Monday, November 30, 2009

Manny Moves In: Dems Tap Gonzales For Sheriff's Post; Can He Keep It? Plus: How Marty Mattered, Heinrich Plants Valley Flag And Weh's Burning Bus

Sheriff Gonzales and wife Elaine
Republicans took the ABQ mayor's office in '09, but Democrats are hoping they will get a consolation prize in 2010--the Bernalillo County sheriff's office. They think they took a nice step in that direction Monday when the five member Bernalillo County Commission named veteran Sheriff's Captain Manuel "Manny" Gonzales to fill out the remainder of the term of Republican Darren White. White is now the city's public safety director under new GOP Mayor Richard "RJ" Berry.

Gonzales, who has a bachelors degree in management, will not be a placeholder. He is off and running for the '10 Dem nomination and a four year term of his own. The appointment will give him a head start, but there's no guarantee. Some of the 20 other applicants for the sheriff's job are now expected to get in the Dem nomination race, including ABQ police commander Conrad Candelaria who appeared to be knocked out of the running for the appointment because of controversy over his military record. Gonzales
served in the US Marine Corps and received an honorable discharge. Also preparing a run is retired APD officer Marie Miranda. We could get a half dozen or more before its over.

And Republicans are not going to throw in the towel on the office they've controlled since White took it in 2002. Retired APD officer William Kurth, who was supported for the appointment last night by the commission's two Republicans, is saying he will run for the GOP nomination. He could be joined by others.

It's not the $68,000 annual pay that attracts the bodies for this job. But you instantly become one of the best known law enforcement officials in the state and have under your command a department of 300 deputies.

Republicans have done a good job owning the law and order issue. The sheriff's office is the only elected county wide post they control. There has been no Hispanic--Democrat or Republican--elected sheriff in recent memory.

By avoiding appointing a placeholder, the commission gives Gonzales, a father of three, a chance to establish himself as the incumbent. He might even appeal to a few Republicans. GOP Commissioner Michael Wiener described Gonzales as "very well-liked and well-respected." Wiener and fellow R Commissioner Michael Brasher voted to make Manny's appointment unanimous after they cast their initial votes for Kurth.


Darren White is not going to lose any money in his new gig. In fact, his starting salary of $125,000 will be nearly double his sheriff's salary and be
one of the highest at City Hall. His predecessor in the public safety post, Pete Dinelli, pulled down $122,000 a year, but that was after years on the job. And remember, Darren also gets his own public information officer--former ABQ Journal cop reporter T.J. Wilham--at a cost of $75,000 a year.

Mayor Berry is not going to fill the chief operating officer position--at least not for now. We await word on whether he will keep the chief of staff position in the mayor's office, a post that was added by Chavez and criticized as unnecessary as was the COO post. Then there's the deputy CAO for finance (I know, the list seems endless). It's another one that is seen as redundant as you already have a Dept. of Finance director. Berry could make it go away and no one would notice. Why doesn't he?

New chief administrative officer David Campbell will start at $159,000 a year. That won't raise as many eyebrows as White's starting salary because the city charter acknowledges the CAO as the most important position in city government. (We notice Campbell is now making more than the Bernalillo County manager who recently crossed the $150,000 mark with a lot fewer employees under him than Campbell).

White's salary is a special plum in another way. He is eligible for government retirement at about 80 percent of the average of his final three years of service. If he can last those three years at $125K, he would be eligible for a retirement check of $100,000 a year.

Berry has taken a gamble on White who insiders think is either going to deliver big or crash and burn. For sure, it won't be boring.

Rep. Heinrich
There's one other angle on the White departure and the Manny Gonzales appointment we need to cover. In 2008, White lost the ABQ congressional race to Dem Martin Heinrich, but now in an indirect way White could be helping Heinrich. Here's how.

If Gonzales proves popular and takes the Democratic nomination, he should help attract Hispanic Dem voters to the polls, many of whom might stay away in an off-year election. That would help Heinrich in the Valley areas where he needs help. Republican Jon Barela is already targeting Hispanics. However, we don't think Martin will be sending any thank you notes to Darren. If his old rival is resurrected in his new job, he could someday again train his sights on Martin.

And more now on the Valley angle and Heinrich. We mentioned a few weeks ago that he planned a major initiative there. That initiative he is announcing today is a new South Valley office located near Coors and Rio Bravo SW. Heinrich will hire a new staffer for the office and send two of his downtown staffers to the new locale which will be open full-time beginning Wednesday. His office says all three of the South Valley office staff are fluent in both English and Spanish. A grand opening is planned for Dec. 12.

Heinrich says he wants to beef up his constituent service, traditionally a strong suit for the ABQ congressional representative. The Valley is a natural place to do it where many low-income residents reside and who need help navigating the federal bureaucracy. And it doesn't hurt politically, does it?


You can drop the "mayor-elect" after today. Richard "RJ" Berry will take the oath of office today at 6 p.m. at the ABQ Convention Center Ballroom downtown and become the city's first Republican mayor since Harry Kinney finished his last term in 1985. There will be a reception following the ceremony. The events are open to the public. Berry officially became mayor midnight Tuesday when Chavez's term expired.

We doubt if you will ever see Marty Chavez's name again on a New Mexico ballot. As they say, Marty gave it "the college try"
when it came to seeking higher office. His attempts at becoming Governor and US Senator were both turned back.

But his legacy in public service is secure. Like most chief executives, his last term was his weakest. But, in 1993, when he was elected to his first term at age 41, he came on strong, giving the city a new energy and vitality. In 2001, he took a second term and in 2005 he made history by scoring a third with the largest percentage of votes in history--47.28 percent in a four man field.

Much ado was made about Marty signing a last minute agreement with labor unions that gives them binding arbitration on matters other than pay, for modifying the DWI policy for the ABQ fire department, and for giving pay raises to favorite employees.

They would have you think these are mortal sins, but if you've been around any length of time you know they aren't. While unpleasant to behold, such actions are typical for most politicians headed for the exits for the final time.

It's hard to believe that any ABQ mayor would ever care about the city as much as Harry Kinney, but Chavez did. As you know, his mistakes were numerous and his hubris at times was insufferable, but history will be kind to Chavez because while he cared, he was never a caretaker.

Years from now Chavez may spend hours in his rocking chair wondering what might have been if he had been able to go beyond the mayor's office. But he won't have to wonder about his years as mayor. They mattered and so did he.


The GOP Guv campaign of Allen Weh is really catching fire--or at least the bus he was leasing has. His campaign reports the bus, nicknamed "Freedom1" by the retired Marine colonel, was engulfed in flames while parked at its Belen storage facility late Friday night. No one was hurt in the blaze that also destroyed several other vehicles. The bus, owned by Tom Greer, who works for the Weh campaign, was insured. But Weh was using the bus, decked out in a red, white and blue patriotic motif, as a mobile campaign headquarters and will miss "his home away from home."

Arson investigators are on the case. Be assured that the rumor that GOP Guv candidate Susana Martinez was seen in the vicinity of the bus just before it burst into flames has no foundation in reality. Maybe Janice Arnold-Jones, but definitely not Susana.

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"Shall Women Be Ordained as Rabbis?" A Reform responsum from 1922, with additional responses, including some from women.

The answer is "no," by the way. Not all of the respondents agree. 1922 was a long time ago, if you think about it.

Michel de la Roche's 1710 review of a translation of the commentaries of R. Salomoni Jarchi (Rashi).

This review of Johan Friedrich Breithaupt's Latin translation of Rashi on the Tanach was published in the August 28, 1710 issue of Memoirs of Literature:

Below is a page from a 1622 translation of Rashi's commentary to Esther:

Here's a not-so-nice evaluation from 1841, in George Bush's Notes on Exodus:

For more on the former presidents' 19th century Orientalist relative, see here.

Here is Abraham Geiger's summary or what Rashi was about:

An inscribed Chavos Yair; also, Putti on title pages in seforim.

This looks like a nice Chanuka gift. It's an inscribed first edition of the Chavos Yair (1699). The inscription reads:

יום ד' יוד אדר שני תנ"ט לפ"ק, פה ק"ק ורנקפורט. מנחה קטנה, גדולה בתורה, שלוחה ממני, יאיר חיים מחבר הספר, למחותני האלוף המרומם החריף ובקי כהר"ר קאפיל בן הראש והקצין, הנדיב המפורסם המושלם פ"ו כהר"ר אהרן סג"ל

As you can see, this was a gift to his מחותן (why isn't there an English word for this relationship?). For some reason R. Yair Chaim Bachrach didn't rip out the title page, צ"ע. Also see this post.

Textual criticism of a recent book about, in part, medieval yeshivos. Also, what did Rashi sell?

I was perusing Mayer I. Gruber's annotated translation of Rashi's commentary on Psalms. Very learned, very well done, very good and interesting introduction. As an aside, Gruber once supplied an excerpt from the introduction for a Seforim Blog post, which garnered some very strong opinions. Haym Soloveitchik had famously written that Rashi was as likely an egg salesman as a vintner (the implication being, we've got no good evidence for either). Gruber's view is that while it's true that there's no evidence that Rashi was a vintner, there is in fact no evidence that he was anything else because really the evidence points toward him being a professional rabbi and rosh yeshiva. He was, in fact, a Ga'on, who headed a yeshiva called Yeshivas Ge'on Ya'akov, which was also the name of the great Babylonian yeshivos, which were also headed by men fully titled Rosh Yeshiva Ge'on Ya'akov, or Ga'on for short. In making this claim he first tries to show that Rashi was not as likely an egg salesman as a vintner, and that is the Seforim Blog post.

At that post, critics jumped on the fact that it seems silly to even waste any space with Soloveitchik's throw-away line (obviously intended to make a point in a humorous1 way), let alone subject it to several paragraphs describing a statement by R. Shemaya about how Rashi enjoyed eggs fried in honey, and several other responsa regarding Rashi's dealing with cows, sheep and wine barrels. What the critics missed is that Gruber was making a serious point but he was being funny. Someone even suggested that he was "skeptical of these claims that the author intended the egg stuff as a joke. It would be weird for a guy to do a whole bunch of research about Rashi and eggs just for the purpose of an unfunny joke that additionally did not jibe with the rest of the article." He thinks there are two possibilities: "1) He took Soloveichik's statement about egg-dealing at face value (and frankly, without having read the original article, I don't see any reason not to), or 2) It was just an excuse to make his article seem more impressive by adding a bunch of tangentially-related research. I see this all the time in these types of articles."

However, having read the entire introduction not only can I safely say that he does not take Soloveitchik's statement seriously, but he absolutely was trying to be humorous. In fact, the introduction is peppered with many interesting and humorous bits in the footnotes. To my mind this is a good thing. It's not letzanus, it makes an otherwise highly informative read also a fun read.

With that in mind, I'd like to highlight something in foonote 32 on page 21 of the introduction. The background is a description of the character of a yeshiva in Ashkenaz in Rashi's time. Mordechai Breuer described the beis ha-midrash in such a yeshivos of the time, and according to him it seems typically to have been nothing more extravagant than the large living room of the rosh yeshiva (which was called the בית החורף, in a nod to Jer. 36:22, because it was the only room in the home which was heated). However, some archaeological evidence may show otherwise, or at least challenges this description. In Norman Golb's The Jews in medieval Normandy he describes the ruin pictured below. This ruin in Rouen was long remembered as an ecole aux Juifs, that is, a yeshiva. Golb goes on to prove that the term "school"(or scola in the Latin documentation of the time) could not have been used for a synagogue, so this is definitely a yeshiva.

In any event, Breuer was inclined to see the medieval Ashkenazic yeshiva as rather small, informal and almost ad-hoc, but Golb says not necessarily. In fact, these two accounts need not be contradictory. Golb himself is of the view that both kinds of yeshivos could have existed side by side, one more official than the other.

In his book he writes (pg. 192) "eminent scholars such as Meir1 of Rothenburg (thirteenth century) had yeshiboth in their own names, evidently not connected in any way with a public system of support . . ."

Gruber adds as follows: "[Reading Prof. Golb's words in the light of Breuer's study quoted above, I was inclined by my training as a biblical scholar to emend this word to "homes" based on the graphic similarity between the initial h of "homes" and the initial n of "names," and I assumed that Prof. Golb's secretary or a typesetter misreading initial n for h then misread o as a. Fortunately, I asked Prof. Golb (electronic communication dated 3 August, 2000) if, in fact, my conjectural emendation had correctly restored his intent. Prof. Golb kindly replied with his explanation that, in fact, Jews were forbidden by their own rules2 to conduct the classes of a yeshivah in a residence].

The irony is that Gruber's otherwise excellent book is marred by many typos. I haven't had to made any conjectural emendations of note yer.

1 "al ta'am ve-re'ach..."

2 In Saul Lieberman: the Man and His Work by Elijah Schochet and Solomon Spiro, it is recounted that when a student made the mistake of calling a tanna by their first name (e.g., "Akiva said..."), the Professor would admonish them, probably in an intimidating Litvishe manner, "Are you personally acquainted with him?"

3 The "rules" referred to are a list of twelve rules called Hukke haTorah which "were issued by a regional council meeting in a major northwestern European city, very likely Rouen, no later than sometime in the twenth, or at the latest, eleventh century." These takkanos survive in several manuscripts, and required the maintenance of a "midrash" in every town.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Topics Du Jour: Santa Fe Pork, Tax Hikes & Lost Jobs. Plus: Even More Economy Blogging, And: Picking A Sheriff; The Way It Was

Voices are starting to be heard against any tax increases unless the Legislature cancels a huge pot of unspent pork money--or capital outlay--and uses it to reduce the immense state deficit. There's some $1.4 billion of unused pork money in Santa Fe. It's been set aside since 2003 for construction projects that were either never started or started and stalled. How much of this unused cash will legislators use to solve the budget shortfall?

Many of them don't want to give up the money because the projects help them get elected and re-elected. All 70 House members are on the ballot next year. But talk about resinstating the gross receipts tax on food and medicine to raise the hundreds of millions needed to plug the state deficit is going to look hypocritical if that pot of pork is left largely untouched.

The argument will be made that the pork represents one-time money and won't give us the recurring revenue we will need to solve our long-term revenue problems. But if the pork money was transferred to the general fund--say $600 million--major tax increases could be delayed for a year or two (The Legislature has been using some of the capital outlay to cover the deficit).

It will be of interest to hear where Senate Dem leaders John Arthur "Dr. No" Smith and Tim Jennings stand on this. Are these self-described fiscal conservatives willing to dig deeper into the pork barrel before they weigh tax hikes?

Santa Fe wants to have its pork and eat it to, but voters may be of a mind to end this giant chicharrones party. Stay tuned.


Along those lines, how about voters up in Raton turning down a school bond that, if passed, would have raised property taxes there? And there was also a recent no vote on a tax increase for the Santa Fe county fire department. Sounds to us like a couple of warning shots across the bow to those who think raising taxes in times like these is going to be a snap.


Many New Mexicans--and we mean many--are somewhat, but not totally isolated from this raging recession by comfortable government jobs they have held for years. The national labs, the military bases and all the federal agencies continue to chug along. There have been some Sandia Labs layoffs and it appears employment growth is over there and at Los Alamos Labs, but not the military bases. There are hiring freezes at many local levels of government and most state workers will be furloughed for five days in the current budget year. However, the bulk of the pain remains in the private sector.

The state's jobless rate continues to soar and is now approaching 8 percent statewide (it's at 7.9). That level has been breached in the ABQ metro and now stands at a multi-decade high of 8.2 percent. (We give our customary caution that the actual rate is much higher when people who have given up looking for work are included as well as those who have settled for part-time jobs.)

Construction workers and retail employees have been especially hammered. Other jobs that also don't require a college education are also disappearing at a faster pace.

The state's lower middle class has been roiled by this deep downturn. You can see that in the long lines that form for any job fair and when TV news shows the increasing popularity of food banks.

The pain is now spreading more into the middle class, with the furloughs of state government workers. The chopping in half of the work force at Rio Rancho's Intel, the demise of Eclipse Aviation, and the closure next year of the ABQ GE plant are also direct hits on the state's private sector middle classes.

The relatively small strata of upper class professionals here have had their stock portfolios and real estate values take a major hit. The ongoing financial troubles at the New Mexico Symphony are one tell-tale symptom. Retirees are feeling the pain because many of them rely on stock dividends that have been reduced or suspended and there are steadily rising health care costs not covered by Medicare.


We seem boxed in. If housing is going to be more or less flat for the next decade and retail is going to be at best on a subdued growth curve, the jobs lost in those sectors won't be coming back. If more hi-tech is moving overseas, those jobs are also gone.

One should hesitate before throwing in the towel on the private sector's ability to generate another go-go era, or for a new bull market in oil and natural gas prices or for small businesses to eventually pick up the slack, but the challenges are steep.

The modern New Mexican economy--the one that gave us the decent paying jobs-- was built by the federal government--Sandia, Los Alamos, Kirtland and White Sands--and it remains the main driver here.

The boom in Clovis because of the renewed military presence at Cannon AFB and the small but steady growth at ABQ's Kirtand AFB as well as White Sands are bright spots on an otherwise dark landscape. Critics may call it a war economy, but someone's got to do it and New Mexico has excelled.

Would it be surprising to see policy makers start to look to that old model for the future? In other words, position the state more aggressively to win a larger share of the federal jobs pie? Given the current outlook, New Mexico as a natural home for more of the same will look increasingly attractive to the economic development crowd here.


Who will be the next sheriff of Bernalillo County and fill out the remainder of Darren White's term? That question will be answered later today as the five member county commission meets at 5 p.m. to make a pick from a list of over 20 applicants, most of them with law enforcement experience.

White, who is becoming the city's public safety director, officially resigns today and starts work with the city tomorrow. His second, four year term runs until the end of 2010. Whoever gets the job today is eligible to run for election next year, but there's been talk of the commission looking for a "placeholder," someone who pledges to just fill out the term and not seek election.

That's the last thing the Democratic Party wants to see. With Republican White leaving, they see a realistic chance of taking back the high-profile office. Some of the Dem commissioners have been antsy about making enemies, thus the talk of a placeholder. We'll keep you posted on the action.


Some memories are rekindled in thinking about today's decision from the Bernalillo County Commission to name a replacement for Sheriff White.

It's been a long time since a sheriff's term was interrupted. In fact, it was around 1975-76. Then-Sheriff Joe Wilson, a Democrat, was the subject of an extensive investigation by KKOB-AM radio news. That reporting and a grand jury probe led to a most rare event--a civil removal trial of a sitting sheriff on charges of misfeasance in office.

The trial was a sensational event of its time. We recall that the presiding judge was Rosier Sanchez, the brother of then Catholic Archbishop Robert Sanchez. We don't recall there ever being another such trial of a Bernalillo County official.

In those days we filed our reports for KZIA-AM radio from a telephone booth in the old Bernalillo County Courthouse. To send interview sound back to the station, we had to unscrew the mouthpiece of the phone and hook up what were known as "alligator clips." That's not where we got the term "Alligators" from, but in retrospect it is a bit ironic.

In any event, Wilson was found guilty at that trial, removed from office and the county commission named Tommy Richardson, then the county fire chief, to replace Wilson. Tommy had a heart condition and did not seek the office when it came up for election. Sheriff Wilson died not long after being removed from office.

KKOB--then known as just KOB--received national recognition for its investigation. And one of the radio reporters from that era--Diane Dimond--went on to bigger things as a well-known national TV reporter. Today she writes a syndicated column on crime that is carried by the ABQ Journal.

I was there and that's the way I remember it.

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Turner's Turkey Day TV; Can It Shake GOP Guv Race?, Plus: New ABQ Mayor: "We're Regular Folks." It's All Next On Your Black Friday Blog

GOP governor candidate Doug Turner will know soon enough whether his decision to unveil TV spots on Thanksgiving Day was a turkey. He says he will do follow-up polling to measure the impact of the commercials unveiled on Thursday on statewide cable and which he says will be on at least until the end of the year. (Video here.)

The TV--coming nearly a full year before the 2010 election--is the earliest veteran observers can recall for a governor’s race. Presumed Dem nominee Diane Denish is appearing more frequently in public service TV ads, but has not yet aired any campaign spots.

Turner, 40, is making his first bid for elective office. His 60 second spot centers on his biography as a business and family man. He owns an ABQ public relations firm. He also makes use of his previous foray into politics, noting that he served as a key aide to the election bids of GOP Guv Gary Johnson in 1994 and ‘98. Turner does not identify himself as a Republican in his TV, even though he is seeking the GOP nomination.

"We are going on the air to build name ID and let people know who I am," Turner said.

Turner believes the audience can tell from the ads that he is a Republican, especially since he references Johnson's Guv wins.

He will also air 30 second and 15 second versions of the bio spot. The buy will be about $10,000 a week or about $40,000 to $50,000. He says the ads will also air on broadcast TV, but the main buy is on cable. Turner recently loaned his campaign over $200,000.

Whether Turner will stay up on the air after this initial run is undecided. The GOP pre-primary convention is expected to be held in mid-March. That's where it will take 20 percent of the delegates to win a spot on the June primary ballot.


The field so far also includes former NM GOP Chairman Allen Weh, Dona Ana County District Attorney Susana Martinez and ABQ State Rep. Janice-Arnold-Jones. 2002 GOP Guv candidate John Sanchez told me recently he was weighing a run. Other names are also being mentioned as possible candidates before the final GOP field is set.

The GOP race rapidly deflated when former ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson decided not to make the run. She was seen as the party's best bet to take on Lt. Governor Denish, the only announced Dem Guv contender. Sanchez floated his name after Heather demurred.

Turner's main challenge is getting the 20 percent at the pre-primary. He is not as well-known or as connected with party insiders as his foes. No candidate who has failed to get on the ballot at the pre-primary has gone on to win the nomination.

Insiders, wall-leaners, Alligators and analysts see Weh as the early front-runner because his demographic profile--an Anglo male with heavy military and business experience--best matches the make up of the small GOP. He also has no financial worries. He is using his personal wealth to finance his campaign. Martinez, with backing from national Republican types in D.C., is seen as Weh's main rival. Fund-raising is one of her main challenges.

Turner wants to upset this early conventional wisdom and begin to break the race open. He is gambling that the Turkey Day TV will help him do the trick.

Berry with son (Journal)
He likes to hunt and fish, do some woodworking, plays the guitar but not very well, has a Jack Russell terrier named Skip and is a season ticket-holder to University of New Mexico football and basketball games. During a recent interview Mayor-elect Richard "RJ" Berry said of his family: "We're very much regular folks. Berry married Maria Medina in 1990. They have a 13 year old son, Jacob.

Berry, 47, will take the oath of office at the ABQ convention center ballroom downtown at 6 p.m. Tuesday. Also being sworn into office for four year terms will be City Councilors Ken Sanchez, Ike Benton, Dan Lewis, Michael Cook and Don Harris. They were all elected or re-elected along with Berry in the October city election.

The inauguration is open to the public and a reception will immediately follow. Maybe if they need music at the reception Berry can whip out the Fender Stratocaster he keeps hidden away in his spare bedroom.

The Berry transition team has announced no other inaugural events.


A suggestion made here by the Alligators--that Berry not hire a chief operating officer to save money--will be taken up by the new administration--at least for now. New city hall spokesman Chris Ramirez says the COO position will not be immediately filled. It will be determined next year if it is needed. The position is one of those paying well over $100,000 a year.

Current chief administrative officer Ed Adams was being mentioned for the post. It will be interesting to see where he ends up. My City Hall insiders said City Councilor Debbie O'Malley went ballistic when she heard that Berry was considering naming Adams COO. Not only did she publicly complain, but our sources report she took her concerns directly to Berry and told him that if Adams was shifted to the COO post, the mayor-elect's nomination of David Campbell as the city's chief administrative officer would be put in danger when it comes up for a council vote.


It is indeed out with the old and in with the new as 12 year ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez--the man Berry upset---prepares for private life. KOB-TV did an interesting exit interview with the 57 year old Chavez who seems undecided about what his future may hold.


We gave a wrong number Wednesday in blogging on the median sale price of an ABQ home. It recently fell below $180,000 to $170,000.

US Senator Tom Udall is touting his new Web site, and it does look pretty spiffy, incorporating all the new bells and whistles of the Internet circa 2009. The Democratic lawmaker says: "I'll even give you a tour of the Web site."

The first year lawmaker is the envy of the three freshman congressmen. They all have to stand for re-election in what may be a very hostile environment next year. Udall doesn't face voters again until 2014. Now that's something to give thanks for.

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Two soldiers and a Shema Yisrael.

I'm sure many readers of this blog have heard or read some variation of the following story:

During a fierce battle two enemy soldiers were engaged in fierce hand to hand combat. One soldier overpowered the other and was about to drive his bayonet into him, and the soldier called out "Shema yisrael . . . !" The other soldier was also Jewish, and answered his call, and the two looked at each other, realized who (or what) they were, and presumably the slaughter stopped. In some versions the bayonet was already lodged.

In every version of this story I heard this legend takes place in World War I. So I was interested when I came across the following version of it, printed on February 13, 1885 in the Jewish Chronicle. In this version, it occurred in the Crimean War>, approximately thirty years earlier:

As you can see, this letter concerns prayer in Hebrew vs the vernacular. I will post the entire letter, which is interesting in its own right, at the end.

Here's Allan Nadler's review of a book of Jewish war time sermons, by Marc Saperstein:

Addressing one of the earliest Jewish community rallies, held in Washington and on behalf of the Jewish victims of World War I, on October 24th 1914, Gedaliah Silverstone, a Lithuanian Orthodox immigrant rabbi, spoke in heartbreaking tones of the terrible dilemma of the Jewish soldiers who were fighting valiantly on both sides of the “Great War”:

“Our brothers… are not fighting for our country, as is the Russian army, which is fighting for Russia, and the British army, which is fighting for their country, England, and the German army for Germany, and similarly the French and the Turks. Not us! We Jews are compelled to fight for all of these, not for ourselves… that is the greatest source of pain.”

Powerfully dramatizing this point, Silverstone then recounted the horrific experience of a Jewish soldier convalescing in a Russian army hospital in Petrograd:

“Whose heart did not throb with agony, whose eyes did not fill with tears, whose blood did not turn cold in his veins upon reading in the newspapers about a Jewish soldier in the Russian army who stabbed with his bayonet a soldier from the Austrian army? The mortally wounded man cried out with his last breath: ‘Shema Yisrael Adonai Elohenu Adonai Ehad’ and with the word Ehad his soul departed. When the Russian soldier realized that he had killed one of his brothers, that he had thrust his bayonet into a fellow Jew, he went out of his mind with grief.”

This particular sermon stands out from most of the 40 assembled by Saperstein, as it takes no position on the merits of a war into which America had not yet entered. There is not to be found among the book’s other sermons so blunt an affirmation that the Jewish people have no stake in the wars of the nations.

As you can see, this image was used in a sermon during WWI. It claims that such an account was in newspapers. Since Russia and Austria first fought in WWI, it would seem that the claim is that such an incident had occurred recently.

Below is a poem which was printed in 1917:

This powerful image occurs again and again.





Another from 2005:

Judith Bleich, in an Orthodox Forum volume which she edited:

Finally, the image appears in a French novel from 1886, David-Léon Cahun's La vie juive:

Here the event occurs during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. Cahun tells of a soldier in Alsace who recalls the image of a Jewish soldier friend holding a Russian Jewish soldier he has slain in his arms. The Russian had recited Chema Isroel as he died, and it greatly pains the soldier who killed him.

I have no idea if this ever really occurred, or if it really occurred once or perhaps even several times. It is interesting that there are two versions, a heartbreaking one where one soldier kills the other, which was surely true to what actually happened as Jewish soldiers in enemy European armies fought in wars, and inspirational ones where the enemy-brother is spared. In any case, I was surprised (but also not surprised) to learn that the legend dates back much earlier than WWI. Indeed, since the 19th century is the first time that it became widespread for Jews to serve in European armies, it makes sense for the story to have emerged in that century. I was gratified to find a source earlier than Cahun's novel. I wonder if indeed there is any source from the Crimean War period (1853-56) for it, and that will require more research. It is interesting, however, that because of the Eretz Yisrael angle of the Crimean War, this seems to have aroused the interest in foreign events among many European Jews, who had never before read or demanded a newspaper. This war in fact seems to have spurred the creation of Hebrew newspapers for a news-hungry public. It would make sense if such a vivid scene became known at that time.

Below is the full letter from the Jewish Chronicle:

Happy Thanksgiving

Here's the Thanksgiving Sermon of רב' שבתי מאריס, delivered 158 years ago tomorrow, with his own corrections:

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009: Roast Turkey With A Side of Anxiety; Plus: Some Holiday Appetizers From The Blog Newsroom

Not that there isn't plenty to be thankful for. New Mexico's eternal gifts--its beauty, culture and climate--continue to delight year after year and generation after generation. But this is a year when more corporeal concerns dominate the thoughts of New Mexicans. Like jobs--and whether theirs will be at risk. Like taxes--and whether they'll have to pay more to shore up huge government deficits. Like the financial markets--and their impact on their retirement plans. And just below their radar lurks the disturbing pay-to-pay culture that has poisoned state politics. It's enough to give a turkey a headache.

We'd like to sugarcoat it, but the truth is this has been a lousy year for the Land of Enchantment. Our economy was ravaged by the recession which then blew a gargantuan hole in the state budget. Policy makers are scrambling to find short-term solutions, but there is a sense of unease over the future and whether the state's usual pattern of slow, but steady growth has been more than temporarily interrupted. And if it has, what's on the other side?

But for now a holiday beckons and with it a respite--however brief--from the powerful winds of change buffeting our beloved La Politica. Read on for our pre-holiday appetizers.


We noted this week that the median price of an ABQ home has plummeted below $180,000. More precisely:

The Albuquerque area median sale price in October was the lowest it's been all year--$170,000. January recorded the second lowest median of $175,500. The median is the price at which half the homes sell for more and half for less.

The median price for home sales peaked in 2008 at $198,477. That means we are down nearly 15 percent from that level. We don't recall any bigger slide, but then the jobless rate in ABQ--8 percent--is also at a new high for this era, with the real jobless rate--counting the underemployed and those who have stopped looking for work--being much higher.

The housing market here was in a bit of a frenzy for a while, but our bubble was much smaller than neighboring states. Still, the net worth of ABQ homeowners--and others around the state--is taking a hit. That means fewer home equity loans and less spending--and that means less in tax collections for depleted state coffers.

Jobs equal housing. Until you see the needle move on that front, the month to month gyrations in housing will mean little. The bear market in prices may be near an end, but a new bull market in which those prices start to gallop ahead in the ABQ metro is nowhere in sight.

There's going to be a new voice in charge of making sure your house is protected from fire. From City Hall:

Mayor-elect Berry named veteran firefighter and rescue worker James Breen as Fire Chief. Breen has been an Albuquerque firefighter since 1990 and most recently was responsible for the Albuquerque Fire Department’s second battalion, the city’s busiest. Before becoming a battalion commander, Breen was in charge of AFD’s heavy rescue program and commanded Fire Station No. 3 located on Girard SE. He was also an instructor at the city’s Fire Academy.


A reader writes:

Reading your column today reminded me that (ABQ Chief Administrative Officer-designate) Dave Campbell and (soon to be city Director of Family services) Robin Dozier Otten were in a law firm together called Otten, Vogel and Campbell in the early 1990s.

Another reader writes:

Robin Dozier Otten was Superintendent at state Regulation & Licensing (under Gov. Johnson in the 90's) but was never confirmed as Secretary of Human Services, only Acting Secretary due to activities at Regulation & Licensing. The Legislative Finance Committee audit is here.


Big Bill told the press before he attended Tuesday night's White House state dinner for the prime minister of India that he has no plans to join the Obama administration.

This is not about a job. It's about having dinner. I'm going to finish my term as governor.

But that's not going to quiet speculation that has been ongoing since Richardson had to withdraw his name from consideration as Obama's commerce secretary because of New Mexico political scandals. Some of those scandals are still brewing, but on the back burner, not the front burner.

Also attending the dinner was US Attorney General Eric Holder. It was his Public Integrity Division that decided not to bring indictments against Big Bill or his top aides in the CDR bond scandal.

Here is brief video from C-SPAN of Bill and wife Barbara making their entrance into the dinner. They are at 39:20 on the tape.


Not in the case of being the public info officer for Light Guv Diane Denish. She just lost her seventh spokesman in seven years. Sam Thompson (who is a she) is leaving the $70,000 a year post because of the "stress," among other reasons.

Maybe there's an idea here. We put Di in charge of all the high-paid political appointees that have bloated the state payroll and they start bailing out like the PIO's.


Frustration often turns to satire and so it is with University of New Mexico Greek mythology Professor Monica Cyrino. She penned this scathing missive to describe how she sees the state of the state's largest university, using the language of her field of study. We take you to the Kingdom of Richardsonius....

Happy Thanksgiving, New Mexico.

Reporting to you from Albuquerque, I'm Joe Monahan.

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An 1861 argument to establish girl's schools to combat the spread of Chassidus in Russia.

The Jewish Chronicle 2.02.1861

"We are not experts in maleh and chaser"

It's interesting to compare readings in the two most famous Hebrew Bible codices, the Aleppo Codex and the Leningrad Codex. The gray is the Aleppo Codex, and the blue (or white, in one case,) Leningrad. These are all from Deut 28, which is where the Aleppo Codex that exists today begins. Verse numberings before each image:






Monday, November 23, 2009

GOP Consultant Turns Candidate; Takes On Berry's Roundhouse Replacement, Plus: Councilor Ken: Is This His Time? And: Campbell Answers Council Critics

Antoon & White
Here's an interesting twist. The campaign consultant who helped elect new ABQ GOP city Councilors Dan Lewis and Michael Cook and who now are opposing GOP Mayor-elect RJ Berry on a key appointment to his administration, wants to join the ranks of elected officials. And that's not all. Republican consultant and attorney Doug Antoon says he wants the ABQ legislative seat that RJ gave up when he became mayor. He will run against recently appointed Rep. Jim White who Berry favored as his replacement.

It's another sign that despite having the first Republican-majority council since 1985, many of RJ's headaches are going to come from his fellow R's, not just the Dems. And why is that?

Berry's initial instincts have been to try to govern somewhat from the center. His pick of Democratic attorney David Campbell as chief administrative officer--expected to be approved next month with three Republicans dissenting--was the first indication that the hard right of the NM GOP--still the wing with the most stroke--was not going to take it lying down.

But Berry's instincts match up with history. Coming at this game from center court in the state's largest city is the proven way to score.

As for Antoon, 53, he is a relative newcomer to the scene, having arrived from Massachusetts n 2004. He received his law degree from Suffolk University in Boston and says he served as a city councilor in the Bay State.

He has shown he has the skills to rock the political boat. Whether he can apply them to himself is an open question. He'll get the chance. White, 67, is retired military and a former NM GOP treasurer, is expected to seek election to the seat next year. A White-Antoon GOP primary may be framed as an early test of Berry's political strength. But first things first. Berry won't even be sworn in until Dec. 1 and we're already off to the races.

One year ago ABQ West Side City Councilor Ken Sanchez was so confident that he would become city council president that he brought his family to the meeting to sit in the audience and enjoy the moment. But the meeting erupted in chaos, Sanchez was denied and his family walked away disappointed. Is this finally the year for the Dem councilor who is beginning his second four year term this month and previously served eight years on the Bernalillo commission?

City Hall watchers remain cautious, but the consensus is that Sanchez's time has indeed come and he will, for the first time, wear the title of council president. City Councilor Debbie O'Malley told us recently she will support Sanchez. He will need five votes to take the prize which he keeps for one year. He appears poised to get more than that.

We've blogged that the time seems right for a fiscally conservative Dem like Sanchez to head the council, given the severe economic challenges facing the city. He will also be able to work well with mayor-to-be Berry. Sanchez has struck a tone of cooperation and conciliation in the early going.

Sanchez, 53, is a VP for a tax and accounting service and who also dabbles in real estate. The president gets to name committee members, and has sway over the council agenda. The council is expected to vote on its officers at its Dec. 7 meeting. The Sanchez family is invited to attend.

As you may know, the three Republican city councilors--Winter, Lewis and Cook--have been livid that CAO-designate David Campbell, a longtime land use lawyer, has not submitted answers to their questions about what they see as potential conflicts of interest. Well, Campbell has now done that and then some.

The Alligators sent us this memo from Campbell that is now in the hands of the dissident trio. It runs nine pages. Campbell says he was not intentionally ignoring his foes, but that his mother recently passed away and that has consumed much of his time

On one hot button issue--a proposed downtown sports arena--Campbell responded to the councilors this way:

I have not personally represented any developer or person with a financial interest concerning the placement of an arena in downtown Albuquerque...

Campbell is still on track to win council confirmation by a 6 to 3 vote. Insiders think some of this tempest over Campbell may have been caused by Mayor-elect Berry not consulting with the disgruntled councilors before he made his pick. The rest of the bickering is seen as partisan politics.

Campbell has been around city government since 1981. We'll be charitable and say that perhaps the three councilors have done a public service by putting the administration on notice that they are on guard for any hanky-panky. Now that they have their answers, perhaps they will see the sense of approving the mayor-elect's choice of Campbell (as well as Sheriff White as public safety director).

Berry and his team are going to be traveling a bumpy road and all of us are ready to tell him and them how they are messing up (they're already getting grief). Unless there are some smoking guns, Messrs. Winter, Lewis and Cook may want to help start this four year run on a note of unity and give Berry (and Campbell) the benefit of their doubt. The voters of Albuquerque already have.


Speaking of the hard-right getting upset with Berry over picking Dave Campbell, you wonder how they will react when they learn that Lou Hoffman, an old City Hall hand and key advisor to Democratic mayoral candidate Richard Romero, has landed a plum job with Berry. Hoffman, who was city Treasurer from 1987-2006, comes aboard as head of the Department of Finance.

Hoffman is going to be on the front lines now in the battle against the raging recession, and conservatives may actually like much of what they hear, if Lou says the same things he was saying as Romero's man.

During the campaign Romero and Hoffman chastised the Chavez administration for shifting property tax revenue to the general fund. And he has been a critic of having deputy chief administrative officers as well as hiring too many political appointees. On that score, will he advise Berry to eliminate the ambiguous position of chief operating officer?

Here's a campaign quote from Hoffman:

“During the last 15 years the combined budget for the mayor and CAO has increased 282 percent from $742,000 to $2,838,000...The City Council budget, $845,000 in 1994 and now $3,805,000, grew by 350 percent.”

Well, Lou, here's your chance to recommend those budgets be trimmed.
Keep us posted.

Berry also named Deborah Stover as head of the planning department:

Stover has worked in the Planning Department as Manager of the Advance Planning and Urban Design Division. As a manager with the Office of the State Engineer, Stover developed and managed the drought planning and mitigation activities...Stover earned her Master of Architecture from the University of New Mexico School of Architecture and Planning....

Her dad, Bob Stover, is a former ABQ police chief and Bernalillo County sheriff.


A new realism is emerging in the coverage of the Great Recession in New Mexico. The newspaper front-paged a no-spin assessment of how conditions have eroded here even more in the past few months. It may have taken out-of-towner and economist Mark Snead from the Federal Reserve bank in Kansas City to do it and a year or more of deep contraction, but the in-your-face analysis is just what state and ABQ economic policy makers need to hear. Some money lines:

"Conditions turned quickly and hard," Snead said. "What caused it? The energy cycle."

Federal unemployment numbers "tend to be very wrong in energy states," he said, adding that New Mexico was probably never growing as fast as the data showed it was.

Chunks of our economy are melting away, meaning your kids and grand kids are outta here for good unless we deal with reality as it is--not how we might like it.

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