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. See, for example, the blog post Chevre Kaddisha 2022 Meetingfrom earlier this month.
But let's start with something completely different:
Curling. Especially, mixed doubles curling. As recently seen at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, and which the Italian team won. It is altogether fitting that the 2026 Winter Olympics will be held in Milano and Cortina.
Just fascinating. Chess on ice, they call it. But actually playing curling seems - OK, to Abq Jew - like Scenes From a Marriage.
Now, it turns out that curling (sorta like shuffleboard) actually has rules. As shown in this video.
And it even turns out that curling is called curling because the polished granite stones used actually, well, curl. As shown in this video.
And even more importantly, it turns out that the granite for the 40-ish-pound stones comes from only two sources: Ailsa Craig, an island off the Ayrshire coast of Scotland, and the Trefor Granite Quarry in Wales.
And A Mantis: For those of you, Abq Jew's loyal readers, who read his blog posts in reverse chronological order, Abq Jew has a warning: The next blog post deals with a horribly sorrowful event. You will cry.
But for now - let's think about life and music!
And this happy, dancing Spiny Flower Mantis. What a friendly, open smile! Greeting us warmly, with open arms! Abq Jew would like to thank his dear cousin Moss Henry (see October 2020's Breaking Down Walls) for sharing this brilliant photo, which has thankfully brightened Abq Jew's day.
In case you were wondering, Wikipedia tells us that -
Pseudocreobotra wahlbergii, or the spiny flower mantis, is a small flower mantis (40 millimetres or 1+1⁄2 inches)n ative to southern and eastern Africa.
P. wahlbergii has a deimatic display in which it spreads its forewings, making itself appear larger and prominently displaying its eyespots to startle would-be predators.
While at rest it is well camouflaged, and is a sufficiently good aggressive mimic of a flower that prey insects can attempt to pollinate it, at which moment the mantis seizes and eats them.
They prefer to prey on flying insects and spiders, but if unavailable, will eat virtually any insect.
It is not entirely clear what the mantis's relationship to Mark or any other Wahlberg might be. But Abq Jew would not be at all surprised to learn that this mantis was named after the Swedish naturalist Johan August Wahlberg.
If that's true. But chances are, you weren't really wondering about the Spiny Flower Mantis at all. But that's
Because here is what Abq Jew really wants to share with you.
This is a video of Anasatasia Tyurina performing (at age 7!) variations on the theme of the Russian folk song "Valenki". Accompanied by the National Academic Orchestra of Russian Folk Instruments Osipova.
Young Anastasia is now 11 years old. And her playing has improved. Anastasia's YouTube channel describes her as
Winner of national and international competitions.
The winner of the All-Russian television competition for young talents "Blue Bird". Fellow of the Vladimir Spivakov International Charitable Foundation and Charitable Foundation "New Names".
Tum balalaika indeed! And again - Abq Jew thanks his dear cousin Moss. Who posted this on his Facebook page, with the caption
"Makes ya wonder, doesn't it?"
It certainly makes Abq Jew wonder about what he has accomplished in this life - so far. And about what he has not yet accomplished. Anyway, for you who have come this far, Abq Jew has a warning: The next blog post deals with a horribly sorrowful event. You will cry.
Unimaginable Grief: On Sunday, Abq Jew was deeply saddened - no, utterly shattered - to learn that his dear young relative, Orli Sarah Sheffey, 19, had taken her own life on Friday.
Orli's funeral, which Abq Jew - among countless others, he is sure - watched via livestream, took place earlier today at the North Suburban Synagogue Beth El in Highland Park, Illinois.
Bright, beautiful, caring. Planned to save the world.
Steve and Timna Sheffey are prominent members of their Jewish community. Steve, in particular, is a renowned pro-Israel activist and progressive Democrat who publishes a weekly newsletter, the Chicagoland Pro-Israel Political Update.
Steve Friess of the Forward says Steve's newsletter is "the Chicago Jewish newsletter that even Republicans have to read," and "arguably, the most widely shared local Jewish media in Chicago."
Thanks to MyHeritage, Abq Jew connected with Steve in September 2017. As it turns out, Orli was ... is ... Abq Jew's father's uncle's sister-in-law's father's cousin's brother-in-law's great-great-granddaughter.
Yes, that's a long way up and over and across and down the Family Tree. And no, Abq Jew never met Orli or her family. Still, Orli's death hurts. To be honest - it frightens Abq Jew. He has children, too.
Abq Jew and the world learned of Orli's death via a tweet from Ayelet, one of Orli's older sisters.
My little sister Orli died by suicide on Friday. She was smart, funny, and had the biggest heart of anyone I had ever met, and I never saw her death coming. I cannot begin to fathom this loss, but I hope her 19 years of life can be recognized for the incredible gift they were.
Orli's obituary from the Shalom Memorial Funeral Home reads:
Orli Sarah Sheffey, 19, beloved daughter of Steven and Timna Sheffey; loving sister of Ariel and Ayelet; adored granddaughter of Rachel Cohen, Isaac Cohen, Joyce Mlodinoff and the late Ralph Sheffey; treasured niece of Susan Sheffey (Steve Jungblut) and Dan Cohen; dear cousin of the late Menachem Jungblut.
Orli was incredibly smart, passionate, funny, and loving. She cared so much for others and the incredible life she lived influenced so many. She made the world a significantly better place. She had too many friends to count and was loved by all.
Orli, a sophomore at Washington University of St Louis, excelled in her studies, worked for progressive causes, was a friend to everyone, and was training to become a suicide counselor. She thought she could do it all.
At Orli's funeral, Hazzan Jacob Sandler sang the 23rd Psalm and El Maleh Rahamim; Rabbi Alex Freedman and Rabbi Michael Schwab spoke heartfelt words of consolation.
Ayelet, Ariel, Timna, and Steve offered ... remembrances. And heartbreak. Ariel, at the end, when Orli's casket was wheeled out of the sanctuary, was inconsolable. She screamed; she wailed, she cried.
As did every member of the congregation.
Unimaginable grief. Deepest condolences to the Sheffey family.
May Orli’s memory always be a blessing. Baruch Dayan HaEmet.
Ring the bells that still can ring Forget your perfect offering There is a crack, a crack in everything That’s how the light gets in.
And 46 Years: This week, Mr & Mrs Abq Jew celebrated the 46th anniversary of their wedding at NYC's Town & Village Synagogue (with reception following at the Waldorf Astoria).
And how did they celebrate? By dining on M'tucci's Italian carry-out! And by watching the Academy Award-winning 1987 film Moonstruck.
Absolutely one of our favorites.
For those too young or too old to remember, Wikipedia tells us -
Moonstruck is a 1987 American romantic comedy drama film directed and co-produced by Norman Jewison, written by John Patrick Shanley, and starring Cher, Nicolas Cage, Danny Aiello, Olympia Dukakis, and Vincent Gardenia.
The film follows Loretta Castorini, a widowed Italian-American woman who falls in love with her fiancé's hot-tempered, estranged younger brother.
Moonstruck ... earned critical and commercial success. It received six nominations at the 60th Academy Awards, winning three for Best Actress (Cher), Best Supporting Actress (Dukakis), and Best Original Screenplay (Shanley).
To fully understand this wonderful movie, it helps if: a) you're Italian; b) you grew up in New York; c) both of the above. But these are merely suggestions, not absolute requirements.
Director Norman Jewison, for example, is Protestant (really) and Canadian. Writer John Patrick Shanley is Catholic ... but Irish. And the actors? From all over the place - but not from Little Italy or even Bay Ridge.
As you, Abq Jew's loyal readers, must surely recall, Abq Jew is from the Golden State of California, and is therefore sorta obsessed with real estate (see December 2021's Joseph Dreams).
So - let's start with Loretta Castorini's Brooklyn Heights home.
Iconic "Moonstruck" House In Brooklyn Heights Is Up For Sale
Moonstruck remains one of the most romantic, authentic NYC movies of all time, and also one of the most poignant films about the psychological fallout of losing a hand.
It was filmed at real locations all around the city, with the fictitious restaurant the Grand Ticino shot in the West Village, Cammareri Bakery in Carroll Gardens, and the Castorini family home both located in Brooklyn Heights.
That townhouse has now been put on the market for the first time in over a decade. But snap out of it! You probably can't afford this one.
The historic townhouse, located at 19 Cranberry Street on the corner of Willow Street, has been put up for sale for the hefty price of $12.85 million.
As the Street Easy listing states, the house, which was built in 1829, has had a lot of renovations in recent years, including a restored roof and windows, and the addition of all new infrastructural systems, a professional wood-burning oven, and lots more.
"At 26' wide, with garden and gated parking, this 30-window, light-filled, 4-story, 5+ bedroom, 3.5 bath townhouse has been impeccably renovated with restored original charm and exquisite attention to detail, resulting in comfortable and stately opulence," the description reads.
How, you may ask, can Loretta's family afford that? Easy. Her father is a plumber! And then there's the Grand Ticino, that great Italian restaurant, which you really can't walk to from the Castorinis' home.
Manhattan's West Village, at the corner of West 4th Street and West 12th Streets The street sign is fake. And yeah, West 4th & West 12th intersect. Got a problem with that?
You can read about all of Moonstruck's locations here and here and here and here. Or click here to really get in the mood, and see what they looked like then and now-ish.
'The Met' at Lincoln Center Mr & Mrs Abq Jew have been there a few times, too.
And A Call for CK 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.
Albuquerque Chevre Kaddisha
Continues to Serve the Jewish Community
Come and Learn on February 27 - and Consider Joining
Funerals are a time when families often feel the need to connect with their cultural roots. While many Jews know that traditional Jewish law does not permit embalming and cremation, fewer know about the ancient Tahara purification ritual that honors the deceased.
This sacred ritual, carried out by a trained and dedicated group of volunteers—the Chevre Kaddisha (Holy Society)— is based on respect — for the body of the deceased, for the grieving family and friends, and for the whole community. Traditional Jewish burials recognize that death is a natural part of the life cycle, and that burial in the earth is the time-honored way to honor that cycle. The members of the Albuquerque Chevre Kaddisha are devoted to doing the holy work of preparing the bodies of Jews for proper burial.
Since the work of the Chevre Kaddisha involves actions to which most people have a reaction of aversion, fear, or disinterest, why are a group of Jews so dedicated to this mitzvah? Why do so many families, formally affiliated with congregations or not, desire this ritual for their loved ones at the time of death?
Why might you consider learning more about the work of the Chevre Kaddisha, attending an hour-long training session, and perhaps joining this Sacred Society?
When someone you love dies, it is appropriate and natural to continue to care about them, to desire that their body be treated with dignity, respect, honor and love. The ritual of tahara (purification) undertaken by the Chevre Kaddisha, does exactly that. Jewish tradition refers to the concept as ‘kavod ha’met’ honoring the deceased.
What do Chevre Kaddisha members do?
After receiving information about the death of a Jewish person from the funeral home, clergy or relatives, a designated member of the Chevre Kaddisha contacts other trained members to see if they are available to serve. For the sake of modesty, male members of the Chevre Kaddisha work with men who have died; females with women.
Teams of four to six people gather at the funeral home, say a few prayers, don protective garments and gather the required supplies. Members check the funeral garments, white multi-piece items of clothing made of cotton or linen, quite similar to those worn by the High Priest at the time the ancient Temple stood.
We then gently cleanse the body of the deceased, modestly, uncovering only parts of the body at a time, avoiding any appearance of impropriety. Cleansing is done quietly, solemnly, respectfully and lovingly.
The team then performs the ritual purification, where a clean white sheet is held over the deceased, like a chuppah (wedding canopy) and a measured amount of water is gently poured over the person, while the members recite a Hebrew verse about purity.
The team members use soft towels to dry off the body of the deceased before dressing it in the funeral garments and carefully transferring it into the coffin. Broken shards of pottery are placed on the eyes and mouth, indicating the finality of death. Earth from Israel is sprinkled over the deceased, connecting them to the land of their ancestors.
Traditionally, Chevre Kaddisha members apologize for any awkwardness or errors, express gratitude for participating in this mitzvah, and ask that the memory of the deceased be a blessing.
After closing the coffin, the team does a few final prayers, and thanks each other. Members leave the room, each time permanently changed, moved by the experience, and grateful for the gift of life.
Tahara is available, without charge, to any Jew in the community.
There are very rare exceptions where a Tahara cannot be done, due to the condition of the body, the time period between death and burial, or the lack of available volunteers.
All the members of the Chevre Kaddisha started out with doubts, moved through them and are now very willing to talk to others in the community about their experiences.
Families interested in preplanning a Tahara for themselves or arranging one for a recently deceased family member, irrespective of an affiliation with a temple or synagogue, can speak to their clergy or funeral home about arranging a Tahara.
You can also take this a step further by learning more about the work of the Chevre Kaddisha and perhaps considering becoming a Chevre Kaddisha volunteer.
Members welcome Jewish men and women, ages 18 years and older, to come to our annual meeting and training session on Sunday, February 27 at the French Funeral Home located at 10500 Lomas Blvd NE. French will provide drinks and the use of the preparation room.
The current Chevre Kaddisha members will meet at 10:00 am to talk about issues that may have arisen during the year, share solutions and support each others work.
During a short break, you can learn about our local Chevre Kaddisha practices and meet volunteers – many who are your friends and neighbors.
Then, at about 11:15 am, we'll have a training session that will both refresh and update the skills of established Chevre Kaddisha members and give prospective volunteers a realistic view of the Tahara ceremony.
Inspired in part by all the Jewish artists on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs, the Forward decided it was time to rank the best Jewish pop songs of all time. You can find the whole list and accompanying essays here.
Having, of course, nothing better to do, contemplating Whoopi Goldberg while watching the snow fall, Abq Jew took a look.
The 150, of course, includes all the usual suspects - Bob Dylan (Highway 61 Revisited, et al); Leonard Cohen (You Want It Darker, et al); Paul Simon (The Boxer, et al); Lou Reed ( My House, et al); Kinky Friedman (They Ain’t Makin’ Jews Like Jesus Anymore, et al); Janis Ian (Tattoo, et al).
And plenty of - to Abq Jew, at any rate - lesser-known artists and songs -The Crows (Mambo Shevitz); Hip Hop Hoodios (Knishin’ in the Mission).
But what caught Abq Jew's eyes and ears, now that we're all talking about Maus ... and Whoopi Goldberg, was this.
Jay Black, who died this year, may not have made it through yeshiva, but he was keenly aware of his Jewishness, going so far as to devote a 1966 B-side to this song, sung in Yiddish and then in English as a tribute to family lost to the Shoah.
His plaintive voice is unmistakable, his nigunim impeccable and — no surprise given it was his first language — his Yiddish is perfect.
That Black’s label agreed to print a song in Yiddish for an English-speaking crowd tells you all you need to know about the power of his performance.
In 1966 Jay Black took a standard Yiddish song and adapted it into a version to demonstrate his feelings about the Holocaust.
After a long struggle with the record company, he convinced them to let him record it. While recording it he worked with Artie Butler to help him with the arrangement, since Jay comes from an Orthodox Jewish background.
Jay Black - who was born David Blatt - is the voice, the creator and everything you hear on that vocal.A superb interpretation seldom heard in recordings of this song.
I feel he showed us a facet of his personality that's quite mature for someone in his twenties:
A young man singing about the horrors of the Holocaust, recorded in a vinyl LP intended for the teenagers who buy pop/rock, and sung in Yiddish first, and then the second half of the song in English.
Only one other major Jewish vocalist, Steve Lawrence, included a Yiddish song in his popular repertory, a song titled Where Can I Go?, also about the Holocaust period.
Steve Lawrence sang the English lyrics first, followed by the Yiddish lyrics. Jay Black took a higher risk singing the Yiddish lyrics first.
And then there's the Whoopi Goldberg story. No, Abq Jew does not know Whoopi Goldberg personally - and, chances are, neither do you. But she has always seemed like a nice, intelligent person who happens to support causes that seem generally liberal. An OKnik.
Everyone knows (by now) that she was born Caryn Elaine Johnson in 1955. No, she is not Jewish - although she has claimed to feel Jewish. As far as can be determined, she has no Jewish ancestors, certainly none with the family name Goldberg. She took the name Whoopi Goldberg so she could, like a farmer, stand out in her field.
Whoopi Goldberg, like many Americans who grew up after the Holocaust in the Civil Rights era, tended (until this week, one presumes) to think of race as a matter of skin color. In the 1930s, Americans - and Europeans - did not.
Whoopi Goldberg shouted out her benevolent ignorance and has now shouted out her heartfelt apology and new learning. It's enough. Let it go. We have many more important things to worry about.
This is an example of the nudity that prompted a Tennessee school board to remove Art Spiegelman's Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel Maus: A Survivor's Tale from its schools. Yes, we are talking about naked mice.
A Forward Webinar
150 Greatest Jewish Pop Songs
Join the Forward at 5:30 pm (New Mexico Time) on Wednesday, February 16, for a spirited discussion of the Greatest Jewish Pop Songs of All Time featuring Forward contributing editor and author Seth Rogovoy; executive editor Adam Langer; former Vibe and Spin editor-in-chief of Vibe, Alan Light; DJ and SirusXM host Hesta Prynn; novelist and screenwriter Jennifer Gilmore; and Forward contributing music critic Dan Epstein. Register here.
Here We Go!20th Annual! YES! Congregation Nahalat Shalom will once again be celebrating its annual KlezmerQuerque festival of klezmer music and dance - this year, live on Zoom.
Feb 18-20, 2022 - on Zoom!
As always, the festival will present a wide variety of events for all ages, including a Yiddish event for children and families, concerts, performances, storytelling, dance parties, Shabbat services, plus music, dance and storytelling workshops.
Special guest artists from around the country who will be featured at all events are: