"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)


Wrap-Up of My Jewish Punk Research

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

Following yesterday’s post discussing 10 Jewish punk bands I’d yet to write about, I’m taking a hiatus from writing about Jewish punk.

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

Punk Bands With a Significant Jewish Focus/Identity
7SEVENTY (Florida)
CAN CAN (Georgia)
Electric Menorah (New York)
Gefilte F*ck (predecessor: Jews From the Valley) (California)
Jewdriver (predecessor: G.I. Jew) (California)
The Jiddische Hitlerjugend (Holland)
Johnny Cohen and the Jewish Defense League (Holland)
Kohane of Newark (New York)
KOSHER (Maryland)
Mensch (New York)
Moshiach Oi (New York)
Total Passover (Iowa)
The Schleps (Massachusetts)
The Shondes (New York)
Sons of Abraham (New York)
Steve “Gangsta Rabbi” Lieberman (New York)
White Shabbos (New York)
Yidcore (Australia)

Klezmer/Folk Bands With a Punk Edge
The Murrays
Polka Madre

Similar bands include the Klezmatics, Charming Hostess, Charming Hostess Big Band, Kletka Red, Josh Lederman y Los Diablos, and Mr. Julian Gaskell & His Ragged Trousered Philanthropists.

Punk Bands From Israel
Chaos Rabak
Friday Night Sissy Fight
Not Kosher
Useless ID

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
Bad Religion
Black Flag
The Clash
The Circle Jerks
The Dictators
Gogol Bordello
Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lovers
Me First and the Gimme Gimmes
New Found Glory
The New York Dolls
The Ramones
Serge Gainsbourg

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.


10 Jewish Punk Bands I’ve Never Written About

In the last few years, I’ve written about quite a few punk groups with connections to Judaism (and klezmer/folk bands with a punk edge). In an effort to “get it all out,” here are 10 that I’ve never mentioned in my writing.

Click here to read a listing of all the Jewish punk bands I’ve talked about in my articles and blog posts.

The Shondes
The Shondes are an all-vegetarian Brooklyn band with a political punk edge, a Jewish identity that shines through even in their name, and, perhaps best of all, captivating fiddle-playing. This morning, drummer Temim Fruchter said that The Shondes don’t just pepper their songs with Yiddish words and “liturgical melodies” but rather build them into “a bigger and more layered composition, both in a particular song and in our body of music as a whole.” Click here to watch a rockin’ live rendition of The Shondes’ “Let’s Go” (the phrase you’ll hear shouted repeatedly is “lomir gayn,” Yiddish for “let’s go”), and click here to read Teruah’s November 2007 post about The Shondes.

On Wednesday (Christmas Eve), The Shondes performed at JDub Records’ Jewltide event in Brooklyn. “One of my favorite moments was getting to engage the crowd about our song ‘I Watched the Temple Fall,’ which is largely about the importance [of] challenging and criticizing Israel and Israeli policy as Jews,” said Fruchter. “It's exciting to have positive dialogue about Israel/Palestine in Jewish spaces, and I love when that can happen through music.”

Frum Punk (who runs a blog called A Frum Punk) played guitar in Miami-based 7SEVENTY between 2001 or 2002 and 2005. The band once played at a bar mitzvah and was a big hit there. “Most common Jewish simcha songs can easily be sped up, a-la Me First style, which just makes them better to dance to,” Frum Punk said earlier this month. (Coincidentally, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes once performed and recorded a live album at a bar mitzvah.)

Frum Punk thinks that punk and Judaism can go hand in hand. “Judaism has always absorbed the music of the times, and well-played punk rock can definitely be kosher music, to the newer generation anyways,” he said. “Today, it’s amazing to me how many other bands now exist with the same idea as us, such as Moshiach Oi and, of course, Yidcore.”

Atlanta’s CAN CAN released a full-length album called All Hell earlier this month. The songs “Betrayer/Deceiver” and “Boreska Mines” draw on religious/spiritual themes (click here to read the lyrics). Patrick A., the trio’s singer and lone Jew, said last month that he relies “heavily on my faith and Jewish mysticism for inspiration for my lyrics, stage performance, and an overall sense of how I live my life and treat others.”

Last year, CAN CAN performed at a funeral party to “celebrate the death of fundie d***head Jerry Falwell.” Patrick’s explanation of that show was what won me over in my decision to consider CAN CAN a Jewish punk band:

The show we did regarding Jerry Falwell was a joke. It was a show we already had booked with some friends of ours, and then I heard Mr. Falwell had died. It was apolitical and had nothing to do with CAN CAN or his religious ideas. Which for the record, I found repulsive. Not as a Jew, but as a human being.

I don't think it's "un-Jewish" to make a comment like that about Jerry Falwell. Sure, it was a pathetic thing to say and I hope G-d grants Mr. Falwell grace (as I believe He does for all people), but that kind of fanaticism is gross to me ... and it's very Jewish to call people out on their hatred, violence, and disgust for humanity. Heck, Jews have a history of calling out G-d on His behavior. So why would we not criticize someone like Mr. Falwell?

Electric Menorah
In December 2005, I corresponded with Brett Singer of Electric Menorah (click here to check out the band’s MySpace page and listen to “Come Light the Menorah,” “Dreidel Song,” and “Oh Chanukah Bush"). Singer said, "The band is, well, one person. I played guitar, bass, did the vocals and had someone else program the drum machine on the tracks you heard (his voice is in the background as well)." He pointed out, "Little Jewish boys and girls need something to mosh to, don't they?"

Yesterday, Singer told me that he hopes to release PassoverCore (featuring “Dayenu,” “Chad Gadya,” and “Let My People Go”) in time for Passover. He added, “Punk is also a good way to express feelings that one might have that come with being born a Jew— for example, the feeling one gets when Mel Gibson tries to tell us that he's not anti-Semitic or that his father wasn't a Holocaust denier can be more satisfyingly expressed in a hardcore song (say, ‘Mel Gibson Is an Asshole') than in other ways.”

"We will not be pigeon-holed into the Lubavitch/nu-Carlebach/jazz/jam-band/punk genre!" was a slogan for Illinois-based Farbrengiton. Does that mean they were a punk band? Earlier this month, guitarist Zev Goldberg replied, “Depends who you ask. Maybe not to punks. It's kind of a genre stretch.”

The band's songs included "I Am a Jew" and "Avinu Malkeinu." According to a 2004 article in the Chicago Reader, Goldberg played “punk, jam-band music, and Credence covers” prior to forming Farbrengiton. The article also noted that Farbrengiton’s name “melds the phrase ‘bring it on’ with farbrengen, a Yiddish word for fellowship with friends.”

Gefilte F*ck
Gefilte F*ck’s logo was a magen David with an anarchist symbol inside. Band members wore kippot and tallesim onstage. According to the band’s Web site, “Singer Howard Hallis would come out holding a bottle of Manichewitz wine and scream out to the crowd ‘Yer all a bunch of G-d-d*** b*stards! Oy!’ and proceed to throw chunks of gefilte fish on the dance floor. The hardcore punk guitar would start, and there would be a Hora dance moving in the center of the mosh pit.”

Gefilte F*ck’s repertoire included covers (“If I Were a Rich Man” and “Diyanu”), parodies (“Smells Like Jew Spirit”), and original songs (“Kibbutz”). The band recorded five songs in 1992, which can be heard on their Web site. Despite the site’s claim that Gefilte F*ck was one of “the first Yidcore bands” (that’s “Yidcore” in the generic sense), they were preceded by Jews From the Valley (which bassist Mark Hecht also played in). The band performed at a 600-person show that was briefly shown on MTV, but it seems the biggest success belongs to fiddler Eliza Schneider (who joined after the recordings)—for five years, Schneider was the voice actor behind eight regular characters on South Park.

In January 2006, I asked Hallis if the L.A. punk scene was a good fit for a Jewish-themed band. He replied, “In the early 90’s, when we were doing the shows, it was a perfect fit. We would be billed with acts like The Imperial Butt Wizards and 7-foot-tall drag queen Vaginal Crème Davis’ band. Our Jewishness was just seen as comedy, not really pushing any kind of agenda.”

Kohane of Newark
According to a September article in the Forward, the jacket cover of Kohane of Newark’s new album “features an image of a larger-than-life bird’s eye view of a rumpled and stained velvet skullcap, doubtless donned at some Jewish function that took place around the time that Fonzie and Vinnie Barbarino dominated the boob tube.”

The two songs on the New York band’s MySpace page don’t sound all that punk to me, but I defer to the experts on this one. The Forward called Kohane of Newark “Judeo-punk,” and Steven Lee Beeber (author of The Heebie-Jeebies at CBGB’s: A Secret History of Jewish Punk) has said, “An American Serge Gainsbourg, Kohane of Newark's [debut album] probes the dark, sensitive heart of the Jewish experience. Equal parts Lou Reed/Alexander Portnoy/Jonathan Richman/Delmore Schwartz, the result is late-night therapy drenched in beautiful music.”

In January 2006, I corresponded with Jed Davis, who produced an out-of-print five-song demo for Mensch. Davis offered the following information: “Mensch performed around Manhattan for a little over a year before breaking up. Their songs were explicitly political though not without a sense of humor (the first time I heard them, they performed a tribute to Joey [Ramone] with the chorus ‘I wanna be a rock 'n' roll Jew like Joey Ramone!’). Their singer, Seth Abrams, was responsible for the band's name and ideology (the rest of the band wanted to drop the Jewish thing and change the name, which I was certainly against).”

In November 2002, Mensch played a show with Yidcore and Golem in Manhattan. In December 2005, Yidcore frontman Bram Presser said, “Mensch were around about 3 years ago. I think they broke up around then, too, just after we played with them. They were kinda street punk …. They were New York boys, and the drummer was great (he actually drummed for us on our last American tour).” In January 2006, Golem singer/accordionist Annette Ezekiel said all she could remember about Mensch’s set was “that they were really loud.” When told that the band was defunct, she replied, “Oh well ... so it goes in Jewish punk.”

The Murrays
I’ve mentioned before that Dan “Bjorn Turoque” Crane is my favorite air guitarist, and I was pleasantly surprised when I learned on one of his Web sites that he had played in a “punk rock Klezmer band.” In August 2006, Crane said, “I was in a pre-Golem, Golem band. Not with Annette [Ezekiel] from Golem, but with another guy who was in a band with Annette before Golem called The Murrays. It was pretty short-lived ... I played guitar.”

The Schleps
A guy named Mendel sings and plays all instruments for Boston’s The Schleps. Last week, JDub Records featured The Schleps’ 37-second take on “Maoz Tzur” on its Web site. JDub quipped that it’s “predicting that koshercore will finally take off in 2009 (maybe),” and Mendel agrees. He’s demoing more songs, and he’s already made connections with Jews in Boston’s punk/hardcore scene.

Mendel describes The Schleps’ music as metalcore: a mix of metal and hardcore. While JDub used the term “koshercore,” Mendel prefers “JewCore.” Yesterday, Mendel said, “My friends and I have affectionately referred to The Schleps' music as 'JewCore.' Yes, I'm aware that ‘JewCore’ has been used in other contexts and some Jewish people might consider using the word ‘Jew’ in this context to be condescending or derogatory, but we use it out of love of our heritage, the enjoyment of the music, and basically because, ‘we callz it like we seez it.’"


The Latest News From the Kosher Meat Industry

Click here to read my November 26 post, "AgriProcessors-Related News From the Last Fortnight."

Yeshiva University Panel Discussion
On December 9, four Orthodox machers participated in a panel discussion titled "The Kosher Quandary: Ethics and Kashrut" at Yeshiva University. Video footage of the speakers' presentations can be seen here. Kudos to the event's organizers for putting together such an important meeting of the minds for the benefit of Yeshiva University students and the general public.

Rabbi Avi Shafran (of Agudath Israel of America) and Rabbi Menachem Genack (of the Orthodox Union) argued very clearly the Orthodox position that the ethics of a kosher meat company's conduct do not invalidate the kashrut of the meat produced, a very specific and independent consideration. Rabbi Genack suggested that affairs (e.g., environmental, labor) should be overseen by the government, not kosher authorities.

Shmuly Yanklowitz of the Orthodox social justice group Uri L'Tzdek was the lone anti-establishment voice. Yanklowitz stressed that kosher consumers must be concerned about ethical matters, particularly labor conditions, in addition to whether food is kosher. “Social justice is not some abstract concept. … People’s lives are at stake,” said Yanklowitz. "Are we really willing to argue that it’s only anti-Semitism when others look to [Jews] to be moral exemplars?"

Noticeably absent were any non-Orthodox spokespeople (Rabbi Morris Allen of the Conservative movement's Hekhsher Tzedek initiative said he would have loved to speak at the event) and anyone discussing vegetarianism as an option for ethical eating. Click here to read The Jew & The Carrot's account of the event.

The Apparent Kosher Meat Shortage
In the wake of the apparent kosher meat shortage, more companies are increasing their production. On December 1, the Associated Press reported that Wise Kosher Natural Poultry Inc. was "turning out more" and that A.D. Rosenblatt Kosher Meats hired more rabbis for kosher inspection and was shechting animals five days per week instead of three.

Is there really a kosher meat shortage? While there is a shortage in many stores and restaurants, Failed Messiah notes that AgriProcessors kept more than $11 million worth of frozen meat. The reason why is unclear, but Failed Messiah does shed some light on the subject.

Ethical Seals for Kosher Restaurants
Kosher restaurants in New York and Los Angeles will now be eligible for ethical seals if they treat their workers fairly. Click here for the full story from the JTA. The article explains, "The New York and Los Angeles efforts are modeled closely after the Tav Chevrati, or social seal, a similar initiative run by the 4-year-old Israeli nonprofit Bema’aglei Tzedek, or Circles of Justice. The Bema'aglei Tzedek seal is granted free to restaurants that are seen as respecting workers' rights and being accessible to those with disabilities. More than 300 restaurants in Israel, including 130 in Jerusalem, display the seal in their windows."

Another Environmental Scandal for People Tired of the Labor and Animal Welfare Ones
The former owner and operator of a kosher poultry plant in Pennsylvania were charged "by agents from the [Pennsylvania] Attorney General's Environmental Crimes Section with discharging industrial waste including poultry blood, feathers, hearts and gizzards into a Schuylkill River tributary," according to a news release from Pennsylvania's attorney general. The defendants "face a maximum penalty of 255 years in prison and $527,000 fine."

Another Gem in the Forward
Nathaniel Popper had an in-depth article in the Forward titled "How the Rubashkins Changed the Way Jews Eat in America." Popper wrote, "In the 1980s, before [AgriProcessors] had opened, almost all fresh kosher meat had been sold through local butchers. It came in raw quarters from slaughterhouses that were rented out by rabbis, and it rarely made it beyond major cities on the coasts. . . . The Rubashkins created a world in which it was possible to buy fresh kosher beef and poultry in ordinary supermarkets across the country, even in places that had few Jews."

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach on Animal Welfare
I've read two Shmuley Boteach books this year, so I couldn't help but share his thoughts on AgriProcessors from a Jerusalem Post article. "To be sure, Judaism commands the highest ethical treatment of animals, including the commandment to feed one's livestock and pets before oneself," wrote Boteach. "Indeed, the whole purpose of shechita is the severing of an animal's carotid arteries leading to death by asphyxiation so that an animal dies without suffering. I for one applaud many of PETA's goals of ensuring humane treatment of animals, even as I decry some of its more radical means …."


All the News That's Fit to Print

I've been busy dealing with a family emergency, and I haven't been able to blog for a couple weeks. (I was in Florida for part of the time, but no, I didn't get to see the salami menorah.)

Below, you'll find all the recent news that's fit to print, except for news relating to the kosher meat industry. I'll save that for another post in the coming days.

At the Center of the Mulesing Debate: Circumcision
PETA's Matt Prescott has frequently criticized the Australian wool industry's practice of mulesing (i.e., cutting dinner-plate–sized chunks of skin and flesh off sheep without any painkillers). Earlier this month, an Aussie senator suggested that mulesing without painkillers was not any worse than circumcising humans and said, "I'll bet [Prescott has] been circumcised. I hope he has. I'll be putting that to him." A newspaper article noted, "Given that Matt Prescott is Jewish, it is a fair bet he has endured the snip."

Prescott replied, "You were right: I have indeed been circumcised. Fortunately, my parents didn’t perform the cut in a field with a pair of garden shears, and they didn’t remove my flesh because of a financial interest. No such luck for lambs. As sheep claim no religion as far as we know, farmers could avoid mulesing altogether by breeding bare-breech sheep, who don’t need to be mulesed."

More on Dr. Daniel Kliman's Death
On December 3, I wrote about the passing of Jewish vegetarian activist Dr. Daniel Kliman. Click here to view an hour-plus memorial service at Kliman's shul in California. At the service, Akiva Tor (Consulate General for the State of Israel) said, “So many people have to live with contradictions in their lives—to be gay, to be Orthodox, to be vegetarian, to be pro-Israel. … People often deal with the contradictions in their lives by turning away from them, not confronting them, going to paths of least resistance. I think Dan was absolutely nothing like that. He was able to pursue every one of those paths with total integrity—and not to worry about what Rabbi [Judah] Dardik called the frictions between them. And that’s something that we need to learn from.”

On a related note, Zomblog linked to my post, calling it "a very informative post about Dan’s deeply moral insights about the ethics of being an observant Jew who ... also cares about animal rights." Oy Bay! quoted from my post, and Begano reposted it in Spanish.

The Hurricane Bear Strikes Again
Jacob "Hurricane Bear" Calle might be heebnvegan's most prominently featured non-Jew of 2008. (Click here to read a September blurb about Calle's adventures in a bear costume during Hurricane Ike.)

A new video is out showing the Hurricane Bear's latest antics. Today, The Galveston County Daily News noted, "Calle’s stunt became an online sensation and he was featured on TV broadcasts across the world including bits on CNN, Fox News, the BBC and even Al-Jazeera. The antics were even featured on VH1’s Best Week Ever and was just recently voted to be featured on the music network’s Best Year Ever show."

Teruah gave a shoutout to heebnvegan in a recent discussion about Judaism, culture, and food.

The Jewish music blog recently started a podcast. The debut episode focuses on Hanukkah songs; click here to listen to it.

This year's Hazon Food Conference is underway, and the question "Is Ethical Eating Impossible?" has already been posed. There's no shechita demo at this year's conference, but the slaughter of turkeys for the conference did generate some discussion in the comment section on The Jew & The Carrot.

The Jew & The Carrot is looking for a variety of new personnel. Click here to learn more about the open positions. This could be a great opportunity for a vegetarian or vegan to contribute to the great Jewish food debate.

Horse-Drawn Carriages in Tel Aviv
On December 12, Haaretz ran an article about the movement to ban horse-pulled carts in Tel Aviv. "In Israel, more than any other country, there's no place for horses and donkeys in city traffic," said CHAI's Nina Natelson.


Rabbi Holtzberg’s Final Shabbat Sermon

As the whole world knows, terrorists attacked Mumbai last week and killed at least 188 people, including Chabad’s Rabbi Gavriel and Rivkah Holtzberg.

Dr. Sherwin Isenberg attended Rabbi Holtzberg’s Saturday morning services on November 29, four days before the rabbi was killed. Here is Dr. Isenberg’s account of Rabbi Holtzberg’s sermon:
He began by relating the various halachot dealing with the obligations one has toward his pets and his animals. He contrasted these obligations when performed on Shabbat and when performed on weekdays. He then related these laws to the parshah, citing the order in which Rivkah [Rebecca] gave water and food to Eliezer and the camels. Here was a brilliant and dedicated rabbi detailing how we should be humane to animals, only to be massacred ... four days later.
The Bible story that Rabbi Holtzberg referred to provides an important lesson that is worth focusing on. Here’s what Roberta Kalechofsky said about it in Vegetarian Judaism: A Guide for Everyone:

The story of how Rebecca is chosen to be Isaac’s wife is so charming that we easily forget its main point: that she was chosen because she showed compassion for an animal. Abraham’s servant [Eliezer] traveled back to Abraham’s birthplace to bring Isaac a wife from there. As in a fairy tale, he is given a test by which to choose the right maiden: “As I stand by the spring of water, let the young woman who comes out to draw and to whom I say, ‘Please let me drink a little water from your jar,’ and who answers, ‘You may drink, and I will also draw for your camels,’ she shall be the wife of my lord Isaac.”


Baruch Dayan HaEmet: Dr. Daniel Kliman

California activist Dr. Daniel Kliman, 38, was found dead in an elevator shaft on Monday. He is being remembered in news and blog commentaries as a physician, an animal protection advocate, an environmentalist, a gay rights activist, a cyclist who founded Critical Mass bike rides in St. Louis and Alameda, and a pro-Israel activist who cofounded S.F. Voice for Israel.

Kliman was an active member at an Orthodox shul in Oakland. The synagogue's rabbi told The San Francisco Chronicle, "The first words that come to mind for me when I think of Daniel are 'vibrant' and 'alive.' That's why this is such a shock. Whenever he was in the room, he was such a huge presence."

I frequently read Kliman's posts to the VeggieJews discussion group, and we corresponded several times. Kliman passionately believed in animal protection issues, Judaism, Israel, and other causes. I always appreciated his quest to balance all those things in his own life, particularly in discussions about the use of leather in ritual objects and a vegetarian restaurant's support of a rally he felt was anti-Israel.

In my "Are You Religious?" post in April, I quoted one of Kliman's VeggieJews e-mails: "People do indeed define down Judaism and often use the 'buffet method' for their mitzvot. … On Yom Kippur, my Rabbi talked of how it is nearly impossibly for anyone, even a great tzadik (righteous person), to fulfill all the commandments; therefore, we should think in terms of bettering ourselves rather than achieving perfection."

In my "Vegetarians and Tefillin" post in October, I quoted Kliman as saying, "Someone very honestly said on [VeggieJews] some time ago that he indeed understood that non-leather tefillin were not the mitzva in its purest form, but he felt something is better than nothing. . . . The Hebrew word 'Chet,' which we often define as 'sin,' is actually a 'missing of the mark.' Due to some people's convictions, they are willing to 'miss the mark' on tefillin being made completely from leather in order that they should at least pick up the mitzva of binding of the arms with the proper words. The only caveat is that you should not fool yourself into thinking you are getting the full mitzva." (Kliman noted separately that he did use kosher tefillin.)

Just yesterday, before I learned of Kliman's death, I was going through some old e-mails and found a gem that Kliman had written about leather kippot in November 2006. It shows Kliman's open, honest, insightful struggle to balance his passions. When I asked his permission to use the above quotations on heebnvegan, he replied, "I would be honored," so I don't think he'd mind that I'm quoting him here:
I am currently celebrating my cousin's becoming a Bat Mitzva. Needless to say I am the only one of my family who has a vegetarian consciousness. Fortunately, the parents of the girl being Bat Mitzva'd are sensitive to the issues and made sure I had a real main course (spiced tofu and eggplant) at the dinner and did not have to scrounge side dishes.

Still, there is the issue of the "souvenir kippa." In many places, these are the cheap "Jew for a day" type of shiny cloth. My shul often has the knit type that many of us put into general day to day use.

My cousin elected to go with fancy leather.

So here is the deal. The kippot are already bought. Regardless of how many people take them, no more will be bought and future sales from the same company will not be affected. They are all embossed with my dear cousin's name and date of Bat Mitzva ceremony.

Do I take one knowing that all harm is already done and nothing I will do will change that?

Do I not take one out of principle?

I honestly don't know what the best course of action would be.

WWJVD? (what would Jewish vegetarian do?)