Monday, December 28, 2015

R' Avi Shafran  writes "Blame Jewish terrorism on nationalism, not Judaism".
Ah, but the pundits have evidence to the contrary, proof of sinister pan-Orthodox sentiment: a song played at some Orthodox weddings, with lyrics borrowed from the account of the Biblical Samson’s prayer to be avenged of the Philistines. As the now-notorious video showed, there are indeed Jews who sing the song with ugly intent. But mainstream religious Zionist Jews and Haredim who dance to it at weddings no more intend the song as a cry for vengeance than a Frenchman heartily singing La Marseillaise pines to “soak our fields” with impure Prussian blood, or an American tearing up over his national anthem exults over how brave martyrs’ “blood has washed out [the] pollution” of the hated British.
There is a clear difference between singing a song with historical references to violence, as opposed to one whose roots today are violent. Yes, the text is Biblical, going back further in time than the French or American national anthems. But, the song was composed by a radical and was immediately adopted by contemporary extremists.

Failed Messiah posted a video of Dov Shurin singing his song, Zochreini Na. It defies logic that the community would adopt this song, created by this person, under the circumstances he wrote it, and with his known extremism. In other words, it isn't a quaint historical reference today. Perhaps if Jews sing it in a few hundred years, that will be true. But those who brought this song to the community knew full well what was meant by it.

And yes, there are many people who don't think about the words of the songs they sing, and there are plenty of Jews who like the song because they've heard it, and have not thought about its import, if they even understand the words at all. (Sadly, there are too many, even Jewishly literate people, who are either unaware of or don't at all consider the lyrics to the Jewish music they listen, sing and dance to, as has been documented on this blog. Over the years, I've highlighted songs that make no sense due to omitted words etc. One quick example, the Shloimy Dachs version of Hamalach Hagoel omits the words "vikarei vahem shemi", which makes the B section meaningless.)

I first heard the song on a compilation CD issued in memory of a victim of Palestinian terror. In "Singing of Revenge", I wrote about how a right-wing terror group had been formed at the funeral for the person in whose memory the CD had been released. You can follow the link for some more on the song. If I remember correctly, they had planned an attack at an Arab girls' school, close by the Al-Makassad hospital in the At-Tur neighbourhood. The J-Post article I'd linked to then is now broken, but I found a description of that attack on the Bat Ayin Wikipedia page. "The officers stopped the two and examined the car, finding that the trailer had two containers of gasoline rigged to two TNT bricks, and propane gas tanks. The explosive charge consisted of a "vergin" (military battery), and the device, in a baby carriage, was timed to explode at 7:35 am., when dozens of girls would have been entering the schoolgrounds. Later investigations revealed this was not a one-off strike but rather part of a West Bank network of settlers conducting a campaign against Palestinians. Israeli intelligence soon heard of a large cache of weapons, and suspected it might imply an attack on the Temple Mount was being prepared. Eventually 6 men, residents of Bat Ayin and Hebron, were convicted..." I'm pretty sure The JPost article talked about how this was planned at/after the funeral.

Bottom line, this song was composed by an extremist, immediately adopted/popularized by extremists, and regardless of how some Orthodox Jews here in the USA may know it, has always had those associations. While I don't ascribe the same motivations to those here who may have been unaware of these connections, I'll say it again, it's time to stop playing the song at simchas. If nothing else, the video of that wedding should compel us to stop singing/playing that song.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

More On The Story

A David Horovitz op-ed at the Times of Israel: The dance of death

More On Zochreini Na

Over at Daily Reyd - Torah Musings, Rabbi Gil Student disagrees with me.

He writes:
A Jewish musician suggests banning the song “Zochreini Na” because it has become an anthem of revenge killings in Israel. I disagree. In the US, it has no connotations of that nature whatsoever. It’s just a song. You can see on YouTube (I, II) plain yeshivish weddings where the song is played and no one is waving guns in the air or anything like that. I have never heard of the song meaning anything like that in the US.
Needless to say, I disagree with him. In my original piece, I traced the source of the melody, and how it became popular here in the US. Although he is correct, that -- so far -- people don't generally react to the song in that way here, that could easily change. More to the point, the glorification of aspects of far-right extremism, as occurred in popularizing the song in the first place, and in the fact that Dov Shurin is given any sort of forum in Jewish Media, is troubling. It's not like the song was an innocuous song, that was then adopted by the radicals. That is its source. Indulging this sort of radicalism is a very bad idea.

As Ha'aretz wrote, quoting Rav Sherlo in 2002: "However, Rabbi Sherlo insisted that vengeance should not be the subject of songs and dances: "We don't dance over the spilling of blood... We don't ignore the heavy price that vengeance brings in its wake, and the endless cycle of violence. We don't dance about vengeance because we are careful not to be spoiled by it, not to become enamored of it and of the evil it generates in the world."

Another Protest About Zochreini Na

Vos Iz Neias: Prominent Rabbi Protests Popular Song As Soundtrack To Violence

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

It's Past Time To Stop Singing About Revenge!

Sadly, it's time to revisit a subject I first wrote about in 2003 in this post, "Radical Jewish Music (Not by John Zorn)"

The following Times of Israel article, "Clip Shows Far-Right Wedding-Goers Celebrating Duma Killings", went viral today. I encourage all of you, difficult as it will be, to watch the clip embedded there.

Here's a glimpse:
Footage released on Wednesday showed dozens of young Israeli right-wing extremists, said to be linked to the suspected perpetrators of the Dawabsha family murder, celebrating the killing at a wedding last week. 
The images in the clip immediately sparked wide condemnation. The video, aired by Channel 10, shows revelers at the Jerusalem celebration waving knives, rifles, pistols and a Molotov cocktail during the wedding. Amid the festivities, a photo of baby Ali Dawabsha, who was burned to death in the July 31 firebombing in the West Bank village of Duma, is shown being repeatedly stabbed, according to the report. 
The crowd in the video chants the lyrics of a song which include a verse from Judges 16:28, quoting Samson, blinded in Gaza, saying “let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes” — but changing the word Philistines to Palestine. 
The couple whose wedding was being celebrated was said to be friends of Jewish extremists detained in connection with the firebombing attack.
The song they are referring to is Dov Shurin's "Zochreini Na", and it is very clear from the clip as to how it is taken by that community. And, no, that clip doesn't reflect on everyone from that community, but there is clearly a critical mass that is comfortable singing about killing babies, even when it's not an abstract concept. As you'll see, they're doing it while waving a pic of a one year old that was burned to death, and then stabbing the picture too.

This scene should trouble all moral people, no matter their political viewpoint with regard to settlements, land for peace, etc. And, I think it behooves the Jewish music community to stop playing that song. Previously, my policy has been that I won't call it on a job, but if it was a request, I'd do it. At this point, I feel like a stronger stance needs to be taken. We need to stop playing this song, and to actively speak out against this kind of thing. This is my protest! Where's yours?

From the mailbag...

Shua Hoexter writes:
I've followed & enjoyed your blog for a while. Would love to hear what you think of a new creative project based in Pittsburgh, blending Jewish music, contemporary sounds and improvisation.
Check out "Chillent" at: 

Thanks for listening!"

Peeps Again!

"Bad News Bear"
This peep loves to be the bearer of bad news. She's the one who has to come over during a kumzits at the end of a wedding to inform the singer mid-song that Yosi Piamenta passed away. True story. Now, keep smiling and start another song!

"Knows His Key"
This peep knows what key he sings in. But, he doesn't know the name of the key. So, it's not F# minor, but rather, "one lower than G minor." An oddly endearing quirk.

"Doesn't Know the Words"
This peep with a good voice will always get up and sing at events he's at. For some reason, the guests always want him to. This even though he butcher's the words EVERY time, no matter the song. Whether it's Vezakeini or even Shir Hama'alos, he can be counted on to screw it up. And yet, they applaud and the next time, ask him to do it again.

"My Family Has Yichus"
This peep takes twenty minutes at the beginning of his Sheva Brachos speech to let the guests know EXACTLY who his family is. A full accounting of all rabbis, successful businessmen, etc. must be given. Seriously, twenty minutes. I timed him.

"7 & 3/4 Guy"
This peep leads the singing in between Sheva Brachos blessings. He will drop an eighth note at the end of every phrase. Consistently.

"Sheer Pantsuit Lady"
This feisty eighty year old will show up in an effectively sheer pantsuit. I say effectively because it wouldn't have been see-through if she'd worn something light underneath it. The black bra and undies though...

"The Seforim Holder"
This guy comes to the fundraising dinner for his Gap year yeshiva carrying a sefer ostentatiously. He never uses it that night (or possibly much ever).

"So, I Married A Hooker"
This guy brings his wife, dressed in loud flashy revealing clothing and stiletto heels to the same yeshiva dinner "Seforim Holder" is at. All of the other wives are dressed in modest attire, as expected.

"The Sheet Music Reader"
This peep will take advantage of the band's break to get up on stage and flip through the band's charts. Then, he'll come over and ask specific questions aimed at demonstrating his comprehension of the charts. Um, yes that polyrhythmic instruction at the top of the chart does mean exactly what it says, and we do play that tune in F#. And, thanks for going through our stuff!

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Kol Isha On Cross-Currents. Really!

Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein posts Schiller, Fartaytsht un Farbesert, Binyumen Schaechter's Choral arrangement of Beethoven's Ode to Joy with Yiddish words by I.L. Peretz.

Nice that Rabbi A. posted it, because of the message it sends about listening to women singing in a chorus and halachik possibility.