First the New York Times, then the Jerusalem Post and now also the Forward: the Jewish roots of punk – or “punk rock’s secret semitic history,” as one paper wrote – seems to be a hot topic these days. All three articles came on the heels of a YIVO round table with Tommy Ramone, Chris Stein, Lenny Kaye and Handsome Dick Manitoba, “four New York godfathers of punk,” that took place last month.
â€œThe shpilkes, the nervous energy of punk, is Jewish,â€ Mr. Steven Lee Beeber argued in his 2006 book â€œHeebie-Jeebies at CBGB’s,â€ subtitled â€œA Secret History of Jewish Punk.â€ â€œPunk reflects the whole Jewish history of oppression and uncertainty, flight and wandering, belonging and not belonging, always being divided, being in and out, good and bad, part and apart.â€
If you care about how much or little these punk have-beens cared about their Jewishness or what they think about the movement’s sporadic use of Nazi symbols, the articles are worth reading, especially the one by the NYT – whose first paragraph contains three words: “Punk is Jewish.” Yet the true reason for this post is showing off the article yours truly wrote about more or less the same topic. Five years ago, when I was still aÂ pimpled teenager, I wrote Stompin Shagitz: Jews in Punk Rock for my college paper. It was actuallyÂ the first article I ever published in English, so forgive the poor writing.
As a quick sample of some contemporary Jewish punk, here is some Yidcore, whose front man was recently appointed choirmaster of an Orthodox shul in Australia, followed by NOFX‘s The Brews, which contains those classic lyrics from which my article derived its title: “Friday night we’ll be drinking Manishevitz, going out to terrorize goyim / Stomping shagitz and screwin’ shicksas, as long as we’re home by Saturday morning…” Yes, I did go to YU, and yes, I was surprised they printed it.