Observations Along the Road

Theatre Writeups, Musings on the News, Rants and Roadkill Along the Information Superhighway

Category Archive: 'judaism'

An Interesting Deal on Jewish Music

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Apr 19, 2014 @ 1:36 pm PDT

userpic=folk-artistsI originally highlighted this on Facebook a few weeks ago, but felt it should go here as well. I learned about this from my brother-in-law, and I purchased it about two weeks ago… and I’m still working my way through it. For 0.99, you get over 200 songs, 8+ hours of “Jewish” music. In reality, it is a mix of 1960s Israeli music (including a lot of Israeli dance song), loads of Yiddish, Klezmer, a few Russian folks songs (mostly drawn from albums published by Vanguard), and a Jan Peerce album about Passover. A real eclectic mix, but I’ve figured out what some of the source albums were — and some are rare and going for over $100 on Amazon, so the value is surprisingly tremendous. I have no idea when they will reprice this — it’s been up for a week. Here’s the link for the MP3 album. [ETA: It looks like they won’t reprice it — it seems this group’s deal is to create big collections of music that is out of copyright. What this likely means, for this album, is they are going from the original vinyl, as opposed to any CD reissues.]

The albums that seem to make this up (in whole or in part) are:

  • “Israel Sings!”, Karmon Israeli Singers, 1998 Vanguard
  • “Sings Jewish Folk Songs”, Martha Schlamme, Vanguard 1998
  • “Tumbalalaika! [Yiddish Folksongs without Words]”, Emil Decameron Orchestra, 1959, 1991 Vanguard
  • “Behold Thou Art Fair” And Other Songs Of Israel , Netania Davrath, Vanguard
  • “Martha Schlamme Sings Israeli Folk Songs”, Martha Schlamme, 1960 Vanguard VRS 9072
  • “The Singing Waltz: Klezmer Guitar and Mandolin”, Jeff Warschauer, 1997
  • “The Yiddish dream”, Vanguard 1991
  • “Raisins and Almonds: Jewish Folk Songs, Martha Schlamme
  • “Out of the Ghetto: Songs of the Jews in America”, Leon Lishner
  • “Songs of the Sabras”, Karmon Israeli Singers, 1993
  • “Netania Davrath Sings Russian, Yiddish & Israeli Folk Songs”, Netania Davrath
  • “A Passover Seder”, Jan Peerce, 1997

For the price, as they say, “what a buy!”

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Saturday Stew: From XP to Exes, from New Coins to Old History

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Mar 22, 2014 @ 6:52 am PDT

Observation StewIt’s Saturday, and that means it is time to clear out the links for the week. This has been a busy week, with a major recorganization (which was more of an org chart relocation) at work (means loads of “all-hands” meetings full of sound and fury, saying little), loads of documents to review, and loads of stuff to catch up on. As a result, I rarely got time to look at the news over lunch, and have only collected a few things that didn’t them. Let’s get to them:

  • The Death of XP. My RSS feeds are full of dire warnings about continuing to use XP after support stops on April 8. As it is, I have three XP machines at home: two that are just sitting, turned off, and one that is used solely as a print server. Still, I am thinking about replacing it, and two articles caught my eye. The first looks at 3 Linux alternatives to upgrading Windows–I’d seriously think about upgrading at least one to Linux if it can work as a print server on a Windows network. The second talks about how Microsoft is offering special deals of $100 for those upgrading from XP. With some Windows 8 machines in the $200-$300 range, this brings systems to the noise level.
  • Challenging Coins. Two interesting articles on coins this week. The first talks about the new £1 coin Britain is introducing. It will be 12-sided, and incorporate different-colored metals, for a faux gold and silver look, instead of the mostly copper blend now in circulation, and boast a high-tech anti-forgery feature used in paper money. It looks like it is complicated to make. Even more complicated is a new domed collectable coin being made by the US Mint: a domed coin commemorating baseball. Evidently, it was very hard for the mint to manufacture, and took a bit of experimenting to get right. What’s interesting here is reading the comments — there are a large number of people who do not understand that collectable coins and stamps make the government money.
  • Training For It. About a week or so, I had set aside a story about a railroad club in Orange County that had their trackage stolen, intending to send them a little something. Turns out I wasn’t the only one: the club has received thousands of dollars in donations. A nice reminder that there are a lot of good people in the world.
  • Bad Design. Here are two articles about some bad designs. The first is about a new device you can slap on a milk carton–it uses nanotechnology to indicate visually if the milk is good or bad. So what’s the problem? According to the article, “red” is good, “green” is bad. This is the opposite of how red and green are nomally used in interfaces, and I predict people will get sick from the “green is good” hardwiring. The second is about golfing: it appears that titanium clubs striking rocks can create sparks that start brush fires. Perhaps they should give golf clubs to people on Survivor.
  • Out of This World. I’ve had this article sitting for a few weeks, but nothing seems to want to pair with it. Baker is a dying town — once home to the largest thermometer in the world, it is now slowly fading into the desert. But the owner of Alien Jerky wants to change that — and one way is to build a flying saucer shaped hotel.
  • The Jewish Valley. I’m into history. I’m into Judaism. So naturally, I’m into the history of Jews in the San Fernando Valley. Many years ago, Rabbi John Sherwood and I even toyed with the idea of writing a book on the subject. So here’s an interesting article in that vein: it explores the early days of the Valley Jewish Community Center, which became the Conservative synagogue Adat Ari El. This is the synagogue that was the parent of most Conservative synagogues in the valley, just like Temple Beth Hillel was the first Reform congregation and was essentially the parent of most Reform congregations in the valley.
  • Marital Success. What makes a successful marriage? Is it your partner? It is living together before you get married to work out the problems? Is it “murder frequently, divorce never?” According to this article from Atlantic, it is being mature when you get married. An exploration of the science of cohabitation shows that the older people are when they make their long-term commitment as a couple, the more likely that couple will stay together. The study found that individuals who committed to cohabitation or marriage at the age of 18 saw a 60 percent rate of divorce. Whereas individuals who waited until 23 to commit saw a divorce rate that hovered more around 30 percent. I got married when I was 25, and next year we will have been married for 30 years. As they say, you do the math.


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Realizing a Problem Exists is the First Step…

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Mar 15, 2014 @ 8:29 pm PDT

userpic=stressedTonight, I went to the Purim schpiel, and realized that I’ve got a problem.

Perhaps I should explain. For the last two years, I’ve been a vice president of $mens_club, and as such I’ve been working behind the scenes to reposition the organization to emphasize our place and importance in building relationships within and with the congregation at large. I’ve tried to do that at some smaller events this year. Naturally, being active has its own rewards, … , one of which is likely getting increased leadership opportunities.  In this case, that means I am likely going to have increased responsibility to promote the group to members of the congregation.

Here’s where the problem comes in. Although I may seem outgoing, I’m really only outgoing with a supporting Powerpoint presentation :-). By that, I mean that my normal nature is to sit back quietly and do my job, and help make sure the event is a success.  I can get up and speak when I know the subject well (which is what preparing the Powerpoint does for me). Whereas my father had the personality to go up to strangers and introduce himself and become friends, doing that cold is a very very difficult mountain for me to climb (if I know something about the person to start the conversion, it is much much easier).

Tonight I thought I might give it a try. I thought I would have the gumption to go up to congregational men — who were there with their families and are precisely the men we need to draw into the organization — and introduce myself to them. I thought I would be able to sell $mens_club to them. But I couldn’t even get started up the cliff. I realized I’m the engineer, not the salesman. I don’t have that salesman persona.

I’ll note this isn’t new. I never was one to go out for drama classes or run for offices. I never sold cookies or candy bars for schools successfully. At Halloween, I was never the one creating the superinventive costume — I was either behind the door with the sound effects, or wearing a costume that made me look like everyone else. At camp, I wasn’t the one in drama or the one being out in front; I was in arts & crafts and squarely in the middle. I was fine being a committee chair or running an activity, but never the outgoing face. Even in the UCLA Computer Club, when we played Superhero 2044, my character was “Mr. Cellophane” — the one no-one every noticed because he blended in.

Realizing this is the first step to solving the problem. Practice and acting “as if” will be a second step. I’ve viewing this opportunity in the organization as a chance to improve myself; to gain a skillset that will prove me useful. It also making me realize that I need to think about doing what any good organizational head would do: if you don’t have a skill your organization needs, you find someone who can excel at that skill to make your organization complete. You bring them on board, and while they are exercising that skill, learn from them how to do it better.

That’s one reason I’m writing this post. To those who read this who are the “born salesmen” (or should I say “born salescritters”): what tips do you have, and how do I learn the skill.

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Getting Your Purim On

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Mar 13, 2014 @ 11:22 am PDT

userpic=cookingWhile I’m eating my lunch, I figure I should make you hungry by posting some links to interesting hamentaschen recipes. For those unfamiliar, hamentaschen are three-cornered pastries eaten on the Jewish holiday of Purim; the shape supposedly remembers Hamen’s three-cornered hat.


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My Dues Are Too High! (A Lunchtime Musing)

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Feb 20, 2014 @ 11:36 am PDT

userpic=tallitYesterday, I read a very interesting piece on Kveller titled “My Local Kosher Market is Closing & I’m Part of the Reason Why“, and I set it aside to write a post related to it. Yesterday evening, Rabbi Lutz posted a link to an article about why one should choose synagogue membership. Both are worth reading, so I’ll wait while you do so.

(taps feet, looks at watch, taps feet again, while the theme from Jeopardy plays in the background)

OK, so now you’ve read them. What both emphasize, in slightly different ways, is the importance of having the Jewish community — and by extension, Jewish communal institutions — there when you need them. The value of these institutions cannot be viewed solely on what you get back in services over a given time period. In fact, looking at Jewish institutions (or any religious institution) in a fee-for-service manner just will not work. You can’t say: I pay $2000 a year to be a member, and that’s cheaper than buying the services ala-carte.

The reason we join together in the groups we do (be that brotherhoods and sisterhoods, or the congregation as a whole) is to create a community, pure and simple. We want to create a community that will be there to support us — to help us and lift us when we are having trouble, to be there to share our joys. We build relationships within the community, and we help others in the community. We may not always like everyone in the community, but the community should have common values, goals, and mores. Most importantly, we want the community to be there when we need it.

In the past — at least in the progressive Jewish communities — we’ve been told that there is a price of admission to the community (boy, doesn’t it sound wrong when I put it that way?) This price: dues. There are dues for the synagogue, dues for brotherhood, dues for sisterhood. This notion of dues turns people off. It is one thing to have fees for specific services (such as a fee for religious school)… but being told by some entity that you must pay $X to be considered a part of the community seems wrong (although, to be fair, they do allow you to negotiate the value of $X depending on your circumstances).

How do Christian congregations handle this? Ever hear of something called “faith offerings”? Ever seen the basket passed? Congregational support is often done at the end of services with passed baskets, with people giving as the community moves them. This never took hold in Jewish communities because of the traditional prohibition of handling or carrying money on Shabbat. There is also tithing (giving 10% of your “income”) to the church, but (to my knowledge) this is unlike dues in that it is voluntary, not a price of admission.

Some Jewish institutions are exploring a different model. In $mens_club, we’ve done away with our dues system, and made all men in the congregation members. We have ask them to send in support to the community, if they feel the community is valuable, in an amount they deem appropriate. If we do our job right and build a valuable community with strong relationships, then people will want the community to exist and will be willing to support it financially. Yes, it is a risk. However, it is a better level of feedback than robotic collection of dues for an organization that might no longer have a purpose.

What it boils down to is this: You need to support your communal groups if they are to survive and be around whenever you need them. You might not utilize them every day; you might not get back in services what you contribute in support. If you want them to survive, you contribute. This is true whether the organization is your congregation’s brotherhood or sisterhood, whether it is the congregation itself, or whether it is your local Kosher market or JCC. If an organization has value to you, support it.

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Saturday Stew: Technology, Cannibal Rats, &c

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Jan 25, 2014 @ 11:31 am PDT

Observation StewIt’s Saturday, and you know what that means: time to clear out the links list of articles that never quite formed into themes of three or more articles:

  • The iPod of Prison. An interesting article from the New Yorker on the Sony SRF-39FB, a clear plastic AM/FM radio that is the most popular radio … in prisons. The clear plastic is one factor, the sound quality and reception is another, as well as the price. It is only now starting to be replaced by MP3 players, where the prison controls what can be downloaded.
  • Risks of BYOD. The catchword today in business is BYOD – Bring Your Own Device. Businesses have become more accomodating of employee’s using their personal smartphones and other devices on corporate networks. But there’s a big downside — when you leave the company, typically they have the right to remotely wipe your device. You should read any connection agreements you need to click through carefully, and make an offline archive of any personal information before you leave.
  • Multilingual. Here’s a neat article and video: “Let It Go” (from Frozen) in 25 languages, and how Disney planned the movie for 41 languages. I love how seamless the video is — great job from the sound engineers to get the timing exactly right. I love listening to songs I know in other language, be it “Fiddler on the Roof” in Yiddish, “Hair” in Hebrew, “Les Miserables” in French, the Beatles in German. I blame my high school Spanish teacher, who constantly played “yo no encuentro satisfacción”.
  • Cannibal Rats. There evidently is a ship floating around the northern Atlantic that is filled with cannibal rats. Whether or not you think the story is real, the concept is right up there with “Snakes on a Plane”. Can’t you just see the horror movie now. Our teens on a pleasure cruise come upon an abandoned ship and decide to explore.. and they find…
  • No Ren Faires in Your Long-Term Future. Good news for history, English, and other liberal arts majors: it’s not the career death you’ve been told. Liberal arts majors may start off slower than others when it comes to the postgraduate career path, but they close much of the salary and unemployment gap over time, a new report shows. By their mid-50s, liberal arts majors with an advanced or undergraduate degree are on average making more money those who studied in professional and pre-professional fields, and are employed at similar rates…. with one exception. Salaries still lag behind engineering and math and sciences graduates, who in their late 50s make about $98,000 and $87,000, respectively.
  • A Loss for the Jewish Community. The LA Times and the Jewish Journal are reporting that Harvey Fields has died. Rabbi Fields was just taking over from Rabbi Wolf as senior Rabbi at Wilshire Blvd Temple when we got married; Rabbi Wolf had been senior rabbi for a year after the death of Rabbi Magnin. We were only at Wilshire as Fields was coming in, but he did remarkable things for the congregation during the time — he basically brought the congregation back into modern progressive Judaism, stemmed the membership decline, and completely revitalized the place. I was more involved with the camps, and during much of his time, there weren’t significant changes there (those came near the end of Fields’ tenure as Rabbi Leder was coming in). But Fields still deserves a lot of credit for what he did for Wilshire Blvd Temple and the Jewish community in Los Angeles.


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The Rest of the Story

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Jan 23, 2014 @ 8:16 pm PDT

userpic=frebergToday’s news chum brings you, as Paul Harvey might say, “the rest of the story”:


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Perpetuating Misconceptions

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Jan 13, 2014 @ 11:23 am PDT

userpic=schmuckRecently, a link has been going around the Interwebs that has been infuriating me. This link, likely based on this Slate article, purports to provide the basis for Jewish names. It provides a map and detailed explanations for many Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jewish names. The information on the name origins in the article is essentially correct, so why am I mad enough to write a post over lunch ranting about it? Here’s why.

There is no such thing as a Jewish Name.

Perhaps I should explain. There are people who are Jewish. They have names. But the name in isolation from the person is not Jewish. People with Eastern European names (such as those in the article) may or may not be Jewish — to view them as Jewish on the basis of their name alone is stereotyping. Further, there are people with names not covered in the article that are Jewish. People convert to Judiasm. People convert out of Judiasm. People change their names. People get married. It is wrong to assume that everyone named Cohen or Levy or Goldberg is Jewish. It is wrong to assume that someone with the last name of Davis or Smith or Jones isn’t. It is also wrong to assume that the person of color sitting next to you isn’t Jewish — two years ago the Southern California Regional Man of the Year (from the Men of Reform Judaism) was a Chinese fellow that had converted to Judaism and was very active in the community.

There are black Jews, there are Asian Jews, there are African Jews, there are Hispanic Jews, and there are Jews from almost every country and ethnicity in the world. This is because Judaism is, at its heart, a religion. It is a belief system that people can adopt; when they do, they are just as Jewish as someone from birth. People can also choose to leave Judaism and move to other belief systems. The point of this is: You can’t determine someone is Jewish by name alone; to do so is succumbing to a stereotype.

If you circulate the article, don’t refer to “Jewish names”. The article discusses names common to Jewish people of Eastern European origin.

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