Monday, May 16, 2022

Chipmunks & Hopscotch

Oy. It's A Long Story: But, in accordance with them newer literary traditions - let's start at the end of the story, with a photo that Abq Jew posted on his personal Facebook page a few weeks ago.

Walla Walla Where

Only those of you, Abq Jew's loyal readers, who happen to be of a certain age, will get the joke. For everyone else - yes, there is a joke here. 

Old Broken Windmill

Regardless of the sorrowful condition of the windmills of Abq Jew's mind (see last May's Windmills of Ezekiel) - you can trust Abq Jew on that.

Hopscotch

And now, again in accordance with them newer literary traditions - let's jump back to the beginning of the story. With the absolutely charming and otherwise wonderful 1980 movie Hopscotch - one of Abq Jew's favorites - about which Wikipedia tells us:
Hopscotch is a 1980 American spy comedy film ... that stars Walter MatthauGlenda JacksonSam WaterstonNed Beatty, and Herbert Lom. The screenplay was written by Bryan Forbes and Brian Garfield, based on Garfield's 1975 novel of the same name ...

... in which a CIA field officer walks away from the Agency in order to keep from being retired and placed behind a desk, and invites the Agency to pursue him by writing an exposé and mailing chapters of it piecemeal to all the major intelligence agencies around the world, including the CIA. 

Hopscotch won the 1976 Edgar Award for Best Novel. 

The hero of the story, CIA field officer Miles Kendig, is played (of course) by Walter Matthau - about whom Wikipedia tells us:
Walter John Matthow (October 1, 1920 – July 1, 2000) was born in New York City's Lower East Side.

His mother, Rose (née Barolsky or Berolsky), was a Lithuanian-Jewish immigrant who worked in a garment sweatshop, and his father, Milton Matthow, was a Ukrainian-Jewish peddler and electrician, from Kiev, Ukraine.
It's important to bring Jack Lemmon into this post (see 2011's Dying Is Easy), so Abq Jew can also bring in his favorite Walter Matthau story:
Jack Lemmon told a story that he was working on a movie with Walter Matthau and Walter was doing some sort of minor stunt and accidently fell on his back and hurt himself. He was lying on the ground in agony, and everyone told him to stay still while they got the doctor. Lemmon leaned over and said, "Walter, are you comfortable?" and Matthau replied, "Oh, I make a living."
Lucy Saroyan Walter Matthau

Okay ... you can forget about Jack Lemmon now. Let's go back to the movie - to the part when Miles Kendig (Walter Matthau) hires a charter plane to fly him out of the US. The charter pilot, Carla Fleming, is played by Lucy Saroyan. Carla tells Kendig -

"You remind me of my father." 

This is what's known in Hollywood as an inside joke. For, Wikipedia tells us -
Lucy Saroyan (January 17, 1946 – April 11, 2003) was born in San Francisco, California, the daughter of the writer William Saroyan and the actress Carol Grace. 
Following her parents' second divorce, her mother married the actor Walter Matthau, and Lucy later worked alongside her stepfather in a number of his films. 
Are you still there

Lucy Saroyan died in Thousand Oaks, California, on April 11, 2003, at the age of 57, from cirrhosis of the liver caused by hepatitis C. Her mother died later the same year.

And about Carol Grace, Wikipedia tells us:

Carol Grace (September 11, 1924 – July 21, 2003) was an American actress and author. She is often referred to as Carol Marcus Saroyan or Carol Matthau.

Grace was born in New York City's Lower East Side; her mother, who was sixteen when she gave birth, was the daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants. Grace never knew her biological father. Her mother Rosheen Marcus later identified him as British actor Leslie Howard [Steiner; yes, another MOT]. 

She was placed in foster care until the age of eight when her mother married Charles Marcus, the wealthy head of the Bendix Corporation. Grace would take his last name as her own.

She was reportedly the inspiration for the Holly Golightly character in Truman Capote's novella Breakfast at Tiffany's.

Saroyan Gravesite

Which, in delightfully roundabout fashion, brings us to William Saroyan. But, Abq Jew must tell you - this is not the end of the story. In a way, the story is just beginning. As Wikipedia tells us -

William Saroyan (August 31, 1908 – May 18, 1981) was an Armenian-American novelist, playwright, and short story writer. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1940, and in 1943 won the Academy Award for Best Story for the film The Human Comedy

When the studio rejected his original 240-page treatment, he turned it into a novel, The Human Comedy. Saroyan is regarded as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century.

Saroyan wrote extensively about the Armenian immigrant life in California. Many of his stories and plays are set in his native Fresno.

Audra McDonald

Now - do you know who else grew up in Fresno, California? Audra McDonald! But, as talented as Audra most certainly is, this blog post is not about her.

The answer that Abq Jew was, in fact, looking for, is - Ross Bagdasarian! You know - William Saroyan's cousin!

Whom you may know better
as David Seville

David Seville Chipmunks

See where we're going here? Wikipedia tells us -

David "Dave" Seville is a fictional character, the producer and manager of the fictional singing group Alvin and the Chipmunks. The character was created by Ross Bagdasarian Sr., who had used the name "David Seville" as his stage name prior to the creation of the Chipmunks, while writing and recording novelty records in the 1950s.

One of the records, recorded in 1958 under the David Seville
stage name, was Witch Doctor, featuring a sped-up
high-pitched vocal technique. 

 

And thus the story ends - right back
where where we started from:

Walla Walla Where

There's more

Yes, Abq Jew is going to wreck enhance this story (it has a beginning, a middle, and an end!) - by adding a fascinating (to Abq Jew) coda.

Come On-a My House

Yes, everyone - at least, everyone who happens to be of a certain age - remembers this 1951 Rosemary Clooney (she's George's aunt) classic. With lyrics that definitely wouldn't make it past a Florida school board today.

So - guess who wrote Come On-a My House? Wikipedia tells us:

"Come on-a My House" is a song performed by Rosemary Clooney and originally released in 1951. 

It was written by Ross Bagdasarian and his cousin, Armenian-American Pulitzer Prize-winning author William Saroyan, while driving across New Mexico in the summer of 1939. 

The melody is based on an Armenian folk song. The lyrics reference traditional Armenian customs of inviting over relatives and friends and providing them with a generously overflowing table of fruits, nuts, seeds, and other foods.

It was not performed until the 1950 off-Broadway production of The Son. The song did not become a hit until the release of Clooney's recording. 

It was probably Saroyan's only effort at popular songwriting, and it was one of Bagdasarian's few well-known works that was not connected to his best-known creation, Alvin and the Chipmunks. 

Bagdasarian, as David Seville, went on to
 much fame with his Chipmunks recordings.

You're welcome

So - buy Abq Jew a cup of coffee maybe?

Ko-fi


Monday, May 9, 2022

When The Moon

Hits Your Eye +10 Years Later
Like A Big Pizza Pie, That's Emor, Eh? 


 In Napoli, where love is king
When boy meets girl, here's what they say


One decade ago this very week (see When The Moon Hits Your Eye), the whole world celebrated the Supermoon of 2012, whereby our one and only Moon came as close to our one and only Earth as it ever will, until the next time.

Here in Albuquerque, much of the Moon's magnificence was obscured by an unruly bunch of dark clouds, a rarity in the Duke City, but whose untimely timing seemed to portend something bigger and ... yes, better.

Blood Moon Eclipse

Well. Beginning at 7:49 pm on Sunday, May 15, 2022, and ending at 12:50 am on Monday, we here in New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment, will experience (and may even get to see) a Total Eclipse of the Blood Moon.

But the Shabbat before that momentous event - this very Shabbat, Abq Jew reminds you - is one of the occasions during the Jewish year when we get to read (from, for those following the triennial or other non-traditional Torah reading cycle), Parshat Emor ("Say").

In Parshat Emor are enumerated all the Jewish Festivals and the laws and customs surrounding same, making these portions a popular Torah reading for Sukkot (twice!) and Pesach. Only on Shavuot, the Holiday of Mystery, do these portions of Parshat Emor go unread. "Why?", Abq Jew hears you ask.

And furthermore, Abq Jew hears you ask:

Didn't we read Parshat Emor last week?

Abq Jew has no answer for the first question. Meanwhile, the answer to the second question is: yes and no. 

Or, to be more explicit: YES, if you were in the Land of Israel or a Reform temple last Shabbat, you did indeed read Parshat Emor. But NO, if you were anywhere else in the whole wide world, you read Parshat Kedoshim.

And next - Abq Jew hears you ask:

Why is that? How come?

Please allow Chabad's very own Mendy Kaminker (a member of the Chabad.org editorial team and rabbi of Chabad of Hackensack) to explain. 

Please note that Reform temples follow the Torah-reading calendar of Israel. If you ask why - that is the wrong question. The correct question is - why doesn't everyone follow Israel's Torah-reading calendar?
Once in several years, for a few weeks, different Torah portions are read in Israel and in the Diaspora. This year (2022-5782) happens to be one of those years.

Why does this happen? Here is the basic idea:
  • The Torah is apportioned into 54 readings, and each Shabbat we read a portion according to a predetermined order. When a holiday falls on Shabbat, we substitute the reading of the weekly portion with a section from the Torah that relates to that holiday. 
  • In the diaspora, the holidays of Sukkot (and Shemini Atzeret), Passover, and Shavuot are celebrated for an extra day (known as "the second holiday of the Diaspora").
This year, the holiday of Passover started on Shabbat. In Israel it was celebrated for seven days, ending on Friday. The next day was Shabbat and everyone there read the Torah portion of Acharei Mot.

Outside of Israel, however, the holiday was celebrated for an eighth day, when everyone read the Torah reading for the final day of Passover. The Torah portion of Acharei Mot wasn't read until the following week—by which time synagogues in Israel were already up to the next portion, Kedoshim. That's how Diaspora Jews ended up behind by one portion.

But no worries: We in the Diaspora will soon catch up with our Israeli brethren. How? Because on the Shabbat of 2 Av (July 30), those in Israel will read the Torah portion of Masei, while we will read two portions—Matot and Masei—joined together. Once again, all the Jewish People will be in synch.
The Boxer Horse

That's Emor, Eh?

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Wanna Be Our CBI Rabbi?

Just Answer These Five Three Questions: First, a bit of ABQ Jewish history: As many of us in the community recall, Rabbi Arthur Flicker of Congregation B'nai Israel (CBI) stepped down at the end of June 2016.

Jacob's Ladder

In 2016, after following the procedures of the Conservative Movement's Rabbinical Assembly, the CBI rabbinical search committee was able to identify and secure the services of a new rabbi. That rabbi served CBI for two years.

After recalculating, a new rabbinical search committee posted a Help Wanted ad on the website RabbiCareers.com - and was able to identify and secure the services of an interim rabbi. That rabbi also served CBI for two years.

In the meantime, in between time, and through it all - including the Covid pandemic - now Rabbi Emeritus Arthur Flicker has played a major role in keeping CBI alive and well.

And now - Abq Jew reports with deep hope and sincere best wishes that there is once again a new B'nai Israel rabbinical search committee, which has once again posted a new Help Wanted ad on the website RabbiCareers.com.


You can read the full ad right here. It begins:
Senior Rabbi
Although we are committed to remaining a traditional Conservative congregation, we realize that there is more to a fulfilling Jewish life than just prayer and religious observance.  
Our top priority for our new rabbi is to help us create multiple points of entry into our synagogue, especially for young families.  Our creative approach over the past few months has drawn unaffiliated Jews to our virtual doors who have not approached or entered before.  
We have seen a re-emergence of congregational participation from members who have been physically absent for a long time.  Yet, there are many among us, once active and physically present, who find the virtual world anathema and have chosen to absent themselves from current synagogue affairs.  
Our new rabbi must be able to help us navigate the new normal, creating a hybrid model with appeal to all who choose to become a part of our B’nai family. 

CBI Interior

The congregation, now over 100 years old, is confidently set to meet the challenges of the future and is looking forward to the leadership of a new rabbi who will take us to the next step.

The charm and allure of the Southwest is evident in our building, our practices, our sense of spirituality.

When praying in the sanctuary, one can get the feel of the desert of our ancestors in two ways.  The shape of the sanctuary is as of a tent – praying under a tent with our biblical ancestors. The light is reflective of the sense of space that one gets in the land of Israel and in the landscape of New Mexico.

Congregation B'nai Israel

Which of course brings to Abq Jew's misfiring mind the glorious flick Monty Python and the Holy Grail
And his 2016 classic Wanna Be Our Rabbi?
And his 2018 follow-up Wanna Be Our Interim Rabbi?

What are the questions that Abq Jew would like to ask each candidate? Abq Jew joyfully recalls (as he is sure you also do) The Bridge of Death. As every Monty Python fan knows, the first two questions are always

What is your name? What is your quest?


The third question, we surely recall, varies, with distinctly varying outcomes. Here are some of Abq Jew's possibilities. You're welcome!
1. How many roads must a man walk down before they call him a man? Yes and how many roads must a woman walk down before they call her a woman? Are these numbers the same? Discuss. 
2. You live in T or C. You are a guest at a Sunday wedding that will inexplicably take place at a megashul in downtown Pittsburgh. You are staying the weekend at the Steeler Stele, a 42-storey architectural wonder that offers self-directed elevators and electronic room keys. Your room is on the 27th floor. The Friday night Oneg Shabbat runs a bit late, and you stay at shul for the Hashkama Minyan on Saturday. Describe where, when, how, and why you take your Shabbos nap. 
3. You are the new rabbi in a a well-established congregation. Every week on the Sabbath, a fight erupts during the service. When it comes time to recite the Shema prayer, half of the congregation stands and the other half sits. The people who are standing yell at the people who are sitting, "Stand up!" while the people who are sitting yell at the people who are standing, "Sit down!" Should the congregation stand or sit for the Shema? What is the tradition? 
Hint: The Story of Shabbat 505
4. According to some (but, of course, not all) commentators, the purpose of performing mitzvot is to guide us in living good lives, being good people, and doing good things in the world. Describe in discrete mathematical terms the exact correlation between performing mitzvot and being a good person. Carefully but completely explain why there is a need for kosher food in our prison system.
5. Your local JCC offers excellent facilities for exercise and very good Jewish programming. It also offers no pleasantly functional performance space ("theater") and no kosher food service (although pescatarian fare is available). Your synagogue currently offers a beautiful sanctuary (with comfortable seats, good sight lines, and superb acoustics) and full meat and dairy kosher food service. How can your synagogue work with the JCC to provide a magnificent performance space, outstanding kosher dining, and terrific Jewish programming? 
6. Your new synagogue has a strong tradition of congregational singing during worship services, often with instrumental accompaniment. You are not comfortable with this arrangement. If the instrumentalists promise not to tune their instruments, will this ameliorate your concerns? If not, describe the concrete steps (or earthen ramp) you will take to transform the choir into a powerhouse a capella group (like Pizmon or, lehavdil, the Maccabeats) suitable for weddings and b'nai mitzvah.
7Who wrote the Five Books of Moses? Who wrote the Book of Mormon? Who wrote the Book of Love?

Maftir. If and only if the candidate responds both earnestly and meaningfully to the above questions, he or she may be entitled to attempt the tie-breaker. Which is (Abq Jew's favorite!):

Define the universe. 
Three Bubbes
Give three examples.