Punk Jews

2012, Performing Arts  -   15 Comments
Ratings: 7.43/10 from 80 users.

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.

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15 Comments / User Reviews

  1. DougDeGrave

    "a Sid Vicious-esque punk rock band"? Not sure if that was supposed to be a compliment. To be compared to a fraudulent hack with no talent except for a keen fashion sense? Sid never actually played on any Sex Pistols recording yet was made into some enigmatic icon because the band was Basically a marketing tool for their Jεwish manager, Malcom McClaren. The Sex Pistols ended up getting ripped off by McClaren who later went on to manage Adam And The Ants and Bow Wow Wow. The members of Bow Wow Wow also promoted clothing designed by McLaren and and he embroiled the group in a controversy involving a plan to publish a magazine to be titled Chicken, "to celebrate sex between individuals under the age of consent."t don't get more Talmudic than that

  2. Airvaulting for Girls

    Wow. Starts out with a lot of positive energy, albeit religiously motivated, then turns very dark for a while in the segment dealing with New Square. Be warned, if you're a victim of child sexual abuse, you might want to prepare yourself for that... Elsewhere, I found all the diversity interesting, some of it downright hilarious, but a little hard to connect with. Nevertheless, I can certainly appreciate the open-mindedness and tolerance (up to a point...) advocated throughout. My wife's grandmother's ancestors were almost all Russian Jewish immigrants, but she gave up the practice of Judaism during the Second World War for reasons that, as far as I know, she never disclosed to anyone, even though her family was already in this country, and before she was ever married. I'm entirely guessing here, but maybe if these sorts of movements had existed in those days, she wouldn't have felt the necessity or pressure, or whatever it was, to so radically stray from her roots...

    edit- Btw, a Jewish punk rock guitarist named Mike WAGNER...?

  3. dmxi

    wonder if they cover the cure's 'killing an arab'???.......crazy punk
    tunes,the pinnacle of sarcasm......love the ambiguity!
    agreed.....great watch!

    1. Airvaulting for Girls

      I'm sold. This I've got to see.

      edit- Wait a minute... it's not filled with clarinets, is it?

  4. The Path of the Sun

    I loved this film.

  5. Amber

    Really interesting. I come from a non-religious background and so don't understand much about religion. This was a really interesting documentary on the diversity of the Jewish community :)

  6. coryn

    Fantastic! Incredible! How can you pan something as fantastic as this video? Punk Jews bringing all that energy out of people. Can you not feel all the energy? Maybe if I hadn't studied anthropology I'd be wearing blinders like the people who voted it down, but seriously, drop whatever cultural image you're wearing and participate in being a part of a greater humanity. Awesome, just awesome....... This is such a beautiful example of the evolution of the human spirit!

    1. Insignificantly Significant

      Although, I enjoyed the film, after giving it another go; what
      I picked up from the name, I still felt after watching the entire piece. Punk jews is almost an oxymoron. They’re not breaking from conformity, or the film doesn’t really deliver the message they were hinting at(esp at cholent, which I would love to go to): that essentially, mankind is divided by nationalities, ethnicities, political parties, religions(and denominations), fracking sports teams lol, and countless other cultural institutions. We should transcend the almighty title all together, or place much less emphasis on it…if we’re truly looking to
      break from convention, and tap into a collective identity.

      PS...i didn't down vote it. I rarely vote, and def not, if i haven't finished a piece. And i got an A in anthro too, btw ;)

    2. coryn

      I've never worried about the words, it's the emotion that impresses me, just like listening to Iranian music. It's beautiful no matter what they say if I can't understand the words, better that way perhaps. And the evolutionary aspects of Punk music fascinates me. Music is much like language in that it never stays the same, it evolves into something new. Just like religious doctrine, eventually it splits, some believing this and others believing that, until new sects and eventually new religions emerge. Evolution is basically the same whether it is language or culture or doctrine or music. So to attempt to say this religion or that one is the 'correct' one, the right one, the 'true' religion, is nonsense. Everything evolves the way I see it ......

    3. Insignificantly Significant

      I mainly think of vocals, as part of the melody, as i can listen to any kind of music, providedi find the sound of it, comforting in some way. I get into lots of harder rock, but i typically don't like to be screamed at, endlessly...in any language. I can appreciate passion, but that doesn't mean i have to be moved or amused, simply because someone is passioniate. I never said i was against the evolution of music, or indicated any "true" religion...not sure what that's about.

      I did speak of the film's views on "identity", and how they fell short, of what it appears they were hinting at...esp in regards to cholent, as i said.

    4. coryn

      Right, I garbled that last part of my reply as my mind wandered off to another obsession -- sorry about that

    5. The Path of the Sun

      I am an anthropologist and loved it!

  7. Insignificantly Significant

    Seriously, I tried to take this, seriously. I failed.

    1. Lenny

      What's wrong, no Arabic subtitles?

    2. Insignificantly Significant

      Good one, but nah, it’s more of the punk aspect; and yes, I didn’t give it a very fair shot. Even though, one of my fav bands(subhumans) is punk, and punk bands generally have far more substance, than most of the other ever commercialized genres…punk annoys me lol. They just scream into the mic, and I usually need subtitles; or else, I just get screamed at…for no good reason lol. I thought from the first few minutes, a bunch more screaming i couldn't understand was to ensue...and I tucked tail. So, your comment, does ring true in a way lol. I know he was screaming yiddish, along with english...i understood neither lol.

      The multi-lingual rapper really intrigued me(along with the contortionist story). As I’ve watched rap progress, from it’s infancy, along with the rhyme schemes with in; you hear new artists using the same rhymes or schemes, because there’s only so many words, in each lexicon. I’ve often said, a hyper multi-lingual artist, who can blend many languages together, is potentially the more versatile of a rapper, for that talent(s), alone. Of course, your audience would have to also be extremely educated, to receive your message, coherently lol. But, hopefully we’re not too far from uploading whole languages into our banks(neo style lol), and that will be less of an issue.