Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Morro Bay: A Remembrance

On International Holocaust Remembrance Day:  Morro Rock, the Golden State's "Gibraltar of the Pacific", is an extinct volcanic peak rising 576 feet above the ocean. First charted by Juan Cabrillo in 1542, it is now a protected home for the endangered peregrine falcon.

Many, many years ago, Abq Jew and his parents, Richard and Roselyn Yellin, of blessed memory, spent a wonderful, long weekend at Morro Bay.  We rented a cabin that looked out over the bay, and Abq Jew recalls spending a lot of time just gazing at Morro Rock.

Many years ago, Abq Jew and his wife and his parents drove down from Sunnyvale to Morro Bay, to have dinner at the half-way point with our dear friends, Mike and Jean Schuster of Los Angeles, of blessed memory, whose twin daughters Laurel and Carol - talented musicians who would be about Abq Jew's age - are also, alas, of blessed memory.

Mike and Jean were about the most wonderful people Abq Jew has known.  Both Laurel and Carol predeceased them. Laurel was lucky enough to marry and have a child, a son (now a musician / accountant in Victoria, BC. And married!). Carol was fortunate to find a partner; but no children.

Who will remember the wonderful Schuster family once Abq Jew is himself of blessed memory?

Binim Heller asked himself the same question - only it was about his sister Khaye, who was among the many, many murdered in the Holocaust.  His answer was a poem, "Mayn Shvester Khaye."

Israeli singer Chava Alberstein was born (1947) in Szczecin, Poland. Her family moved to Israel when she was only four years old, and she grew up hearing Yiddish. She knew fellow Pole Binem Heller (1906-1998) personally.

Ms Alberstein set "Mayn Shvester Khaye" to music. In 1998, she recorded it, with the Klezmatics, in the album "The Well."

The words (see below) of Binim Heller's poem alone are enough to bring Abq Jew to tears. When combined with Chava Alberstein's melody - the song breaks Abq Jew's heart every time he hears it.  Who will remember?

Mayn Shvester Khaye by Binim Heller

My sister Khaye, with the green eyes
My sister Khaye, with the black braids -
The sister Khaye, who raised me
In the house on Smotshe Street with tumble down steps.

Mother left the house at dawn
When there was hardly light in the sky.
She went off to the shop, to earn
A wretched penny's worth of change.

And Khaye stayed with the brothers,
She fed them and watched over them.
And she would sing them pretty songs
At nightfall, when little kids get tired.

My sister Khaye, with the green eyes
My sister Khaye, with the long hair –
The sister Khaye, who raised me
She wasn't even ten years old.

She cleaned and cooked and served the food,
She washed our little heads
All she forgot was to play with us --
My sister Khaye with the black braids.

My sister Khaye with her eyes of green
Was burnt by a German in Treblinka.
And I am here in the Jewish state:
The very last one who ever knew her.

It's for her that I write my poems in Yiddish
In these terrible days of our times.
To God Himself she's an only daughter,
In heaven she sits at his right hand.
Tree of Life


This week, we citizens of the world remember those we've lost in the Shoah on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. We Jews of the world end the week with Shabbat Shirah - the Sabbath of Song, when we remember our crossing of the Red Sea. And right in between is Tu b'Shevat - our New Year of the Trees.

May deep sorrow always give way to great joy.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

The End of a Very Bad Dream

A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes: So we were reminded by by Mack David, Al Hoffman, and Jerry Livingston, who wrote the song for the 1950 Walt Disney film Cinderella. We should never stop dreaming, these three American Jews tell us.

A dream is a wish your heart makes
When you're fast asleep
In dreams you will loose your heartache
Whatever you wish for you keep

Have faith in your dreams and someday
Your rainbow will come smiling through
No matter how your heart is grieving
If you keep on believing
The dream that you wish will come true

The Hebrew Bible tells us of the power of dreams. Jacob dreams of angels ascending and descending a Stairway to Heaven. Joseph uses his super-power to interpret dreams for Pharaoh's butler; Pharaoh's baker; and, finally, for Pharaoh himself.

Still, as we all know - 

Dorothy USA Wakes Up

There are good dreams, and there are bad dreams.

As we American survivors start to heal and, hopefully, find unity in our ongoing endeavor, Abq Jew would like to pause and look back at three of the most famous dreams in our ... culture.

1. Tevye's Dream (1964)

We all know this one. Fiddler on the Roof!

In bed with Golde, Tevye pretends to be waking from a nightmare. Golde offers to interpret his dream, and Tevye "describes" it ("Tevye's Dream"). Golde's grandmother Tzeitel returns from the grave to bless the marriage of her namesake, but to Motel, not to Lazar Wolf. 

Lazar's formidable late wife, Fruma-Sarah, rises from her grave to warn, in graphic terms, of severe retribution if Tzeitel marries Lazar. The superstitious Golde is terrified, and she quickly counsels that Tzeitel must marry Motel. 

2. Pam Ewing's Dream (1986)

Well, all of us of a certain age know this one. Dallas! Some background:

Dallas is an American prime time television soap opera that aired on CBS from April 2, 1978, to May 3, 1991. The series revolves around an affluent and feuding Texas family, the Ewings, who own the independent oil company Ewing Oil and the cattle-ranching land of Southfork. 

The series originally focused on the marriage of Bobby Ewing and Pamela Barnes, whose families were sworn enemies with each other. As the series progressed, Bobby's older brother, oil tycoon J.R. Ewing, became the show's breakout character, whose schemes and dirty business became the show's trademark.

The show was prominent for its cliffhangers, including the "Who shot J.R.?" mystery. The show also featured a "Dream Season," in which the entirety of season 9 was revealed to have been a dream of Pam Ewing's. 

Wait What

Bobby Ewing's death in the season 8 finale [May 17, 1985], alongside his subsequent absence during the following season, was explained away at the beginning of season 10 as having been dreamed by Pamela, thus erasing everything that had happened during season 9

So what actually happened ? You know - like, In Real Life? 

Actor Patrick Duffy had left the series to pursue other opportunities, but due to declining ratings, he was convinced to return to the series by production company Lorimar as well as series star Larry Hagman.

3. Bob Hartley's Dream (May 21, 1990)

It has recently come to Abq Jew's attention that some people - even people of a certain age - have no remembrance of this dream at all. You need a background in sit-com history to fully appreciate this. So here goes.

The Bob Newhart Show

The Bob Newhart Show is an American sitcom television series that aired on CBS from September 16, 1972, to April 1, 1978.

The show centers on Robert "Bob" Hartley, Ph.D. (Newhart), a Chicago psychologist. Most activity occurs between his work and home life, with his supportive, although occasionally sarcastic, wife Emily (Suzanne Pleshette), and their friendly but pesty neighbor, airline navigator Howard Borden (Bill Daily). 

The medical building where Bob's psychology practice is located also houses Jerry Robinson, D.D.S. (Peter Bonerz), an orthodontist whose office is on the same floor, and their receptionist, Carol Kester (Marcia Wallace), as well as a number of other somewhat eccentric doctors who appear occasionally.


Newhart is an American sitcom television series that aired on CBS from October 25, 1982, to May 21, 1990. 

The series stars Bob Newhart and Mary Frann as an author and his wife, respectively, who own and operate an inn in a small, rural Vermont town that is home to many eccentric characters. 

TV Guide, TV Land, and A&E named the Newhart series finale as one of the most memorable in television history.

Newhart Series Finale

The series finale of Newhart, titled "The Last Newhart", has been described as one of the most memorable in television history.

The entire town is purchased by a visiting Japanese tycoon, who turns the hamlet into an enormous golf course and recreation resort. Dick and Joanna are the only townspeople who refuse to leave. The others accept million-dollar payoffs and leave in a farewell scene that parodies Fiddler on the Roof.

Five years later, Dick and Joanna continue to run the Stratford Inn, which is now located in the middle of the golf course. The other townspeople, now richer and older, unexpectedly return for a reunion. 

The Darryl brothers also speak for the first time on screen, loudly yelling "Quiet!" at their wives in unison. Dick gets frustrated with the increasingly chaotic scene, and storms out shouting "You're all crazy!", only to be knocked out by an errantly struck golf ball.

The Last Scene

The setting of the last scene is nighttime, in the bedroom of Dr. Bob Hartley (The Bob Newhart Show; see above) and his wife Emily (Suzanne Pleshette). 

Bob awakens, upset, and he wakes Emily to tell her about the very strange dream he has just had: that he was an innkeeper in a small Vermont town filled with eccentric characters and married to a beautiful blonde. 

Emily (slightly upset about hearing Bob's dream dalliance with "a beautiful blonde") tells him "that settles it—no more Japanese food before bed."

Here is the long (10:32) version of that Finale.

But if you just want The Last Scene, here is the short (2:39) version.

So what have learned today?

Bernie at Inauguration

Jewish Only Photo Captions

Saving seats for your family at High Holiday services.
When the Cantor decides to teach the congregation a new melody for L'cha Dodi.
When you're the first one to wash for HaMotzi and you sit back down
but everyone else is chatting in the kitchen
Waiting for the shul president to finish the announcements.
so you can go to Kiddush already.
When the kids are taking forever to find the !&$#&! afikoman.
Every audience member with a 'question' at a YIVO lecture.
In Jewish Yoga, this pose is 'Waiting For My Wife at Loehmann's'.
When there are only prune hamantaschen left.
Shul starts at 7:45, I get here at 7:45.

H/T to Rav Neil Amswych of Temple Beth Shalom in Santa Fe,
who has collected many of these captions on his Facebook page.

Bernie Subway

Monday, January 11, 2021

You Reap What You Sow

So You Better Plan Wisely: The first full week of this year was incredibly long and terribly dangerous.

So let's begin this, the second full week of the 2,021st year of the Common Era, with a wonderful song and beautiful video that provide an uplifting message of hope and renewed growth. 

Facets of Folk

G-d knows we need it.

The song is You Reap What You Sow, written by Susan Shann and performed here by Mara Levine, along with a small, socially-distanced ensemble of Americana greats.

Jerry Wicentowski

Abq Jew was made aware of this treasure by his good friend, guitarist and lead singer Jerry Wicentowski. Jerry, it turns out, is not only one of the foremost Jews in Milwaukee and Bluegrass (see 2011's The Importance of Banjo) - he is, it turns out, one of the genre's foremost kosher, shomer Shabbos Jews.

Mo Menzel Santa Fe

Abq Jew was made aware of his good friend Jerry Wicentowski by his good friend, Mo Fiddles (Menzel Violins) owner and music promoter Mo Menzel. "Temporarily" of Livingston, NJ. But, for all the years that Abq Jew has known her, Mo's heart has been in the Land of Enchantment.

There was a time when Abq Jew could just walk over and listed to the classical, bluegrass, and every type of music in between that Mo regularly presented at her shop. Which is how Abq Jew first met up with the band Lucky Break, led by Jerry Wicentowski and featuring his Evanston-based bass player, Marc Edelstein.

Mara Levine

So ... where were we again? Ah, yes. Mara Levine, whose video Jerry Wicentowski posted on Facebook. And about whom NickTheRecordLover wrote on his blog:

Mara Levine is one of the finest Folk-Singers of our time. 

She’s in great company with Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, and Judy Collins. When she sings, it’s the Music of The Angels. 

All of this is very true, as you will soon hear. And, as Sherry S Kirschenbaum wrote in the New Jersey Jewish News:

Mara Levine’s repertoire expresses themes of social conscience
that are shaped by the Jewish value of tikkun olam.

You Reap What You Sow

And then there's the message of the song itself:

You reap what you sow, so you better plan wisely;
That the harvest may yield you a bounty of good.

You get what you give, so give completely;
And all your deeds will return as they should.

A good message for all of us as we look back
on one of the worst days in US history.

Kick Trump Out

And as we look forward to all of
the good days that must surely follow.

Better Days Are Coming

Thursday, January 7, 2021

A Land Full of Power and Glory

Beauty That Words Cannot Recall: This has been one of the longest weeks in the history of the United States.

2021 Boing

There have been long weeks before. The week after the attack on Pearl Harbor lasted more than four years. The week after John F Kennedy's assassination lasted for decades. The weeks after the assassinations of Robert F Kennedy and Dr Martin Luther King Jr are, disturbingly, still going on - as is the week after the attacks of September 11, 2001.

But Abq Jew had been pretty sure that the week after the August 24, 1814 burning of the US Capitol by British troops during the War of 1812 had ended - well, a long, long time ago. 

Until yesterday.

The week that registered such hope with the Georgia elections on Tuesday -

Warnock Ossoff

recorded insurrection, shock, and tragedy just one day later.

Armed Standoff

Even though Congress (at 3:14 this morning) did ultimately confirm the elections of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris - 

Biden Harris Confirmed

the shame, the danger, and the ugliness of this week's attack on the US Capitol - fomented by the 45th President of the United States, and encouraged by some Senators and Members of Congress - will be with us for a long, long time.

On the 109th anniversary of New Mexico statehood, when our Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham wrote on social media:

Beautiful New Mexico MLG

Today our beautiful New Mexico celebrates its anniversary of statehood, marking 109 years of being the best state in the nation. Happy birthday New Mexico! #NewMexicoTrue

She was also forced to write:

I am sickened by what is occurring at the U.S. Capitol. It is nothing less than domestic terrorism, enacted in an effort to overturn a free and fair election.

The president has stoked this anti-democracy sentiment. He is responsible. He has always been responsible. The president must immediately join leaders across the political spectrum in calling for an end to the chaos he has caused.

Phil Oches The Best

Here is a song - written, performed, and recorded by Phil Ochs - that helps Abq Jew deal with the many - too many - bad moments in the history of our great American experiment.

For those who may not recall - Paul Zollo of American Songwriter wrote some 8 months ago -
“As much as has been written about the sixties,” said Steve Earle, “it’s arguable that no one experienced that defining moment in American history more personally than Phil Ochs.”

One of the most highly-regarded, brilliant and influential songwriters of our time, Phil Ochs might not be remembered by the mass public as well as other songwriters from recent history. But among songwriters, students of songwriting, authors, artists and activists, Ochs is considered one of the greatest to ever write socially-conscious songs, often leading more than following Dylan and the rest, who received more mass acclaim.

As the actor and folksinger Tim Robbins said, the reverence felt for Ochs by so many persists because he was not only a great singer and song craftsman, but because he was a truth-teller.

“Phil Ochs told the truth before it was ready to be accepted,” said Robbins, “and before it was politically expedient. He was the kind of truth-teller that made liberal allies nervous because his truth demanded an accountability to their own compromise.” 

Here is a land full of power and glory
Beauty that words cannot recall.

Oh her power shall rest on the strength of her freedom,
Her glory shall rest on us all.