Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Vaccines, Ken O'Hara!

Purim Is Here! Yes! It be time for Purim! At last! Victory over our enemies! Chief among whom is, of course

Covid Haman
Haman the Coronavirus

Our imminent, immanent, impending victory - now only in its earliest stages, for the lucky ones - comes with a terrible price.

500K US Deaths Covid

And yet -

500K NM Vaccinations

and -

50 Million Doses US

Yes, Mr & Mrs Abq Jew are both the immensely happy and incredibly fortunate recipients of both Pfizer 1 and Pfizer 2. You may ask:

How did we get so lucky?

Here is how: Presbyterian Healthcare Services made a mistake. For about a-day-and-a-half in January, Presbyterian's website allowed non-patients and non-employees to register for Covid vaccinations. How did we find out? 


Heard it through the zoomvine.

Mr & Mrs Abq Jew found the Presbyterian website, answered all the questions truthfully, and were immediately signed up. We then spread the word as best we could, never realizing that our good fortune was due to Presbyterian's error.


Still, by the time many others found out - if they ever did - Presbyterian had fixed their website and allowed no new sign-ups to the community at large. 

But - to their immense credit - Presbyterian chose to honor the vaccination appointments that had been made by those who would otherwise - without Presbyterian's mistake - have been unable to do so.

Now, you may ask -

 What does this have to do with The Jews?

Plenty, as it turns out. 


Jews have been involved with medicine for centuries. The Rambam (pictured above), renowned Rabbi and Philosopher, had a side gig as Dr Moshe ben Maimon, physician to Saladin. Yes, that Saladin.

And then there's Dr Jonas Salk (pictured below), who Abq Jew's family always treated as ... let's just say, A Very Great Man.

Jonas Salk

Which is not to mention ... actually, to proudly mention ... Abq Jew's beloved daughter-in-law and her parents (and most of her family), including Abq Jew's mechuten and mechuteneste.

Pfizer Moderna

And then there's these two very admirable Jews.
Who knows but that they were made for such a time as this.

On the right is Moderna’s Chief Medical Officer, Tal Zaks.
Zaks is an Israeli with degrees from Ben-Gurion University. He told the Axios news that he kept in mind his mother, a woman in her 80s now living in the Israeli city of Ra’anana. 
I want these data out as soon as I humanely can possibly get them. We have been working days, nights, 24/7 . . . I don’t think this was humanely possible to do any sooner.
On the left is Pfizer's CEO, Albert Bourla. The Forward's P J Grisar wrote:
Pfizer’s CEO tells his parents’ Holocaust story

The modern miracle of the Pfizer vaccine has an equally remarkable backstory.

Dr. Albert Bourla, the CEO of Pfizer who shepherded the vaccine’s development, spoke about the “fantastic luck” of his family history on Thursday. It’s a tale of defying the odds and one whose lessons he keeps with him.

In a Zoom discussion for the Museum of Jewish Heritage, Bourla, the son of Sephardic Holocaust survivors from Thessaloniki, Greece, told Radiolab’s Robert Krulwich how his father, Mois, and uncle Into witnessed their family’s deportation from the ghetto to Auschwitz. 
The brothers survived the war in Athens with forged papers — courtesy of sympathetic Catholics influenced by Athens’ archbishop — and a job at a Red Cross warehouse.

No less incredible is the journey of Bourla’s mother, Sara. 
The daughter of a prosperous family in the silk trade, she was taken in as a teenager by her older sister. who converted to marry a Christian government officer, Kostas Dimadis. Sara lived in hiding but was spotted during her occasional walks through town and betrayed by a neighbor. 
She was transferred to a prison, where a bribe from her brother-in-law to the head Nazi in Thessaloniki, Max Merten, saved her life.

Her sister still checked the prison everyday at noon, when a truck came to transport prisoners to their death. Her caution was warranted; one day, Sara was put on the truck. Dimadis called Merten in a fury for breaking his word. 
As Sara was lined up against the wall before a firing squad, a BMW motorcycle carrying two soldiers with a paper of reprieve spared Sara and another woman.

As the truck was leaving the place, they heard the sound of the machine guns. Everybody else was dying and they were sitting there just three minutes ago.

"We must not become numb to the sorrow."

Pfizer Vaccine

A Prayer for Receiving the Covid Vaccine
Rabbi Naomi Levy        Spiritual Leader, Nashuva

I have been praying for this day and now it is here!
With great excitement, a touch of trepidation
And with deep gratitude
I give thanks
To all the scientists who toiled day and night
So that I might receive this tiny vaccination
That will protect me and all souls around this world.
With the pandemic still raging
I am blessed to do my part to defeat it.
Let this be the beginning of a new day,
A new time of hope, of joy, of freedom
And most of all, of health.
I thank You, God, for blessing me with life
For sustaining my life
And for enabling me to reach this awe-filled moment.

Wait a minute

It is, after all, Purim!

Let's celebrate with The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba, performed by George Hinchliffe's Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain while in self isolation.

Yes, Abq Jew is fully aware that Sheba is exactly the wrong queen for this holiday. But Purim is supposed to be a bit farmisht, eh what?

Want to hear the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain perform the jazz classic Minnie the Moocher? Of course you do! Minnie was also exactly the wrong queen for this holiday. But who cares?

In any event, and by all means -

Happy Purim

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Remembering to Forget

Amalek. Haman. And Others: Purim 5781/2021 will soon be upon us. And we Jews will celebrate, as we have always done and will always do. But first - this Shabbat we observe Shabbat Zachor with a special Torah reading. 

About Amalek.

Amalek Attacks
Amalek Attacks     Richard McBee

In which we are told (Deuteronomy 25:19):

תִּמְחֶה֙ אֶת־זֵ֣כֶר עֲמָלֵ֔ק מִתַּ֖חַת הַשָּׁמָ֑יִם לֹ֖א תִּשְׁכָּֽח
You shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget!

Amalek Crossed Out

Do not forget to remember to erase! When we speak of Amalek's evil deeds - cutting off our Social Security and Medicare - and when we remember them in our hearts, we fulfill this mitzvah.

Remember what Amalek did to you on your journey, after you left Egypt— how, undeterred by fear of God, he surprised you on the march, when you were famished and weary, and cut down all the stragglers in your rear. 

And then there's Haman.

Haman's Fate
Haman's Fate     Richard McBee

Haman was the son of Hammedatha, a descendant of Agag, king of the Amalekites. Who King Saul was commanded to execute, but didn't. 

Who the Prophet Samuel did execute sometime later, after Agag had had time to fool around ... and perpetuate his line. Which is why Mordecai and Esther ran into Haman when they did, and why we still have Amalekites today.

After Haman was appointed the principal minister of the king Ahasuerus, all of the king's servants were required to bow down to Haman, but Mordechai [the Jew] refused to. 
Angered by this, Haman convinced Ahasuerus to allow him to have all of the Jews in the Persian empire [all of the Jews in the world] killed.

The plot was foiled by Queen Esther, who was herself a Jew.

Esther Nancy 

On the king's orders, Haman was hanged [others: impaled; still others: crucified] from the 50-cubit-high gallows that had originally been built by Haman himself, on the advice of his wife Zeresh, in order to hang Mordechai. 

The bodies of Haman's ten sons were also hanged, after they died in battle against the Jews. The Jews also killed about 75,000 of their enemies in self-defense.

 And then there's Others.

Amalekites Attack Capitol      January 6, 2021

Has Abq Jew mentioned that Megillat Esther is a very dirty book? Arguably, tied with King Solomon's Song of Songs as the dirtiest book in the Bible?

Esther's Parade
Esther's Parade     Richard McBee

Well. Please allow Abq Jew to introduce you to The Megillah Project

The Megillah Project

one of three (so far) Projects being brought to you by (et al) jewishLIVE, "your portal to curated, inspiring live-streamed Jewish experiences." 

And please allow Abq Jew to introduce you to Richard Elliott Friedman, whose singular contribution to The Megillah Project (he's one of more than 30 video contributors) is indeed titled 

Esther: A Very Dirty Book

WARNING! The Esther: A Very Dirty Book video does run about half an hour. But it's worth it. Want proof? Here is more about Richard Elliott Friedman.

Richard Elliott Friedman is the Ann and Jay Davis Professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Georgia and is the Katzin Professor of Jewish Civilization Emeritus of the University of California, San Diego.  
He earned his Ph.D. in Hebrew Bible at Harvard University. His book Who Wrote the Bible? has sold over 250,000 copies and was the subject of a three-hour television special. His other books include The Disappearance of God (published in paperback as The Hidden Face of God), The Hidden Book in the Bible, Commentary on the Torah, The Bible with Sources Revealed, The Bible Now (co-authored with Shawna Dolansky).  
His most recent book is The Exodus: How It Happened and Why It Matters. He offers weekly lectures on the jewishLIVE program “Richard Elliott Friedman: Return to Torah.”
Purim Yet

Monday, February 8, 2021

Celebrating 45

With A Torah TrifectaThis week Mr & Mrs Abq Jew joyfully celebrated their 45th Wedding Anniversary. Yes, four and a half decades is a huge achievement. 

45 FortyFive

The traditional gift for #45 is sapphire, but Mr & Mrs Abq Jew gave each other nothing but 45 years of love. And a Torah Trifecta!

Torah Tifecta

Yes, this Shabbat is special! The Torah reading is Mishpatim, making this the Shabbat of a Million Regulations (see Writing Down the Laws). 

And it's Rosh Hodesh Adar, the month when we increase out happiness as we await Purim (see Suddenly Adar, Thomas). And it's Shabbat Shekalim, aka Infrastructure Shabbat (see Old Time Taxes).

But - in case you hadn't noticed - this year is also different. No one is going to shul for the Torah reading. Or the Haftorah reading. But what we would do is:

    1. Read the weekly Torah portion (Mishpatim).
    2. Read the Torah portion for Rosh Hodesh.
    3. Read the Torah portion for Shekalim. 

And the Haftorah? You guessed it! It's the Haftorah for Shabbat Shekalim! 

Sarajevo 1984

Well, it's not a sapphire. But, as Mr & Mrs Abq Jew look back on their 45 years together, we lovingly remember Torvill and Dean's ice dancing perfection at the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo.

For those of you too young to remember - Watch, learn, enjoy. You'll never see anything like this again.
Torvill and Dean (Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean) are English ice dancers and former British, European, Olympic and World champions. 
At the Sarajevo 1984 Winter Olympics the pair won gold and became the highest scoring figure skaters of all time (for a single programme) receiving twelve perfect 6.0s and six 5.9s which included artistic impression scores of 6.0 from every judge, after skating to Maurice Ravel's Boléro
One of the most-watched television events ever in the United Kingdom, their 1984 Olympics performance was watched by a British television audience of more than 24 million people

Abq Jew (but, strangely, not Mrs Abq Jew) has often been asked
What is the secret of a good marriage?

The Everyday Torah

In The Everyday Torah, Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson writes:
I sometimes feel amazed that I can live with myself all the time. That my wife chooses to do so is altogether remarkable.

Abq Jew agrees like totally.


And while we're talking ... remember! this weekend!

KlezmerQuerque 2021

Thursday, February 4, 2021

High-Speed Rail and The Jews

Yes! We Have Space Lasers! Abq Jew is sure you have heard all about us Jews and our space lasers. ICYMI, New York Magazine's Jonathan Chait reports -

Just over two years ago, [GOP congresswoman Marjorie Taylor] Greene suggested in a Facebook post that wildfires in California were not natural. Forests don’t just catch fire, you know. 

Rather, the blazes had been started by PG&E, in conjunction with the Rothschilds, using a space laser, in order to clear room for a high-speed rail project. 

Jewish Space Laser Bernie

Has Abq Jew mentioned that, before many (but not all!) of you were born, he was awarded a Bachelor of Science degree from UCLA in Engineering & Applied Science? 

And that, beyond all the Albuquerque and Jewish mishegas (that's a technical term), Abq Jew still "thinks" (if that's the proper term) like an engineer? Which (of course) led Abq Jew to ask the question:

Is California even building High-Speed Rail?

California High Speed Rail Vision

Abq Jew did the research (you're welcome!) and discovered that - according to the High Speed Rail Alliance - California is indeed building High Speed Rail. In fact, when all the planned segments are in place -

California HSR Planned Segments

you'll be able to go from Los Angeles to San Francisco in less than three (3!) hours. How wonderful. More importantly, you'll be able to go to Las Vegas (that's NV, not NM; but we were here first) without flying or driving. That just seems incredible.

CA HSR Construction

Call Abq Jew crazy (many have) - but using fires, however ignited, to clear land for construction seems to him of dubious efficacy. And Abq Jew also discovered that the high-impact Central Valley segment that is currently under construction is nowhere near the site of the 2018 Camp Fire. Which PG&E caused (it was an accident!). 

In conjunction with the Rothschilds.

MTG Kevin McCarthy

Eric Hananoki of Media Matters reports -

In November 2018, California was hit with the worst wildfire [the Camp Fire] in the state’s history. 

At the time, future Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) wrote a bizarre Facebook post that echoed QAnon conspiracy theorists and falsely claimed that the real and hidden culprit behind the disaster was

Laser Forward

a laser from space
triggered by some nefarious group of people.  

Some nefarious group of people? Mr Hananoki continues -

Rep. Greene is a proponent of the Camp Fire laser beam conspiracy theory. She wrote a November 17, 2018, Facebook post - which is no longer available online - in which she said that she was speculating “because there are too many coincidences to ignore” regarding the fire, including that then-California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) wanted to build the high-speed rail project and “oddly there are all these people who have said they saw what looked like lasers or blue beams of light causing the fires.” 

She also speculated that a vice chairman at “Rothschild Inc, international investment banking firm” was somehow involved, and suggested the fire was caused by a beam from “space solar generators.” 

Greene added: “If they are beaming the suns energy back to Earth, I’m sure they wouldn’t ever miss a transmitter receiving station right??!! I mean mistakes are never made when anything new is invented. What would that look like anyway? A laser beam or light beam coming down to Earth I guess. Could that cause a fire? Hmmm, I don’t know. I hope not! That wouldn’t look so good for PG&E, Rothschild Inc, Solaren or Jerry Brown who sure does seem fond of PG&E.” 

Jewish Space Laser Bagels

 Now when this all came out (was that only last week?), hilarity did indeed ensue.

The Rothschilds keep their space laser
next to their machine that controls the weather.

All this time, the slogan was really:
Only Jews Can Prevent Forest Fires.

I remember when the Rothschilds called me
and were like “Nu, you vant we should
burn California with the space laser?”

We wandered in the desert for forty years
to get this laser and we’re keeping it, damnit.

What We Talk About

But then there was this, from Rabbi Mike Rothbaum (@Rav_Mike) of Congregation Beth Elohim in Acton, Massachusetts.

Before you laugh too hard,

There's a direct line to
"Jews have space lasers"
that runs through
"Jews poison our wells"

"Jews drink our babies' blood"
and back to
"Jews killed our god."

After you stop laughing,
go back to your community
and root out Jew-hatred.

All New Republican Party

Andrew Silow-Carroll, now Editor of The Jewish Week, asks: Will Marjorie Taylor Greene get the last laugh? Satire, says Mr Silow-Carroll, is a feeble weapon when conspiracy mongering goes mainstream.

Will satire be enough? Mr Silow-Carroll says he has his doubts, and concludes -
Jews told great jokes about Hitler, and Stalin, and probably Nebuchadnezzar for all I know. It wasn’t enough. Standing up to madmen and madwomen takes people of conscience, with the courage to back up their principles with clear action.

Although given the political winds these days, it might just be easier to build a space laser.
Space Lazer

Monday, February 1, 2021

Rabbi Stephen C Lerner, 80

A Maker of Souls: It was with extreme sadness that Mr & Mrs Abq Jew yesterday learned of the passing - on Wednesday January 27 -  of Rabbi Stephen C Lerner, a victim of the Covid-19 pandemic through which we all now suffer.

Rabbi Stephen C Lerner

It was Rabbi Lerner who performed Mr & Mrs Abq Jew's wedding ceremony at Tifereth Israel, known as Town & Village (T&V) Synagogue, on 14th Street in Manhattan. It will be 45 years ago (אי״ה) next week.

T and V Rabbi Lerner z"l

His son, Senior Rabbi David Lerner of Temple Emunah in Lexington, Massachusetts, wrote on Facebook:

We have laid to rest Avi, Mori V'Rabi - my father, my teacher, my Rabbi, Stephen C. Lerner this afternoon. Thank you to all those who helped our family in our time of grief. 
As he wanted, we carried him out of his old synagogue Town & Village, on 14th Street while singing Am Yisrael Hai; he so loved the Jewish people and our history. 
While my father is no longer among the living, his memory lives on in his amazing wife, my mother, his children, and his grandchildren, and the over 1800 people he converted into Judaism. 
May his soul be bound up in the bond of eternal life. Avi, Mori, atah kvar haseir li kol kakh - I already miss you so much...
White Yizkor Candle

Here is Rabbi Stephen C Lerner's obituary, from The New York Times and Legacy.
LERNER--Rabbi Stephen C. Died on January 27, 2021 of Covid-19. 
A true son of the Bronx, Stephen C. Lerner grew up in the Grand Concourse, a child of immigrants who came from Ukraine after WWI. 
A Spaldeen ballpayer, he graduated from PS70 and Bronx Science, where he discovered fine foreign films at the Ascot Theater. Thrived at Columbia College, studied history, made lifelong friends as Editorials Editor of Columbia Spectator, elected to Phi Beta Kappa and a prestigious secret society. 
Post-college, influenced by mentor Morton Smith, received grant to study ancient history at the University of Iowa. 
Realizing his deep love for Judaism and the Jewish people, he applied to Rabbinical School at Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), and was accepted with the support and encouragement of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, whom he had met in Iowa. 
After 1967 ordination, became a strong, dynamic and creative leader, bucking significant synagogue opposition to achieve progressive Jewish goals. At Temple Israel of Riverhead, increased the hours of Hebrew school and brought the synagogue into the United Synagogue. 
Served at Town & Village Synagogue in Manhattan for eight significant years, where he spoke out against the behavior of the president during the Vietnam War and Watergate scandal and led a draft counseling service, possibly the only one based in a synagogue in the US. 
Despite reluctance of Conservative synagogues in mid-70s to grant women greater ritual role and strong opposition on his own board, he pushed through a program of rights for women in the synagogue there and in his next pulpit, the Jewish Community of West Hempstead. Received great acclaim for these efforts. 
Was active in the Rabbinical Assembly (RA) of the Conservative Movement, serving as the editor of the movement's journal, Conservative Judaism, which was published by the RA and JTS. He continued to utilize his journalistic skills as the author of trailblazing articles in books and journals, as well as in The New York Times on his baseball hero, Johnny Mize, some of which were republished and even translated into Hebrew. 
Rabbi Lerner served for many years as rabbi of Temple Emanuel of Ridgefield Park, later Kanfei Shahar, and found his greatest calling in bringing Jews to Judaism, as the founder of the Center for Conversion to Judaism. 
Converted well over 1800 students, creating new Jewish families and generations of committed Jews. 
With his wife Anne, a professor at JTS, welcomed students into their home and modeled the beauty of Jewish life for his students with his wit, storytelling, and gastronomic gusto. 
Devoted father and grandfather, was deeply proud of his children who followed in his and Anne's footsteps as Jewish educators and leaders. He adored his grandchildren. 
Rabbi Lerner, who was 80, was predeceased by his parents Abraham and Tauby Lerner and his in-laws Joseph and Lillian Lapidus and is survived by his beloved wife, Dr. Anne Lapidus Lerner, brother Irwin (Doris) Lerner, children Rabbi David Lerner (Sharon Levin), Rahel Lerner (Adam Gregerman), grandchildren Talya, Ari, and Matan Lerner and Aviva and Ezra Gregerman, as well as many nieces, nephews, friends, and the legacy of those he brought into the Jewish people.

But even that is not the whole story. 


In Genesis 12:5 (Parshat Lech Licha) we read:

וַיִּקַּ֣ח אַבְרָם֩ אֶת־שָׂרַ֨י אִשְׁתּ֜וֹ וְאֶת־ל֣וֹט בֶּן־אָחִ֗יו וְאֶת־כָּל־רְכוּשָׁם֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר רָכָ֔שׁוּ וְאֶת־הַנֶּ֖פֶשׁ אֲשֶׁר־עָשׂ֣וּ בְחָרָ֑ן וַיֵּצְא֗וּ לָלֶ֙כֶת֙ אַ֣רְצָה כְּנַ֔עַן וַיָּבֹ֖אוּ אַ֥רְצָה כְּנָֽעַן

Abram took his wife Sarai and his brother’s son Lot, and all the wealth that they had amassed, and the persons that they had acquired in Haran; and they set out for the land of Canaan. 

And Rashi comments:

אשר עשו בחרן. שֶׁהִכְנִיסָן תַּחַת כַּנְפֵי הַשְּׁכִינָה; אַבְרָהָם מְגַיֵּר אֶת הָאֲנָשִׁים וְשָׂרָה מְגַיֶּרֶת הַנָּשִׁים, וּמַעֲלֶה עֲלֵיהֶם הַכָּתוּב כְּאִלּוּ עֲשָׂאוּם

אשר עשו בחרן [THE SOULS] THAT THEY HAD GOTTEN (literally, made) IN HARAN — The souls which he had brought beneath the sheltering wings of the Shechinah. Abraham converted the men and Sarah converted the women and Scripture accounts it unto them as if they had made them (Genesis Rabbah 39:14).

Abraham 3 Angels

What Abraham and Sarah did - that's what Rabbi Lerner did. 

The Biblical text does not tell us how many souls Abraham and Sarah "made" - but Rabbi Lerner converted well over 1800, and brought all Jews who knew him closer to Torah (in its most magnificent sense) and Israel (in its most universal sense).

Talking Turkey

And then there was that turkey thing.

About which Abq Jew blogged in November 2012 (see Happy Thanksgiving, Hold The Turkey). And which Abq Jew strongly encourages you, his loyal readers, to reread.

For more about Rabbi Stephen C Lerner - You can also Google him, and read about him here and here and here and here. A good man, a good guide to living Jewishly, and a good friend. Even after all these years. He will be greatly missed.

May his memory be a blessing