Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Getting Better, Ken O'Hara

Let Our Joy Increase: Thank God it's Adar! When Adar arrives, our happiness goes way up. Which is good - because we can use all the happiness we can get, Ken O'Hara.

RH Adar

Happiness! This is what happens when you got the Rosh Hodesh Adar memo but nobody else in your office did. Courtesy of Modern Talmud on Twitter.

Biden in Ukraine

And in more happyish news, USA's President Biden made a surprise trip to Kyiv to visit Ukraine's President Zelenskyy. Spreading the joy of the upcoming (may it be ongoing) month of Adar to those who need joy the most.

Temple Israel NH

In other news - Portsmouth New Hampshire's Temple Israel (see May 2021's Portsmouth Parking & The Jews) was one of 14 spots attacked with hate-filled graffiti. The Jewish Federation of New Hampshire reported:

Early Tuesday morning, Temple Israel and 13 other Portsmouth businesses were the victims of graffiti, including swastikas spray-painted on the synagogue.

Over the last year, there has been an increase in antisemitic incidents, both in-person and online, right here in our state. According to the ADL, 2021 was the highest year on record for documented reports of harassment, vandalism, and violence against Jews.

Tuesday’s incident not only included acts of hate against the Jewish community but against the Black and LGBTQ+ communities as well. The Jewish Federation of New Hampshire (JFNH) stands in solidarity with all those impacted by this hate.

Be Happy! It's Adar!

In the meantime, Facebook's Hebrew Calendar Facts is proud and probably correct to tell us:

The molad [birth of the New Moon in Jerusalem] of Adar is [was] on Monday at 18 hours 731 chalakim (12:40 PM and 11 chalakim). [A chelek is one 1080th part of an hour, or 3.33 seconds.] The astronomical new moon is on Monday at 2:05 AM EST / 9:05 AM Israel Time.  

Rosh Chodesh Adar is [was] on Tuesday and Wednesday.  

This being the 7th year of the 19-year cycle, there is only one Adar this year.  In the US, this is the first time Rosh Chodesh Adar begins on the evening of Presidents' Day since 1999 (but the next time will be soon, in 2026).

Susa Tapestry

And here we have a scene from the famous Susa Tapestry, showing Haman leading Mordechai through the streets of Shusan. The tapestry, created in the 5th century BCE, depicts the entire story of Purim. Courtesy of Historicus Hasidicus on Twitter.

Wait. It gets better.


Here is why it gets better -

The month of Adar has begun.
Our happiness will increase.
We've got Ken O'Hara on our side.

Jewish Space Laser

Everyone knows Ken O'Hara (to whom Abq Jew often refers). Everyone loves Ken O'Hara. They must - everyone is always talking about him. Although they're really talking to him.

"Things are good, Ken O'Hara."

In fact, Ken O'Hara is one of the most popular, well-known figures in (especially American-) Jewish life. His only real competition on the popularity scale is Billy Nader, whom Abq Jew may discuss (Billy Nader) sometime soon.

So you, Abq Jew's loyal readers, may ask -

Who is this?

Who is Ken O'Hara?

Well. Ken O'Hara (No Evil Eye) is a Hebrew-Yiddish incantation that expresses the vocalist's firm intention that no harm befall the subject of said incantation.

Bubby's Yiddish / Yinglish Glossary offers this delightful definition -
Kaynahorah: (kayne-a-hurr-rah) literally, "no evil eye." Pronounced in order to ward off the evil eye, especially when speaking of one's good fortune. 
"Everyone is the family is happy and healthy, kaynahorah." "He'll be 86 in three weeks, kaynahorah." 
Another way to ward off the evil eye is to quickly spit three times (We're not talking hawking a big loogie. This is more like lightly spitting a poppy seed off the tongue.) 
"My daughter found a nice guy and it looks as if he's going to propose. Pthui, pthui, pthui."
And offers this delightful example of Ken O'Hara in realish life -
Mr. Popowitz is called as a witness in a trial. 
"How old are you?" asks the D.A. 
"I am, kaynahoreh, ninety-one." 
"Excuse me? What did you say?" 
"I said, I am, kaynahoreh, ninety-one years old."  
Ken O'Hara
"Sir, please just answer the question with no embellishments," yelled the frustrated D.A.
"I ask you again, How old are you!?" 
"I told you. Kaynahoreh, I'm ninety-one." 
The D.A. is very angry. The judge is also losing his patience. 
He instructs, "The witness will answer the question simply and plainly or be held in contempt of court!" 
The defense lawyer rises and approached the bench. "Your Honor, I think I can resolve this. May I ask?" 
"If you can get this trial moving, please, be my guest." 
"Mr. Popowitz, let me ask, kaynahoroh, how old are you?" 
Popowitz replies, "Ninety-one" 

All of this boils down to -

There's plenty to be unhappy about.
Nevertheless -

It's Adar

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Thinking About Anne Frank

Rereading Dara HornIt is only six very short years since Abq Jew personally encountered antisemitic hate on his blog and website (see You've Got Hate Mail! and Documenting Hate). The story even made it to The New York Times - a decidedly mixed blessing.

So much has happened since then. And so little has changed. If anything, antisemitism here in our beautiful US of A, where we recently observed International Holocaust Remembrance Day, has only increased. But we NewMexiJews know all too well - 

For us, every day is Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Dara Horn People Love

So Abq Jew decided to reread Dara Horn's 2021 collection of essays, People Love Dead Jews: Reports from a Haunted Present, a "startling exploration of how Jewish history is exploited to flatter the living."

Yaniv Ickovitz wrote in The New York Times:

Horn’s main insight is that much of the way we’ve developed to remember and narrate Jewish history is, at best, self-deception and, at worst, rubbish. 

The 12 essays in her brilliant book explore how the different ways we commemorate Jewish tragedy, how we write about the Holocaust, how the media presents antisemitic events, how we establish museums to honor Jewish heritage, how we read literature with Jewish protagonists and even how we praise the “righteous among the nations” (those who saved Jews during the war), are all distractions from the main issue, which is the very concrete, specific death of Jews.

Even though each chapter reveals a different blind spot in our collective memory — ranging from Horn’s visit to the Museum of Jewish Heritage in downtown Manhattan to her travel to the Jewish sites in Harbin, China — all the essays in the book show that when we learn to remember certain things in certain ways, we set the limits of what can be said, and what cannot be said, even as we might have the urge to say it. 

Horn thinks it’s about time to say it, and this is why her book is at the same time so necessary and so disquieting.

Anne Frank

Dara Horn's opening essay, Everyone's (Second) Favorite Dead Jew, gets right to the point. The essay was published in the November 2018 issue of The Smithsonian as Becoming Anne Frank. It begins:

People love dead Jews. Living Jews, not so much.

This disturbing idea was suggested by an incident this past spring at the Anne Frank House, the blockbuster Amsterdam museum built out of Frank’s “Secret Annex,” or in Dutch, “Het Achterhuis [The House Behind],” a series of tiny hidden rooms where the teenage Jewish diarist lived with her family and four other persecuted Jews for over two years, before being captured by Nazis and deported to Auschwitz in 1944. 

Here’s how much people love dead Jews: Anne Frank’s diary, first published in Dutch in 1947 via her surviving father, Otto Frank, has been translated into 70 languages and has sold over 30 million copies worldwide, and the Anne Frank House now hosts well over a million visitors each year, with reserved tickets selling out months in advance. 

But when a young employee at the Anne Frank House in 2017 tried to wear his yarmulke to work, his employers told him to hide it under a baseball cap. The museum’s managing director told newspapers that a live Jew in a yarmulke might “interfere” with the museum’s “independent position.” 

The museum finally relented after deliberating for six months, which seems like a rather long time for the Anne Frank House to ponder whether it was a good idea to force a Jew into hiding.

And so here we are, once again, talking about Anne Frank. And the book's title.

The line most often quoted from Frank’s diary—“In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart”—is often called “inspiring,” by which we mean that it flatters us. 

It makes us feel forgiven for those lapses of our civilization that allow for piles of murdered girls—and if those words came from a murdered girl, well, then, we must be absolved, because they must be true. 

That gift of grace and absolution from a murdered Jew (exactly the gift, it is worth noting, at the heart of Christianity) is what millions of people are so eager to find in Frank’s hiding place, in her writings, in her “legacy.” 

It is far more gratifying to believe that an innocent dead girl has offered us grace than to recognize the obvious: 

Frank wrote about people being “truly good at heart” three weeks before she met people who weren’t.

Holocaust Rembrance

Here’s how much some people dislike living Jews:
They murdered six million of them.

In another essay, Fictional Dead Jews, Dara Horn writes about the "purpose" of dead Jews in contemporary, "uplifting" Holocaust novels:
Dead Jews are supposed to teach us about the beauty of the world and the wonders of redemption - otherwise, what was the point of killing them in the first place? That's what dead Jews are for! 
So then let's talk about righteous Gentiles. In the same essay, Dara Horn points out, parenthetically:
For the record, the number of actual "righteous Gentiles" officially recognized by Yad Vashem, Israel's national Holocaust museum and research center, for their efforts in rescuing Jews from the Holocaust is under 30,000 people, out of a European population at the time of nearly 300 million - or .001 percent. 

Even if we were to assume that the official recognition is an undercount by a factor of ten thousand, such people remain essentially a rounding error.

Yom HaShoah

As Abq Jew is sure you can plainly see from the excerpts he has thoughtfully provided, People Love Dead Jews is not an easy book to read. But it is an important book - "an outstanding book with a bold mission. It criticizes people, artworks and public institutions that few others dare to challenge."

The Allure of Dead Jews: A Conversation with Dara Horn
Prizewinning novelist Dara Horn joins
Jewish Review of Books editor Abraham Socher

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

KlezmerQuerque 2023

Here We Go!21stAnnual! YES! Congregation Nahalat Shalom will once again be celebrating its annual KlezmerQuerque festival of klezmer music and dance - this year, live AND on Zoom. And this weekend, NOT Presidents' Day weekend.

KlezmerQuerque 2023

21st KlezmerQuerque
Feb 10-12, 2023 - LIVE + 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. 

This year's special guest artist is:

Jew of Oklahoma
Mark Rubin - Jew of Oklahoma

Who of course you remember from Abq Jew's December 2022 blog post Happy Joyous Hanukkah and especially July 2021's A Day of Revenge

Before then, 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.  

Also Appearing:

Bruce Bierman (choreographer)
Yiddish and Yemenite dance master and teacher

Cantor Beth Cohen (voice, strings, and band director)
The Rebbe’s Orkestra

Maggidah Batya Podos (storyteller)

and of course -

Nahalat Shalom Community Klezmer Band,
Rikud Yiddish Dancers, and Alavados Ensemble

A la familia

Alla famiglia!


This week, Mr & Mrs Abq Jew celebrate the 47th anniversary of their wedding
at NYC's Town & Village Synagogue (with reception following at the Waldorf Astoria). 

Our Wedding

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

And The Jews Safely Crossed

The Sabbath of Song: This coming Shabbat is the Sabbath of Song, when we again read the story of the Crossing of the Red Sea and the ensuing celebrations.

And for those who are a bit Torah-challenged (aren't we all?), Abq Jew's sources tell him that some guy named Cecil B DeMille shot a movie of the whole affair. Here's a photo:

This is indeed a Shabbat for singing and celebration. Abq Jew therefore reminds you that, over at Congregation B'nai Israel, their new-ish Hazzan Jonathan Angress is in the building!

Cantor Angress

But wherever you are, you should especially sing and celebrate this Shabbat. Not only is this Shabbat Shirah - it's also Ice Cream for Breakfast Day*! Plus, it's the day before Erev Tu BiShevat (New Year of the Trees, aka Jewish Arbor Day) - the 15th day of the month of Shevat (and not the day before Three BiShevat).

What shall we sing? Abq Jew hears you ask. There's always Hava Nagila, which, it turns out, is not about Abq Jew's friend Gila, who grew up in Cuba. And, of course, there's Adon Olam, which can be sung to almost any tune in the world if you try hard enough.

Nope - here is Little Moses, the song that Abq Jew intends to sing. Abq Jew first heard it performed by Jen Larsen and Terry McGill* and Straight Drive, Abq Jew's second-favorite bluegrass band (#1 will always be The Greenbriar Boys, with John Herald and Bob Yellin). 

You've probably never heard of it, but that's OK. Abq Jew will teach it to you! While searching around on YouTube, Abq Jew found a most splendiferous version of Little Moses - by, of all groups, The Seekers. With video from the 1998 animated film The Prince of Egypt.

For those of you who were too young (and still are), here's a bit of what Wikipedia tells us about them:
The Seekers are an Australian quartet folk music-influenced pop music group which was originally formed in Melbourne in 1962. They were the first Australian popular music group to achieve major chart and sales success in the United Kingdom and the United States. 

They were popular during the 1960s with their best-known configuration as: Judith Durham on vocals, piano and tambourine; Athol Guy on double bass and vocals; Keith Potger on twelve-string guitar, banjo and vocals; and Bruce Woodley on guitar, mandolin, banjo and vocals. 

The Seekers

Where did Little Moses come from? The Carter Family of course, who recorded it on February 14, 1929. Sara Carter learned this “religious ballad” from an older relative. Here are the lyrics:
Away by the waters so blue
The ladies were winding their way
While Pharaoh's little daughter went down to the water
To bathe in the cool of the day
Before it was dark she opened the ark
And found the sweet babe that was there

And away by the waters so blue
The infant was lonely and sad
She took him in pity and thought him so pretty
And it made little Moses so glad
She called him her own, her beautiful son
And she sent for a nurse who was near

And away by the waters so blue
They carried that beautiful child
To his tender mother, to his sister and brothers
Little Moses looked happy and smiled
His mother so good did all that she could
To raise him and teach him with care

And away by the sea that was red
Little Moses the servant of God
While in him confided, the sea was divided
As upwards he lifted his rod
And the Jews safely crossed while Pharaoh's host
Was drownded in the waters and lost

And away on a mountain so high
The last that he ever did see
With Israel victorious, his hopes were most glorious
That soon all the Jordan be free
When his spirit did cease, he departed in peace
And rested in the Heavens above
How often, Abq Jew hears you ask, does Ice Cream For Breakfast Day (the first Saturday in February) coincide with Shabbat Shira (Parshat Beshalach)? Off the top of his head, or even farther down - Abq Jew hasn't the faintest notion.
But you can count on Abq Jew's Facebook friend Hebrew Calendar Facts (see also November 2021's A Tale of Two Revolts) and December 2020's Apple Sauce and Sour Cream for more facts) for the exact answer!
Shabbat Shirah can be anywhere from mid-January to mid-February (with a range of about a month), so it's going to be the 1st week of February about 1/4 of the time.  (Looking at the 100-year span from 1974-2073, i.e., the past 50 years and the next 50 years, it happens 26 out of 100 times.)  
However, this is not evenly distributed.  We're getting the Ice Cream Song combo this year, but the last time was 11 years ago, and the next time will be 11 years from now, so in our present generation, this is rare! 
In recent memory, Ice Cream For Breakfast Day fell on Shabbat Shirah in 1993, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2004, 2007, 2009, and 2012, and after this year (2023), it will happen again in 2034, 2039, 2042, 2045, 2048, 2050, and 2053. 
As for the triple combo of Ice Cream For Breakfast Day / Shabbat Shirah / Tu BiShvat (which we are *not* getting this year), this happens 7 times in the same 100-year span.  It happened in 1980, 1993, 2004, and 2007, and will happen again in 2034, 2061, and 2064.

So who, Abq Jew hears you ask, is Terry McGill? One of the finest 5-string banjo players in the Northeast, with whom Abq Jew was proud to study!

Terry is just recently retired (from his day job), which means he has even more time to play with the best bluegrass bands in the aforementioned Northeast. He'll be playing a house concert this weekend (in Teaneck, New Jersey) with Andy Statman and Gene Yellin - yes, Bob's guitar-playing brother. 

House Concert

Once upon a time, Abq Jew met Bob Yellin (but alas, did not study banjo with him). At Kibbutz Ein Dor (where King Saul once had a séance with the local necromancer) in the Spring of 1971. Those were the days!

Kibbutz Ein Dor

One More Thing


Shabbat Shalom, Albuquerque!
Good Shabbos, New Mexico!