Thursday, January 26, 2023

A Ukrainian Chapter

A Jewish Aid Worker's Memoir of Sorrow: Most of us New MexiJews know - or at least know of - Dr Michael Eli Nutkiewicz. For those who may not - 

Michael Eli Nutkiewicz  (History PhD, UCLA) has taught Jewish history at the University of Missouri-Columbia and at UNM. 
He directed the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, was senior historian at the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, led the Program for Torture Victims in Los Angeles, and managed the refugee resettlement program at Catholic Charities New Mexico. 
He was director of Oasis Albuquerque from 2010-2014. 
Nutkiewicz’s translation of Gumener’s memoir, A Ukrainian Chapter: A Jewish Aid Worker’s Memoir of Sorrow, was published in 2022.

A Ukrainian Chapter

The book makes for fascinating storytelling. Indiana University's Slavica Publishers tells us:
Eli Gumener’s 1921 Yiddish memoir, A Ukrainian Chapter, is a rare historical source about relief work spanning the two most devastating years of the pogroms in the Russian Civil War. 
He concentrates on the collapse of Jewish communities in Podolia, a region in southwest Ukraine. Gumener worked for the major Russian and American organizations that were active in providing aid to Jewish victims during both World War I and the Russian Civil War. 
Thus, he presents a unique perspective on leaders, parties, and institutions struggling to respond to the suffering and dislocation that came with wild episodes of violence. This annotated translation serves as a roadmap for the reader by clarifying the social and political contexts in which the events took place. 
A Ukrainian Chapter is a contribution to the history of pogroms, relief work, and Jewish party politics, through the day-to-day experience of a witness “in the trenches.” 
Born in Marijampole (near Vilnius) in 1886 and trained for the law in St. Petersburg, Eli (Illia) Gumener (1886–1941?) was a representative and investigator for the Committee to Aid Jewish Pogrom Victims (EKOPO) and the Russian Red Cross. 
After the Civil War, he worked on behalf of Jewish war orphans for the American Joint Distribution Committee (AJC) in the Białystok region. 
A Ukrainian Chapter was published in Vilnius in 1921. In 1925 Gumener moved to Novogrudok, Poland (now in Belarus) where he continued to be engaged in communal affairs, including as a city councilman from 1929 to 1934. 
He and his wife and daughter were murdered during the Holocaust in late 1941 or early 1942.
But perhaps more importantly, the family story behind the book - is also intriguing. From the Preface:
Children of Holocaust survivors often sense missing family members who remain abstractly among the living; they are a presence that is not present. 

In my case, one of these lost relatives was my mother’s brother, Elijahu/Ilia (Eli) Gumener (1886–1941?). He was present in my middle name, and he appeared among my mother’s photographs. And he was present in a slim clothbound book that stood virtually unnoticed among hundreds of Yiddish volumes in my parents’ library. 

That unassuming book, entitled A kapitl Ukraine: Tsvey yor in Podolye (A Ukrainian Chapter: Two Years in Podolia), is an account of my Uncle Eli’s experience as an aid worker during the pogroms in Podolia, Ukraine between 1918 and 1920. 
The title suggests that the book is more than a report; it is a lament for the victims. The word kapitl itself brings to mind the Jewish custom of reciting chapters (kapitlin) from Psalms at gravesites. 
My mother, Betty Gumener Nutkiewicz (1908–85), had told me her brother was a lawyer who was murdered in the Holocaust. But she never mentioned that he had been an aid worker in Ukraine during the Russian Civil War. Nor had she mentioned that he had published a book about his experiences. 
This book must have had tremendous meaning for my mother as a physical reminder of her dear elder brother. But as with many survivors/refugees, her sadness made it impossible for her to share his full story with me in her lifetime. 
My discovery of the book after my parents’ death illuminated how little I knew of my family who perished. 
Holocaust Remembrance

Dr Michael Eli Nutkiewicz will be offering (so far, at least) two presentations about A Ukrainian Chapter, his family history, and the very personal work of translating his uncle's memoir. Right here in New Mexico, and via Zoom.

Renesan Institute

The Polish-Ukrainian-Russian
Borderland, 1914-1921

Thursday February 2 @ 10:00 am

OASIS Albuquerque

Witness to Pogroms:
Ukraine 1917-1921

Thursday February 16 @ 10:00 am

NOTE: Dr Ari Barbalat interviews Dr Nutkiewicz
about the book on the New Books in Jewish Studies Podcast.

A Ukrainian Chapter

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Hello? Moe's Pharmacy?

Possible Side Effects: As life would have it, someone Abq Jew is very close to recently (OK ... 18 months ago, but for a long time) had a couple of spots on his forehead. Sorta like the spots that were recently removed from our dear friend, First Lady Dr Jill @FLOTUS Biden.

Not to worry: It turns out that the best way to remove those spots (and the glop that lay underneath) was through something called the Mohs Procedure.

Two Moes

Yeah, that's what Abq Jew thought. So, just so we get our Moes straight -

Moses Harry Horwitz (June 19, 1897 – May 4, 1975), known professionally as Moe Howard, was an American actor and comedian, best known as the leader of The Three Stooges, the farce comedy team who starred in motion pictures and television for four decades.

Moammar Morris "Moe" Szyslak is a recurring character from the animated television series The Simpsons. Moe is the proprietor and bartender of Moe's Tavern, a Springfield bar. His ethnic origin is, to say the least, ambiguous.

Dr F E Mohs

However. The Procedure is actually named after Dr Frederic E Mohs, who developed it at the University of Wisconsin, many years ago. YouTube is just chock full of videos showing all aspects of the Mohs Procedure - including how to perform one on yourself at home. No anesthesia needed. Or permitted - gotta stay alert!

Abq Jew is not providing any links.

Wait a minute

All of that is just background.
What Abq Jew really wants to tell you, his loyal readers, about is


which, through a complicated series of events (familiar to too many) involving Medicare, Medicare Supplemental Insurance, and three (3) pharmacies, that someone Abq Jew is very close to actually received a prescription for. 

And filled it.
Whereupon someone Abq Jew is very close to
read* before taking:

Levofloxacin 500mg Tablets

Common Uses: It is used to treat bacterial infections.

This drug has an FDA warning.

This drug may cause severe side effects like irritated or torn tendons; nerve problems in the arms, hands, legs, or feet; and nervous system problems. These can happen alone or at the same time. They can happen within hours to weeks after starting this drug. Some of these effects may not go away, and may lead to disability or death. 

The chance of irritated or torn tendons is greater in people over the age of 60; heart, kidney, or lung transplant patients; or people taking steroid drugs. Tendon problems can happen as long as several months after treatment. 

Call your doctor right away
if you have pain, bruising, or swelling in the back of the ankle,
shoulder, hand, or other joints. 

Call your doctor right away
if you are not able to move or bear weight on a joint
or if you hear or feel a snap or pop.

Call your doctor right away
if you have signs of nerve problems. These may include not being able to handle heat or cold; change in sense of touch; or burning, numbness, tingling, pain, or weakness in the arms, hands, legs, or feet. 

Call your doctor right away
if you have signs of nervous system problems.
These may include anxiety, bad dreams, trouble sleeping, change in eyesight, dizziness, feeling confused, feeling nervous or agitated, feeling restless, hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that are not there), new or worse
behavior or mood changes like depression or thoughts of suicide,
seizures, or very bad headaches. 

Do not take if you have myasthenia gravis.
Very bad and sometimes deadly breathing problems have happened
with this drug in people who have myasthenia gravis

For some health problems, this drug is only for use
when other drugs cannot be used or have not worked.
Talk with the doctor to be sure that
the benefits of this drug are more than the risks.


The actual Levofloxacin Product Information sheet was not, of course,
printed with large, boldface type and color. It was printed more like this.

Someone Abq Jew is very close to opted instead for 


Now, when Abq Jew heard this story from someone very close to him, 

Please Read
Laurie Rosenwald

he (which is to say, Abq Jew) immediately recalled reading something quite similar in - where else? - The New Yorker. In an article that Larry Doyle wrote in January 2007 titled 

Please Read Before Suing

and which speaks, comically, of such possible side effects as

headaches, nausea, vomiting,
vomiting from places other than the mouth,
tiny voices, rapidly cycling hypo- and hypertension resulting in staggering about with protruding eyeballs, cacophonous bowel sounds,
muscle and joint pain that feels like slow roasting,
inability to urinate, inability to cease urinating,
sudden double-jointedness, cottonmouth mouth,
itching in an unreachable location, athlete’s face, knee sap,
extremely offensive odor that smells like strawberries to you,
undead feeling, migrating love handles, reverse vertigo,
cravings for bees and other sweet insects,
Jolie lips, full-body sloughing,
jazz hands, visible bubbles in the blood, eye hair,
abdominal rash that spells “let me out,”
uncontrollable urge to contact attorneys, laughing buttocks,
and a blinding but oddly comforting white light.


Abq Jew and his lawyers wish you
a happy and healthy 2 b'Shevat.

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Abraham and Martin

John and Bobby: Twenty-six years after they performed and recorded At the Ryman, Emmylou Harris and the Nash Ramblers reunited to perform the album live for the Ryman's 125th anniversary. PBS recorded the 2017 performance, and Abq Jew recorded it from a PBS broadcast.

At the Ryman

Wikipedia tells us:
At the Ryman is a 1992 live album by Emmylou Harris and her then-newly formed acoustic backing band, The Nash Ramblers, recorded at the one-time home of the Grand Ole Opry, Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee.

The concerts' and album's high acclaim are given near-universal credit for the renewed interest in reviving the dilapidated Ryman Auditorium as an active venue after nearly 20 years of dormancy. Soon after, the building was completely renovated and has since become a concert hall.

The album won Harris and the Ramblers a Grammy Award for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal at the 34th ceremony. In 2017, At the Ryman was released on vinyl to celebrate 25 years since the original release, Harris reunited with the Nash Ramblers to perform the album in its entirety.
Every now and then, Abq Jew is just in the mood to watch the video and listen to the phenomenal 2017 concert. He did so a few days ago, and was once again (as every time) struck by the beauty, the purity of the performance.

This time, one song stood out. We all know it; we've heard it for years in our heads. As we remember Dr Martin Luther King, Jr this week - the song still reverberates. Here is the original:

Abraham, Martin, and John was originally recorded by Dion in 1968. As Abq Jew wrote in November 2014's I Wonder Why:
In 1968, as a solo performer, Dion [DiMucci] recorded Abraham, Martin and John, written by Dick Holler.  
It is a tribute to social change icons, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr, John F Kennedy and Robert F Kennedy. It was written as a response to the assassination of King and the younger Kennedy in April and June 1968.  
When producer Phil Gernhard initially presented the song to DiMucci, the latter didn't care for it. With the persistence of Gernhard, and Dion's wife Susan, he flew to New York that summer. He recorded the song in just one take.  
Laurie Records released the single in September of that year and it quickly raced up the charts, peaking at number four in December. DiMucci, now a star again, was invited to sing this comeback hit on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, as well as many other top shows.

Didn't you love the things that they stood for?
Didn't they try to find some good for you and me?
And we'll be free, someday soon
It’s gonna be one day 

Emmylou Harris and the Nash Ramblers performed Abraham, Martin, and John as the second part of a medley with It’s a Hard Life Wherever You Go, another Dick Holler "hit" - which he co-wrote with the late singer/songwriter Nanci Griffith.

It's a hard life
It's a hard life
It's a very hard life
It's a hard life wherever you go
If we poison our children with hatred
Then the hard life is all that they'll know

Dick Holler

For some reason, Abq Jew finds the name Dick Holler ... very interesting. He appears to be (at 88, Ken O'Hara!) alive and kicking. And - to sorta complete the trifecta record - Dick Holler is also the co-writer of the 1966 hit Snoopy vs the Red Baron

Sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying.

MLK Do Right

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Who Quickens the Dead

Drop Dead Lucky: It is now about one week since Damar Hamlin dropped dead at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati. Yes, yes he did. He died. Right there on the field. No heartbeat, no pulse, no breath. Dead.

Baruch HaShem

And then he was brought back to life. In real time, as we all watched.

Prayer for Damar

Ruth Graham reported in The New York Times:

As the ambulance carrying the injured Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin rolled slowly off the field in Cincinnati Monday night, a huddle of players and team staff knelt in a massive yet intimate circle on the field. 

They bowed their heads, some placing hands on each other’s shoulders and others with tears streaming down their faces, in a moment of spontaneous prayer led by the team’s chaplain, Len Vanden Bos. The hushed crowd at Paycor Stadium burst into applause as the players knelt and again as they rose.

It was the first of many prayers in an extraordinary display of public piety that unfurled across the country in the hours and days after Mr. Hamlin’s collapse after what looked like a routine collision early in the game. 

Who also points out that

Christianity is embedded in N.F.L. culture in a way that goes beyond most sports; “Lord, I need you, please be by my side.”

This, of course, raises the question: 

With The Jews

Well, there are a lot of ways The Jews are involved. (Yes, it is all about us.) We Jews pray every day -

And You are faithful to restore the dead to life!
Blessed are You, G-d, resurrector of the dead.

Is that what we all witnessed? Did The Holy One, Blessed Be He, look down from Heaven, see what had happened to his beloved Buffalo Bills teammate, hear the devout thoughts and prayers of the multitudes, and take swift and appropriate action?

Boy, that would be great, wouldn't it?

Bills Medical Team

But then, we Jews would all have to ask

what about

And Abq Jew thinks G-d may not have a good-enough answer. 

Moreover, Abq Jew thinks he'd have a hard time finding many other Jews who would subscribe to that theory. Most Jews, Abq Jew expects, would rather wake up to the Bills medical team working to save his life than to his teammates praying to G-d for the same ending.

CAUTION: Do not Google "medical team bills".
Your results will be very different from what you expect.

Abq Jew has also pointed out (see February 2013's A Super Bowl Hymn) that 

Jews, of course, are forbidden d'Rabbanan [by Rabbinic rule] (some say d'Orayta [by the Torah]) to play football. From

Rambam says that to keep oneself healthy and vigorous is a commandment from the Torah. We are obligated keep away from anything that damages or lessens the body. This is part of serving Hashem [Hilchos Dayos 4:1]. One does not have permission to harm himself ... [Choshen Mishpot 420:31]. 

The Chofetz Chayim [Likutai Amorim 13] says that this halacha shows that we are not our own "property," we BELONG TO HASHEM. Hillel made a point to keep himself clean and to eat adequately. 

When asked why, he said that the body is created in Hashem's image, it is for serving Him during one's fleeting lifetime and it is obligatory to take good care of the body [Vayikra Raba 34:3]

And then there's the question -

Are Jews even allowed to watch football? Abq Jew is not sure.

But Abq Jew is willing to bet (another questionable activity for Jews, although it appears to be permissible so long as one does not derive his living solely from it) that no Jews ever willingly attended Roman gladiator games.

Perhaps someday we will outlaw football as just another cruel and immoral form of combat-as-entertainment. But in the meantime: 

Go 49ers

So let's look at that "resurrector of the dead" prayer.

Michaye Metim

Sure, we Jews say it in the Amidah thrice daily. But when else do we say it?

The School of Rabbi Yannai taught that we should say it when we wake from sleep. These days, most of us just say Modeh Ani. But an earlier tradition encourages us to consider the simple act of regaining consciousness in the morning equivalent to rising from the dead.

Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said (Babylonian Talmud Berachot 58b) that someone who sees his friend after 12 months should say it. Of course, he meant 12 months of no letters, no phone calls, no texts, no Facebook postings or Twitter tweets. But still.

And then there's

Denny Kellington
Denny Kellington

In case you haven't heard -
Bills assistant athletic trainer Denny Kellington is receiving thanks from Bills fans and athletic trainers nationwide after he was cited by Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer as a hero for his work administering CPR to Damar Hamlin after Hamlin collapsed on the field Monday in Cincinnati. 

Hamlin's heartbeat was restored on the field and he was given oxygen from a portable tank to help him breathe, the Bills said.
Denny Kellington is literally the [Human] Being who brought Damar Hamlin back to life. (Yes, many people helped, along with a million dollars worth of advanced medical equipment and extensive training. And there are, thank G-d, thousands of EMTs, nurses, and doctors who do this every day. But still.)

Who else has revived the dead? In the Jewish tradition: only Elijah and Elisha. In other traditions: plenty of others. In the meantime -

Damar Tweet

And the latest -

Damar Released

Gay gezunter height

Monday, January 2, 2023

Turning to 2023

Wow! Here We Go Again! Abq Jew would like to thank everyone who has helped him get through and be done with 2022, and looks forward to even greater adventures in 2023.


To Everything There Is A Season

Yes, as King Solomon told us a few years ago (Ecclesiastes Chapter 3), there is a time for every purpose under heaven. Hey - you could write a song about it, and Pete Seeger did. He added six words ("I swear it's not too late") to the Biblical verses, plus one word sung three times, and there you go - it's a hit!

That one word clause is, of course, Turn! Turn! Turn! - hence, the name of the song. Also hence, the photo above of two arctic terns. It's almost impossible to get a photo of one tern alone. They tend to travel in pairs, because ... [you see where Abq Jew is going with this].

Wikipedia tells us:
"Turn! Turn! Turn!", or "Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season)", is a song written by Pete Seeger in the late 1950s and first recorded in 1959. 
The lyrics – except for the title, which is repeated throughout the song, and the final two lines – consist of the first eight verses of the third chapter of the biblical Book of Ecclesiastes. 
The song was originally released in 1962 as "To Everything There Is a Season" on folk group the Limeliters' album Folk Matinee, and then some months later on Seeger's own The Bitter and the Sweet.

The song became an international hit in late 1965 when it was adapted by the American folk rock group the Byrds
And more:
The song is notable for being one of a few instances in popular music in which a large portion of the Bible is set to music. [Another example being the Melodians' (and Boney M's) "Rivers of Babylon" (see August 2019's Celebrating Tisha B'Av)].

And even more:

"Turn! Turn! Turn!" had first been arranged by the Byrds' lead guitarist Jim McGuinn in a chamber-folk style during sessions for Judy Collins' 1963 album, Judy Collins 3.

The idea of reviving the song came to McGuinn during the Byrds' July 1965 tour of the American Midwest, when his future wife, Dolores, requested the tune on the Byrds' tour bus. 

The rendering that McGuinn dutifully played came out sounding not like a folk song but more like a rock/folk hybrid, perfectly in keeping with the Byrds' status as pioneers of the folk rock genre. McGuinn explained, 

"It was a standard folk song by that time, but I played it and it came out rock 'n' roll because that's what I was programmed to do like a computer. I couldn't do it as it was traditionally. It came out with that samba beat, and we thought it would make a good single."

The master recording of the song reportedly took the Byrds 78 takes, spread over five days of recording, to complete.

Here are three versions of the song.

First - the Limeliters. Yes, the Limeliters got there first (as they often did) - but this their version is probably the least-remembered, for no reason that Abq Jew can discern. Well, there is the banjo.

Second - the Springsteen/McGuinn folk-rock version, pioneered by the Byrds, led by Roger McGuinn (of the 12-string Rickenbacker). McGuinn (fka Jim) also plays banjo, and for years worked as a sideman for the Limeliters, the Chad Mitchell Trio, Judy Collins, and other folk music artists.

Third - Judy Collins. Every true folkie know this version, possibly the purest ever recorded. It's from Judy's appearance on Pete Seeger's mid-'60s show Rainbow Quest.

And then ...


Abq Jew's Aunt Bea (see December 2016's Starting With Aunt Bea) has, thank God, just completed 96 trips around our sun and celebrated her 96th birthday!


May this be a good, happy, healthy year for all of us!