Croland, Michael. “Punk Rock Hora: Adventures in Jew-Punk Land”, Independently published, 2018.
I should not be surprised that there are Jewish punk bands since there are Jewish everything “elses”. I guess I really never thought about it and I am very glad that Michael Croland did think about it and write this very informative and fun to read book.
Michael Croland has been following Jewish punk bands since 2005 and has been to many, many concerts and has gotten to know and to interview many musicians. He is an authority on the subject and eagerly shares what he knows. Just to give you an idea of his style, take a look at this: “Michael has drunk Manischewitz wine passed around a pit, witnessed a bagel fight between a singer and concertgoers, and scheduled his wedding around a band’s availability. He has danced the hora with the intensity turned up to 11, inspiring the fun hora interludes between chapters.”
Punk culture is on the edge just as Jewish culture often finds itself and Croland shows us how these two somewhat discordant cultures come together. He shares comedic behind-the-scenes anecdotes, insightful analyses of the songs, and his unparalleled access to the artists. I must admit that punk rock never did anything for me but after reading this, I am ready to give it another chance. Not only do we learn how Michael fell in love with Jewish punk, we are privy to his “interviews with thought-provoking Jewish outcasts, playlists for Jewish holidays, and introductions to new bands.” This is more than just one genre of a book; it is memoir, it is a collection of articles about Jewish-punk music and then it is whatever you take it to be.
Croland has divided the book into three sections based upon years. Part one covers 2005-2010, part two from 2013-2016 and part three from 2016-2018. He explains that Jewish punks and proud Jews in their meaningful. Ways (but is that not true of all Jews?). We see that Jewish punks come in all flavors. In a sense they are outcasts from the mainstream yet hold on to their Jewish roots in ways that only they can explain. There are Zionists and anti-Zionists and there are queer Jews, anarchist Jews, socialist and vegan Jews and they come together as punk Jews or Jewish punks. Many have not abandoned their Jewishness and choose to reflect upon it in their music. The music might not be melodious and popular but it a reflection of these Jews who choose to employ their Judaism thusly.
In the epilogue, Croland shares that he once fantasized about ”Heebcore” and actually found humor in the ideas of there being punk Jews. But then he learned about “Yidcore” and from there he learned of others and he was on his way. In fact, he tells us that Jewish punk has made him feel more secure in who he is as a Jew and that he can be his own person and do things that are meaningful to him while embracing his own Judaism. Isn’t that basically what we all want anyway?
By writing about Jewish punk, Croland has created an identity for himself and learned how to be comfortable in his own skin. Some of the bands we read about here include “Yidcore”, “Jewdriver”, “Moshiach Oi!”, “Golem”, “Schmekel” (actually this is the only Jew-punk band I have heard and that is because a friend of mine once worked with them), “The Shondes”, “The Groggers”, “Gangsta Rabbi”, “Daniel Kahn & The Painted Bird”, and more.
I really had a great time reading this book—in fact, I enjoyed it so much that I read it in one sitting and then began looking at webpages of the bands. Reading Croland was like sharing an afternoon with a friend who has many new things to tell me. Great literature it is not but that’s fine. It’s fun to read just to enjoy once in a while.