"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)


Is There a Jewish Connection to Celtic Punk/Rock?

It was Monday, October 2: Yom Kippur. I’d attended a Celtic festival two days earlier, and I was hoping to see Celtic-punk band Flogging Molly live for the 10th and 11th times later that week. During the shacharit service, denied of food and drink, I was overcome by an amusing yet perhaps delusional thought. I looked at the burly men hoisting Torah scrolls on the bimah, and it seemed as though I was looking at burly men holding bagpipes. My worlds of Judaism and Celtic music/culture had seemingly collided.

There’s nothing unique about this fusion, either in my life or at large. Several years ago, when I went to an Irish festival for the first time, I enjoyed the experience with what I called a “carload of Jews.” When I went to Ireland last year, I searched far and wide for a “shamrock dreydl.” The story of Irish Jewry was captured in the 2003 documentary Shalom Ireland; the film's soundtrack was recorded by a Celtic-klezmer hybrid band named Ceilzemer, which consisted of members of the Freilachmaker Klezmer String Band (which itself cites a Celtic influence) and the Irish band Driving With Fergus.

I’m a Jew in love with Celtic rock/punk, both because it’s fun punk rock diffused with a nice variety of melodious sounds and because it’s a compelling, proud cultural expression. Perhaps I’m overanalyzing all this and it’s silly to try to find a Jewish connection to another culture. On the other hand, I’ve wondered for the past few weeks whether there is some kind of connection that I’m tapping into.

I thought back to an enlightening blog post by Alicia Jo Rabins, the fiddle player for New York-based klezmer-punk band Golem. In the post, she cited her appreciation for the pioneering Celtic rock of the Pogues and Shane MacGowan & The Popes and talked about the similarities in punking up and rocking out to different varieties of traditional ethnic music. I e-mailed Alicia to ask for her two cents, and we seem to be on the same page:
I'm definitely inspired by all sorts of musicians who take traditional music and then update it or merge it with contemporary influences …. Irish music (via the Pogues) was the first folk tradition I really heard. Plus, I could totally get into their take on it, because they obviously had this attitude of "respect tradition/fuck convention" which is pretty much my philosophy. So I can't speak for the rest of Jews, but I know that hearing the Pogues … definitely inspired me to deal with my own tradition the same way, both musically and in my life.
I tried getting in touch with New England Celtic punks the Pubcrawlers, whose accordion and tin-whistle player goes by the name “The Rabbi,” but I never heard back and I don’t know if this fellow is actually Jewish. I also sought out various folk-punk bands that combine Jewish and Celtic styles. Massachusetts-based Josh Lederman y Los Diablos, the self-professed kings of “Irish-Jewish folk-punk,” did not respond to my requests for comment. New Orleans’ Zydepunks, which also incorporate zydeco and other folk stylings, noted that while they love klezmer music, none of their band members is Jewish.

And then there's Menashe Yaakov, guitarist/vocalist of New York’s White Shabbos, which allegedly formed as “a Jewish answer to Irish punk bands like Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly.” The “connection” can best be heard in the White Shabbos songs “Shabbos Holy Shabbos” and “Pitchu Li” (click here to take a listen). Menashe doesn’t think there’s much of a connection in general, but it does make its way into White Shabbos’ music:
If anything, I like Celtic punk because it sounds completely non-Jewish. … Besides for our punk influences, we're also really into traditional Irish, Bluegrass and Country music. So we're not just imitating the Celtic punk bands; we also have the same influences as they do. We finally found a Jewish bagpiper and he's awesome, so you'll [be] hearing the pipes all over the second record, in [addition] to mandolin, tin whistle, fiddle and possibly banjo. ... You'll hear the Celtic influence even more on Redemption Songs [White Shabbos’ second album, which is slated for a spring 2007 release].
Maybe there is no Jewish reason to appreciate Celtic rock/punk besides its “shiksa appeal.” But one thing’s certain: I’m not the only one.


  • At 10/24/2006 6:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    being a vegetarian is hard enough, but a vegan?

    i praise thee

  • At 11/09/2006 11:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    If you transition gradually, you might be surprised at how simple it is to be veg. There are tons of alternatives to meat, eggs, and dairy products on the market that you can use as substitutes in recipes that'll make you happy you're no longer eating the real/dead thing. Plus, it's better for animals, your health, and the environment.

    Don't just take my word for it. Believe it or not, the Web site GoVeg.com is also a proponent of vegan eating. Amazing, no? Go check it out. And feel free to ask me any questions. =)


  • At 12/14/2007 8:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…


    I am Jewish and also play in a Pipeband.



  • At 1/10/2009 1:57 PM, Blogger heebnvegan said…

    I figured out why The Pubcrawlers' tin-whistle and accordion player goes by the nickname "The Rabbi."

    In this interview (http://www.shitenonions.com/interview_pubcrawlers.htm), one of the band members said that another met The Rabbi at a music shop and "discovered that he played tin whistle and accordian [sic] ... and can do this amazing Rabbi impression (thus the nickname)."

  • At 1/29/2009 4:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

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  • At 12/16/2009 6:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  • At 2/18/2010 9:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

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