Sunday, April 27, 2014

Tchaikovsky Flashwaltz at the Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem

Thanks to Andy Markovits for passing this on.  It should brighten your day.  —Jeff Weintraub

P.S. Another surprise public concert, this one in Sabadell, Catalonia (from Judy Lasker):

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Happy Passover - "They Tried to Kill Us, We Survived, Now Let's Eat"

An annual Passover feature, first posted in April 2006 HERE. Here is the gist of it:

The Basic Scenario:
According to one Jewish joke, the theme of all Jewish holidays is: "They tried to kill us. We survived. Now let's eat!"
(As a general rule, that's not completely accurate, but it captures a lot.)

The song:

That message was turned into a Passover song by the group What I Like About Jew. The lyrics are at the end of this post, and you can hear a performance of the song (not the best version I've heard, but the best available on YouTube) here:

Other versions here & here & here.

=> For further explanation, commentary, and interpretive wrangling about things Jewish, go back to the original post HERE.

--Jeff Weintraub

"They Tried to Kill Us (We Survived, Let's Eat)"

Artist: What I Like About Jew
Composer: Sean Altman and Rob Tannenbaum
CD Title:Unorthodox
Label: Big Sean Music and Tbaum Music

They Tried To Kill Us (We Survived, Let's Eat)
(words & music by Sean Altman & Rob Tannenbaum)

We were slaves to pharaoh in Egypt
The year was 1492
Hitler had just invaded Poland
Madonna had just become a Jew
Moses was found on the Potomac
Then he marched with Martin Luther King
He came back to free us from our bondage
'Cause S&M has never been our thing

They tried to kill us, we survived, let's eat
They tried to kill us, we were faster on our feet
So they chase us to the border
There's a parting of the water
Tried to kill us, we survived, let's eat

Then the Pharaoh, who looked like Yul Bruyner
Heard the Jews were trying to escape
Charlton Heston came right down from the mountain
He said, "Pharaoh, you're a damn dirty ape"
The menorah was almost out of oil
Farrakhan was planning Kristalnacht
The gefilte fish was nearing extinction
It looked like Moses and his flock were fehrkakt

They tried to kill us, we survived, let's eat
They tried to kill us, we were faster on our feet
And we knew how to resist
'Cause we'd rented Schindler's List
Tried to kill us, we survived, let's eat

The 10 Egyptian plagues
1. Blood
2. Locusts
3. Boils
4. Dandruff
5. Acne
6. Backne
7. Piles
8. Cataracts
9. Sciatica
10. Sickle cell anemia

We fled on foot, there was no time to tarry
Leavening the bread would take too long
All we had was egg foo yung and matzoh
While battling the fearsome Viet Cong
And so tonight, we gather to remember
The ancient Hebrews who paid the price
We have a Seder, every year in December
To commemorate our savior, Jesus Christ

They tried to kill us, we survived, let's eat
They tried to kill us, we were faster on our feet
So we never did succumb to the annual pogrom
Tried to kill us, we survived, let's eat

They tried to kill us, we survived, let's eat
They tried to kill us, we were faster on our feet
So come on, blow the shofar
'Cause they haven't nailed us so far
Tried to kill us, we survived, let's eat

The first woman to run in the Boston Marathon (1967)

In 1967 Kathrine Switzer entered the Boston Marathon, officially a male-only event, by signing her application form as K.V. Switzer.  As she was running, one of the directors of the marathon, Jock Semple, attacked her, started screaming at her, and tried to throw her out of the race.  (He's the guy behind her in the photograph above.)  Her football-player boyfriend, who was running with her, body-blocked Semple and knocked him off the road.  Switzer finished the race.

It's worth reflecting that 1967 wasn't really that long ago.  And this happened in the United States, not in Saudi Arabia.  Some useful historical perspective  ...

=>  For a video clip that includes a retrospective interview with Kathrine Switzer and some moments from the 1967 marathon, see below.

(Thanks to Mom's Clean Air Force for the tip.)

—Jeff Weintraub

Monday, April 21, 2014

The life and death of Sidney Weintraub (1922-2014)

   Sidney Weintraub (1922-2014)

Some of you may have wondered why I haven't been blogging during the past two months, and have been mostly incommunicado more generally.  (I know that such questions would have occurred to a very tiny portion of humanity at most; but there may be a few of you out there, and I feel I should offer you some explanation.)  The main reason is that  for the past two months most of my time, energy, and attention have been tied up with what proved to be the terminal illness of my father, Sidney Weintraub.

My father and my stepmother, Elizabeth Midgley, had a house in Cuernavaca, Mexico where they stayed from time to time.  In early February, during one of those visits, my father became very ill.  A long medical emergency followed, including hospitalization with intensive care followed by prolonged home care.  After he was released from the hospital on March 2, there were several periods when it looked as though he might be (slowly) recovering, but in the end it didn't happen.  He died early in the morning on Thursday, April 10—in their house in Cuernavaca, not in a hospital.  I spent a substantial portion of the past two months down in Cuernavaca, but my stepmother and I flew back to the US last Wednesday.

Normally, Jewish practice calls for a speedy burial.  But bringing my father's body back to the US from Mexico turned out to be very complicated bureaucratically and logistically, and further complications at the US end produced additional delays.  So my father's burial, with a graveside Jewish service, will take place next Monday, April 28, at the Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington, DC.  (He'll be buried next to my mother, Gladys Weintraub, who died in 2001.)

 =>  After growing up in New York City, serving in Europe in World War II, and working briefly as a journalist, my father spent 26 years as a US Foreign Service Officer (with postings abroad in Madagascar, Mexico, Japan, Thailand, and Chile).  He got a Ph.D. in economics in the process.  Also, my sister Marcy was born in 1950  in Tananarive, Madagascar (now Antananarivo, Malagasy Republic); my sister Debbi was born in Mexico City in 1953; and I had my bar mitzvah in Bangkok, Thailand in 1960 (quite possibly the first recorded bar mitzvah in the history of Thailand, according to reliable sources).

Then, starting in January 1976, my father left the government and embarked on overlapping careers as an academic, think-tanker, public-policy advocate, and prominent expert on Mexico and US-Mexican relations.  (In 2006 the Mexican government awarded him the Order of the Aztec Eagle, the highest decoration granted by Mexico to foreigners.)  Among his other accomplishments, he's widely considered one of the intellectual fathers of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)—a distinction that has made him "revered" in some circles (as someone once put it to a friend of mine) and rather less revered in others, depending on people's opinions regarding NAFTA and its consequences. (On this subject, see here & here for a start.)  Throughout his adult life he was a committed New Deal Democrat (despite disagreements with some other Democrats on some issues), a quietly patriotic American with broadly internationalist sympathies, and a proud Jew.

 =>  My father's death is a blow, but at least he didn't suffer a lot at the end.  And he was just short of his 92nd birthday, so one has to concede that he led a long, full life—and quite a richly interesting and productive life, too.  We didn't agree about everything (in fact, when I was younger, there were substantial periods when we didn't agree about anything, serious or trivial—not an uncommon pattern in Jewish father-son relations). But he was an admirable, impressive, and profoundly decent man in both his personal relations and his politics, and I think that (despite everything) I learned a lot from him.

Memorial announcements, with brief obituaries, have been posted on-line by two institutions where my father worked after leaving the Foreign Service, the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas in Austin, where he was the Dean Rusk Professor of economics and public policy, and the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC, where he held the Simon Chair in Political Economy.  (He had to retire from the latter when he began to get Alzheimer's three years ago.)  I've put those two items, as well as a few others, on a memorial website for my father ... which is here, for anyone who might be interested.

Sidney Weintraub (1922-2014)

Jeff Weintraub