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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2018 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


 

October 7, 2016  RSS feed
Federation

Text: T T T

Where Black Flag and Super Sunday collide

Emilie Socash

Picture it:

The punk-rock band Black Flag (or, as it’s now known, “Flag,” because Henry Rollins has the rights to “Black Flag”). Me. In the audience. Rocking out with a crew of tattooed, beer-swilling, bearded folks and a handful of rockabilly ladies.

“Rocking out” is an overstatement and this happened in August, when my husband, Shane, excitedly learned that (Black) Flag was playing at the State Theater in St. Pete.

Why did I go? Because I love my husband.

What did I walk away with? Besides about a tablespoon of other people’s sweat, a new appreciation for the critical influence of Jewish faith and feeling on the punk rock scene.

You see, punk rock’s very foundation is arguably a Jewish communal project. Kids from nice Jewish families of New York were rebelling in the late 1970s against their parents’ conformist existences. The book The Heebie-Jeebies at the CBGB by Steven Lee Beeber notes that punk grew directly out of a post-Holocaust awareness and shame, “embracing fascist aesthetics and abandoning self-pity and victimhood.” In most cases, you really have to dig for the Jewish identity: it’s not really a particularly organized effort and along the way is fairly offensive and incomprehensible.

Punk rockers created a separate identity for themselves, as well as an in-culture, an easy parallel to their immigrant parents. The list of bands with Jewish members reads as a veritable who’s who of Punk 101: Bad Religion, The Circle Jerks, The Clash, and the Ramones to name just a few. (Rap had a similar emergence and embrace of Jewish influence, but that’s for a future column.)

The founder and lead vocalist of Black Flag, Keith Morris, was at the performance I attended. He now sports what can best be described as a “dad bod” and maintains his dreadlocks despite a significant encroachment of male pattern baldness. As I hummed along with their set, I realized I don’t know any of their songs, and due to the genre of music it was pretty difficult to make out the lyrics.

But before one song, which I later learned was called “White Minority,” Keith took a soapbox stance. He noted that the band had released the song in 1980, and still performed it occasionally in concert, including this performance on Aug. 10 (just 5 days after another instance of an unarmed black man being shot by a police officer). Keith noted that, like much of punk rock’s position, the song “White Minority” was meant to make fun of those who embraced a white supremacy mindset, to shine a light on how irrelevant these stances are. He confessed he’s a “half-Jew” and that no matter who you are, this song was meant to inspire a questioning spirit. The song itself intentionally provokes anger with its lyrics, and Keith remarked that they had hoped to use their own white privilege to redefine racial strata. He wanted the song to again be considered in light of the racial tensions that were, and continue to be, underway in our nation right now.

The crowd went wild, cheering and raising their Solo cups. What an unexpected place for a dose of wit and wisdom.

I realized that at that moment, it’s not only the traditional movements and outlets that are speaking out for our Jewish values. Here I was, clearly out of place, getting a little bit of an obscure d’var torah. That week’s Torah portion was Devarim, which introduces the idea that those who have the ability to make a difference in the world are obligated to do so. Flag’s performance that night, and their creation and performance of this song, is perhaps their best way to make a difference: to challenge, to question, to encourage unity and harmony across a wide swath who will listen to a punk rocker (and won’t listen to others).

Speaking of out of place…Super Sunday is Nov. 6!

Did you know that the idea of placing an orange on the Seder plate at Passover didn’t come from the commonly held rumor that a rabbi likened a woman’s place on the bimah to placing citrus with our shankbones? The real story goes like this: Dr. Susannah Heschel was speaking at Hillel at Oberlin College and discovered a student-written hagaddah that brought a feminist voice to the holiday. In the haggadah, a female student asks a fictional rebbe about the space a lesbian may fill in Judaism; he retorts that “There’s as much room for a lesbian in Judaism as there is for a crust of bread on the Seder plate.” Heschel changed the object to be less universally offensive (because a crust of bread would make everything on the table, and in the house, unkosher), adopting the orange to signify the “fruitfulness for all Jews when lesbians and gay men are contributing and active members of Jewish life.”

Just as it was surprisingly refreshing to find myself out of place at the concert, or to drop that orange next to your charoset, you’ll find that Super Sunday may also feel out of place to you this year as well!

This year, we’re asking that you make a call, or take a call, on Sunday, Nov. 6. This will immediately follow our Nov. 2 “At Home with Federation” community-wide event at which we launch our Annual Campaign. Super Sunday has historically been in February in our community; this year, we’re looking forward to reaching you earlier in the year and making sure we can count on your support of the 2017 Campaign.

Liked it? Loathed it? Want to react? I would welcome your feedback and can be reached at emilie@jewishpinellas.org.


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