Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Jackie Mason, Comedian, Dies at 93

You Know What I'm Talkin' About? Jackie Mason (Yacov Moshe haKohen Maza) has died. Which comes to Abq Jew as a shock. Abq Jew had sorta lost track of Jackie Mason for a few decades, but fondly - warmly, lovingly - remembers when Jackie Mason was just starting out.

Just a few years ago.

Jackie Mason

For you younger folks out there, here is Tom Hanson's tribute, which ran last Sunday on the CBS Evening News:

Philissa Cramer says in The Forward that Jackie Mason was a Jewish American comedy icon, and provides some videos to prove it. Michael Goldfarb, also in The Forward, describes how Jackie Mason remade the world of Jewish stand-up comedy.

Matt Schudel of The Washington Post wrote:

Jackie Mason, onetime rabbi who became a Broadway standup star, dies at 93

“My ambition all my life was to be a star,” Jackie Mason once said, but few stars had a slower or more roundabout path to fame. He didn’t become a stand-up comedian until he was about 30, after giving up his original name, Yacov Maza, and his original profession as a rabbi.

The brash edge of chutzpah was always there — Mr. Mason’s first comedy album was called “I’m the Greatest Comedian in the World Only Nobody Knows It Yet” — but he was as surprised as anyone when his astringent jokes about modern life and Jewish cultural identity finally struck a chord with the wider culture.

He was in his 50s — his exact age was always a matter of conjecture — when he became a sensation with the 1986 Broadway debut of his one-man show, “Jackie Mason’s The World According to Me!

 Matt Schudel continues:

A comic bit about visiting a psychiatrist became a madcap tale of wordplay and philosophical absurdity — the Marx Brothers filtered through Abbott and Costello.

“I went to a psychiatrist,” Mr. Mason said in one version of the routine, “and I’m not ashamed to admit it, because I did not know who I was. He took a look at me; right away he said, ‘This is not you.’ 

And I said, ‘If this is not me, then who is it?’ He said, ‘I don’t know either.’ ‘Then what do I need you for?’ He said, ‘To find out who you are; together we’re going to look for the real you.’ 

And I said, ‘If I don’t know who I am, how will I know who to look for? And even if I find me, how will I know it’s me? Besides, if I want to look for me, what do I need him for? I can look myself. Or I can take my friends. We know where I was.’ ”

And William Grimes of The New York Times wrote:

Jackie Mason, 93, Dies; Turned Kvetching Into Comedy Gold
He kept the borscht belt style of comedy alive long after the Catskills resorts had closed and eventually brought it, triumphantly, to Broadway.

Jackie Mason, whose staccato, arm-waving delivery and thick Yiddish accent kept the borscht belt style of comedy alive long after the Catskills resorts had shut their doors, and whose career reached new heights in the 1980s with a series of one-man shows on Broadway, died on Saturday in Manhattan. He was 93.

His death, at Mount Sinai Hospital, was confirmed by the lawyer Raoul Felder (see 2012's Save The Last Dance), a longtime friend.

Mr. Mason regarded the world around him as a nonstop assault on common sense and an affront to his sense of dignity. Gesturing frantically, his forefinger jabbing the air, he would invite the audience to share his sense of disbelief and inhabit his very thin skin, if only for an hour.

“I used to be so self-conscious,” he once said, “that when I attended a football game, every time the players went into a huddle, I thought they were talking about me.” Recalling his early struggles as a comic, he said, “I had to sell furniture to make a living — my own.”

The idea of music in elevators sent him into a tirade: “I live on the first floor; how much music can I hear by the time I get there? The guy on the 28th floor, let him pay for it.”

Here's the Luxury Apartments bit, which anyone who has ever lived in - or thought about living in - NYC (or any big city, these days) can surely relate to:

May his memory be a blessing

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Where is Anne Frank

A New Animated Film: In a year from today, Kitty, Anne Frank’s imaginary friend, the one that Anne devoted her entire diary to, magically comes to life at the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam. She believes that if she’s alive, Anne must be alive as well. She sets out on a relentless quest to find Anne.

Where is Anne Frank

Abq Jew has decided not to address (at least, at this time) the Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Wars, BDS, the progressive attempt to eliminate Zionists (which is to say, most Jews) from progressive politics, or the recent attempts by two billionaires (with a third slated to follow) to escape paying taxes by rocketing into space.

Don't Even Go There

Abq Jew sincerely hopes that you, his loyal readers, will not be disappointed.
Besides, it's almost Shabbat Nachamu. May we be consoled.

Cannes Film Festival

Instead, Abq Jew would like to direct your attention to Where is Anne Frank, a new animated film by Israeli director Ari Folman that made its premiere at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival.

Cnaan Lipshiz wrote about the film last week for JTA; his article was later published on Kveller.
A new animated Anne Frank movie brings her diary to life in modern-day Amsterdam

A disoriented teenage girl lies on Anne Frank’s bed as people swarm the family house. But these people are not Nazis; they’re modern-day tourists. And the girl on the bed isn’t Anne, but Kitty — the imaginary friend to whom she addressed her now world-famous diary.

Where is Anne Frank 

Magically resurrected from the page and transported into modern-day Europe, Kitty is appalled by how society has fetishized her best friend Anne, hawking cheap merchandise and endless inaccurate reinterpretations of her words. Eventually she takes it upon herself to reclaim Anne’s legacy, by any means necessary.

This is the bold reimagining of Anne Frank’s story found in the new animated film “Where is Anne Frank,” which premiered last week at the Cannes Film Festival. The film was made by acclaimed Israeli director Ari Folman ...

Who told the Hollywood Reporter:

I was looking for a new dimension, a new way to tell the story. And I tried to figure out how to bring it to the youngest audience I could. And when you start a movie with a miracle, like with this creation of Kitty, you build the fairy tale.

Where is Anne Frank 
In addition to the film, Folman also collaborated with the Anne Frank Fonds on a graphic novel adaptation of Anne’s diary, illustrated by David Polonsky and published in 2017. 
The film and the book will be part of a new educational package that the Fonds will share with hundreds of schools worldwide to which it provides Holocaust-education programs and materials.


But wait

Anne Frank's Diary

As it turns out, Abq Jew discovered that another animated retelling of Anne Frank's Diary - this one directed by Julian V Wolff - was released in Europe in 1999. But not in the United States. Here is the trailer:

Nevertheless, the film (says YouTube) was awarded the Children’s Jury Award at the Chicago International Children’s Festival.

Buddy Elias, then President of Anne Frank Fonds, in 1998 wrote:
The Film has moved me and I want to congratulate you for the high standard and sensibility in producing this film. I am sure it will be successful not only with the young audiences, but also for the elder generations.
And Simon Wiesenthal wrote:
I must admit that at first had my doubts whether an animated film could do justice to Anne Frank’s Diary. I was therefore pleasantly surprised upon viewing it that the film doesn’t trivialize the story of Anne Frank and makes for exciting viewing. 
This depiction of the growing up of a vivacious young girl in very difficult and extremely threatening surroundings will touch the hearts of young viewers - and will hopefully lead them to be wary of all signs of collective hatred, racism and anti-Semitism. 
It is good that with such well-done animated film more young people can be reached than would be the case with the book alone.
The English version of Anne Frank's Diary - the full movie - is available for free viewing on YouTube:


Wednesday, July 14, 2021

A Sabbath of Vision: 5781

Shabbat Hazon 2021: This Sabbath is called the Sabbath of Vision because of its Haftorah - the third in the series of three Haftorot of Affliction - which begins:

The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. 
Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth, for the LORD hath spoken: Children I have reared, and brought up, and they have rebelled against Me. 
The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib; but Israel doth not know, My people doth not consider. 
Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evil-doers, children that deal corruptly; they have forsaken the Lord, they have contemned the Holy One of Israel, they are turned away backward.

Much of the Haftorah is sung to the tune of Eicha (Lamentations), which we will - unless the Messiah comes while we wait! - sing mournfully when the Black Fast of Tisha b'Av begins this coming Motzei Shabbat, Saturday evening.

As Charles Dickens put it

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us ....

The days surrounding Tisha b'Av, we all know, were and have continued to be the absolute worst of times.

What Happened on Tisha b'Av

The classic 5 calamities:

  1. The Twelve Spies sent by Moses to observe the land of Canaan returned from their mission. 
  2. The First Temple built by King Solomon  was destroyed by the Babylonians. 
  3. The Second Temple built by Ezra and Nehemiah was destroyed by the Romans.
  4. The Romans crushed Bar Kokhba's revolt, destroyed the city of Betar, and 
  5. plowed the site of the Temple in Jerusalem and the surrounding area.

And more calamities:

  1. The First Crusade officially commenced.
  2. The Jews were expelled from England.
  3. The Jews were expelled from France.
  4. The Jews were expelled from Spain.
  5. Germany entered World War I.
  6. The "Final Solution" was approved by the Nazi Party.
  7. The mass deportation of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto to Treblinka began.

And even more calamities:

  1. The AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires was bombed.
  2. The Israeli disengagement from Gaza began.
We are Jews, and we continue to have hope. 
Even as we prepare for Shabbat Hazon, A Sabbath of Vision.

Each year, as we approach Tisha b'Av, we are not supposed to be joyous or joyful, or even just happy. And we are not supposed to do anything that will make us happy.

For Abq Jew, and for many others, this means no listening to (especially, live) music. But sometimes music doesn't make us happy - it makes us think (see, for example, Sunita Staneslow's performance of Al Naharot Bavel).

This year, Abq Jew offers - for your introspection - How to Be Sad on Tisha B'av, written by Laura E Adkins, the Forward's Opinion Editor.

How to Be Sad on Tisha B’av
By Laura E. Adkins   July 14, 2021

No one likes to be in pain. But what if we stopped resisting it? Just for one day?

Tisha B’Av, the saddest day in the Jewish calendar, begins Saturday evening. For 25 hours, observant Jews fast and deny themselves certain other comforts to mourn the destruction of the temples in Jerusalem more than 2000 years ago, along with myriad other tragedies in Jewish history.

The halachic rules of Tisha B’av are straightforward: don’t eat or drink, bathe or have sex, sit or sleep in comfortable positions, wear leather shoes or put on makeup or lotion.

But too often, many of us follow these strictures yet ignore the larger point.

On Tisha B’av, our tradition offers us a clear path toward experiencing something transcendent. I’ve collected several strategies below that you can use, whether or not you’re a religious person, to get into the right headspace. 

Abq Jew strongly encourages himself ... and you, his loyal readers ... to read Ms Adkins' complete article. Here are her nine key strategies:

  1. Get uncomfortable.
  2. Take a break from distractions.
  3. Let it be hard.
  4. Go somewhere bigger than you are and let yourself empty.
  5. Approach your pain with curiosity.
  6. Write it down.
  7. Ask why — and accept when you do not and cannot know the answer.
  8. Get mad at God.
  9. Choose to have a relationship with the divine anyway.

About that last strategy, Ms Adkins writes:

Traditional Jewish sources suggest that the Messiah will be born on Tisha B’av. Whether you take this literally or metaphorically, the awesome power of pain is what can emerge after it clears away what wasn’t meant to be there in the first place.

When the temple is restored, we’re told, Tisha B’av will be a day of celebration. But this restoration can only come when we’ve truly processed our pain and trauma, and corrected our mistakes.

The key is to let yourself be moved. 

Fast Days

May we be comforted among the mourners 
of Zion and Jerusalem.

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

A Day of Revenge

Approaching Menachem Av: Remember a few weeks ago (see Da Roo Ron Ron Ron)? Seems like an awfully long time. Abq Jew recalls that he was planning (Billy Nader) to do a few blog posts about some of the new Jewish music that's just coming out.

In the meantime, we have run into The Three Weeks, when listening to music is discouraged. There are, of course, different interpretations of this discouragement. And far be it for Abq Jew to tell you, his loyal readers, how to observe! So here we go with an angry song that will not lighten anyone's heart.

Jew of Oklahoma
Mark Rubin - Jew of Oklahoma

The song, A Day of Revenge, is from Mark Rubin's newest album, The Triumph of Assimilation.  There are a few happy songs on The Triumph - but not a lot. John Apice of Americana Highways reports:

You don’t have to be Jewish to appreciate
the musical journey this 10-cut collection affords.

The Triumph of Assimilation ... provides a well-planned showcase with slicing vocals that finds its place as aggressive as any Woody Guthrie labor song. It’s a broad folk-tradition collection. 

Rubin does not seek to challenge, just take his righteous place alongside other people who seem to sing loud about their own issues. Lots of clever Jewish words thrown in for lyrical effect – I wonder if Bob Dylan would dare cover one? 

I know Phil Ochs or Kinky Friedman would.

Mark Rubin Jewish Americana

Somehow, Abq Jew had never heard of Mark Rubin, Jew of Oklahoma. But his website ( - of course!) tells us (in part) -

Oklahoma-born, Texas-reared, and now living in New Orleans, multi-instrumentalist Mark Rubin is an unabashed Southern Jew, known equally for his muscular musicianship and larger-than-life persona. 

Over an accomplished 30+ year career, he has accompanied or produced a virtual Who’s-Who of American traditional music, while straddling numerous musical genres, including Country, Western Swing, Bluegrass, Cajun, Tex-Mex, Polka, Klezmer, Roma, and more.

His credits in the Jewish music world include long time collaborations with Frank London’s Klezmer Brass All-Stars, The Other Europeans, and Andy Statman, as well as two decades on faculty at KlezKamp.  

Today, he lives and works as a professional musician in New Orleans and makes a study of the musical traditions and cultures of South Louisiana. He recently took a position at the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience where he jokes he's an exhibit.

Mark Rubin Guitar

In a separate interview (also in American Highways), Hannah Means Shannon tells us that The Triumph -

... reflects Rubin’s desire to fuse his very Oklahoma and Texas “nurture” culture with the “nature” of his Jewish roots and his involvement in the Yiddish Renaissance’s Klezmer music scene. 

If that sounds like a natural goal for someone with such a varied background, it definitely hasn’t been a simple one for Rubin, but it’s one that’s come sharply into focus on the new album. 

The Triumph of Assimilation calls out the complexity of cultural identity in America and the bald-faced xenophobia and racism that Rubin has faced as a Jewish Southerner, but it also tracks the renewed threats of fascism and anti-Semitism in the South, where it now seems more “allowed” than ever in recent history.

Mark Rubin composed the song A Day of Revenge from a poem, A Tog Fun Nekome, written by the Polish Yiddish poet Mordechai Gebirtig (see July 2011's March of the Jobless Corps).

Gebirtig wrote the poem while he was interned by the Nazi's in 1940. He and his wife were gunned down randomly during the clearing of the Krakow Ghetto in 1942. Rubin says:

Though is starts off sounding like gleeful revenge porn,
it wraps up as the quintessential
Jewish response to terror and oppression.

A Day of Revenge

Listen close what I say
There'’ll come a time, there'’ll be a day
And though it seems so far away
I promise that we’ll make them pay

There’ll be revenge
For the suffering and pain
For us who still remain

Oh that day will come along
When we right each every wrong
There’ll be revenge

For the widows, orphans it must suffice
For the millions blood since sacrificed
Our Prophets cry out for us to awake
For retribution so shall we take

Mankind will turn its back on war
I see it clear on a distant shore
It’s coming here like Noah’s dove
A message of kindness, peace, and love

That’s our Revenge…..

Wait a Minute

Now. You, Abq Jew's loyal readers, may ask:
Why the anger? Why the call for revenge? Well. 

Because of this essay -

All the World Wants

The brilliant Jewish writer Cynthia Ozick wrote this searing essay shortly after the 1973 Yom Kippur War. It was published in the November 1974 issue of Esquire

Abq Jew hadn't read All the World Wants the Jews Dead in many years, but he had remembered it very well every day since the first time he read it. Rereading it now - Abq Jew wonders if anything has changed at all after all these years.

And because of this tweet -


Canary Mission - which documents individuals and organizations that promote hatred of the USA, Israel, and Jews on North American college campuses - tells us who Rafael Shimunov is. 

Rafael Shimunov is an anti-Israel activist and “early leader" of IfNotNow (INN) who was arrested with other INN activists for holding an anti-Israel “liberation seder." He has defended anti-Semitic remarks, promoted incitement, defended violent demonstrators and spread hatred of Israel.

Shimunov attended an event that repurposed Jewish rituals to demonize Israel, protested against the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), has opposed the Birthright Jewish heritage tour and promoted anti-Israel agitators, as well as the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) Movement.
Linda Sarsour Retweet

And Abq Jew must tell you - he must! he must! that our old 'friend' Linda Sarsour felt she needed to retweet Rafael Shimunov's antsemitic tweet.

And - as we all know - there's more. Lots more.

Speech has power

To which Abq Jew firmly states -


No Fear Rally Dry Bones

Where were we

Oklahoma Jewish Star

Let us now return to the saner but still sorta angry
world of Mark Rubin, Jew of Oklahoma.
And Triumph of Assimilation.

Where the May 2021 CD Hotlist reports:
Mark Rubin (Killbilly, Bad Livers) has always been Jewish, but has only made his Jewishness a central feature of his musical identity in the past 20 years. But as you can see from the presentation of his new album (not to mention song titles like “Down South Kosher” and “Good Shabbes”), the implications of his Jewishness and its intersection with his Southernness have become central to his musical and social concerns — and the musical result is engaging, fun, and at times chilling. 
CD Hotlist

Someone who grew up having crosses burned on his front lawn and bricks thrown through his window on Hitler’s birthday, but who fell in love with the music of his region early on, is inevitably going to have a — shall we say — complex relationship with American country and folk-derived music and you’ll hear ...
... that complexity everywhere on this album: on his setting of Mordecai Gebirtig’s poem “A Day of Revenge”; on his ballad about the lynching of Leo Frank; on the “bonus Hanukkah track” “Spin the Dreidel.” And on his clawhammer banjo arrangements of Klezmer tunes. 

The music is genius; spin this one at a party
and watch the conversations stop. 
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