Abq Jewis pleased to inform you that OASIS Albuquerque has just announced their Spring 2023 line-up of classes! Registration opens on Wednesday January 4 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 continue to make sure there are plenty of courses of Jewish interest.
This fall, OASIS Albuquerque plans to offer many classes LIVE and many classes via Zoom.
This session's courses and instructors include, but are by no means limited to:
The Grapes of Roth Three Literary Giants (Joseph, Henry, and Philip)
Tuesday January 24 @ 12:30 - #159Z
Instructor: Jack Shlachter
What It Is:Three remarkable writers, Joseph Roth, Henry Roth, and Philip Roth, share a common last name and were colorful characters whose award-winning works are classics. Joseph (1894-1939) was a successful journalist and novelist; Henry (1906-1995) lived in Albuquerque for the last years of his life; Philip (1933-2018) is arguably the best known of the three. Learn some biographical details about them and listen to selected passages from their works.
Witness to Pogroms: Ukraine 1917-1921 Thursday February 16 @ 10:00 - #146, 147Z
Instructor: Michael Nutkiewicz
What It Is: The Russian Civil War (1917-1921) was fought among Russians, Ukrainians, Poles, and Germans, and transformed Eastern Europe. Horrific pogroms against Jews were perpetrated by all sides. Michael Nutkiewicz’s uncle, Eli Gumener, was a Jewish aid worker in Ukraine during the war. Gumener’s memoir, originally published in 1921, and newly translated by Nutkiewicz, recounts the dislocations and violence, and the complications of bringing relief to the victims. The geo-political consequences of this war can be seen in today’s conflicts.
The Los Lunas Mystery Stone
Thursday March 9 @ 12:30 - #218
Instructor: John Taylor
What It Is:About halfway up a small, unpretentious hill, about 16 miles west of Los Lunas, is an “artifact” that is known as the Los Lunas Mystery Stone. It is a 60-ton boulder inscribed with the Ten Commandments in Paleo-Hebraic, a language used primarily by Samaritans during and after the Babylonian captivity. Taylor discusses the Mystery Stone and its archeological context and offers some possibilities for its origin.
Memoir Writing How to Tell Your Story
Tuesday April 4 @ 12:30 - #187
Instructor: Norma Libman
What It Is:Everyone has a story to tell, and now is the time to tell yours. Learn how to retrieve memories you thought were forgotten, how to get them written down, and how to organize them into your own life story. You will have a start to your memoir when the workshop is complete. Bring paper and a pen for writing exercises. Limited enrollment.
The CCC in New Mexico Wednesday April 5 @ 10:00 - #221
Instructor: Richard Melzer
What It Is: The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was the New Deal’s most popular and successful program in the Great Depression era. Millions of young men benefited from good work, wages, a healthy environment, training, and a chance to help their families back home. This class focuses on the CCC in New Mexico, especially the impact of the program on the young men and their futures.
Changing Nature of Religious Liberty Monday April 17 @ 12:30 - #115, 116Z
Instructor: Andrew Schultz
What It Is: The Supreme Court has steered a careful path between the First Amendment’s religion clauses: the “free-exercise” clause, which requires a degree of friendliness towards religion, and the “establishment” clause, which cautions against too much friendliness. Recently the Court has signaled that it is willing to find a new balance between these clauses. This talk surveys the Court’s past religious liberty cases and examines the Court’s recent decisions that may change America’s law of religious liberty.
Beloved OASIS Albuquerque instructor (and award-winning composer and recording artist, and now Floridian) Jane Ellen also continues (as always) to bring you new and interesting class offerings via Zoom@OASIS or Zoom@Home, 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:
Hopelessly Devoted to Olivia Newton-John
Thursday January 26 @ 12:30 - #165Z
What It Is:Singer, actor, and activist Olivia Newton-John (1948-2022) enjoyed a career spanning nearly six decades. Born in England, Olivia’s family immigrated to Australia when she was only five. As a vocalist Newton-John sold over 100 million albums, but many remember her from her film roles including Grease (1978) and Xanadu (1980). The singer fought breast cancer three times, becoming an advocate for breast cancer research. She was also an activist for animal rights and environmental causes.
Michael E. Harvey is the Amazon bestselling author of Let’s Talk: A Rabbi Speaks to Christians. An ordained rabbi, he has led congregations and served as a hospital chaplain. Rabbi Mike is passionate about social justice, interfaith cooperation, and bringing deep Jewish learning to the lay public.
He has followed these passions in serving his community, including founding and directing the Interfaith Council of the Caribbean as well as directing the Interfaith Leaders of Greater Lafayette. He also serves on the rabbinic advisory council of the American Jewish Archives.
When he isn’t writing, Rabbi Mike can be found building community and offering a listening ear in a different kind of congregation: as a bartender in Indiana.
The Thought Processes. OK. So, even though Abq Jew has been following Rabbi Mike on Twitter for (as is everything on Twitter) an indeterminate and indeterminable amount of time - thought processes? Ich veys?
That was, until Abq Jew read Rabbi Mike's Twitter threads last week. Which do, clearly and succinctly, express - Abq Jew thinks - an intriguing and highly viable point of view. With which Abq Jew (of course) agrees - why else would he share this, verbatim?
Anyway, here is Rabbi Mike's introduction and his 24-part thread. Which Abq Jew presents in its original Twitter format as a solemn remembrance.
"We really did have everything, didn't we?"
Well, even though Twitter is becoming a dumpster fire, I will continue to teach as long as I can until it is simply not worth it anymore. So with that, I'd like to do a #thread about the differences between Jewish and Christian thought processes and the ramifications. #threads
One of the greatest challenges I face in Jewish-Christian relations is the challenge Christians face in trying to understand Jewish thought processes and interpretations. They attempt to see Judaism through a Christian lens which, inevitably, fails. It's important to see why./1
Often I teach the phrase, "Judaism is about deed, not creed." Christianity has creeds. You believe this. You pledge that. This is the answer. That's it. Judaism does not. Any question to a learned Jewish person is inevitably answered with, "yes but..." meaning there.../2
...is a staunch complexity behind the answer. That is because Judaism cherishes the questions. The answers are, "well this rabbi said this, but this rabbi said that." or "The Torah said this, but some rabbis think this, and some think that..." etc. It is the nuance, yes.../3
...the nuance that gives meaning. It is why Jews have (or had, until Christians had their way) the largest libraries in the world. It is why we have the idiom "2 Jews, 3 opinions." The conversation, the study, the argument, the source material and interpretation, this is.../4
...what gives Judaism its beauty, its meaning. And, not to be too direct, it matches how the human mind processes ideas, with what is known as critical thinking. I shudder at Jews who say "this is what Judaism says." Judaism has never said one thing. And it doesn't now. /5
Learned Jews understand that yes there are majority opinions that have become put in place, but we retain the minority opinions because they may one day become relevant again. Times change, people change, the world changes, and the answers from long ago do not always work. /6
This is why Judaism continues to evolve and change, whether from Torah and Biblical thought, to cultic Temple rituals, to rabbinic and oral law, to halacha, agadah, commentary etc. Jewish study is to be done in "hevruta" at least with two people. Why? Because your thoughts.../7
...alone are simply not enough. In order to think critically, you need another mind, at least one other mind, to help you challenge yourself, the text, the interpretation. Now, how is this different from Christianity? I do not mean to generalize, but having studied Christian /8
...history, thought, and canon, what jumps out is simple creeds of faith. This is what it means. This is what we belief. End of story. This has troubling ramifications internally and externally, the least of which is a failure to understand Judaism. What are some internal /9
...ramifications of creed, and short simplistic answers of faith? Well, for one, if you question something you are not praised, as you would be in Judaism. In Judaism, the question is what gives meaning. Christian creed and canon leaves little room for questions. Instead../10
...if you question, you are seen as someone diverting from the flock. Your faith must be weak. Something must be wrong with you. This is your fault. There are elements of shame, guilt, and toxicity that inevitably follow this mindset. Examples include ideas about.../11
...sexuality, purity, and the like. More simply put, when Christians want people to have "decorum" what they mean is they want "obedience." Obedience to faith is simply not a natural understanding in the human mind. Faith does not stand on a one sentence declaration. /12
Faith is complex, and it sits on a tower of sand. This leads to the external problems. Why did Christians (and still to this day) burn Jewish libraries, outside sources, and attempt to shelter their flock from the outside world? It is because the "faith" is not strong.../13
...enough to take criticism, nuance, and conflicting information. Christianity has for millennia relied up on "might is right," meaning that the faith is strong because so many people have it. I have been told this on multiple occasions in my discussions. "How can 3 billion/14
...people be wrong about something?" Well, if Christians were taught HOW their answers were crafted, they would understand. Most are taught simply, "this is what we believe" or "this is what Jesus said,"when really it was much later, perhaps a church father or a later writing/15
...that came from someone with a differing agenda, and it has now become canon, now become part of the creed. This brings fear and toxicity to the outside world, thus leading to the motivation to not only burn books and libraries, but to engage in genocide of "non-believers"/16
This is compounded by threats of eternal damnation, that if you break the "faith" or question it, not only is something wrong with you, but an eternity of torment awaits you. Think about what this does to the human psyche. Think about how one must shape their world to feel /17
...that this is an acceptable way to live. Then think of the trauma brought to so many Christians who express critical thinking towards the "faith." Think about those who ostracize their own children for being LGBTQ+ or atheists, those who are told they are wrong for thinking/18
..different thoughts. Think about the abusive words Christians have heard inside churches, that all blame is on you, you are worthless, a sinner, and only Jesus can save you from yourself, and if you don't fully give yourself to the creed, you will be nothing in the eyes/19
of a God that would happily send you into the arms of demons and the devil for eternity to suffer. Now, think about why the antisemitic tropes exist about Jews "controlling the world." Why are there so many Jewish Nobel Prize winners? Christians are quick to say it must /20
...be rigged! It does not occur to them that Jews are built to be critical thinkers. To be creative. To ask questions, and find different ways to think about the world. Why are Jews so successful despite Christian laws in place to restrict them for 2,000 years? Because Jews/21
and all of Judaism teaches that we should find ways around things, think creatively, find success elsewhere and in different ways. The arrogance of the creed of Christianity leads to confusion and jealousy. A Christian thinks, "why am I not as successful? I do as I'm told." /22
It never occurs to them that it is the creed itself, the restrictions of "faith" that keeps them from their own success, that teaches them to obey rather than to find new creative ways to think and work. For a Christian, one must "break out" of the restrictions, whereas for.../23
...Jews, it is a natural occurrence. Again, I speak of Christian canon and faith, and am generalizing. But if Christians truly wish to engage in talks with Jews, they must let go of the Christian ideals of obedience and creed, and enter our world of nuance. Come and learn. /END
The Work. It will come as no surprise to you, Abq Jew's loyal readers, that Rabbi Mike has written a book. Which Abq Jew has not read yet nevertheless recommends. Available on Amazon as Kindle and "wherever books are sold," one imagines, in paperback.
Not sure what to get a loved one for Hanukkah or Christmas?
“Let’s Talk” makes an excellent addition to “book night” and fits in a stocking!
Start your new year off with being a better ally!
In the meantime ...
Alexandra Petri has provided us, once again, her ranking of 100 - yes, 100 - Christmas songs.
You may recall that Ms Petri's ranking was first published in December 2018; and then updated in November 2021.
Whereupon she wrote:
If you are on the Internet long enough, there comes a year when you will be forced to rank something. Now it is my time.
So I am taking the liberty of going through the 100 holiday songs being foisted upon us everywhere and ranking them from Most Especially Heinous to Best.
This is probably a good idea, and I feel fit and confident! I bet this will be an easy, pleasant process. I’m amazed I haven’t already compiled several lists just like this!
Number 100 on Ms Petri's list - the worst holiday song of all - is (no surprise) Little Drummer Boy. Of which Ms Petri says:
My hatred for this song is well-documented. I think it is because the song takes approximately 18 years to sing and does not rhyme. The concept of the song is bad. The execution of the song is bad.
There is not even an actual drum in the dang song, there is just someone saying PA-RUM-PA-PUM-PUM, which, frankly, is not a good onomatopoeia and probably is an insult to those fluent in Drum. I cannot stand it.
Nothing will fix it, even the application of David Bowie to it. Every year I say, “I hate this song,” and every year people say, “Have you heardDavid Bowie’s version?” Yes. Yes, I have. It is still an abomination.
1st Night Chanukah Concert: Is it Chanukah yet? Well ... no, not really. Not just yet. But then again, yes it is! At least as far as music and celebration go ... which, Abq Jew firmly believes, is pretty far.
Which means that Congregation Albert is bringing noted (you should probably not forgive the expression) singer / songwriter Elana Arian to the Land of Enchantment, to celebrate the first night of Hanukkah with us.
This will be, Abq Jew notes, the first of eight (8) nights of candle-lighting and celebration which have been arranged for us by RACAA, the Rabbinical and Cantorial Association of Albuquerque. With special guests from the place called HaMakom in Santa Fe.
So, you may ask, as if you have not been closely following her career - who is Elana Arian, anyway? Well, Cantor Aviva Marer of Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation (who has a herstory of her own) says of Elana Arian:
"I have no doubt that she is one of the greatest Jewish voices of our time."
Isn't that nice? OK ... so here's proof. Let's look at one of Elana's songs and follow its trajectory all the way up to singer / songwriter heaven.
The song Abq Jew has selected is Ken Y'hi Ratzon - not, strictly speaking, a Channukkah song - but one is and two or more are allowed to sing it on Xanuqa, so why not? Elana says of the song:
Ken Y'hi Ratzon was born out of a shocking and painful loss in my life. And as I travel to communities around the country, it is the piece that people most often mention to me as having had the greatest impact on them.
Until now, the only version available has been an old video of me singing in a hotel room in El Paso. I am delighted to offer this complete version of Ken Y'hi Ratzon, which is the final track on The Other Side of Fear.
So. What do you do, if you're a young(er) singer / songwriter who has written and performed a really good one? You take it on the road (hence the hotel room video)! But next - you hit the shul circuit.
In this case, you head for Temple Israel in Memphis, toward which (the city, not the temple) we pray each day, it being (see May 2017's Walking to Jerusalem) almost directly east of Albuquerque.
Once you've done a slew of out-of-town tryout shuls, you head for NYC. The Great White Way. The Theater District! Broadway! Well ... 55th and Lexington. To Central Synagogue (see November 2014's Rabbi Cantor Angela Buchdahl).
Greetings from Panoramaland: Yes, Abq Jew has consulted Rabbi Google. And, according to almost all contemporary American poskim (two), it is entirely kosher (one says permissible, one says required) to start playing Hanukkah music after Thanksgiving.
So here we go!
Starting in Panoramaland, close on to NOLA, we have the Panorama Jazz Band in their rendition of Woody Guthrie's Happy Joyous Hanukkah. Featuring Mark Rubin (see A Day of Revenge), aka "Jew of Oklahoma."
Did you know that dustbowl troubadour Woody Guthrie (1912-67) wrote a batch of Hanukkah songs? His second wife, (Marjorie Greenblatt, a professional dancer and Arlo's mom) was Jewish, so they celebrated in their home. No original music has been documented for his Hanukkah songs but he did leave behind some lyrics.
Well then, who better to interpret a Woody Guthrie Hanukkah song than the "Jew of Oklahoma" himself, Mark Rubin! He brought up the idea and we talked about potential vibes. Mark said, "barrelhouse," that medium-tempo New Orleans four-on-the-floor groove found on tunes like Jelly Roll Morton's "Jungle Blues."
He came up with a straight-ahead chord sequence and worked out the phrasing including the call and response between himself and the band. Then Mark sent me a demo, I banged out the arrangement and we recorded it on the October 12th session.
This year Hanukkah begins at sundown on Dec 18 but it's kosher to start playing Hanukkah music after Thanksgiving. Thanks for listening and for all your support.
Panorama Jazz Band
New Orleans, LA
And - as if this weren't enough - here is a version by