Monday, March 11, 2013

UnOrthodox Orthodox Jews Play Punk In NYC

Religious Rebellion


Punk Jews: Yishai performing in "Punk Jews," a documentary made by Evan Kleinman of New York.
Photo Credit: Leadel.net


Aarticle, by John Leland, in The New York Times looks at a fringe movement of observant Jews in New York, who are seeking some meaning in their lives by blending punk rock and traditional Judaism.
“It’s very amusing to me to see the looks on people’s faces,” Mr. Romanoff said, wearing a long beard and a skullcap with the “Na Nach” phrase embroidered in Hebrew around the edge. “Most religious Jews have never seen anything like this, so they have no idea what’s going on.”
Yet he saw no contradiction between his music and his submission to his faith. “To me, Judaism is like punk rock,” he said. “Real Judaism is very in your face. The world is chasing after desires for money and sex and drugs and materialism, and Judaism is the opposite. Judaism is like, this world is nothing. This world is only to serve God and bring light and redemption. To me, that’s very punk rock.”
The New York area’s Orthodox Jewish population has swelled by more than 25 percent in the past decade, to almost half a million in 2011, according to a study by UJA-Federation of New York. One in three Jews in the area is now Orthodox, and more than half of Jewish children live in Orthodox homes.
With this growth have come signs of strain: modesty squads and mass stadium rallies to clamp down on perceived contamination from outside, but also revelations of sexual abuse and cover-up, and eruptions of the heterodox — some brought in by new converts, others arising from restlessness within
Evan Kleinman, the producer of “Punk Jews,” stumbled onto what he called “the unorthodox Orthodox” almost by accident. Mr. Kleinman, 30, who grew up in an observant home in Nyack, N.Y., was working as a producer at NBC with Jesse Zook Mann, and both were questioning what their faith meant to them. “As teens we both abandoned our Jewish identities, which we found rigid,” he said. “What filled that void was punk rock D.I.Y. culture.”
It's about fitting in; this greatly explains the formation of a tiny subculture within a small subculture of the larger American culture. All such efforts are, to a large degree, emotional and unstructured rebellions of shock and outrage against some of the restrictive traditions such young persons feel. Music is both a cathartic release from and a message against such strictures. It is doubtful however that such a tiny subculture will have much influence on traditional Judaism, notably on the most restrictive sects.

For now, it's a twenty-something generation, sharing their feeling of alientation— but with religious references to Rabbi Nachman and Shlomo Carlebach, both who continue to have a faithful following after their death. As a group, they are trying to come to terms of who they are and how they can  fit in—as individuals—or finding a place, within the larger more complex modern world.

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You can find out more about Jewish Punk at [Punk Jews]; and read the rest of the article at [NYT]