"I've noticed that quite a lot of people who are prominent in the animal liberation movement are Jews. Maybe we are simply not prepared to see the powerful hurting the weak." --Peter Singer (Author, Animal Liberation)



They say that brevity is next to godliness. Who wouldn't want to be close to Hashem?
  • AgriProcessors has been sold. "Now that a new owner has been awarded the challenge of running Agriprocessors, once the nation’s largest kosher meat producer, there’s reason to hope that a new attitude toward workers will prevail. It cannot come a moment too soon in an industry that has become synonymous with exploitation and unethical behavior," said a Forward editorial. Magen Tzedek leader Rabbi Morris Allen commented, "I hope that there can be a restoration of kosher meat in this country that is not just ritually appropriate, but ethically appropriate, as well."
  • Israel's first fatal victim of swine flu died this past weekend. "So far, about 1,500 cases - around 30 or 40 new cases a day - have been reported in Israel," the Jerusalem Post reported on Monday.
  • Iconic vegan cookbook author Isa Chandra Moskowitz was featured as one of Green Planet's Change Makers yesterday. Says Moskowitz, "Eating animals is never sustainable and never environmentally friendly and never humane. Just quit it. Stop with the mishegos and get real."
  • Yesterday, The Jew & The Carrot posted about a vegetarian lunch on the Shabbat prior to Tisha B'av. Click here to read last year's heebnvegan post about vegetarianism during the Nine Days.
  • "Seven Mexican and Guatemalan men who were arrested and detained in a raid on a kosher slaughterhouse last year in Iowa" have been performing a play they wrote about the experience, according to WKBT. This isn't the only play based on the AgriProcessors scandal; click here to read "The AgriProcessors Scandal: Coming to a Theater Near You" from January.



Israeli Campaign Against Battery Cages
The Jerusalem Post ran an article about Anonymous for Animal Rights' campaign against battery cages in Israel. "Three years ago, the Agriculture Ministry decided to reconstruct the entire egg industry, which means most of the existing hen houses were out of use, and they decided to build new ones … with no regulation of animal welfare. So we are protesting against this," said an activist from the group.

Change to a Ritual Because of Swine Flu Concerns
Haaeretz reported, "The swine flu scare has recently prompted one of the leading spiritual figures of the ultra-Orthodox world to change one of Judaism's time-honored traditions - that of drinking wine together from the same glass. Yaakov Aryeh Alter, seventh and current rabbi of the Hasidic dynasty of Ger, instructed his disciples in Jerusalem a few weeks ago to toast with individual and disposable plastic cups containing a few drops of wine from the rabbi's own glass." The article also noted that there have been more than 750 cases of swine flu in Israel. (Hat Tip: Failed Messiah)

Kosher Beef Prices on the Rise
According to YNet, in South American countries, corn and soybeans otherwise used for feed are increasingly being used for fuel. The price of kosher beef in Israel, an importer of South American beef, might jump by as much as 40 percent as the size of the supply decreases. "This should impact the US glatt kosher market, as well, although much less so than in Israel," noted Failed Messiah. Only time will tell whether this news will get more Jews to eat vegetarian meals, as last year's apparent kosher meat shortage did.

Video Surveillance at Kosher Facilities
Last week, Haaretz reported that Be'er Sheva chief rabbi Yehuda Deri has proposed installing video cameras at kosher restaurants and bars as part of the kosher supervision process. Failed Messiah pointed out, "There is nothing that new or revolutionary in this proposal." Failed Messiah mentioned that "American haredi Rabbi Yudel Shain long ago worked out ... a remote bishul yisrael system to turn on boilers and ovens in food processing plants" and that Dr. Temple Grandin has called for video surveillance in kosher slaughterhouses. Click here to read last year's heebnvegan post about the background story behind Dr. Grandin's suggestion.

Carol Leifer: Heeb and Vegan
Comedian and writer Carol Leifer appears in a new PETA PSA about veganism. Says Leifer, "I recently became vegan because I felt that as a Jewish lesbian, I wasn't part of a small enough minority. So now I'm a Jewish lesbian vegan."


The Kosher Meat Industry: Not Just One Bad Apple

In May, I featured three different posts about the one-year anniversary of the AgriProcessors immigration raid. More than a year later, as both the sale of AgriProcessors and the trials of former manager Sholom Rubashkin apparently approach, all is not well in the rest of the kosher meat industry:
  • Last week, the Forward reported that Alle Processing, the largest kosher meat producer in the U.S., "was found by the National Labor Relations Board to have illegally intimidated its employees before a union election last fall."
  • It was reported that 44 tons of rotting, unsold meat were removed from the grounds of Bridgewater Quality Meats, the producer of Solomon's Glatt Kosher. "It’s too bad (the meat) had to go to waste when there’s so many people that could have used it," said a city official. The owner of Solomon's later clarified that the 44 tons included packaging, not just meat, and that this meat would have been sold as pet food, not for human consumption.
In addition, Empire Kosher is growing by leaps and bounds, which isn't a scandal but isn't good news for animals either:
  • After announcing in November that it would increase chicken production by 50 percent, Empire said last week that it would raise non-holiday chicken production from about 225,000 birds per week to about 350,000 birds per week and peak production from more than 500,000 birds per week to almost 800,000 birds per week. Empire CEO Greg Rosenbaum said that "Empire's capacity will equal or exceed the combined production of Empire and its largest competitor prior to May 2008."
  • Empire also announced that it would sell new product lines of organic and antibiotic-free chicken and turkey products.
  • Costco is reportedly now testing out sales of glatt kosher beef from Empire in some New York stores.
Kosher consumers would be better off following an all-vegetarian diet, as Empire's antibiotic-free chickens apparently will. Costco would be better off following the advice of an article in last month's Costco Connection. The article recommended that a vegetarian/flexitarian diet "can help you lose weight, reduce the risk of certain diseases and add years to your life, all while being budget- and Earth-friendly. And it's easy to follow ...."

Failed Messiah was a secondary source for some information in this post.


Updated List of Jewish Punk Bands

Update (8/19/10): Here is the 2010 version of the List of Jewish Punk Bands.

Below is an updated list of the Jewish punk bands I’ve written about along with a link to an article or blog post in which each is mentioned. The original list was posted on December 31, and this revised version incorporates bands mentioned in my January 15, June 30, and July 3 posts.

The categorization is somewhat arbitrary. The last three categories shouldn’t be thought of as comprehensive.

Punk Bands With a Significant Jewish Focus/Identity

Klezmer/Folk Bands With a Punk Edge

Similar bands include the Klezmatics, Charming Hostess, Charming Hostess Big Band, and Kletka Red.

Punk Bands From Israel

To learn more about the Israeli punk scene, check out Liz Nord’s documentary Jericho’s Echo: Punk Rock in the Holy Land.

Punk Bands With Jewish Members

To learn more about Jews’ involvement in punk rock, read Steven Lee Beeber’s The Heebie-Jeebies at CBGB’s: A Secret History of Jewish Punk.


The Hills Are Alive With the Sound of Jew-Punk

If Tuesday’s post about 10 Jewish punk bands and my follow-up featuring Di Nigunim’s Forest Borie tickled your fancy, feast your eyes on these updates about the thriving subculture of Jewish punk.

In August—at the same time Di Nigunim will be taking the West Coast by stormCAN CAN will be playing shows in Louisville, Chicago, Indianapolis, New Jersey, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Providence, Long Island, New York City, and North Carolina. Check CAN CAN’s MySpace page for details. CAN CAN has a new album called Monsters & Healers in the works, and frontman Patrick A. continues to do great things with Punk Torah.

Moshiach Oi! Album
Better Get Ready, the debut album from Torah hardcore band Moshiach Oi!, will officially be released on August 25 as part of Shemspeed’s Summer Music Festival in New York. If you want Moshiach Oi! now and you don’t want to wait, you can download songs or the entire album from Rhapsody or Amazon. Click here to watch a one-minute promo video featuring the song “Moshiach Oi.”

Jewish Punk and Taqwacore Unite
Matthue Roth and Michael Muhammad Knight will appear at a book reading at 92Y Tribeca in New York on Wednesday. Roth is the author of Never Mind the Goldbergs, a book that professes to be about “your average teenage punk-rock Orthodox Jewish girl from New York.” Knight wrote The Taqwacores, the book that inspired the real-life Muslim punk scene. According to a press release, “This event, the first of its kind, will feature both authors … talking about what it means to be religious, and what it means to be punk.” I won’t be able to attend, but I did see Knight read from his new book, Osama Van Halen, on Thursday.

New Illustrated Novel
An illustrated novel called So Punk Rock (And Other Ways to Disappoint Your Mother) went on sale this past Wednesday. Written by Micol Ostow and illustrated by David Ostow, it tells the story of Ari Samuel Abramson, a Jewish teen who starts a band called the Tribe. The book’s promo site explains that “after a one-song gig at a friend's Bar Mitzvah -- a ska cover of Hava Nagila -- the Tribe's popularity erupts overnight. … So Punk Rock is the VH1 Behind the Music story of an epic Jewish band that never was. If it got any more kosher, it'd be totally traif.” (Hat Tip: Punk Torah)

Sacha Baron Cohen’s Other Movie
There’s a lot of hype for the new Sacha Baron Cohen movie Bruno, which comes out this Friday. As I noted in 2007, Cohen is also working on Curly Oxide and Vic Thrill, which is scheduled for a 2011 release. As recently as December, IMDB offered the following description: “Curly Oxide was the stage name of the young Hasidic Jew who wandered into a Brooklyn bar where Vic Thrill and The Rev. Vince Anderson played their barbaric folk and gospel music. … [Curly and Thrill] began sharing their cultures and writing and performing music together that yielded a strange and novel mishmash of punk-rock, liturgical Jewish music, and all things on MTV with off-the-wall, heartfelt lyrics inspired by Curly's exciting new experience of pop culture and the struggle with his old world identity.” The film is based on a true story, which was recounted in a 2004 episode of This American Life. (I don’t think the word “punk” was used in the entire episode. The music seems to be more indie rock than anything else.) According to Variety, Tina Fey wrote the screenplay and Lorne Michaels is a co-producer.

A Museum’s Take on Punk Judaism
On June 18, the Jewish Museum of Maryland’s blog featured a post titled “Punk Judaism.” It quoted CAN CAN’s Patrick A., gave a shout-out to yours truly, and included a link to heebnvegan.

Punk, Klezmer, and Rap
On June 23, a music video was shot for Jewish rapper Eprhyme’s song “Punklezmerap.” “Before hip-hop, I was into punk rock,” raps Eprhyme in the song, which can be heard on his MySpace page. “Punklezmerap” features klezmer clarinet parts and, as Eprhyme’s record label’s Web site put it, moves “through hip-hop, punk rock and jazz.” I don’t hear any punk rock in the music.

The Shondes Played Locally
Last month, I finally got to see the Shondes in concert. The all-vegetarian Jewish punk/indie band put on a fun show at a festival only three blocks away from my apartment. It was the first time that they played the new song “Miami” live. The band’s merch table featured scraps of paper for fans to write down tips for getting over a breakup; the plan is to include some of them in the Shondes’ next album.

Jewish Punk Pioneers at YIVO
On June 11 at New York’s YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, Tommy Ramone (of the Ramones), Handsome Dick Manitoba (of the Dictators), Chris Stein (of Blondie), and Lenny Kaye (of the Patti Smith Group) appeared on a panel about Jews in punk rock. The Jerusalem Post reported that after Kaye said that “Ma Nishtana is a really great hit,” Ramone hummed part of the song and Manitoba broke into a rock ‘n’ roll version of it. “Who knew? Punk is Jewish,” opened a review of the event in The New York Times. An article in The New York Jewish Week said, “The panel’s star though was unquestionably Manitoba, the most outspoken about his Jewish sense of self. He talked about his famous Jew-fro (which, if still it exists, lies buried beneath a black bandana), vacations in the Catskills, Russ & Daughters pickles and his love of baseball, ‘the most Jewish thing about me.’”


Di Nigunim's Forest Borie

Photo Courtesy of Di Nigunim. Forest is on the left.

Last month, I interviewed Forest Borie, a Jewish vegan who plays accordion for San Diego klezmer-punk band Di Nigunim. Although snippets were included in Tuesday's "10 More Jewish Punk Bands I've Never Written About" post, Forest and I both thought that the interview deserved extra attention.

Di Nigunim seems to have found a magical middle ground between klezmer and punk. They definitely have a punk foundation and punk instruments, unlike some punk-edged contemporary klezmer acts. And unlike some kitschy Jewish punk bands, their klezmer slant isn't mere shtick. Check out their debut EP, Balagan, or the songs on their MySpace page and you'll realize that the two genres legitimately gel together in Di Nigunim's music. The band's MySpace page also features dates for Di Nigunim's August tour of California, Oregon, and Washington.

Here is Forest Borie in his own words.

Is Di Nigunim a punk band with a klezmer slant or the other way around?
Di Nigunim is definitely a punk band with a klezmer slant and not the other way around. We try to make up in furious dance energy what we lose in musicianship. Our band has some amateurs, like myself, but also some superb true talent, like our singer/guitarist, Ben, and our trumpet player, Sean.

When did the band form, where do you play most of your shows, and how many members are there?
This band came together about 2 years and a few months ago, but the idea and some songs were conceived much earlier by Ben. We try to play house shows and radical benefits first, and then with bands we really like. Somehow we end up playing a lot of 21+ gigs; often they're at the Soda Bar or another local place. As far as venues go, I love the Che Café; it's just a solid place with plenty of room for dancing, rafters to swing from, and the garden out there is a fine place to kick it before shows. One dream is to play a show at the MultiKulti; for me, Tijuana is still the place to be.

Right now, I think we have about 13 members. It's the most we've ever had, and we've played with as few as 7.

Is everyone in the band Jewish? What do your bubbes think of your music?
I think we have 3 Jewish members. I think that makes us not a Jewish band, just people playing very Jewish music. My bubbes don't really understand our music yet because they still haven't caught a live gig. Our E.P. doesn't capture our energy like a sweaty wall-smashing house show. If I were a baseball player, my mom and grams would never miss a game ... but they're all really happy for me; they know I'm doing something positive and having fun.

[A friend from San Diego] mentioned that you're vegetarian or vegan. Do you make a Jewish connection to your diet?
Yeah, I'm vegan. I don't really make a Jewish connection with this, though.

Recently I bought a red plaid coffee container from a thrift store. I was enjoying my first dark roast with my rabbi, and I told him that I really like this container. He responded that he would not use it, because he didn't know its history. It could have harbored a hot stew made with cream and meat. This didn't matter at all to me; I'd much rather buy just about anything from a thrift store than some chain store milking the human wage discrepancies of various nation-states. To me, being vegan is something I felt compelled to do for so many reasons. If I had to put a few at the top ... well, I'm not a fan of detached reality. If I'm going to eat something that was thinking, emotional, and made friends, I want to either raise it and slaughter it, or at least know who did and where it came from. I guess the same goes for any product, but it's especially disgusting to make animals into food machines. And it's terrible for the environment. I happen to like this planet a lot. It's also sad that cows eat much more than they themselves can feed. Priorities of societies can be pretty ugly. We all know I could go on.

I am, however, often inclined to approach political questions with a Jewish connection. For example, my brain tells me, "As a Jew, I want to be kind and considerate and so I hope that we can put an end to expansionist settlements. As a Jew ..."

Do you remember the old Yahoo commercial where aliens abducted pop, rock, country, and rap musicians but incinerated an accordionist? How does this make you feel?
So I'd never seen that commercial but I did just watch it. The aliens were taking really terrible music, and so by the time they got to the accordion dude and scorched him, it really seemed like they were targeting him because he was German. I'm joking, but yeah, I would never want what they were selling. I found it typical and stupid to attempt humor by making fun of a culture that's not really our own to make fun of. I don't want to sound hypersensitive, but really, Yahoo has been sickening in their persistence of yelling "yahooooo" in their advertisements. It's a crime that they worked that into my life's permanent memory storage. I must say, though, that I was happy with the general message because accordions are becoming too popular and nobody likes their interest to become trendy, so ... thanks Yahoo for stealing away pop culture for me.


Swine Flu: It Can Happen to Jew, Part III

Photo by Sukit Subanersanti / Duron Studio Photography

As I noted in the first installment of the "Swine Flu: It Can Happen to Jew" trilogy, my original misconception was that vegetarians and kosher-keeping Jews would be less susceptible to swine flu. I was wrong. Back when swine flu was just an abstract concept, things like saying "What's up, my swine flu?" to fellow Jews seemed much funnier. As I have documented (see the "Related Posts" section below), though, swine flu is no joke. It has affected tens of thousands of people around the world, including quite a few Jews.

Last month, swine flu changed the nature of a Jewish wedding in Highland Park, Ill. According to the Chicago Tribune, Ilana Jackson and rabbinical student Jeremy Fierstien got married in surgical masks and latex gloves less than 48 hours after they learned they had swine flu. They didn't dance, they didn't walk down the aisle, and, for the most part, they stayed 10 feet away from guests. The bride's scheduled hairstylist refused to touch her.

I think anyone would be horrified by having his or her wedding ruined (perhaps that's too subjective a word) by swine flu, but the Chicago Tribune's article partially focused on comic elements. Fierstien reportedly chuckled upon recounting when the doctor told the couple they had swine flu. The couple apparently considered the possibility of a wedding with swine flu before they were diagnosed. "We joked about it. Like, 'Wouldn't it be funny if we had swine flu?'" said Jackson. The article added, "The guests told them to give it a few years and they'd laugh about it, Jackson said. 'I'm, like, give me a few weeks,' she said."

The Miami Herald covered the story as "Weird News." "I'm not sure whether to say 'Oy Vey' or 'Mazel Tov!'" said a Jewish Wedding Network post. BangItOut.com, a "kosher comedy" site, said, "Not sure if one should laugh, cry, or just say Mazal Tov - Happiness waits for no one, no thing, no flu! Total awesomeness .... "

As I discussed in "Pig Flesh: Seriously Funny?" in 2007, Jews have a complicated comic relationship with all things swine. I'd like to think that one reason why we can laugh at this is because no one else got sick and the couple "made the most" of a bad situation. Haaretz editor Joshua Davidovich attended the wedding and wrote:
The wedding of two college friends of mine - the well-publicized "swine flu wedding" held in Chicago last week - was not a spectacle. . . .

[F]or all intents and purposes, the wedding written about in hundreds of newspapers and blogs around the world was nearly the same as any other Jewish nuptial ceremony. . . .

I've known Jeremy and Ilana for several years, and if anybody can make the best of a bad situation, they can. I spoke to Jeremy briefly after the wedding about how he and Ilana felt about their "special" day.

"It was uncomfortable," he said. "It would have been nice to dance with family and friends. But we still had a good time."
In conclusion, mazel tov to Jeremy and Ilana!

Related Posts
Pig Flesh: Seriously Funny? (5/12/07)
Swine Flu: It Can Happen to Jew (4/27/09)
Swine Flu: It Can Happen to Jew, Part Deux (6/14/09)
Etc.: Swine Flu (6/18/09)
Fasting Against Swine Flu (5/6/09)
Dr. Michael Greger on Swine Flu (5/1/09)