Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Days and Weeks: Shavuot 5780

Counting and Counting: Several thousand years ago, all Jews then living, all Jews ever born, and all Jews ever to be born gathered beneath Mount Sinai to hear God speak to us. None were wearing masks (Moses did put on a mask later, but that was ... different).

We celebrate this wondrous event (hearing the voice of God, not watching Moses put on his mask) every year on the Holiday of Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks, exactly forty-nine full days (which are, as we know now, seven full weeks) after the Holiday of Pesach.

When God freed us from Egypt,
there was a reason:
so God could give us His Torah.

No, not only The Ten Commandments. The entire Torah. The Written Law and The Oral Law. This year, Shavuot begins on Thursday evening, May 28th.

Come learn & celebrate at the

Community Tikkun Leil Shavuot
Thursday May 28th 8:30 pm - 12:10 am

There will be (בּע״ה) five (5) learning sessions running from 8:30 pm to 12:10 am. Featuring -

Guest Shavuot Scholar Beth Huppin
whose topic will be
Receiving Revelation Against our Will

Shavuot is a time when the entire people of Israel received Revelation at the same time. It is troubling to note that according to some understandings of this moment, the people received revelation under duress.

Was duress needed? Does duress always lead to new insights? What happens when an entire people (or the entire world?!) is under unwanted pressure?

In what ways does duress result in a shared experience and in what days does it result in unique experiences? What might an examination of these questions teach us during these current times?

Beth Huppin is the Director of Project Kavod/Dignity, the Jewish education program at Jewish Family Service in Seattle. She has enjoyed teaching Judaica to children and adults of all ages in both formal and informal settings for over 30 years. She is the recipient of a 2010 National Covenant Award for Excellence in Jewish Education.

Click here for more details about speakers, topics, and schedules.

To complement this Torah study, Abq Jew offers New York Congressman Jerry Nadler's Shavuot 2020 D'var Torah. FYI: Jerry Nadler, it turns out, is the only (current) Member of Congress who has attended [Crown Heights] Yeshiva.

Mr Nadler also got degrees from Columbia and Fordham. His father was a New Jersey chicken farmer. Not bad. But Abq Jew digresses.

Listening Leads to Understanding, Which Leads to God
A D’var Torah for Shavuot by Congressman Jerry Nadler 
The current coronavirus pandemic presents an incredibly challenging time in our nation’s history. It has forced all of us to make significant changes to our lives as we adjust to social distancing and other preventative measures designed to curb the spread of the virus. 
Holiday celebrations have not been exempt; typically, right about now many of us would be preparing for a “Tikkun Leil Shavuot,” where our communities engage in a night full of learning, rigorous debate, and togetherness. 
We set aside this time because the holiday of Shavuot marks the culmination of the Children of Israel’s transformation, or evolution, from slaves in Egypt into a Jewish nation. 
I want to suggest that the Jewish people’s evolution came about through understanding, a role model for our actions in these difficult times.
When the Jews assembled at the foot of Mt. Sinai to accept the Torah, God said to the people that if they preserved the covenant, “You will be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6).  
After hearing the laws of the Torah, the Jewish people exclaimed, “na’aseh v’nishma” (Exodus 24:7). Some commentators translate this phrase as “we will do and we will obey [the laws as they are written],” but I believe a more apt translation is “we will do and we will listen.” 
To listen is to hear — “Shma Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad” — which requires understanding on multiple levels: who is speaking, what are they saying, whom are they speaking to, and what are the circumstances, needs, and capacity of the listeners. 
Pharaoh infamously refused to understand, even when the situation was painfully obvious, saying, “Who is Adonai, that I should listen [eshma] to [God’s] voice?” (Exodus 5:2) 
In stark contrast to his counter-example, the Children of Israel left Egypt as slaves, but through their journey to Sinai, their listening — their growing understanding of Adonai — transformed them into a Jewish nation. 
In the time of this health and economic crisis, it is crucial that we hear those hurting across the country and use that understanding to inform our own actions, 
whether in legislation, or public advocacy, or communal support, in order to provide the resources and care that are desperately needed. 
Although we may not be able to come together in person this Shavuot, we can collectively reaffirm our commitment to “na’aseh v’nishma,” 
both as members of the Jewish nation and an American public that strives to attain and protect the rights and liberties for all. 

Hag Sameach, Albuquerque!
Good Yontif, New Mexico!
Hag Sameach & Shabbat Shalom, Israel!

About The Calendar

Shavuot Day 2 this year falls on Saturday May 30. But in ארץ ישראל (The Land of Israel) - Shavuot ends when Shabbat begins, on Friday night. So in Israel, they'll be reading Nasso on Shabbat, while we in חו״ל (Outside The Land) will be reading Shavuot Day 2.

Which also means that thereafter, the Parsha of the Week will not be the same in Israel as it is elsewhere; Israel will be one week ahead. And it will stay ahead until Saturday July 11, when we join up again for Pinchas.

This, in turn, puts us in sync for שׁבּת חזון, The Sabbath of Vision, so we can observe תשׁע בּאב (Tisha b'Av) together as one.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Are We All from Vitebsk?

Where the Wild Goose Goes: Vitebsk is a city of some 366,000 inhabitants in present-day Belarus. Before World War II, Jews constituted about 52% (34,500) of the city's total population of 66,000.

During World War II, the city came under Nazi German occupation (11 July 1941 – 26 June 1944). Most of the local Jews perished in the Vitebsk Ghetto massacre of October 1941.

Vitebsk was, of course, the boyhood home of artist Marc Chagall. And of ILGWU labor journalist Max Danish. And of Mossad chief Isser Harel. And, as well, of playwright S Ansky. Plus more than a few prominent others.

Maybe it's something in the water.

Of the many ancestors of Abq Jew, exactly none are known to be from Vitebsk. Or, perhaps, all are.

A MyHeritage Story

Abq Jew has written often about genealogy site MyHeritage (see Blood, Spit & Years and Fame, Fortune, and Four Wives, et al). Almost everything Abq Jew has written has been complimentary, in both senses of the term.

Well, here is a cautionary tale of how MyHeritage can lead one (Abq Jew) down a rabbit hole and on to a wild goose chase.

It all started when Abq Jew was looking for DNA matches who also have shared family members on Abq Jew's Family Tree. And viola (or other stringed instrument)! Betsy G popped up.

Ordinarily, 1.1% shared DNA would scarcely attract Abq Jew's attention. But 39 Smart Matches? We've gotta be mishpocha! But how?

Abq Jew is not proud to say that he spent a good couple of hours using MyHeritage and Facebook and Google to track down exactly who Betsy G is and where our respective Family Trees intersect.

And Abq Jew found her!

Sure enough, Abq Jew placed Betsy G right into his very own Family Tree. And discovered that she was a mere 17 steps away!

Betsy G has turned out to be Abq Jew's father's uncle's sister-in-law's 2nd cousin's husband's cousin's daughter. Here's how:
1. RWY is Abq Jew's father
2. Frances Y is the mother of RWY
3. L (Rosenfield) Pearl is a sister of Frances Y
4. Benjamin Myer Pearl is the husband of Lillian (Rosenfield) Pearl
5. Bessie (Zimmer) Pearl is the wife of Benjamin Myer Pearl
6. Abraham David Zimmer is a brother of Bessie Pearl
7. Birdie Zimmer is the wife of Abraham David Zimmer
8. Robert Rosenberg is the father of Birdie Zimmer
9. Iosel Meir Rosenberg is the father of Robert Rosenberg
10. Hirsch Nachman Rosenberg is a brother of Iosel Meir Rosenberg
11. Lillian Scher is a daughter of Hirsch Nachman Rosenberg
12. Irene Zivin is a daughter of Lillian Scher
13. Alfred Zivin is the husband of Irene Zivin
14. Ana Zivin is the mother of Alfred Zivin
15. Paul Mendelsohn is a brother of Ana Zivin
16. Jean G is a daughter of Paul Mendelsohn
17. Betsy G is a daughter of Jean G
So ...
What's wrong with this picture?

Abq Jew's beloved great uncle Benjamin Myer Pearl was indeed
the husband of Lillian Pearl. But, before that - Uncle Ben was
the husband of Bessie (Zimmer) Pearl. 

Abq Jew is related (but NOT by blood) to his great uncle Ben Pearl.
Abq Jew is related (by blood) to his beloved great aunt Lillian Pearl.
Betsy G is related (but NOT by blood) to Bessie (Zimmer Pearl).

Abq Jew recalls being told the following story.

Harry Wise, Abq Jew's mother's father, worked at the same place as Ben Pearl, Abq Jew's great uncle. Or belonged to the same union. In any event: the two men knew each other.

Bessie (Zimmer) Pearl, Ben Pearl's first wife, had died at the (even then) young age of 42, leaving Ben Pearl a widower with two young sons - Martin and Arnold.

Harry Wise knew of Lillian Rosenfield, an unmarried violinist who happened to be Abq Jew's father's aunt, through Abq Jew's mother, who was (even then) dating Abq Jew's father.

And so, Abq Jew's great uncle Ben and Abq Jew's great aunt Lillian were introduced. They married; and the rest, as they say, is history.

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

If Abq Jew and Betsy G are not related by blood,
why do they share 1.1 % of their DNA? And why does MyHeritage think they might be 3rd - 5th cousins? 

The answer can be summed up in one simple word.


Which Abq Jew explains at great length in his seminal blog post (like there is such a thing) You've Got DNA Matches!.

And which Jennifer Mendelsohn explains at much greater length and increased clarity in her seminal article, No, You Don't Really Have 7,900 4th Cousins: Some DNA Basics for Those With Jewish Heritage.

Which in turn can be summed up with the statement:

Yes, genealogically speaking,
we are all from Vitebsk

Oh. And how about those 39 Smart Matches? Most of those matches only exist because Abq Jew is tracking the Zimmer family on behalf of his dear relatives, the women of the Pearl family.

To whom Abq Jew sends his warmest greetings
on matriarch Sylvia Pearl's 84th birthday!

And so, the only question remaining is

Why did Abq Jew fall down this rabbit hole
and on to a wild goose chase?

To which Abq Jew must respond:

But to celebrate the conclusion of this blog post, Abq Jew thoughtfully provides Mickey Katz's Geshray of De Vilde Gotchka (Cry of the Wild Goose; lyrics here) for your merriment.

We don't all have to go where the wild goose goes.

But if you do ... be careful where you step.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Character Integrity Pathos

A Nation Verklempt: Abq Jew is reasonably sure that just about everything he says in this blog post will be or has already been said somewhere else, perhaps even more succinctly and just plain better.

But sometimes, Abq Jew believes, it is important simply to

Mark the Moment

The eruption on May 18, 1980, was unique for exploding in two ways,
a lateral blast plus a column of volcanic ash that went 80,000 feet
into the sky.       Corbis, via Getty Images

Robin George Andrews of The New York Times tells us:
On the morning of May 18, 1980, a volcano erupted not from its peak but from its side. In the minutes that followed, volcanic violence devastated the landscape, unleashing eight times more energy than was released by the sum of every explosive dropped during World War II, including two atom bombs. 
This was Mount St. Helens. Its explosion, the first major volcanic eruption in the lower 48 states for generations, killed 57 people — scientists, photographers, hikers and people living in the shadow of the mountain.
Although Mr & Mrs Abq Jew were then living in the San Francisco Bay Area, more than seven hundred miles away, we remember that day as if it were yesterday. We heard the blast and felt the ground shake.

OK ... not really. It was 8:32 on a Sunday morning! We were probably asleep. But we soon found out about it.

It was only six years ago! Already? That Mr & Mrs Abq Jew's favorite daughter became a Boston University Graduate (see 2014's A Blinding Attack).

Yesterday, said favorite daughter received her Master in Public Administration (MPA) with a Concentration in Urban and Social Policy from Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA).

Mr & Mrs Abq Jew were really looking forward to the very public ceremony at Columbia, on the Very Upper West Side of NYC. As were, ya gotta believe, a lot of parents, professors, administrators, and potential employers. And students.

There was no public ceremony. Mr & Mrs Abq Jew remained in the Land of Enchantment, where our @GovMLG is doing her best to keep all of us safe.

For those keeping score: Washington declared a State of Emergency on March 2; California on March 4; New York on March 7; and New Mexico on March 11, when our first COVID-19 cases were announced.


On Saturday night, Mr & Mrs Abq Jew, along with much of the civilized United States, watched President Obama celebrate America’s high school seniors as part of Graduate Together: America Honors the Class of 2020.

Here is President Obama's message once more, simply to mark the moment.

As he had so many times before, President Barack Obama unloaded a relentless barrage of complete sentences in what was widely seen as a brutal attack on his successor, Donald Trump.

Mazeltov and Congratulations
to the Class of 2020!

Thursday, May 14, 2020

The Sorrow and the Pithy

Are We Allowed to Laugh Now? While most of us sit quietly - and safely - in our homes, danger and sorrow have spread throughout these United States.

The danger and sorrow were brought forcefully to Abq Jew's attention after he posted the following parody "Breaking News" photo and chyron to his personal Facebook account.

Now, to us New MexiJews - or to any of us New Mexicans, regardless of race, creed, or color - this is very funny. Or - good for a chuckle, at least. Why?

There are no beaches* in New Mexico.

* Actually, there are. Abq Jew will blog about that later, Billy Nader.
But there are certainly no sea beaches in the Land of Enchantment.

In response to this Facebook posting, Abq Jew received one Like, one Wow, and about 18 Hahas. Plus a few comments, mostly on the order of

LOL! Enjoy the amazing surfing!

But there was one comment, from a distant FB friend, that stopped Abq Jew cold - as it was intended to do.

How many people do YOU know
who have died in the last six weeks?
I'd count my 20 digits and still would keep counting.
Plus the suicide of my friend of 35 years.
And I can't fulfill my holy [cantorial] work 

for their souls or support their loved ones
as they should be.

It makes you think.

We all recognize that the danger and the sorrow
 are not shared equally.

And yet.

There will be bad days. But there will also, Abq Jew firmly believes, be good days. What we've got to do now is help each other get through the bad days.

A bit of laughter helps.
Humor can transform pessimism into optimism.
Resignation into hope. Present into the future.

Allison Klein reports in The Washington Post (the Inspired Life blog):
This man posts a daily ‘bad dad joke’ in his front yard. People groan, but they love it.
Tom Schruben and his 11-year-old daughter, Darcy, with the “bad dad joke”
sign they posted outside their Kensington, Md., home on Friday.
Schruben and Darcy write a “bad” (corny) joke on a whiteboard each morning.
(Michael S. Williamson / The Washington Post)

Maryland’s stay-at-home covid-19 order has been stressful for Ann and Tom Schruben, self-employed workers who live in Kensington with their 11-year-old daughter.
Ann noticed her husband was a little grumpy. He’s generally a cheerful guy who likes to crack jokes and puns. 
In fact, their daughter, Darcy, had given him a book of “exceptionally bad dad jokes” as a Christmas present. 
When Ann heard a friend in Ohio was posting a daily joke in front of her house, she told Tom he should do the same thing. Tom resisted. Then, about two weeks ago, he grabbed a whiteboard and wrote at the top “BAD DAD JOKES.” He scrawled in purple ink: 
Hold on — I have something in my shoe! 
I’m pretty sure it’s a foot.
At 8 a.m. on April 17, he set the whiteboard near the footpath in front of his house and waited inside his screened-in porch to see if anyone reacted. Nothing. A few hours later, he heard a chuckle from outside.
“Once he got his first laugh, it was so satisfying to him,” said Ann, a landscape designer.
The next day he woke up at 7 a.m. and scribbled his second bad dad joke: 
Without geometry, life is pointless.
Soon, he heard people laughing as they walked by his home, along a creek on the edge of Rock Creek Park.   <Read more

Dan Rather (@DanRather) has tweeted:

We have no choice but to go on.
And in going on, to try to
make the world a better place.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Summer 2020 @ OASIS Abq

Great Courses of Jewish Interest
Abq Jew is pleased to inform you that
OASIS Albuquerque has just announced
their Summer 2020 line-up of classes!
Registration opens on
Tuesday May 19
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 session's courses and instructors include, but are by no means limited to:

How to Criticize Properly: A Jewish Perspective
Wednesday 17 June 2020 - #105
Instructor: Dov Gartenberg
What It Is: Have you ever felt the need to criticize a loved one, friend, or associate? Has it gone well or has it bombed? The rabbis, the sages of Jewish tradition, grappled with the issue of proper criticism based on their reading of Leviticus 19:17. We take a journey through Jewish literature and beyond on the ethics of personal criticism.

Franklin D Roosevelt &
US Involvement in World War II
Thursdays 9 & 16 July 2020 - #70
Instructor:  Noel Pugach
What It Is: Noel Pugach reviews Franklin Delano Roosevelt's actions prior to Pearl Harbor and during World War II. Did he deceive the American public in maneuvering to enter the war? How well did he lead the war effort? What were the consequences of his actions and policies? In this two-part class, we analyze and evaluate these and other relevant questions.

Pius XII & the Holocaust:
A New Look at "Hitler's Pope" 1933-1945
Wednesday 12 August 2020 - #107
@ Our Lady of Perpetual Help
Instructor: Christopher Zugger
What It Is:Cardinal Pacelli was elected Pope in 1939, shortly before World War II began, and was hailed as a friend of the Jewish people. Today, he is either reviled as a failure, or lauded as an unknown rescuer. Using recent research, Christopher Zugger dives into what we now know of the 1933 Concordat with Germany, Pius XII's actions towards Jews and involvement with anti-Nazis, the silence of the Holy See, and both post-war accolades and accusations.

The Binding of Isaac: A Test of Faith or ?
Thursday 13 August - #108
Instructor: Shlomo Karni
What It Is: The binding of Isaac (Genesis 22:1-19) raises some of the most difficult issues in the Old Testament. Among them are the issue of human free will, blind faith in God, and the double dilemma of obeying God by doing evil, or disobeying God by doing good. Learn about three possible interpretations of the same event from different points of view.

The Swastika in New Mexico History
Tuesday 25 August 2020 - #143
Instructor:  Richard Melzer
What It Is: Identified with Adolf Hitler's evil Nazi regime in Germany, the swastika is among the most hated symbols in the world. But long before it became such a terrible symbol, the swastika represented the opposite: a force for good in countless cultures, including several Native American cultures of the Southwest. Learn about the use of this symbol in not only New Mexico's native culture, but also in everything from tourism, commerce, clubs, military organizations, and even the New Mexico State University's yearbook for 75 years.

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:

Remembering Mel Tormé
Monday 1 June 2020 - #81
What It Is: Jazz vocalist Mel Tormé (1925-99) had the distinction of being a child prodigy who made his first public appearance at the age of four. He was a jazz composer and arranger; a professional drummer; a talented multi-instrumentalist; an actor in radio, film, and television; and the author of five books. Along the way he also managed to sing a song or two as well as compose 250 songs, including "The Christmas Song" with its reference to holiday chestnuts.

Hello, Jerry!
The Musical World of Jerry Herman
Friday 5 June 2020 - #82
What It Is: "When they passed out talent," legendary actress Carol Channing once said, "Jerry stood in line twice." Composer and lyricist Jerry Herman (1931-2019) is responsible for some of Broadway's most enduring hits: Mame, La Cage aux Folles, and Hello, Dolly! His works belong to the Golden Age of Broadway musicals and can often be construed as overly optimistic; however, each one carries a timeless message of humanity's ability to triumph over despair, hatred, and prejudice.

Fabulously Funny 50s:
Jack Benny, George Burns, & Friends
Friday 26 June 2020 - #34
What It Is: In the 1950s, when television was still in its infancy, audiences could find a treasure trove of small screen situation comedies or sitcoms, which often doubled as variety shows, beamed into their homes on a weekly basis. Whether you're a fan of Jack Benny and the long-suffering Rochester, or enjoy trying to help George outguess Gracie, or can't wait for the further adventures of the Kramdens and the Nortons on The Honeymooners, this class is for you.

My Son, the Folk Singer: Allan Sherman
Monday 17 August 2020 - #93
What It Is: Allan Sherman (1924-73) is probably best known for his hit "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh" but he began his career as a television actor and producer long before essaying a comedy career with the parody "A Satchel and a Seck" based on a tune from Guys and Dolls. His mainstream success lasted only a few years in the early 1960s, after which he tried his hand at everything from Broadway musicals to voicing The Cat in the Hat.

OASIS Albuquerque also offers regular Friday Performances - musical, dance, theater, and storytelling - all by local artists. They're listed among the schedule of classes.

This session's Jewish performances include but are by no means limited to:

The Bobcats
Friday 5 June 2020 - #94
What It Is: Come listen to some classic and contemporary jazz, swing, blues, and bossa nova. Start tapping your toes to the music and songs made famous by Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Duke Ellington, Rodgers and Hart, Frank Sinatra, and more. The Bobcats are winners of the New Mexico Music Award for best jazz CD, Music For The Sole, in 2019.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Bird Belz Hornet Canada

Our Own Homes: We wandering Jews are sure spending an awful lot of time in our own homes these days. And we probably will continue to do so ('cause we're smart) for some time to come.

So here is a photograph of a beautiful bird. Abq Jew does not know who the photographer is, nor the type of bird. But let's take a moment to try and remember that the world is a beautiful place.

And here is a song about Belz, where many of us made our homes before ... we couldn't any more. No, Abq Jew does not know who the performers are.

Belz (Ukrainian: Белз; Polish: Bełz ; Yiddish: בעלז‎ Belz) is a small city in Sokal Raion of Lviv Oblast (region) of Western Ukraine, near the border with Poland, is located between the Solokiya river (a tributary of the Bug River) and the Richytsia stream. Its population is approximately 2,308 (2017 est). 
The Ashkenazi Jewish community in Belz was established circa 14th century. In 1665, the Jews in Belz received equal rights and duties. The town became home to a Hasidic dynasty in the early 19th century.
At the beginning of World War I, Belz had 6100 inhabitants, including 3600 Jews, 1600 Ukrainians, and 900 Poles. During the German and Soviet invasion of Poland (September 1939), most of the Jews of Belz fled to the Soviet Union. 
However, by May 1942, there were over 1,540 local Jewish residents and refugees in Belz. On June 2, 1942, 1,000 Jews were deported to Hrubieszów and from there to the Sobibór concentration camp.

Abq Jew will now take this opportunity to warn you, his loyal readers, that Vespa Mandarinia, aka The Murder Hornet, has been spotted (so to speak) in North America.

A single Asian Giant Hornet has turned up on this side of the Pacific Ocean ... and it was dead. But here are Ten (10)  Things You Need to Know!

In the meantime, The New Yorker's one and only Andy Borowitz reminds us that
Murder Hornets Doubt They Can Do as Much Damage as Trump 
WASHINGTON STATE (The Borowitz Report)—Calling it “a tall order, for sure,” a swarm of murder hornets are openly questioning whether they can do as much damage to the United States as Donald J. Trump has. 
In an unusually candid interview, the deadly winged insects said that their initial plans to invade North America, spreading terror and carnage in their wake, have been largely upended by Trump’s performance this year. 
“We had been talking about coming to America for, like, forever,” one hornet said. “It’s obviously a huge market, and we wanted to make a big splash over here. And now this.”

And besides (see Becoming Animated), we'll always have Canada. Here is a song about Canada. By Clark W.

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