apri 2021 @ 10:00 - #84zm
Instructor:  Norma Libman
What It Is: Everyone has a story to tell, and now is the time to tell yours. In this memoir writing workshop, Norma Libman shows you how to retrieve memories you thought were forgotten, how to get them written down, and how to organize them into your own life story. Bring paper and pen for writing exercises and you will have written a start to your memoir when the workshop is over. Please bring a hard surface to write on (notebook or clipboard). Limited enrollment.

Regular OASIS Albuquerque instructor (and award-winning composer and recording artist) Jane Ellen also continues (as always) to bring you new and interesting class offerings, and continues to make sure there are plenty of courses of musical and Jewish interest.

Jane's courses this session include, but are by no means limited to:

Richard Rodgers
The Sweetest Sounds
Thue 21 Jan 2021 @ 2:30 - #64zm
What It Is: With a career spanning more than 60 years, Richard Rodgers (1902-79) was, at one time, the most popular composer of American musical theater. But how did some of the most beautiful melodies of the 20th century come from a man often described as depressive and remote? Rodgers considered himself a composer and not a songwriter, yet his collaborations with Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein II live on through generations of popular entertainers.

George Gershwin's
Got Rhythm
Wed 3 Mar 2021 @ 2:30 - #72zm
What It Is: George Gershwin (1898-1937) stands alongside Aaron Copland as one of the first great voices of American music in the 20th century. At the time of his death at the age of 38, he was destined to be the recipient of the first Pulitzer Prize for musical comedy (awarded posthumously), had written an opera, had composed for stage and screen, and had created symphonic works which defied description in their day and which continue to be popular today.

Truly American:
Aaron Copland
Thu 1 8 Mar2021 @ 12:30 - #73zm
What It Is: Hailed as the “dean of American composers” by his peers and critics, Aaron Copland (1900-90) was one of the driving forces in creating a definitive American sound in concert music. As an author, Copland wrote books which presented aspects of classical music in a way which appealed to musicians and non-musicians alike; as an educator, he was devoted to helping develop young talent. Igor Stravinsky once famously remarked, "Why call Copland a great American composer? He's a great composer!"

Folksinger, Activist, & American Icon
Pete Seeger
Mon 22 Mar 2021 @ 12:30 - #74zm
What It Is: Pete Seeger (1919-2014) is commonly considered a national treasure, and rightfully so. More than just a beloved folksinger, he worked tirelessly for the labor movement, civil rights, peace, and the environment. He is the only folksinger to have not only received the Kennedy Center Honors award (1994) but he was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1996). Pete Seeger was named one of America's Living Legends by the Library of Congress in 2000.

Barbra Streisand
A Legend In Her Time
Fri 9 Apr 2021 @ 10:00 - #77zm
What It Is: Singer, songwriter, filmmaker, actress, and activist, Barbra Streisand (1942- ) is one of the most commercially and critically successful entertainers in history. From her earliest beginnings as a teenager dressed in thrift shop clothes, few could have imagined that she would become one of the most powerful women in Hollywood. Come revisit the songs and films that have propelled Streisand into the annals of entertainment history, making her a legend in her own time.

Jane Ellen
Fri 23 Apr 2021 @ 2:00 - #81/81zm
What It Is: Jane Ellen is the consummate storyteller with eclectic interests, specializing in music and entertainment history. She is an award-winning composer and recording artist who shares her passion for music, history, and spirituality with Albuquerque audiences. With a catalogue of more than 60 published works and numerous choral and chamber commissions, her music has been performed internationally.

Join us virtually (or in-person as allowed) to celebrate
Jane Ellen and her tenure at Oasis.
Stay tuned for details to be provided
closer to our celebration date!

Monday, December 14, 2020

Apple Sauce and Sour Cream

A Festival of Light Calculations: This year (5781/2020), our Festival of Lights (Hanukkah/Chanukah/Xanuqa) began on Thursday evening, December 10.

Mr & Mrs Abq Jew wish you the happiest of holidays!

Now, if you're a former engineer like Abq Jew - first of all, his condolences. Life in the high-technology mines of Silicon Valley, TPC (The Phone Company), and Big Pharma, Abq Jew recalls, was nothing - absolutely nothing - like Workin' In the Coal Mine. Or like Workin' On a Chain Gang.

Hanukkah First Night

 But still.

One of the perpetual residual effects of an an engineering career, it appears, is a fascination with, you should certainly not excuse the expression in our current anti-science climate ... 

Big Data

This malady has afflicted Abq Jew since he can remember, which, these days, is not as long a period as it once was. On the other hand, Abq Jew can remember all the words to the Cal (UC Davis) Aggie Drinking Song, but ... 

What was Abq Jew talking about?

Chanukah White Sands

Oh yes. Chanukah. Which started on a Thursday night this year. Which you might not think was too extraordinary. You might even think that Hanukkah would start on a Thursday night, oh, about one seventh (14.2857%) of the time.

But you'd be wrong. In fact -

Xanuqa hasn't started on a Thursday night in 20 years.

And how, you may ask, does Abq Jew know this? Because one of Abq Jew's Facebook friends, Rabbi Gary Gans (see Remembering Jim Croce, MOT) follows the Facebook page Hebrew Calendar Facts. Which Abq Jew now follows, too.

Now, Abq Jew has, on more than one occasion, blogged about the delights and idiosyncrasies of Ye Olde Hebrew Calendar - see, for example, Easter On Purim and Nineteen and Twenty-Eight.

And, Abq Jew has, on more than one occasion, blogged about the fact that

It's Complicated

It's Complicated.

So, Abq Jew would very much like to tell you that his new friend (about whom Abq Jew knows virtually nothing) Hebrew Calendar Facts 

Hebrew Calendar Facts
Hebrew Calendar Facts
Signal fires for the New Month

has uncomplicated the heck out of Ye Old Hebrew Calendar and made it simple to understand. At least, to understand why Chanukah hasn't started on a Thursday night in 20 years. But ... alas ... we'll work with what we've got. 

Direct from the Hebrew Calendar Facts Facebook page. With Abq Jew's minor edits for readability (hah!).

Chanukah begins on Thursday night.

Those words have not been heard in 20 years!

Why is it so rare for Chanukah to start on Thursday night (1st day of Chanukah on Friday), and what are the consequences?

There are 4 days of the week when Rosh Hashanah can fall (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Shabbat), and as a result, every date from Adar (II) through Cheshvan (which includes all of the major and some minor holidays) is also locked into 4 possible days of the week.  

(For example, Shavuot is always 1 day of the week earlier than the upcoming Rosh Hashanah, so it can fall on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, or Friday.)  

Latkes Apple Sause Sour Cream

But Chanukah has a wider range, because Cheshvan (the month before Chanukah) can have either 29 or 30 days.  

  • In “applesauce years” (with 355 or 385 days), when Cheshvan has 30 days (about 45% of all years), the 1st day of Chanukah is exactly 12 weeks after Rosh Hashanah, so it’s on the same day of the week as Rosh Hashanah.  
  • In “sour cream years” (with 353, 354, 383, or 384 days), when Cheshvan has 29 days (about 55% of all years), the 1st day of Chanukah is one day earlier, on the same day of the week as the preceding Shavuot.

Combining the possible days of the week listed above for Rosh Hashanah and Shavuot, one might think that Chanukah could start on all 7 days of the week.  

But this isn’t quite true, because years starting on Tuesday always have 354 or 384 days, so Cheshvan always has 29 days, so they’re always sour cream years and Chanukah starts on Monday (not Tuesday).  

So there are 6 possible days of the week for the 1st day of Chanukah: everything except Tuesday.  

(Monday is the most common start day for Chanukah, being the only day of the week that both Rosh Hashanah and Shavuot can fall on, so it’s the only start day that appears in both applesauce and sour cream years.)

NOTE: Why can’t Cheshvan have 30 days in years starting on Tuesday?  If it’s a non-leap year, then counting 355 days from Tuesday means the following year starts on Sunday, which is not an allowed day for Rosh Hashanah.  But in a leap year, 385 days is exactly 55 weeks, so the following year would also start on Tuesday, which is an allowed day, so one might think that this would be possible.  

Here’s why it doesn’t happen:  13 lunar months comes out to about 383.9 days, so a leap year with no delays at either end will have either 383 or 384 days.  The way to get the 385-day year is if Rosh Hashanah is delayed at the end of the year.  

For example, if the year starts on Thursday, then the molad of Tishrei at the end of the year might fall on Wednesday, but Rosh Hashanah can’t fall on Wednesday, so the following RH would be delayed to Thursday, for a total of 385 days.  

But if the year started on Tuesday, then there would be no need for this delay at the end of the year, because Monday is a perfectly cromulent day for the following Rosh Hashanah.

So let’s talk about Chanukah starting on Friday (what we have this year).  Ok, it’s actually not THAT rare.  This happens in 10.1% of all years, which is only a little bit less than what you’d expect if all 7 days of the week had equal probabilities.  

The reason it’s less than 1/7 is because Chanukah starts on Friday in sour cream years that start on Shabbat, and years starting on Shabbat are more likely to be applesauce years (65%) than sour cream years (35%).  

(This is because you can’t have a 354-day year starting on Shabbat, since that would put the following Rosh Hashanah on Wednesday, and 353-day years are comparatively rare, since 12 lunar months are about 354.4 days, so the 353-day year only happens when Rosh Hashanah is delayed at the front end.  

Leap years starting on Shabbat are more evenly split, and there are actually more total sour cream years starting on Shabbat in leap years than in non-leap years, even though leap years in general are less common.)

So on average, Chanukah starts on Friday about once per decade.  But the distribution is not uniform; they can clump together.  Most recently before this year, it happened in 1969, 1972, 1976, 1996, and 2000.  After this year (2020), it will happen again in 2023, 2040, 2047, 2067, 2070, and 2074.  

So we’re coming out of a 20-year gap, and as you can see, these 20-year gaps are not uncommon.  This year we also had Rosh Hashanah on Shabbat for the first time in 11 years, but before that (in 2002, 2003, 2006, and 2009), we had a bunch of years with Rosh Hashanah on Shabbat, but those were all applesauce years, so Chanukah started (and ended) on Shabbat.  

(Figuring out why these longer gaps are so often exactly 20 years is left to the reader as an exercise.  We haven’t delved into this yet, so please let us know if you come up with an explanation before we do.)

Ok, but what is the significance of Chanukah starting on Friday???  (Our readers who are Torah readers have been waiting very patiently for this paragraph.)  

It’s the only time that Shabbat Mikeitz doesn’t fall during Chanukah!  Since the Shabbat during Chanukah has a special haftarah, this means that the regular haftarah for Mikeitz will be read this year for the first time in 20 years!  It’s a very well-known story (where King Solomon says to cut the baby in half), yet rarely read in public.

Why is this the only time that Mikeitz isn’t during Chanukah?  As we said above, the 1st day of Chanukah is either exactly 12 weeks after Rosh Hashanah or one day before that.  

This means that the 1st day of Chanukah is either exactly 9 weeks after Shemini Atzeret or one day before that.  If Shemini Atzeret is on a weekday, then the Shabbat that comes a few days later is Shabbat Bereishit.  9 weeks after that would be the Shabbat that falls in the middle of Chanukah, and 9 weeks after the 1st parashah would be the 10th parashah, which is Mikeitz.  

But if Shemini Atzeret is on Shabbat, then Bereishit is an entire week later.  So the Shabbat that is 9 weeks after Shemini Atzeret is only 8 weeks after Bereishit, so it’s the 9th parashah, which is Vayeishev.  

In an applesauce year, that Shabbat is the 1st day of Chanukah, but then there’s another Shabbat on the 8th day of Chanukah, and THAT Shabbat is Mikeitz.  

But in a sour cream year (like this year), Chanukah starts one day before that Shabbat, and then the 2nd day of Chanukah is Shabbat Vayeishev, and then the 8th day of Chanukah is Friday again, and then the following day (Shabbat Mikeitz) is after the end of Chanukah!

See It's Simple

As you probably heard in 2013 (the “Thanksgivukkah” year), Thanksgiving will not fall entirely during Chanukah again (until the calendar loops all the way around).  

However, we’ll have a couple more times when the 1st NIGHT of Chanukah falls on the night of Thanksgiving, in 2070 and 2165.  

Since (by definition) those are years (like this year) when Chanukah starts on a Thursday night, those future Thanksgivukkah years will also be years when Mikeitz is not during Chanukah!

Happy Chanukah to all!

Aha! Abq Jew hears you, his loyal readers, exclaim. This cogent, coherent explanation is marvelous! 

True Truth

But is it true?

Or is it just some really, really good Razzle Dazzle? There are two things (in this very limited context) of which Abq Jew is sure:

Don't Know

Happy Hanukkah

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Hanukkah 5781 (Chanukah 2020)

Celebrating Light Over Darkness: Abq Jew is very happy to report that - once again! - the 2020 presidential election is over. Former Vice President Joe Biden is now the President-elect. Senator Kamala Harris is now the Vice President-elect.

Happy Hanukkah

Our nation has - once again! - reached safe harbor.
And it's time to celebrate Hanukkah.

Many of us are mourning the more than 290,000 of our neighbors who have been taken from us by Covid-19. And some of us - Mr & Mrs Abq Jew included - are mourning more personal losses of family members and old, dear friends.

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.

Hanukkah does not cancel shiva, even though, in our Jewish tradition, simcha - joy - takes precedence over mourning.

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.
Hanukkah Family

And thus we celebrate!

Even as many of us are living through hard times of unemployment, loss of income, and food insecurity, let's take a few minutes to celebrate Hanuka Gelt! - Chanukah Money! - with the Klezmatics.

Klezmatics Happy Jpyous

Here is some vital (OK ... Abq Jew thinks it's vital) background about the song, the songwriter, the album, and the performers.

The Klezmatics -

An American klezmer music group based in New York City, who have achieved fame singing in several languages, most notably mixing older Yiddish tunes with other types of more contemporary music of differing origins.

Woody Guthrie -

An American singer-songwriter, who is considered to be one of the most significant figures in American western folk music. His music, including songs such as "This Land Is Your Land", has inspired several generations both politically and musically.

Woody Guthrie's Happy Joyous Hanukkah - 

An album by the Klezmatics, released in 2006. It contains Hanukkah-themed songs, of which the lyrics to most were written by American folk singer Woody Guthrie in 1949.

Happy Joyous Hanukkah

Didn't know about Woody Guthrie's profound (indeed!) Jewish connections? Rabbi Joshua Eli Plaut wrote about them in 2014:

Here is a recent American tale of old wine in new vessels. Part of our national folklore reveals that Woody Guthrie, the iconic American folk troubadour and songwriter, composed Hanukkah songs. 

In a 2003 concert, the Klezmatics, a popular Grammy Award-winning Klezmer band, performed Hanukkah songs showcasing lyrics written from 1949 through the early 1950s by Woody Guthrie. 

The lyrics had laid fallow and long-forgotten in Guthrie’s archives until their discovery in 1998 by Woody’s daughter, Nora Guthrie. Nora asked the Klezmatics to write original music for the lyrics, which fuses strains of Klezmer music with American folk and bluegrass. 

The 2006 album, ​“Woody Guthrie’s Happy Joyous Hanuka,” comprises many different songs....The songs were in part biographical. Woody was married to Marjorie Mazia, a Jewish dancer with the Martha Graham Dance Compa­ny who was the daughter of Aliza Greenblatt, an activist and Yiddish poet. 

Nora remembers ​“For Hanukkah actually, we had a hat — we didn’t get presents — but we had a hat with different amounts of Hanukkah gelt, and every night we’d pick out five cents or twenty-five cents of gelt. My mother played piano, and we used to sing and dance every night.”

Here is Woody Guthrie's Hanuka Gelt. Click here for the lyrics.

Chanukah Tanz
Happy Hanukkah, New Mexico!
Cheery Chanukah, World!

Monday, November 30, 2020

Lincoln, Ablinken, and God

Together Again: Thanksgiving week turned out surprisingly happy. Surprisingly.

Yes, there was the ongoing, catastrophic Covid-19 pandemic and its crescendo of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. There was the wave of unemployment and "food insecurity" that plagued (you should not forgive the expression) the richest nation in the history of the world.

And there were the remembrances of deeply significant moments in our nation's history - but especially, of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, delivered November 19, 1863. Although Lincoln was not speaking of our current constitutional predicament, he did wonder

whether our nation, or any nation conceived in Liberty
and dedicated to the proposition that all men
are created equal, can long endure. 

Biden Blinken
Secretary of State nominee Antony Blinken speaks after being introduced
by President-elect Joe Biden at the Queen Theatre in Wilmington, Del.,
on Tuesday.    Mark Makela/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden began his answer to that question last week, as reported by NPR's Rachel Treisman:

Biden's Secretary Of State Pick Has Both Diplomatic And Musical Chops

President-elect Joe Biden's pick for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, has worked with Biden for years and has a wealth of diplomatic experience under his belt.

He also has a self-described "wonk rock" band called ABlinken, with two original songs streaming on Spotify.

In between tweets about foreign policy, Blinken's Twitter feed is sprinkled with musical references, including this 2018 plug for his band.

Wonk rock is a fitting genre for someone with decades of foreign policy experience. Blinken began his career during the Clinton administration, and most recently served as deputy secretary of state and deputy national security adviser under then-President Barack Obama before moving into the private sector.

Jim Steinberg, who also served as a deputy secretary of state under Obama and has worked with Blinken for decades, described him as having "the experience and the knowledge" needed for the job. Steinberg told NPR's Mary Louise Kelly:

"He has the temperament. He's a great colleague and works well with others. And most important of all, he has the confidence of the president of the United States." 

Statue of Liberty

Way back in September 2016 - before the madness - Sesame Street's Grover was privileged to speak with the U.S. State Department's then Deputy Secretary Tony Blinken at the United Nations in New York City to talk about refugees. Or maybe it was the other way around.

And as for Tony Blinken's band Ablinken ... here is their 2018 song Patience -

And here is Ablinken's 2018 song Lip Service -

And here, for the true cognoscenti among us, is a lesser-known (because it is, for some odd reason, lesser-publicized) video of our Secretary of State nominee performing the traditional psalm Hoochie Coochie Man with the band C.O.W. (Coalition of the Willing), the DOD's party band, in 2017. 

Fun Fact: C.O.W. included (et al) renowned guitarist Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, who played with Steely Dan and The Doobie Brothers. Baxter later became a defense consultant. Which, Abq Jew supposes, is how he wound up in C.O.W.


God loves stories

So let's tell stories about God. Tony Blinken's got a good one, which he related last week at his nomination announcement. Again, from NPR's Rachel Treisman:

[Blinken] spoke of his own family members' journeys and contributions to America, including relatives who fled communism and pogroms in Eastern Europe and his father's U.S. Air Force service during World War II.

Blinken told the story of his late stepfather, Samuel Pisar, a Holocaust survivor who escaped from a death march in the Bavarian woods and was rescued by a Black G.I. 

He said that when Pisar realized the tank in front of him was American, he got down on his knees and said the only three English words he knew: 

"God bless America"

"That's who we are," Blinken said onstage. 

"That's what America represents to the world, however imperfectly."

When Inauguration Day (אי״ה) comes around in 


Abq Jew believes - as did Abraham Lincoln - that

this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom
 - and that government of the people, by the people,
for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Or, as we say in Yiddish -

Gevalt Yidden

Monday, November 23, 2020

Thanksgiving 2020

 Happy Thanksgiving: This Thanksgiving week, let's be happy.

Thanksgiving Turkey

And let's give thanks - to God, to the Fates, or to Fortune - for who we are, for where we stand, and, yes, for what we have.

And let us pray that hard times - poverty, war, destruction, disease, or random events that just seem to happen in the world - come again no more.

Here is the song Hard Times Come Again No More, written by Stephen Foster in 1854, performed by Kate & Anna McGarrigle and friends: Rufus Wainwright (son of Kate), Emmylou Harris, Mary Black, Karen Matheson, and Rod Paterson.

Let us pause in life's pleasures and count its many tears,
While we all sup sorrow with the poor;
There's a song that will linger forever in our ears;
Oh! Hard times come again no more.

'Tis the song, the sigh of the weary,
Hard times, hard times, come again no more
Many days you have lingered around my cabin door;
Oh! Hard times come again no more.


Happy Thanksgiving!
Or, as we say in Yiddish:
Only Simchas!