Playlist | Jewish Punk in Israel and North America

By | Oct 06, 2023

The first installment of Moment’s Playlist of the Month series

As Moment has covered in the past, Jews have been essential to the development of punk rock, perhaps most notably in seminal 70s act The Ramones. Since punk’s beginnings, Jewish acts–ranging from hasidic to vehemently anti-religious, and with sounds ranging from mellow post-punk to panicked noise rock–have carved out a unique space in the genre. Here are some great tracks from Jewish punk acts.

The Ramones – Bonzo Goes to Bitburg

Joey Ramone’s Judaism is fairly well known to punk fans, even as the brand courted controversy with their embrace of Nazi imagery on songs like Today Your Love Tomorrow The World. In Bonzo Goes to Bitburg, the definitive punk vocalist attacks Ronald Reagan for his visit to Bitburg cemetery, which included the graves of SS members. Begging the president not to “become one of Hitler’s children,”the song would exacerbate friction between Joey Ramone and non-Jewish guitarist Johnny due to the latter’s right-wing politics.

Rami Fortis – Dvash

Rami Fortis’ 1978 debut album is considered a pivotal piece of Israeli punk history, arguably bringing the unconventional and combative genre to the Jewish state. The song’s title, which means honey, is perfect for the title track’s sticky sonic frustration.

Daniel Kahn & The Painted Bird – Yesterday is Buried

The mournful Klezmer punk of Daniel Kahn is the odd song that feels perfectly situated both in Jewish history and the best of mid-2000s emo-influenced pop punk. Switching between English and Yiddish, the song paints a simple but evocative tale of self-destructive drunkenness. “Yesterday is buried, mourn it on the morrow/Here is but ephemeral bliss, ruin it not with sorrow/So Grab yourself a bottle, while you still can swallow/You won’t cop a single drop in the world to follow.”

The Shondes – Are You Ready

A feminist pop-punk band, The Shondes’ use of a violin was not unheard of in the genre: Yellowcard famously made use of the instrument beginning on their 1997 debut. But unlike Yellowcard, The Shondes used the instrument to subtly evoke Klezmer influences. The band would go on to draw controversy in some Jewish circles for lead singer Louisa Rachel Solomon’s anti-Zonist politics, a position usually reserved for Israeli punk rockers.

Useless ID – Without A Choice

A definitive Israeli punk band, The Haifa punks Useless ID’s anti-occupation politics have landed them in legal hot water in their homeland: in the 1990s, their lead guitarist Ishay Berger was investigated for a fanzine article that served as a “how-to” on draft avoidance. On 2016’s Without A Choice, the band continues to decry the draft. “Without a choice/without a voice/watching our babies/taken away/innocent creatures/food on a plate.”

Deaf Chonky – Bad Things Could Happen

While Deaf Chonky shares their left-wing political orientation with fellow Israeli punks Useless ID, the band takes a sonically and lyrically different approach on Bad Things Could Happen. The song’s rapid changes in volume, and manic, stream-of-consciousness lyrics create a track that’s pure punk panic, going from the manic highs of “My voice is a slayer of demons and through this sign/of this cross/Let all evil flee” to the anxious plotting of “isn’t it great swimming in others’ sweat?/ bathe in the blood on your hands and get ahead /life’s great as a pretty face/ it’s great pretending to be dead.”

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