Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Summer 2021 @ OASIS Abq

Great Courses of Jewish Interest

Jewish Star

Abq Jew is pleased to inform you that
OASIS Albuquerque has just announced
their Summer 2021 line-up of classes!
Registration opens on
Wednesday May 5
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.

OASIS Albuquerque

This summer, OASIS Albuquerque will offer classes via Zoom only.

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


Judaism and Jews:
A Religion? A Culture? An Ethnicity?

Wednesday May 26 @ 12:30 - #69zm
Instructor: Harry Rosenfeld
What It Is: What is Judaism? Throughout the centuries, scholars have looked at and debated the question. How has the answer changed over time? In ancient times, Judaism was considered a nationality with religious rites. In Christian and Muslim worlds, Judaism was seen as a religion. The Nazis defined Judaism as a race. 20th century American Jews and non-Jews alike understood Judaism to be a religion and an ethnicity. Just how different is the definition of Judaism in the 21st Century than in centuries past?

Adam & Eve

Love, Laments, Libations and Longing:
Jewish Poetry from Medieval Spain
Wednesday June 2 @ 2:30 - #70zm
Instructor: Paul Citrin
What It Is: Jews lived in Spain for nearly one thousand years under Visigothic, Moslem and Catholic rulers. Under Arab Moslem rulers, Jewish culture especially flourished. Influenced by Arab poets, Jews began  to write verse. Jewish Spanish poetry, written in Hebrew, addresses both spiritual and secular realms of life including love, loss, joy, friendship, and redemption from exile. This poetry may be the most elegant since the songs of the Psalmist who wrote two millennia earlier. This material touches hearts and make you smile.

Memoir Writing Workshop:
How to Tell Your Story
Thursday June 3 @ 10:00 - #67zm
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.

Abq Downtown

Albuquerque Retailing:
The Cook & Gardenswartz Families
Thursday June 17 @ 10:00 - #96zm
Instructor: Noel Pugach
What It Is: Explore the history, role, and impact of the Cook and Gardenswartz families on the creation and development of the sports retailing business in Albuquerque and the region. H. Cook opened for business in 1939 and quickly prospered. Subsequently, members of the families expanded into other lines of commercial activity. What contributed to their success? How did they affect the commercial and general culture? What insights does such a study provide on the history and economy of New Mexico?

Another Way Forward

Another Way Forward:
Grassroots Solutions for New Mexico

Wednesday July 7 @ 10:00 - #6zm
Instructor: Dede Feldman
What It Is: Grassroots Solutions from New Mexico is a tour through innovative organizations and inspiring local leaders who are changing the world from the bottom up, one classroom, one clinic, one neighborhood at a time. Together they point to an alternative form of community and economic development and present alternatives in a challenging time. Hear about asparagus farmers, EMTs, neighborhood hell raisers, radical teachers and health care reformers. This class is based on Feldman’s book, Another Way Forward: Grassroots Solutions from New Mexico

Babylonian Talmud

Introduction to the Talmud
Tuesday July 20 @ 10:00 - #74zm
Instructor: Shlomo Karni
What It Is: The Talmud is a post-Biblical encyclopedic body of Jewish civil and religious laws. It constitutes the greatest contributions to rabbinical literature in the history of Judaism. Shlomo Karni examines its historical evolution and its contents and structure. The class reads and discusses a few short selections. 

Jewish and Other Ethnic
Agricultural Settlements of the 19th Century

Monday August 16 @ 12:30 - #46zm
Instructor: Naomi Sandweiss
What It Is: One typically thinks of Eastern European Jewish immigrants arriving in the US to live in crowded urban centers. Yet, Jews were settled in isolated farming communities throughout the US in the 19th century, largely funded and organized by well-meaning Jewish charitable organizations. Learn about the many varieties of Jewish (and other Ethnic) agricultural settlements and how the pioneers adapted to their newfound prairie and rural existence in the US.


But Wait

Jane Ellen Farewell

Beloved OASIS Albuquerque instructor (and award-winning composer and recording artist, and soon-to-be Floridian) 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:

Stephen Sondheim
Putting It Together
Thursday August 19 @ 10:00 - #62zm
What It Is: Although Stephen Sondheim (1930- ) has a reputation for penning songs that people cannot sing along with, few would deny his unique place in American theater history. Beginning with early collaborations with Leonard Bernstein on West Side Story and Jule Styne on Gypsy, Sondheim’s passion to control both words and music have culminated in works such as Sweeney Todd, Sunday in the Park with George, and Into the Woods; and a new theatrical format: the concept musical.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

There's a Bathroom, Shiva

On The Right: This has nothing to do with building design, restroom accessibility, or home decor. Or, for that matter, politics. This, in fact, has everything to do with how we humans hear what we hear.

Best of Blog
from June 2015

Oh, and life. This has everything to do with life.

Specifically, the life of Dr Oliver Sacks, one of the world's most prolific and fascinating writers. The man who gave us The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Awakenings,  and other neurological gems.

Dr Sacks recently discovered that he has limited time left to live. From The New York Times:
My Own Life
Oliver Sacks on Learning He Has Terminal Cancer 
A month ago, I felt that I was in good health, even robust health. At 81, I still swim a mile a day. But my luck has run out — a few weeks ago I learned that I have multiple metastases in the liver. Nine years ago it was discovered that I had a rare tumor of the eye, an ocular melanoma. The radiation and lasering to remove the tumor ultimately left me blind in that eye. But though ocular melanomas metastasize in perhaps 50 percent of cases, given the particulars of my own case, the likelihood was much smaller. I am among the unlucky ones. 
I feel grateful that I have been granted nine years of good health and productivity since the original diagnosis, but now I am face to face with dying. The cancer occupies a third of my liver, and though its advance may be slowed, this particular sort of cancer cannot be halted. 
It is up to me now to choose how to live out the months that remain to me ....

Back to how we humans hear what we hear. Dr Sacks has something to say about that, and he took the opportunity to say it in The Times a few days ago:

A few weeks ago, when I heard my assistant Kate say to me, “I am going to choir practice,” I was surprised. I have never, in the 30 years we have worked together, heard her express the slightest interest in singing. But I thought, who knows? Perhaps this is a part of herself she has kept quiet about; perhaps it is a new interest; perhaps her son is in a choir; perhaps .… 
I was fertile with hypotheses, but I did not consider for a moment that I had misheard her. It was only on her return that I found she had been to the chiropractor. 
A few days later, Kate jokingly said, “I’m off to choir practice.” Again I was baffled: Firecrackers? Why was she talking about firecrackers?

Back in 2010, Dr Sacks wrote a revealing piece in The New Yorker about prosopagnosia - also known as face-blindness.
Mild cases can seem comical, but severe prosopagnosia afflicts millions in the U.S.

Why are some of us terrible at recognizing faces? 
It is with our faces that we face the world, from the moment of birth to the moment of death. Our age and our gender are printed on our faces. Our emotions, the open and instinctive emotions that Darwin wrote about, as well as the hidden or repressed ones that Freud wrote about, are displayed on our faces, along with our thoughts and intentions. Though we may admire arms and legs, breasts and buttocks, it is the face, first and last, that is judged “beautiful” in an aesthetic sense, “fine” or “distinguished” in a moral or intellectual sense. And, crucially, it is by our faces that we can be recognized as individuals. Our faces bear the stamp of our experiences and our character; at forty, it is said, a man has the face he deserves.

Abq Jew was so intrigued by this article that he took the test offered at faceblind.org by the Prosopagnosia Research Centers at Dartmouth College, Harvard University, and University College London.

The results confirmed what Abq Jew's family has long known:

Abq Jew can't spot people he knows in a crowd, and can't recognize people he has known forever if his line of sight is broken. His own family wears name tags.

But what was that middle thing again? Oh yeah - mishearing.

Abq Jew does a lot of that, too.

And then there's Bad Moon Rising, the seminal 1969 song by Credence Clearwater Revival. Wherein the verse

There's a bad moon on the rise.

is regularly misheard as

There's a bathroom on the right.

In 2014, WatchMojo.com ranked the mishearing #5 on Top 10 Misheard Lyrics.

What, Abq Jew hears you ask, was #1? 

That honor goes to Jimi Hendrix's Purple Haze. Wherein the verse

‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky.

is regularly misheard as

'Scuse me while I kiss this guy.

Which brings Abq Jew to the website KissThisGuy.com, the Internet's archive of misheard lyrics. Which of course has a special place for John Fogerty and CCR.

This phenomenon - mishearing -  Abq Jew must advise you, has its own name:


Named for

Lady Mondegreen

who never existed. Wikipedia explains:
A mondegreen is a mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase as a result of near-homophony, in a way that gives it a new meaning. 
Mondegreens are most often created by a person listening to a poem or a song; the listener, being unable to clearly hear a lyric, substitutes words that sound similar, and make some kind of sense. 
American writer Sylvia Wright coined the term in her essay "The Death of Lady Mondegreen", published in Harper's Magazine in November 1954.
The term was inspired by "...and Lady Mondegreen," a misinterpretation of the line "...and laid him on the green," from the Scottish ballad "The Bonnie Earl o Moray."
Ye Highlands and ye Lowlands,
Oh, where hae ye been?
They hae slain the Earl o' Moray,
And Lady Mondegreen.  
Wikipedia goes on to say that Ms Wright also appreciated the verse from Psalm 23:

Surely good Mrs Murphy shall follow me
all the days of my life

and further points out that
Sometimes, the modified version of a lyric becomes standard, as is the case with "The Twelve Days of Christmas". 
The original has "four colly birds" (colly means black; in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Shakespeare wrote "Brief as the lighting in the collied night."); sometime around the turn of the twentieth century, these became calling birds, which is the lyric used in the 1909 Frederic Austin version.
Non-English mondegreens are also possible. Wikipedia gives us two Hebrew examples:
Ghil'ad Zuckermann cites the Hebrew example mukhrakhím liyót saméakh ("we must be happy", with a grammar mistake) instead of (the high-register) úru 'akhím belév saméakh ("wake up, brothers, with a happy heart"), from the well-known song "Háva Nagíla" (Let’s be happy)." 
The Israeli site dedicated to Hebrew mondegreens has coined the term "avatiach" (Hebrew for watermelon) for "mondegreen", named for a common mishearing of Shlomo Artzi's award-winning 1970 song "Ahavtia" ("I loved her", using a form uncommon in spoken Hebrew).

Don't remember CCR?
Don't remember Bad Moon Rising?

Yes, Abq Jew hears you cry, we have wandered a long way from Dr Oliver Sacks and his impending demise. Therefore, Abq Jew wishes to point out that:
  1. Each of us has limited time left to live.
  2. Jewish tradition forbids us from either hastening death or preventing its natural occurrence.

Which of course brings us to the old Jewish joke about ...
The old man is lying on his death bed, attended by his son. He says, “I can smell that your mother is making chopped liver. Get me a cracker with chopped liver.” The son exits to fulfill his father’s request, then returns and says 
“Mom says she is saving it for the shiva.” 

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Jews and Guns. Again.

A Modern View: When did modern Jewish history begin?

Abq Jew believes that the first day of modern Jewish history was April 19, 1943. That is the day that the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising began.

Best of Blog
from January 2018

The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (Yiddish: אױפֿשטאַנד אין װאַרשעװער געטאָ‎; Polish: powstanie w getcie warszawskim; German: Aufstand im Warschauer Ghetto) was the 1943 act of Jewish resistance that arose within the Warsaw Ghetto in German-occupied Poland during World War II, and which opposed Nazi Germany's final effort to transport the remaining Ghetto population to Treblinka. 
The uprising started on 19 April when the Ghetto refused to surrender to the police commander SS-Brigadeführer Jürgen Stroop, who then ordered the burning of the Ghetto, block by block, ending on 16 May. 
A total of 13,000 Jews died, about half of them burnt alive or suffocated. German casualties are not known, but were not more than 300. 
It was the largest single revolt by Jews during World War II.

We've come a long way since then.

At least when we consider the Israeli view of Jews and guns, i.e., necessary to save life. When we consider the American view of Jews and guns ... well, there's this:
A couple of [Jewish] hunters are out in the woods of the Upper [Peninsula] when one of them falls to the ground. He doesn't seem to be breathing; his eyes are rolled back in his head. 
His friend whips out his cell phone, calls 911, and gasps to the operator, "My friend is dead! What can I do?" 
The operator, in a calm soothing voice says, "Just take it easy. I can help. First, lets make sure he's dead." 
There is a silence ... then a shot is heard. 
The voice comes back on the line, "OK, now what?"

My Jewish Learning tells us:
Jews, particularly American ones, have a longstanding aversion to guns. 
According to a 2005 American Jewish Committee study, Jews have the lowest rate of gun ownership of among all religious groups, with just 13 percent of Jewish households owning firearms (compared to 41 percent for non-Jews) and only 10 percent of Jews personally owning a gun (compared to 26 percent). 
And furthermore ...
Most authorities say it is not permissible to hunt for sport.  
Two sources are generally cited in this regard. 
The first is Rabbi Isaac Lampronri, who wrote in his work Pahad Yitzhak that it is forbidden to hunt animals because it’s wasteful. The 18th-century rabbinic authority Ezekiel Landau added that recreational hunting is forbidden on the grounds of animal cruelty and because of the risks to the hunter
Neither of the two biblical figures known to be hunters — Esau and Nimrod — are held up as role models. All the biblical patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob), as well as Joseph, Moses and King David were herders — nurturers of animals, not their pursuers. 
Hunting for food is, in principle, not objectionable. However land animals must be ritually slaughtered by hand to render them kosher, which would make hunting them for food with a firearm impermissible. 
Some American Jews do, nonetheless, hunt for sport.

Wait a minute ...
Risks to the hunter?

Not being a hunter, Abq Jew never thought seriously about the risk of injury or death that hunting presents. To the hunter. (The risk to the hunted is pretty clear.)

He still hasn't. But Abq Jew has recently become aware of one big reason why hunters often have a really bad day.

Hunters fall out of their tree stands.

Tree stands, Abq Jew discovered, are open or enclosed platforms used by hunters. The platforms are secured to trees in order to elevate the hunter (16 feet, as pictured) and give him (or her) a better vantage point.

Strangely, Abq Jew finds that the use of tree stands levels the playing field. But, Abq Jew hears you, his loyal readers, ask

Why do hunters fall out of their tree stands?

Well, as Benjamin Disraeli is reputed to have once said, "There are lies. There are damned lies. And there are statistics."

Statistics you can find here and here and here and here (did you know September is Tree Stand Safety Awareness Month?) and here and here and here.

But Abq Jew is gonna help you out here. Let's cut to the chase! Of hunters who fall out of tree stands, approximately

  • 40% fall while climbing up.
  • 40% fall while climbing down.
  • 10% fall while shooting their weapon.
  • 10% fall while sleeping.

Really. You could look it up.
Fifty-four patients were identified. Ninety-six percent of patients were male with a mean age of 47.9 years (range 15-69). The mean Injury Severity Score was 12.53 ± 1.17 (range 2-34). The average height of fall was 18.2 feet (range 4-40 feet). All patients fell to the ground with the exception of one who landed on rocks, and many hit the tree or branches on the way down. A reason for the fall was documented in only 13 patients, and included tree stand construction (3), loss of balance (3), falling asleep (3), structural failure (2), safety harness breakage (3) or light-headedness (1). The most common injuries were spinal fractures (54%), most commonly in the cervical spine (69%), followed by the thoracic (38%) and lumbar (21%) spine. Eight patients required operative repair. Head injuries occurred in 22%. Other systemic injuries include rib/clavicular fractures (47%), pelvic fractures (11%), solid organ injury (23%), and pneumothorax or hemothorax (19%). No patient deaths were reported. The average hospital length of stay was 6.56 ± 1.07 d. Most patients were discharged home without (72%) or with (11%) services and 17% required rehabilitation.

But back to our main topic, Jews and Guns. 

Did you know that there is an organization called Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership? Says Wikipedia:
Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership (JPFO) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of gun rights in the United States and "to encourage Americans to understand and defend all of the Bill of Rights for everyone". 
Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership takes the position that an armed citizenry is the population's last line of defense against tyranny by their own government. The organization is noted for producing materials (bumper stickers, posters, billboards, booklets, videos, etc.) with messages that equate gun control with totalitarianism. 
Which, Abq Jew assures you, only goes to show:

Two Jews > Three Opinions

Monday, April 5, 2021

Death With Class

Miller Introduction to Judaism Class #15: This week (אי״ה), Abq Jew is scheduled to teach Class #15 in the Miller Introduction to Judaism program being offered this year (and next year!) by Congregation B'nai Israel of Albuquerque.

Miller Intro

What follows are Abq Jew's notes, sources, resources, and itinerary for teaching this class. Yes, it's sort of a hodgepodge. A medley, as they say in the music business. A mishmash, if you will. Or, if you won't, a grand and glorious potpourri. 

Stones On a Grave


Understanding Jewish practices toward illness and healing, particularly the mitzvah of bikkur holim. Exploration of Jewish ethics regarding end-of-life, including questions about life support, autopsy, organ donation, etc.
Overview of funeral and burial practices, as well as mourning practices including shiva, shloshim, and yahrtzeit. Jewish views on the afterlife. 

Judaism teaches us to approach life’s hardest moments with compassion
and community. In this class, we’ll explore the sacred practices that help us
navigate grief and heartache, and move from sadness to renewed life.

Abq Jew

Here are a few connections to songs, lectures, and writings that bear on this often difficult subject. Mostly taken from - where else? - the Abq Jew Blog.


Crossing the Bar



Crossing the Bar is a song based on an Alfred, Lord Tennyson poem of the same name. This particular version was recorded by the bluegrass band Salamander Crossing from their album "Bottleneck Dreams."  

The poem itself is an allegory for death.  It was written near the end of Tennyson's life.  "Crossing the bar" could be interpreted to mean "crossing the sandbar" out into sea, transitioning from life into death.  

The Pilot is a symbol for God.  Tennyson wrote that "The Pilot has been on board all the while, but in the dark I have not seen him...[He is] that Divine and Unseen Who is always guiding us."

The song itself is strangely beautiful in that even though it is a metaphor for death it isn't especially sorrowful.  There's a touch of reflectiveness here.




Bikkur Holim



Debbie Friedman’s Healing Prayer
Mi Shebeirach:  Rabbi Drorah Setel wrote a beautiful article about the creation of this prayersong in the Jewish Daily Forward.  The article begins:
As word spread that Debbie Friedman was gravely ill, people around the world prayed for her recovery. Many turned to “Mi Shebeirach,” her version of the traditional Jewish prayer for healing and probably her best-known song. Our prayers and our loving song did not prevent Debbie’s death, but neither were they offered in vain. Indeed, for Debbie, the purpose of “Mi Shebeirach” was about much more than physical healing.
The story of “Mi Shebeirach” begins in 1987 . . . .
Rabbi Drorah Setel is rabbi of Temple Beth El in Niagara Falls, N.Y., and president of the Buffalo Board of Rabbis.  Rabbi Setel co-wrote the Mi Shebeirach with Debbie Friedman and is interviewed in the film  A Journey of Spirit.  Continue reading her article here.

Abq Jew Note:  This video will fill your heart and break it at the same time.


Kicking the Bucket


When Is It Over



Here is an ELI Talk by Dr Michael Slater (President of the Board of Kavod v'Nichum (Honor and Comfort), a non-profit educational and advocacy organization on end of life issues.
Living Jewishly Means Dying Jewishly, Too. 
In much of society today, death is to be avoided at all costs - in polite company and modern medicine alike. Jewish tradition, explains Dr. Michael Slater, has a very different approach. 
In a talk that is part memoir, part history, part communal call-to-action, we see the wisdom of Judaism as not only life-affirming, but death-affirming, as well.
Gail Rubin

Gail Rubin, The Doyenne of Death ® (based right here in Albuquerque!) says -

Just as talking about sex won’t make you pregnant,
talking about funerals won’t make you dead.
And your family will benefit from the conversation.

Jewish Mourning Rituals


Kavod Ha-Met
Honoring the Dead


And A Call for Chevre Kaddisha Volunteers: Abq Jew has often written about the important and holy work that the Chevre Kaddisha does in our Jewish community of Albuquerque.

It's the ultimate mitzvah, Rabbi Min Kantrowitz tells us - participating in a tahara, the ritual purification of the body of a Jewish person before that person is buried.


Nichum Avelim:
Comforting the Living


12 videos about Jewish death and mourning



And Then What?


Torah and Talmud and Zombies


But how does the World to Come actually work?  Well, you've got two ideas that compete with each other (in the sense that you only need one of them to answer the question):

  • Resurrection of the Body.  This is the high octane form of the afterlife.  Yes, God has the power to lift us up from the dead, and to enable us to . . . well, exactly what is hard to say.
  • Immortality of the Soul.  This is the unleaded afterlife.  Since we have no need for our physical components, they are jettisoned . . . well, exactly when is hard to say.

Where did these ideas come from?  Rabbi Gillman suggests that the idea of the soul and its immortality came from Plato & the Greeks.  (It did not, he says, come from within Judaism - our words nefeshneshama, and ruach originally meant something completely different.)

As for the idea of the dead rising from their graves - well, we're not really sure.  Probably not from within Judaism; probably not from the Egyptians (whose idea of the afterlife is very, very different from the Jews').  But maybe from the Persians, whose Zoroastrianism solved our theodical problem by positing duotheism - a Good God and an Evil God - which is, theologically, easier to deal with than monotheism.

And what did Jewish religion do with these competing ideas? Rabbi Gilman points out that Traditional Judaism refused to choose, and adopted both of them. (Not only adopted - required their belief, and claimed them to be Biblical.) Liberal Judaism, on the other hand, found the immortal soul easier to stomach than the idea of the Age of the Living Dead.

The Final Tisch; No Zombies


One Big Table:  As Abq Jew stated in Torah and Talmud and Zombies:

What Traditional Judaism has in mind [when we speak of resurrection] is the righteous sitting at tisch with The Holy One, Blessed Be He, scarfing down Leviathan chunks.
How does this work?  Here's an interesting view, reported by Rabbi Rami Shapiro in his Ethics of the Sages: Pirke Avot: Annotated & Explained (available from the publisher, Jewish Lights, or from Abq Jew's Amazon Store):
Heaven and hell are a single feast, with everyone seated at a grand table overflowing with the finest food and drink.  The only rule is this: you must use the utensils provided, each being six feet in length.  Those who attempt to feed themselves with these tools starve, for they cannot maneuver the tools to reach their own mouths.  Those who learn to feed others are themselves fed in turn.  The first are in hell, the second in heaven, but the feast is common to them both.
Abq Jew finished reading Rabbi Neil Gillman's The Death of Death. In the final chapters, Rabbi Gillman dismisses the doctrine of the immortality of the soul - it's just not enough - and makes a very strong case for the traditional Jewish belief in the resurrection of the dead. 

Only resurrection of the body, says Rabbi Gillman, will prove God's supreme power, solve the problem of the misfortune of the righteous and the prosperity of the wicked (tzaddik vi'ra lo, rasha vi'tov lo), and make each of our individual lives eternally meaningful.

Seat at Night
Sea at Night        Anton Melbye

Crossing the Bar



Yizkor Candle