"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)


The Struggles of a Jewish Air Guitarist

The personal side of heebnvegan is usually an attempt to balance my "identities" as a Jew and a vegan. This post is about the balance between my Jewish and air guitarist identities.

When I competed on the first night of a local air guitar competition in June (I wound up coming in second place later that month), I had to miss a Lost Boys of Sudan event at my shul. As someone who had schlepped to DC with my Vegan Jews Against Genocide brigade for the Save Darfur rally less than two months earlier, I was disappointed to have to pick and choose. Last week I decided to miss out on the penultimate night of a month-long local air guitar competition because I'd had a long day after going to see a speech by Rafael Harpaz, the minister of public affairs for the Israeli Embassy in DC. Similarly, I'd told myself that I wouldn't compete in the last night of the contest because it was more important to attend an AIPAC meeting. But when I was driving home from the AIPAC meeting at 8 p.m. last night, I felt compelled to rock.

Very quickly, I threw together a costume, picked a song, and got four friends to come out to support "CroBar." I did Guns N Roses' "Welcome to the Jungle" in the first round, and Blink-182's "Dammit" was picked for me in the second. I wound up coming in third place and winning $250, which means that I'm now a professional air guitarist.

Why is it such a struggle to be a Jewish air guitarist? My hero, To Air Is Human author Dan "Bjorn Turoque" Crane, is a Jewish air guitarist. 2006's Los Angeles air guitar champion is a Schwartz, so he's probably a member of the tribe. But have Crane or Schwartz ever had this identity struggle?

I thought about wearing a yarmulke and performing to Jewdriver's "Manischewitz" last night, but I doubt that would have gone over well with the crowd. When I paraded around like Santa Claus at an air guitar contest in May and paused before telling a Jewess that I was Jewish, clearly my Jewish and air guitarist identities were in conflict. I also felt conflicted when I heard the Holocaust-glorifying lyrics of the song picked for that competition's air-off. Why do I have to pick and choose between Jewish events and air guitar competitions? If I plan a big vacation in the not-too-distant future, should I visit Finland (the homeland of air guitar) or Israel (the homeland of the Jewish people)? And why was the Oyhoo Festival (aka the New York Jewish Music & Heritage Festival and Sidney Krum Conference) so adamant about not letting me ("one of the world's leading Jewish air guitarists") perform? These are tough questions that are perhaps best suited for rabbis.


  • At 4/14/2007 6:16 PM, Blogger heebnvegan said…

    In my original post three months ago, I wrote, "If I plan a big vacation in the not-too-distant future, should I visit Finland (the homeland of air guitar) or Israel (the homeland of the Jewish people)?"

    I didn't seriously consider going to Finland, and indeed I will be going to Israel this summer on a Birthright trip. It's worth noting, though, that I'll be missing all three East Coast regional air guitar championships when I'm over in Israel. The struggle lives on!

  • At 5/02/2007 8:27 PM, Blogger heebnvegan said…

    For months I've been asking my local indy movie theater to play Air Guitar Nation, for which I was interviewed back in 2005. I found out today that the theater will be playing it for two days--when I'm in Israel in June! Even my parents have seen the film (it played in New York). The struggle lives on!


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