When you think of traditional Judaism, what comes to mind? Jesse Zook Mann, the filmmaker behind Punk Jews, is willing to bet that not a one of the individuals profiled in his film are anything like the preconceptions you likely have about followers of the Jewish faith. Yiddish street musicians, African American activists, Hasidic punk rock bands - these are not your father's Rabbi's Jews, but there are alive and well in modern Jewish communities.
Yishai, the lead singer of a Sid Vicious-esque punk rock band called Moshiach Oi from Long Island, New York, is as intense as his music. Playing at an alternative Jewish venue on Manhattan's Upper West Side, Yishai beckons his audience to punch him in the face out of respect for their music - not a request that had likely ever been made at the venue. The Rabbi's feedback on the performance? That the music is too loud, and needed to be turned down.
Next up is Kal Holczler, who founded an activist organization called Voices of Dignity after chronic sexual abuse at the hands of a prominent member of the Jewish community he grew up in sent him down a path of drug abuse throughout his formative years. His organization connects victims of Jewish religious leaders' sexual abuse with various support systems to help them come to terms with and work through their unfortunate experiences.
Cholent is an underground gathering of Jews that do not feel they fit into any of the traditional denominations that occupy New York, and they meet on a weekly occurrence in an undisclosed location to celebrate their faith in all its diverse glory. Originally founded as a transitional organization for ultra-rigid Judaism community members looking to assimilate into more mainstream society, the gatherings have a very celebratory feel that encourages attendees to cut loose and enjoy themselves - something Hasidic expectations and law do not necessarily embrace or encourage.
The Sukkos Mob, a performance group, Amazing Amy Yoga Yenta, and Jewish hip hop artist Y-Love round out subjects of a documentary that aims to show the contemporary Jew expressing themselves in ways that traditionally have been taboo.