Wednesday, February 28, 2024

The Matisyahu Story +1

An Update: It's a new week, and Abq Jew is sure that you, his loyal readers, must be wondering what's new with Matisyahu. No, Abq Jew is not planning to follow Matisyahu all over the world for the rest of his (let's leave the referent ambiguous) life - may we all live to 120! But one update is cool.

Matisyahu at Cal

Surprisingly, Aaron Levy-Wolins of J. (The Jewish News of Northern California) reports that Matisyahu successfully performed at UC Berkeley (yes, Berkeley, of all places) last week.

Matisyahu vibes in Berkeley despite pro-Palestinian protest outside theater

Jewish reggae singer and rapper Matisyahu enthralled a packed house Thursday night at UC Theatre in Berkeley, a week after two concerts on his current U.S. tour were canceled due to pressure from pro-Palestinian activists.

Before the show began, as concert-goers made their way inside the theater, a group of about 20 protesters wearing masks or keffiyehs covering their faces held signs with anti-Israel messages and yelled through bullhorns. They marched in a circle on the sidewalk and chanted, “Free, free Palestine” and “You’re supporting genocide.”

Inside, the atmosphere was overwhelmingly supportive of Israel and Matisyahu. A woman who did not want to be identified handed out large square stickers reading “FCK HMS,” meaning “F— Hamas.” Hundreds of concert-goers let out a loud cheer when Matisyahu took the stage after the opening act, alternative band Cydeways, finished its set. 

Matisyahu Defense Fund

On the other hand, there's The Matisyahu Defense Fund.

This is David Draiman of Disturbed, and I’m raising funds to provide security for my friend, Matisyahu, an amazing, peace loving artist, who is currently dealing with unprecedented levels of Antisemitism. 

Matisyahu and I first met years ago when he performed in Miami Beach and I had my management reach out to him when I heard about his unfortunate show cancellations in Arizona. 

I couldn’t let that stand. Couldn’t let him and his family continue to be terrorized, so this campaign was started. All funds will be wire transferred to Matisyahu’s management team to pay for a private security detail for him and his family for the remainder of his current tour.

Please donate so that our brother and his family remain safe and sound in the face of this hatred.

David Draiman

In the meantime - David Brinn of the Jerusalem Post reports that people donated.
Disturbed’s David Draiman raises $26,000 for Matisyahu’s security
Over the last 48 hours over 1,000 people donated to the campaign, money will be used to pay for private security for Matisyahu and his family.

A GoFundMe campaign initiated by Jewish American hard rocker David Draiman, lead singer of Disturbed, to raise $25,000 to provide security for fellow Jewish reggae roots singer Matisyahu, more than reached its goal in only two days.
Mayim Bialik

Which then brings us to Matisyahu's response to this whole mess. As reported by Mom, Actor, Author, Neuroscientist, and Proud Jew Mayim Bialik!

Reggae musician Matisyahu is experiencing canceled concerts on his current Hold the Fire tour. He released this beautiful and brave statement about what’s going on, and I wanted to repost it. Please read the whole thing. It’s very powerful.

Matisyahu Statement

JCRC-NM

Which brings us all the way back to the Jewish Community Relations Coalition of New Mexico (JCRC-NM). 

As Abq Jew mentioned last week (see The Matisyahu Story), the JCRC-NM later sent out a Press Release, a version of which was also sent to Meow Wolf executives and the Mayor of Santa Fe, Alan Webber.

Whereupon ensued what Abq Jew sincerely hopes will be a productive and forward-thinking correspondence between the JCRC-NM and Meow Wolf. The JCRC-NM specifically asked:

  • Does Meow Wolf have a policy that artists with particular political views may not show their art or perform at Meow Wolf? If so, what is that policy? Might you be willing share it publicly with the community?
  • Will you block other Jewish artists from displaying their art or performing under the auspices of Meow Wolf if they support the right of the Jewish people to have a state in our ancient homeland?
  • Have you cancelled or refused to schedule any other artists at Meow Wolf based on community or employee objections to the artist’s personal views?
  • How does Meow Wolf vet allegations made by community members or employees regarding what an individual artist believes or stands for? Did you research any of the allegations made against Matisyahu or ask him about them before cancelling the concert?
  • What have you communicated to those who bought tickets to attend the concert and may have travelled long distances to come to Santa Fe that day?
  • Do you plan to invite Matisyahu to return to the community to perform at another time?
Meow Wolf Santa Fe

And Meow Wolf responded:
Thank you for sharing these questions. We take your concerns seriously. 
And your letter highlights the need for a deeper dialogue, especially regarding our engagement with the Jewish community and ensuring our space remains welcoming to all artists. 
First, I want to reassure you that at Meow Wolf, no Jewish artists, nor their audiences, will be discriminated against or silenced merely because they are Jewish and support the existence of Israel as a sovereign state in the homeland of the Jewish people. 
Free expression is one of our core values as a company, and we welcome all artists and points of views. Meow Wolf believes in the power of art to bring people together. 
We do not tolerate Antisemitism, hate, racism, discrimination or violence of any kind. I also want to reiterate the following: 
  • The Matisyahu show was canceled because of safety concerns and not because of the artist’s religious or political beliefs.
  • As is often the case in matters such as these, misinformation shared on social media channels was partially responsible for escalating this situation quickly and unexpectedly. 
  • We are still a relatively young company and we were unprepared for key employees not reporting to work as scheduled. 
  • We have room for improvement and education on several fronts, and we are eager to engage with community leaders to discuss policies that more clearly reflect our values as an organization and prevent situations like this one from happening in the future. 
  • We have apologized to all ticket holders and offered them a full refund plus two tickets to visit Meow Wolf in the future. At the appropriate time, I also hope to speak to Matisyahu in person and apologize to him as well. 
  • We deeply regret how this situation played out, and we hope to restore trust with the Jewish community and repair our relationship with Matisyahu. 
If you are available, I would welcome the opportunity to speak to you in person in more detail. It's crucial for us to understand your perspective, share ours, and explore how we can better support and celebrate the diversity of artistic expressions at Meow Wolf, including those from the Jewish community. 
We're committed to creating an environment where artists from every background feel valued. And I believe a face-to-face discussion will help us address your questions more effectively and collaboratively find ways to reinforce this commitment. 
In the meantime, I thank you for initiating this important dialogue. We look forward to working together to ensure Meow Wolf remains a vibrant space for the arts that is welcoming to all.
One More Thing

UC Berkeley

UC Berkeley is, alas, still UC Berkeley.

And Now Back


Wednesday, February 21, 2024

The Matisyahu Story

An Interpretation: Well, by now, Abq Jew suspects, you've all heard last week's news from Santa Fe:

Matisyahu
Matisyahu is Too Jewish for Meow Wolf!

It turns out that Matisyahu is also too Jewish for Tucson - but that's for AZ Jews to deal with. Right here, we've got Abq Jew's snapshot - not comprehensive and probably not up-to-date - of the City Different situation.

Matisyahu

First, an introduction. For those who are of a certain age and who, therefore, may not be entirely conversant with the phenomenon of Matisyahu, Wikipedia tells us:

Matthew Paul Miller (born June 30, 1979), known by his stage name Matisyahu (מתיסיהו‎), is an American reggae singer, rapper, beatboxer, and alternative rock musician.

He was brought up a Reconstructionist Jew and attended Hebrew school at Bet Am Shalom, a synagogue in White Plains, New York. 

From 2001 through July 2007, Matisyahu was affiliated with the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic community in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, New York, whose rabbi officiated at his wedding in 2004. 

However, as of July 17, 2007, he told the Miami New Times in an interview that he no longer "necessarily" identifies with the Lubavitch movement. 

On December 13, 2011, after a session with his therapist, Matisyahu walked into a Supercuts on the Upper West Side in Manhattan and shaved his beard. 

STL Jewish Light further explains:

After shaving his beard, Matisyahu began to attend a Hasidic shul in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, associated with the Karlin sect.

“The place I feel most comfortable davening is by the Hasidim who scream,” he said. “I stepped into a Karlin shul, where they’re literally pissed off and screaming at God and everybody is singing their own melody. And it’s very beautiful.”

These days, Matisyahu is still religious — and he’s looking for a new synagogue to pray at near his home in Monsey, a town in New York’s Rockland County.

But enough background . . . . 

Concerts

What happened?

The short version: Two of Matisyahu's planned concerts - one in Santa Fe, one in Tucson - were cancelled, more or less at the last minute, for reasons having to do with pro-Palestinian protests planned for both venues.

JTA Logo

JTA's Philissa Cramer provides an excellent short synopsis. Which begins:

2 Matisyahu concerts in the Southwest are canceled after pro-Palestinian activists protest

(JTA) — Two concerts by Matisyahu, the American Jewish singer famous for his peace anthem “One Day,” have been canceled after pro-Palestinian protesters targeted venues where he was set to perform.

Meow Wolf in Santa Fe, New Mexico, canceled one concert on Wednesday. The Rialto Theatre in Tucson, Arizona, canceled a second on Thursday, after first saying it would not do so.

Both venues cited staffing shortages and safety concerns. Both had been targeted by protesters who said Matisyahu’s record of performing for Israeli soldiers and pro-Israel groups in the United States should disqualify him from appearing.

Matisyahu said in a statement posted to Instagram that he had offered to pay for additional staffing and security at the Rialto show but had been rebuffed.

“They do this because they are either antisemitic or have confused their empathy for the Palestinian people with hatred for someone like me who builds empathy for both Israelis and Palestinians,” he wrote about those who had sought to cancel his show. 

“It truly is a sad day when dialogue with those you disagree with is abandoned for hate-mongering and silencing artistic expression.”

He will instead play a free show in Tucson for hundreds of people.

The concerts’ cancelation adds to a growing number of incidents in which Jewish and pro-Israel athletes and celebrities have had appearances scuttled, or threatened to be canceled, amid fierce criticism by pro-Palestinian activists, more than four months into the Israel-Hamas war that began Oct. 7 when Hamas attacked Israel.

The Santa Fe Reporter's Alex De Vore provides a local view:

Meow Wolf Calls Off Matisyahu Concert 

Activists say they joined workers to push for the last-minute cancellation over artist’s message on Israel-Gaza war

Following pressure from local activists and a last-minute staff shortage, Santa Fe arts corporation and music venue Meow Wolf canceled a Valentine’s Day show with reggae artist Matisyahu on Tuesday evening just before the proverbial curtain was set to rise.

“Yesterday, we canceled a concert at the House of Eternal Return,” reads a statement Meow Wolf Vice President of Public Relations Kati Murphy issued to SFR. “Two hours before the show was set to begin, we found ourselves without adequate staff to safely manage the sold out crowd. Meow Wolf will always prioritize the safety of our employees and our guests. We are in the process of refunding ticket holders.”

Members of Santa Feans for Justice in Palestine, Santa Fe Jews for a Free Palestine, the Santa Fe Democratic Socialists of America, Showing Up For Racial Justice in Northern New Mexico and the Santa Fe Ad Hoc Committee on Palestine say they asked Meow Wolf to call off the concert and planned a protest at the venue because Matisyahu has been an outspoken supporter of the Israeli campaign in Gaza.

KRQE News13

But KRQE News13's Jordan Honeycutt offers a much more robust view of what happened:

Hip hop artist says Meow Wolf show canceled over support for Israel

Hip hop fans were disappointed in Santa Fe Wednesday when a sold-out musical performance was canceled two hours before show time. Matisyahu was scheduled to perform at Meow Wolf until the company pulled the plug on the show. The hip-hop artist has been vocal about his support of Israel during the war with Palestine [sic].

Local pro-Palestinian groups activist groups are claiming that their pressure on Meow Wolf is the reason for the cancellation.

Jewish Responses

Matisyahu (reported by KRQE) released this statement to his fans:

To my fans: My fans and I should have played a sold out show at Meow Wolf in Santa Fe last night and we were excited for tonight’s show at the Rialto Theater in Tucson. Instead, the staff at these venues refused to come to work, forcing cancellations. 

Without our permission or approval, the venue in Santa Fe misinformed our fans cancelling the show due to “security concerns,” when the only concern was a group of staff unwilling to work my show.

Tonight in Tucson, we have offered to supplement their staff shortages on our own dime, but to no avail. They do this because they are either anti-Semititc or have confused their empathy for the Palestinian people with hatred for some who holds empathy for both Israelis and Palestinians.

It is truly a sad day when dialogue with those you disagree with is abandoned for hate mongering and silencing artistic expression. 

My band and I will keep moving forward always! 

We will perform songs that celebrate unity, peace, and perseverance, and we will connect with our fans through the sacredness of shared music which has always brought people together. Unfortunately, it seems that more and more people are choosing to cast their lot with actions that tear people apart.

Tearing down posters of kidnapped children does not bring peace. Chanting genocidal slogans at Jews does not bring peace. Preventing fans of all ethnic and religious backgrounds from singing together in Santa Fe or Tucson does not bring peace. In fact, it does the opposite. 

It may make some people feel good to express anger publicly in hopes that it will obscure the hypocrisy of us Americans living on actual colonized land taken through an actual genocide of Native Americans. But I refuse to succumb to such destructive behavior which helps nobody and only fuels more anger.

So to my fans in Santa Fe and Tucson, I am sorry you were denied a show. I love you all. My band and I will be back. We will not respond to hate with more hate. We will be together again. 

We will make music together again. 

We will sing together again One Day soon . . . .

Mayor Alan Webber

And Santa Fe's Mayor Alan Webber (reported by KRQE) released this statement:

There is a significant difference between protesting against the policies of the Netanyahu government in Gaza and shutting down the performance of a Jewish-American artist in Santa Fe. 

There’s no excuse for antisemitism, Islamophobia, bigotry, bias, racism, or intolerance, not here, not now, not ever. 

The war in Israel and Gaza is a humanitarian tragedy, and we should all join in the call for the safe return of all hostages and an end to the killing. We need to see peace in the Middle East.

Rabbi Levertov

Rabbi Berel Levertov of the Santa Fe Chabad Jewish Center posted:

Wednesday evening, Jewish Reggae Singer Matisyahu was set to hold a sold-out concert at Meow Wolf in Santa Fe.

After the sound-check, without discussing with him, Meow Wolf canceled the concert. The reason? Their antisemitic staff walked out and would not staff the concert because Matisyahu is Jewish and supports Israel!

Pure antisemitism in Santa Fe.

This was not a last-minute decision, this was a planned attack, carefully orchestrated to hurt Jews. Plain and simple.

So far Meow Wolf has been silent about the incident other than notify the concert-goers that the concert is canceled, and tickets will be refunded. It's a shame.

If you had tickets to the concert, we would like to chat with you and discuss what we can do . . . .

Rabbi Neil Amswych of Santa Fe's Temple Beth Shalom sent this letter to the Santa Fe New Mexican (it was published), and later posted it on Facebook.

Since December, I have been sharing a presentation on the Israel-Hamas War with faith communities in Santa Fe, a presentation that is critical of leadership on both sides, that is pro-peace by being both pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian. 

If you would like me to bring it to your community or organization, please reach out to Temple Beth Shalom. 

The more I share the presentation, the more I encounter a very small but disturbingly vocal number of Santa Feans who have taken to emailing venues in advance to try to get my presentation cancelled. 

To such people, truth and peace-making is not important anymore, only cancelling any opinion that is divergent of their own. I now personally face the absurd accusations of being not only Islamophobic and a genocide denier but of even being pro-genocide, almost totally from people who have never even heard my presentation! 

I used to think that cancel culture didn’t really exist until they aimed it at me, a liberal Jew who dares to express anything informed, complex and nuanced, instead of inaccurate, ignorant and oversimplistic soundbites. 

And now those who mistakenly imagine these perverse accusations to be moral have gone further by forcing the cancellation of a Jewish performer visiting our city while using exactly the same lies and slurs about him as they do about me, merely because of his support for one side in a war against a vicious terrorist organization that would gladly kill every single one of the people who cancelled him if they had the opportunity.

To the minority on the far left who have now gone full circle and inadvertently met up with the far right’s intolerance of divergent opinions, especially Jewish ones that don’t fit their narrative, I have some advice. If you don’t like somebody’s politics or religion, don’t give them your money - it’s that simple. 

But if you try to stop others from doing so, they will resent not just you but also your cause. The online anger outside your bubble for what you did at Meow Wolf was palpable. 

You did nothing to bring peace to the world, you just boycotted a Jew for his beliefs, ruined the evening of four hundred people and tarnished the reputation of Meow Wolf.

To the decent people of Santa Fe who still value dialogue and diversity, I believe that we need to work together to combat the effects of the intolerance of these disproportionately loud and deliberately divisive individuals in our community. 

As Karl Popper famously wrote, for a tolerant society to exist, we need to be intolerant of the intolerant. 

After this successful boycott, one person wrote online that they were ashamed of Santa Fe. Don’t be. Fight for Santa Fe. 

Work with the city, with educational establishments, with businesses, with faith communities and with organizations to ensure that they are prepared for the inevitable future boycotts and disruptions by those who seek to silence diversity. 

Openly and loudly support those individuals, organizations and communities who work for peace not by drowning out difference but by celebrating it. Ensure that local discourse, in print and online, focuses on those who represent the majority who get on quietly with the difficult work of making peace, instead of those who just shout the loudest. 

Help those who know little about the subject not learn from angry soundbites but from informed, rational discourse backed up by facts. Elevate the communities and organizations that value nuance and balance and who seek a just and mutual peace. 

Together, in response to this intolerance, we must create a more tolerant and diverse Santa Fe.

Zach Benjamin

Zach Benjamin, former Executive Director of the Jewish Federation of New Mexico (JFNM) and currently a member of the Steering Committee of the Jewish Community Relations Coalition of New Mexico (JCRC-NM), posted this on his Facebook page:

Let us be abundantly clear and, frankly, honest with ourselves. 
We have reached a point where Jewish artists and their patrons are being intimidated, threatened, and silenced for one reason, and one reason only: because they are Jewish (and/or consume art created by Jews). 
We live at a point in the history of Western civilization where any perceived bias against any individual or group due to race, culture, national origin, or personal identity is met with fervent, aggressive opposition and condemnation. 
It is utterly imperative, then, that this same visceral reaction to prejudice extend to anti-Jewish hate. 
And yet, hatred of Jews--which by every measure is a lethal and ancient scourge--continues to be explained and excused by thought leaders and institutions that actively and abjectly reject every other form of bias. 
Enough is enough. 
Your personal perspectives on Israeli geopolitics do not excuse, explain, or justify the persecution or silencing of Jewish voices. 
Oppose hatred, bias, and prejudice against Jews. Period.
JCRCNM

The Jewish Community Relations Coalition of New Mexico (JCRC NM) noted that

On February 14th, musical artist, Matisyahu, was scheduled to perform at Meow Wolf, to a sold out crowd. Just 2 hours before the performance the audience received an email that the show was cancelled, with reasons that ranged from 'security issues,' 'safety, potential conflict, worker resistance to the artist. 

It basically boiled down to Meow Wolf workers unwilling to show up to manage the show. 

The JCRC-NM later sent out a Press Release, a version of which was also sent to Meow Wolf executives and the Mayor of Santa Fe, Alan Webber.

We are writing on behalf of the New Mexico Jewish Community Relations Coalition (JCRC), a broad coalition of 25 non-profit religious, educational, advocacy, cultural, and assistance organizations representing the diverse perspectives of the Jewish community in our state, including many in Santa Fe. 

Collectively the organizations in our coalition represent thousands of Jews in New Mexico. 

Like most New Mexicans, we understand that the arts are the very thread from which our state’s rich, dynamic cultural fabric is woven, and so we were saddened to learn of the decision to forego Matisyahu’s February 14 concert at Meow Wolf due to security concerns. 

Furthermore, the arts represent one of the most important sectors of New Mexico’s economy, and so it is doubly critical that New Mexico, and Santa Fe in particular, remain a nurturing environment for the arts and a place that enables them to flourish.

Thirty days ago, anti-Israel protestors attempted to shout down Governor Lujan Grisham during the State of the State message to members of the state legislature. They did not stop the work of the legislature. It is unfortunate that some of those same elements were able to shut down the voice of a Jewish musician and deprive the community of his artistry.  

Let us be clear: Matisyahu, an American artist, became a target only because of his identity as a Jew with an affinity toward Israel.  This kind of targeting cannot be normalized.

As Jews and as New Mexicans, we believe deeply in freedom of artistic expression, and we applaud Meow Wolf for its seminal role in advancing the arts in Santa Fe and across the Mountain West. We also understand that the conditions that led to the cancellation of last night’s concert were beyond Meow Wolf’s immediate control. 

However, we fear that this incident nonetheless sets a dangerous precedent that may deprive local audiences of exposure to the important, transformative work of artists from a diversity of backgrounds and perspectives. 

We are also concerned that the performance’s cancellation may implicitly discourage other artists from seeking to bring their talents to our community, which may now be inaccurately characterized as one that welcomes them only selectively.

Santa Fe, its businesses and civic leaders must remain fully committed to free artistic expression without regard for any artist’s cultural, religious, or national affiliation. The city’s character, culture, and economy depend on it remaining a place where the arts thrive unabated, and where the right to artistic freedom is secure. 

To limit artistic expression is to threaten the very economic and cultural foundation on which the city stands, and so our leaders must take every measure to protect artistic freedom.

The JCRC would be pleased to work with you in any way necessary to guard against further attacks on free artistic expression, and we would welcome a dialog to learn how to do so most effectively. 

Meanwhile, Matisyahu has taken to social media to express his intent to return to Santa Fe to perform, and we certainly encourage Meow Wolf to provide a venue through which to expose the community to his artistic talents.

And now . . . 

Abq Jew

 What does Abq Jew think?

Abq Jew applauds and supports the reasonable and rational, polite and politically correct, civil and civilized efforts of the JCRC-NM (in particular) and others to have a reasonable and rational, polite and politically correct, civil and civilized discussion of all the events surrounding the Matisyahu boycott with those who are at best indifferent to Jewish concerns and at worst rooting for The Jews to just go away.

But - especially after all the sleepless nights since October 7th - Abq Jew is extremely tired of and, frankly, antagonistic toward those worldly forces who want him to apologize for who he is.

Abq Jew models his approach, therefore, on that which Mary Poppins first enunciated in the 1964 eponymous film.

Mary Poppins

Am Israel Chai

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

When 1 Adar Just Ain't Enough

Let Our Joy Increase 2X: Thank God it's Adar (and has been since last Shabbat)! When Adar arrives, our happiness goes way up. Which is good - because God knows we can use all the happiness we can get.

This year, especially. And, as it turns out - as it often does - this year we get twice the happiness we usually get.

Happy Adar

That's because this year (תשׁפ״ד = 5784) is a Leap Year. According, of course, to the Hebrew Calendar. 

IMPORTANT!
You may wish to refresh your knowledge of the
Hebrew Calendar before proceeding. See

So. Your first question may (or, then again, may not) be:

Leap Year

How do we know it's a Leap Year?

Wikipedia explains how the Masters of the Hebrew Calendar have done it, like forever (but not really):

To determine whether year n of the calendar is a leap year, find the remainder on dividing [(7 × n) + 1] by 19. If the remainder is 6 or less it is a leap year; if it is 7 or more it is not.  
For example, the remainder on dividing [(7 × 5774) + 1] by 19 is 6, so the year 5774 is a leap year. The remainder on dividing [(7 × 5775) + 1] by 19 is 13, so the year 5775 is not a leap year.

And for this year:

The remainder on dividing [(7 × 5784) + 1] by 19 is 0, so the year 5784 is a leap year. The remainder in dividing [(7 × 5785) + 1] by 19 is 7, so the year 5785 is not a leap year.
Ta-da

So. Your next question may (or, then again, may not) be:

Plus One

What happens on a Leap Year?

We know, from our years of experience, that something ... something ... must be added. But what? Pope Gregory XIII - after a minor adjustment (Thursday October 4, 1582 was followed by Friday October 15, 1582) - said 

Every year that is exactly divisible by four is a leap year, except for years that are exactly divisible by 100, but these centurial years are leap years if they are exactly divisible by 400. 

For example, the years 1700, 1800, and 1900 are not leap years, but the year 2000 is.

 Feb 29

That's how we end up this year (2024) with a February 29th. Which was immediately OK for the Catholics, then (very gradually) for the Protestants - and eventually for most of the so-called "civil"-ized world. 

But we Jews are always up for a challenge. So (says Wikipedia):

Adar (Hebrew: אֲדָר‎) is the sixth month of the civil year and the twelfth month of the religious year on the Hebrew calendar. It is a month of 29 days.

The month's name, like all the others from the Hebrew calendar, was adopted during the Babylonian captivity. 

In leap years, it is preceded by a 30-day intercalary month ....

That's right! We've got Adar Alef Adar Rishon Adar I and we've got Adar Bet Adar Sheni Adar II. A whole extra month every leap year!

Lady or Tiger

And - once again, because we're Jews - the extra month is generally accepted as Alef Adar Rishon Adar I, not Adar Bet Adar Sheni Adar II. Which is to say: Adar I cuts in line. Wikipedia explains:

Based on a line in the Mishnah declaring that Purim must be celebrated in Adar II in a leap year (Megillah 1:4), Adar I is considered the "extra" month. 
As a result, someone born in Adar during a non leap year would celebrate their birthday in Adar II during a leap year. 
However, someone born during either Adar in a leap year will celebrate their birthday during Adar in a non-leap year, except that someone born on 30 Adar I will celebrate their birthday on 1 Nisan in a non-leap year because Adar in a non-leap year has only 29 days.

It's Easy

So anyway. As we Jews tell each other every Adar:

Adar In Joy Up

Or, in other words:

When Adar Enters

Therefore, Abq Jew is happy to present Trina Emig (banjo), Trina Emig (bass), Trina Emig (mandolin), Trina Emig (guitar), and Trina Emig (fiddle), playing the old fiddle tune Soldier's Joy.


Want to find out how she did this? Click here.

It's True Ma

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Arno Allan Penzias Dies at 90

Nobel Prize-Winning Physicist: Dr Arno Allan Penzias died a couple of weeks ago - on January 22, 2024 - at the age of 90. His last days were spent in an assisted living facility in San Francisco.

Abq Jew has mentioned Penzias's passing to a few people who did not know who Arno Penzias was or what Arno Penzias did. Abq Jew finds this remarkable - isn't this common knowledge? Doesn't everyone know?

Arno Allan Penzias

What Arno Penzias did - along with fellow Nobel Prize winner Robert Woodrow Wilson - was to a) identify; and b) explain the cosmic hum, aka the Cosmic Microwave Background.

Hummingbird

The universe hums.

We all know why hummingbirds hum, don't we? Because they don't know the words! (A great old dad joke, but not true; here's why.) 

So why does the universe hum? (And no, we're not talking about tinnitus, or about the Taos, Auckland, Windsor, or any other Hum.)

The Big Bang

The short answer is: the universe hums because of the Big Bang. But Abq Jew knows that you, his loyal readers, will not be satisfied with the short answer. 

So let's get technical and let Wikipedia explain:

The cosmic microwave background (CMB or CMBR) is microwave radiation that fills all space in the observable universe. 

It is a remnant that provides an important source of data on the primordial universe.

With a standard optical telescope, the background space between stars and galaxies is almost completely dark. 

However, a sufficiently sensitive radio telescope detects a faint background glow that is almost uniform and is not associated with any star, galaxy, or other object. This glow is strongest in the microwave region of the radio spectrum. 

The accidental discovery of the CMB in 1965 by American radio astronomers Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson was the culmination of work initiated in the 1940s.

CMB is landmark evidence of the Big Bang theory for the origin of the universe. 

Bell Labs Holmdel

Dr Penzias (and Dr Wilson) made this CMB discovery while working at Bell Labs in Holmdel, New Jersey. 

Where, once upon a time (see April 2018's Fame, Fortune, and Four WivesAbq Jew worked as a Technical Writer - a Word Man, as he was even then known.

Arno Penzias

So now we know when and where Arno Penzias died, and a small portion of what he did during his life. But - where did Arno Penzias start out?

That is a story told by Arno Penzias himself, as Abq Jew discovered when he visited the Nobel Prize website:
I was born in Munich, Germany, in 1933. 
Munich 1933

I spent the first six years of my life comfortably, as an adored child in a closely-knit middle-class family. Even when my family was rounded up for deportation to Poland it didn’t occur to me that anything could happen to us. 

All I remember is scrambling up and down three tiers of narrow beds attached to the walls of a very large room, and then taking a long train trip. After some days of back and forth on the train, we were returned to Munich. 

All the grown-ups were happy and relieved, but I began to realize that there were bad things that my parents couldn’t completely control, something to do with being Jewish. 

I learned that everything would be fine if we could only get to “America”.

In the late spring of 1939, shortly after my sixth birthday, my parents put their two boys on a train for England; we each had a suitcase with our initials painted on it, as well as a bag of candy. 

They told me to be sure and take care of my younger brother. 

I remember telling him, “jetzt sind wir allein (now we are alone)" as the train pulled out.

My mother received her exit permit about a month later (just a few weeks before the war broke out) and was able to join us in England. 

My father had arrived in England almost as soon as the two of us, but we hadn’t seen him because he was interned in a camp for alien men. 

The only other noteworthy event in the six or so months we spent in England, awaiting passage to America, occurred one morning in a makeshift schoolroom. At that moment, I suddenly realized that I could read the open page of the (English) school book I had been staring at.

We sailed for America toward the end of December 1939 on the Cunard liner Georgic – using tickets that my father had foresightedly bought in Germany a year and half earlier. 

The ship provided party hats and balloons for the Christmas and New Year’s parties, as well as lots of lifeboat drills. The grey three-inch gun on the aft deck was a great attraction for us boys.

We arrived in New York in January of 1940 ....

Kindertransport

One might think that Arno Penzias's story would be best told by Arno Penzias himself. But the Kindertransport story might be better told by Katie Sanders of National Geographic. Who begins:

How a stranger’s kindness during WWII helped give us the Big Bang theory

German-born physicist Arno Penzias escaped the Holocaust with the help of a benefactor he never met. That secret act of generosity changed his life—and our understanding

On the eve of World War II, the owner of a Belleville, New Jersey, paint shop got a frantic knock on his door. It was a 28-year-old German immigrant named Leo Gelbart, who’d been going door to door, appealing to members of the town’s Jewish community.

“This family needs to get out of Germany, and I don’t have enough money to help. Can you?” Gelbart asked. He showed the store owner a black-and-white photograph of his friends back in Munich: a handsome couple named Karl and Justine Penzias, holding their sons Arno and Guenther, six and four. 

With German Chancellor Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime increasingly persecuting and interning Jews, the Penzias family had to flee or face a concentration camp. 

But to immigrate to America, they needed to secure several affidavits of support — official documents vouching that they had a relative and a financial safety net in the United States. 

Gelbart would provide the first, falsely stating that his friend Karl Penzias was his cousin. But as a waiter, he didn’t have enough money to qualify as the family’s sponsor. 

He was trying to find someone to sign the second affidavit taking on the Penziases as dependents in case of need.

The 52-year-old paint merchant said yes, he would help. “I’ll be glad to support them until they become self-supporting,” he wrote on the affidavit. 

From Germany, a deeply grateful Karl Penzias gave this stranger his word, via his friend, that his family only needed support on paper and would show their gratitude by never contacting him.

The story gets better:

In 1939, as they scrambled to make arrangements to leave Germany for America, Arno's parents sent their young sons to England as part of the Kindertransport, a British rescue effort that transported 10,000 mostly Jewish children out of Nazi territory. 

The brothers bounced around from an all-girls London orphanage to different English foster families. As Nazis accelerated Hitler’s murderous campaign that would give birth to the word “genocide,” Karl and Justine Penzias, equipped with the necessary paperwork, eventually reunited with their sons in England and set out for the U.S. by boat. 

The family dodged hurricanes and German submarines on their journey across the Atlantic. On January 3, 1940, as their ship docked in New York City, journalists snapped photographs of Arno and Guenther, wide-eyed young refugees waving to the Statue of Liberty.

And then the story - as told by Katie Sanders - gets even better:

But thanking the man whose signature opened the door to America wasn’t feasible. Arno’s father had promised never to contact the signer of the affidavit, and he kept his word. The details regarding their helper remained a mystery.

Then, in 2012, Arno’s son David Penzias found an envelope in some family papers.

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Hummingbird

This is why the universe hums.

Monday, January 29, 2024

Older Key

Older Roller Skates:  Melanie, the singer who made a solo splash at Woodstock, has died at 76. So reported The New York Times last week. 

Melanie

Just 22 when she charmed the festival crowd, the Times continued, she went on to enjoy success with songs like “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)” and “Brand New Key.”

Old Key

As it turns out - and it always does, doesn't it? - Abq Jew wrote about Melanie way back in June 2012 (see Old Key). 

The prompt then was the above photo, posted by celebrated ABQ accordionist and musician (these are two separate categories) Debo Orlofsky. Whom Abq Jew then thanked for reminding him of just how old he is.

Old Man with Cane

That was 11 years and 7 months ago.


After which thanks, Abq Jew then continued:

Just how old is Abq Jew?  He's so old that he knows exactly what this is.  Not to give it away ... well, yes, to give it away - the picture above goes with the drawing below:


Some of you may still be having trouble with this.  So let Abq Jew explain: this is one of a pair of roller skates.  One used to put roller skates on over one's regular shoes (one skate per shoe); the skates were then tightened (so they didn't fall off) through use of a skate key, which is the object portrayed in Debo's photo.

All of this took place in the years just before photography was invented.

Debo, working with the Archaeological Society of New Mexico (Abq Jew just made that up) was able to recover that old skate key and photograph it.  No old roller skates have ever been recovered, however, which is why Abq Jew had to use the above drawing (artist's conception).

In case you need reminding, here is what roller skates look like now:

Roller Skates

One can see the resemblance in form and function to the roller skates of the ancients, although accurate information about when pink was introduced is missing from the historical record.

And speaking of historical records - Abq Jew is on a roll now! - here is Brand New Key, the famous song by Melanie, of whom, Abq Jew suspects, many of you have never heard.

Caution: This song was considered highly risque in its time!


What's the Jewish connection, Abq Jew hears you ask?  Well, Melanie is (thanks, Wikipedia!)
Melanie Anne Safka-Schekeryk (born February 3, 1947) ... an American singer-songwriter. Known professionally as simply Melanie, she is best known for her hits Brand New Key, Ruby Tuesday, What Have They Done To My Song Ma , and Lay Down (Candles in the Rain).

Melanie was born and grew up in the Astoria neighborhood of Queens, New York City, New York. Melanie made her first public singing appearance at age four on the radio show Live Like A Millionaire, performing the song Gimme a Little Kiss. She attended Red Bank High School in Red Bank, New Jersey, graduating in 1966. After school, her parents insisted she go to college, so she studied acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, where she began singing in the folk clubs of Greenwich Village and signed her first recording contract.
Astoria?  Red Bank High School?  Parents insisted she go to college?  Do we need further proof?  OK, how about this:  Melanie Safka is listed on the Bellevue Holiday Rentals List of Famous Jews, right between Mel Brooks (who we all know) and Mike D'Abo, former lead singer of Manfred Mann who sang on their hit The Mighty Quinn.

But Wait There's More

The Times tells the "Brand New Key" story - 
Melanie’s biggest hit, “Brand New Key,” might not have happened without an impromptu stop at a McDonald’s.

A vegetarian at the time, Ms. Melanie had just been through a cleansing fast in which she consumed nothing but distilled water for 27 days, she said in 2021 in an interview with the newspaper The Tennessean in Nashville, where she was living at the time.

She was so weakened by hunger that she was almost hallucinating, and a doctor recommended that she eat meat to build strength. One day, on a trip to a flea market with her husband, Peter Schekeryk, she found herself unable to resist the lure of the Golden Arches.

“No sooner than had I finished the last bite of burger,” she told the newspaper, “I wrote ‘Brand New Key.’ It just came into my head. I had one of those little practice guitars in the van with me, and when my husband, who was a record producer, heard me singing, he said, ‘What’s that?’ 
And I said, ‘Oh, some silly song. I’m just playing around.’ He said, ‘No, no — do that part again!’ And I did, and he said, ‘Melanie, that’s a hit!’”

He was not wrong .... 

“Some people say I've done alright for a girl.”