Book reveals secrets from the Patriarchs of Punk: CBGBs was really Heebie Jeebies


“The Heebie-Jeebies at CBGB’s: A Secret History of Jewish Punk,” by Steven Lee Beeber (Chicago Review Press, $24.95).

They were your mother’s worst nightmare.

They wore beat-up leather jackets and ripped jeans held together with safety pins. They spat out three-minute, buzz-saw anthems of anger about nihilism, heroin and psychosis. They had a morbid fascination with Nazis. They often performed from the stage of a New York club that reeked of urine, vomit and “gifts” from the owner’s dog.

They were America’s original punks, and many of them were Jews.

As Steven Lee Beeber argues in his fascinating but flawed book, “The Heebie-Jeebies at CBGB’s: A Secret History of Jewish Punk,” the punk revolution had its origins less in the working-class slums of London than in Brooklyn’s Flatbush and Forest Hills, predominantly Jewish areas that spawned the alienated youth who became the movement’s singers, managers, publicists, agents, club owners, music critics and fans.

“Punk is Jewish,” Beeber writes. “Not Judaic. Jewish, the reflection of a culture that’s three millennia old now. It reeks of humor and irony and preoccupations with Nazism. It’s all about outsiders who are ‘one of us’ in the shtetl of New York.”

According to Beeber, Jews make up a veritable who’s who in the punk pantheon. Among the more prominent figures are Lou Reed, the Godfather of Punk and Velvet Underground mastermind; Joey and Tommy Ramone (Jeffry Hyman and Tamás Erdélyi, respectively); Chris Stein, co-founder of Blondie; CBGB owner Hilly Kristal; and the half-Jewish Richard “Hell” Meyers of Television and the Voidoids.

Even the creator of England’s famed Sex Pistols, the cantankerous, infuriating provocateur Malcolm McLaren, had a bar mitzvah and got his inspiration for The Pistols after coming to New York to manage the cross-dressing, drug-gobbling New York Dolls, which had its own Jewish member in Sylvain Sylvain (Cairo-born Sil Mizrahi).

If “Heebie-Jeebies” simply name-checked famous Jewish punks, it would be little more than the literary equivalent of Adam Sandler’s “Chanukah Song.” However, Beeber convincingly explores how the American Jewish experience of feeling like the perennial outsider in a Christian culture, combined with the psychological horrors of the Holocaust, helped forge a punk consciousness among young Jews coming of age in the 1960s and 1970s. Factor in a sense of irony and love of the printed word, and Jews made the perfect alienated punks.

Unfortunately, Beeber’s one-size-fits-all approach to the topic doesn’t always fit so well.

Take Richard Hell (né Meyers), the half-Jewish author of punk’s nihilist anthem, “Blank Generation.” Hell, in a testy exchange with the author, says that his Jewish father raised him as a “communist and an atheist” and not Jewish.

But to Beeber, that makes Hell all the more Jewish — the flight from religion and the alienation. Even after Beeber uncovers a posting on Hell’s Web site in which the singer tells a fan, “I don’t know anything about the religion/culture to speak of,” Beeber persists in making the shaky argument that Judaism played an important role in shaping Hell.

Throughout the book, Beeber’s penchant for such overstatement in pursuit of his “Jews are different and that’s why they’re punks” argument crops up.

Beeber also makes no attempt to understand what role the Jewish religion, as opposed to New York Jewish culture, played in the development of Jewish punks. Judaism is something more than just a love of Lenny Bruce, jazz and empathy for the underdog, although one might not get that from reading “Heebie-Jeebies.”

Still, Beeber’s talents as a master storyteller, as well as his ability at connecting the Jewish dots, come through in his chapter on “the Hebraic foundations” of the Ramones, arguably punk’s most influential group.

That the late lead singer Joey Ramone was Jewish is widely known. But Beeber reveals that the mysterious Tommy Ramone, the mastermind behind the leather-clad foursome that bashed out such classics as “Blitzkrieg Bop,” “Beat on the Brat” and “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker,” not only is a Jew but the child of Holocaust survivors. Erdélyi kept his Jewish identity so well concealed that not even Danny Fields, the Ramone’s first manager (himself a Jew), knew of Tommy Ramone’s religious background until now.

That Tommy Ramone would want to keep his Judaism hidden makes sense. He was born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1949, and his parents, both professional photographers, barely escaped from the clutches of the Nazis by hiding out with friends during the war. Most of Erdélyi’s family perished in the Holocaust.

Fleeing from Soviet tanks and an increasingly anti-Semitic environment in Budapest, the Erdélyis immigrated to Austria and then on to New York. At the urging of Orthodox relatives, his parents enrolled him at a Chasidic yeshiva in the Bronx, where his ultrareligious classmates shunned him “as a goy,” according Erdelyi, who later moved to heavily Jewish Forest Hills, Queens.

Ostracized twice because of his religion but for entirely different reasons, Erdélyi “began to think of himself as a perpetual outsider,” Beeber writes.

The future Tommy Ramone found a safe haven, at least for awhile, in The Ramones, a group he created by personally drafting guys from the old neighborhood, including lanky lead singer Joey Ramone, whose odd looks appealed to him. Erdelyi even came up with the group’s trademark leather-jacket-and-jeans outfit. Subconsciously, perhaps, he had recreated himself as a tough Jew, shedding the uncomfortable skin of the Jewish victim.

Ironically, Erdélyi found himself in a group whose two non-Jewish members shared a disturbing fascination with Nazism. Johnny Ramone (born John Cummings), the group’s guitarist, collected Nazi paraphernalia and later hung a portrait of Hitler above his fireplace in his Los Angeles home, according to Beeber.

Berlin-born Dee Dee Ramone (Douglas Colvin), the son of an American serviceman and a blue-eyed, blond German mother, sometimes accompanied Johnny on shopping expeditions for Nazi artifacts in Argentina and Brazil, countries known as havens for the Jews’ murderers. Whether Johnny and Dee Dee Ramone were “anti-Semites or the ultimate non-Jewish Jews” because of their alienation and rebelliousness is unclear, Beeber writes.

What is clear is that Erdélyi left the band after just three years. He assumed the group’s production duties for a time and then drifted away from his creation. The Hungarian-born Jew living in exile was, in effect, exiled again. What with Joey’s indifference, Johnny’s bullying and Dee Dee’s contemptuousness, to say nothing of the pair’s Nazi fetishism, it all became too much.

“Growing up with a fear of the Holocaust, being with Johnny and Dee Dee was like living with danger,” Erdélyi told Beeber. “There might have been an element of that — just as there was in my attraction to rock ‘n’ roll. It could have been that I was rebelling by hanging with them.”

How punk. How Jewish.

Eighth ‘Crazy Night’ for Jewish punks


A unique combination of mosh pits and hora dancing was one of the many cultural clashes during the last leg of the “Eight Crazy Nights” tour.

Local punk bands brought their own followers to the Workmen’s Circle on Robertson Boulevard, and a swarm of people flooded the building as the lights dimmed and the stage settled. Members of the Australian group, Yidcore, passed out kippot to the crowd, and once the last Chanukah candle was lit, the band launched into a cacophonous “Salaam” and “Mao Tzur.”

It was unclear who was there for the punk and who was there for the Judaism, but everyone seemed to be there for the music.

Hosted and funded by Workmen’s Circle, the seemingly unlikely marriage of Judaism and punk brought bands like Yidcore, Oakland’s Jewdriver and the Zydepunks from New Orleans to the Pico-Robertson neighborhood on Dec. 22, the last night of Chanukah.

The idea was “to put culture back into punk,” said Aaron Brickman, the Workmen’s Circle youth programmer who envisioned the tour last Purim.

But “Eight Crazy Nights” provided more than punk with a Jewish face. It was also intended as a vehicle to expose Jews to different ways of being Jewish and to engage a more culturally diverse audience to the high-intensity music of punk rock, Brickman said.

The tour started on Dec. 15 in San Francisco, before moving on to punk venues in Berkeley, Santa Barbara, Las Vegas, Tucson, San Diego and Pomona.

As the intensity of the music increased at the Workmen’s Circle, the crowd’s energy grew. It didn’t take long for a slab of hummus from the snack table to end up across the room and on several fans, creating what can only be described as a “nosh pit.”

The madness continued with the Manischewitz-drinking melodies of Jewdriver, and the show wrapped with the klezmer tunes of the Zydepunks.

One of the main values of the religion is to constantly challenge convention, said Brickman, a University of Judaism graduate who added that Jewish punk rock can provide a unique path that is both educational and enjoyable.

Although at times the lyrics were drowned out by yelling and screaming, Jewish punk appears to offer its own very clear message that this ancient religion can continue to survive through continuous reinterpretation and musical transformation.

Web links:

‘ TARGET=’_blank’>www.yidcore.com

‘ TARGET=’_blank’>www.zydepunks.com

The operatic model of a punk rock major satire


Mixing punk rock and opera may be about as heretical as it gets, yet that is precisely what Julien Nitzberg, librettist and lyricist of “The Beastly Bombing,” now playing at the Steve Allen Theater, has done.

Despite being the grandson of Austrian composer Hans Knauer, who conducted his own operetta, “Eva,” in front of Kaiser Franz Josef, the Bronx-born Nitzberg was first drawn to the punk scene. He sported a mohawk in high school where he founded a literary journal titled Piss With Ink. He played “noise guitar with the emphasis on guitar” for a “hard-core punk band in the line of the Dead Kennedys.”

“We played superhard, superfast, superloud,” Nitzberg said, pointing out that his band also earned the reputation of being “allegedly a Republican punk band” because they wrote songs like “We Love Reaganomics.”

No one will accuse him of being a Republican any longer, nor will anyone miss the irony, indeed sarcasm, of “The Beastly Bombing,” a mock Gilbert & Sullivan-inspired opera that lampoons our current Republican president and his two daughters, while also poking fun at white supremacists, Al Qaeda and Chasidic Jews.

Yes, Nitzberg, who is Jewish, does not spare Jews from his wit and has even written one jaunty song with the refrain, “I hate the Jews.”
Stephen Schwartz, composer of “Pippin” and “Godspell,” was apparently so offended by Nitzberg’s politically incorrect opera that he referred to it as the “most morally unredeemable musical he had ever read.” According to Nitzberg, Schwartz said that he would try to prevent “The Beastly Bombing” from finding a venue.

Ultimately, Nitzberg did find a willing sponsor in Amit Itelman, artistic director of the Steve Allen Theater. Itelman embraced the musical’s Sept. 11 parody, just as he had once embraced provocateur Bill Maher by producing “The Hollywood Hell House,” a production that starred the host of “Real Time,” who was famously fired by ABC after saying that the Sept. 11 pilots did not lack courage.

Just as former punk rocker Nitzberg has returned to his pedigree in opera, so has Roger Neill, who composed the music to “The Beastly Bombing.” Neill had also grown up as “a thrasher” on guitar.
“My heart is of a head banger,” he said. Yet before finding the electric guitar at the age of 12, Neill had played flute and piano and began composing classical music at 10. Many years later, he got a doctorate in musical composition from Harvard.

Neill met Nitzberg in the mid-1990s, when Nitzberg was directing his own script for the film, “Bury Me in Kern County.” The underground film, which the press material refers to as a “white trash black comedy,” toured the festival circuit, playing at South by Southwest and Palm Springs among others. It represented the first collaboration between Nitzberg and Neill, who composed the score.
Their present collaboration, “The Beastly Bombing,” may make for a funnier evening than a night at the Improv or the Groundlings.
Nitzberg, who believes that irony should never be dead under any circumstances, writes with a kind of literary diction that is rare in the theater. How often does one hear lines like “Ablophobia is fear of palindromes”? Or, “I’m agog, they don’t know about ZOG”?
ZOG stands for Zionist Occupation Government. It is the acronym used by the musical’s two white supremacists and two Al Qaeda operatives, all of whom plan to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge. Their plans are interrupted when they fall in love with each other and with two ditzy presidential daughters, who introduce them to the drug Ecstasy.

Only Mel Brooks has tread this far, but Brooks didn’t have his president, unmistakable with his gray hair and fly-boy outfit as a George W. Bush prototype, dance a waltz with a lascivious gay Jesus. Nor did Brooks have a Catholic priest, wearing red women’s underwear, speak openly of molesting young boys.

In short, Nitzberg and Neill skewer every sacred cow imaginable while writing a series of catchy, raucous tunes. Some titles like “I am the Bravest President” conspicuously recall Gilbert & Sullivan (“I am the monarch of the sea”), but the songs are far too subversive to be other than a wry homage given “Julien’s crazy lyrical content,” Neill said.

A “superannuated Echo Park punk rocker” with an “Old World Austro-Hungarian sensibility,” in Neill’s phrase, Nitzberg will always straddle the worlds of punk rock and opera. And he will never lose his sense of humor.

As Nitzberg said, “I want people at my funeral to be making jokes. I want them to put hoops in the water and afterward use my body to play Skee-ball.”

“The Beastly Bombing” plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. at the Steve Allen Theater, 4773 Hollywood Blvd., through Nov. 18.

For tickets, call (800) 595-4849.

Photo by Kim Gottlieb-Walker

Trio of films offers eclectic choices: sea, spies, punk


“The Guardian”

Raised in a secular Jewish family in Chicago, “The Guardian” director Andrew Davis learned early the values and ethics he continues to believe in.

“My parents taught me war is not a good thing, so do everything you can to not go to war,” he says during a telephone interview. “And it’d be great if the armies of the world could help people and not hurt people.”

“The Guardian,” which opens on Sept. 29, is about the U.S. Coast Guard’s rescue swimmers, of whom there are only about 300 because of the rigorous training and the dangers of the job. Written by Ron L. Brinkerhoff, the film stars Kevin Costner as a heroic but aging swimmer based at Alaska’s Kodiak Island. Assigned to training school, he struggles to teach a brash, possibly reckless young recruit played by Ashton Kutcher.

“At this stage of my life or career, I didn’t want to make a film about how wonderful it is to kill somebody,” says Davis, primarily known for action films, including “Collateral Damage” (2002). “There are no bad people in this movie. Nature and the forces of weather motivate the heroism.

“I’ve done movies about cops and about soldiers, where violence is part of the tension and the entertainment. My most successful movie is ‘The Fugitive,’ which starts off with a woman being killed because her husband was not cooperating in drug protocol. That’s a very dark environment. So I was glad to make a movie where violence is not a part of it.”

Davis’ first work on a feature film was as assistant cameraman on Haskell Wexler’s groundbreaking “Medium Cool,” a political drama shot during Chicago’s 1968 Democratic Convention. His directorial debut was 1978’s “Stoney Island,” based on his brother’s experiences growing up white in Chicago’s racially changing South Side. Davis also directed “A Perfect Murder,” “Under Siege” and “Holes.”

Preparations were under way to shoot “The Guardian” in New Orleans, when Hurricane Katrina hit last year. The crew evacuated to Shreveport, La., amid the chaos.

“We were six weeks away from shooting,” Davis says. “When we arrived at Shreveport, there were 1,000 evacuees at the university gymnasium. So we were in the midst of an evacuation and trying to keep our movie alive. We hired about 200 people all told who had been affected by the storm — cast and crew.”

The Coast Guard, itself, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, was called into action to help those stranded after Katrina. By all accounts, it performed outstandingly — the Coast Guard’s Leadership News cited 24,135 lives saved by its personnel.Katrina inspired Davis: “I thought it was more important than ever to make this film and really point out what these guys do.”

“We felt the best thing we could do was maybe try to bring more light on these guys, so hopefully the government will fund them better, and there’ll be more of them, and they’ll get better facilities to train in,” Davis says. “It’s an element of the military I do support.”

— Steven Rosen, Contributing Writer

“American Hardcore: A Tribal History”

What would you do if the frustration in your life manifested itself in worries about civil liberties and a lack of freedom of speech, and you felt a combination of repression and depression about the policies and practices of the current political administration? You might be upset enough to write your local government representative or you just might be angry enough to write a punk song.

Steven Blush, author, promoter and now scriptwriter compiled the quotations of around 60 of the most notable American-born hardcore bands in “American Hardcore: A Tribal History.” In the book, Blush documents the history of the more hard-edged, second-generation of punk rock.Following up on the book’s success, Blush has written and produced a documentary using the same format. The fragmented and frustrated feelings that inspired this music are all too familiar to Blush, from his beginnings as a nice Jewish boy to his sub-culturally-inspired adulthood.

Growing up in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Blush is the son of a typical Jewish family. His parents made sure he was always cared for; he became bar mitzvah and on the cusp of adulthood, they sent him to George Washington University to get a law degree.

One night while in college, Blush went out to a club and became fascinated by something that would change his life — a band called Black Flag. The group was one of a handful of emerging sub-cultural bands made up of and being followed by a bunch of frustrated and wistful kids with backgrounds similar to Blush’s.

Blush remembers, “I had liked groups like the Sex Pistols; they were pure rock ‘n’ roll out of England, known for being rebellious. Although I loved the music, I had trouble identifying with the scene completely, because most of the people who followed them were either artists, bisexual or heavily into drugs. It really wasn’t me; I was just a suburban kid who played basketball.”

But after he witnessed the slam dancing — the raw and often violent tendencies of what was to become standard behavior at hardcore shows — Blush found his calling. He quickly made friends with everyone in the scene by being the first DJ on the East Coast to play the bands on college radio and by letting touring bands stay on his couch when in town. Blush’s life finally had a deeper meaning for him.

He recalls, “My mom tried to give me the best education and surroundings, whatever our resources were, but I never connected to it and never agreed to it. I didn’t feel part of the thing. The values in my high school were materialistic, they weren’t into the big picture, like politics and free speech. When American hardcore music happened, it was like a perfect storm, it took me over.”

Blush was certainly not the only frustrated kid willing to submit allegiance to the hardcore music scene. From 1980 to 1985, the American hardcore subculture rallied support for its cause against yuppies, conservatism, drugs and most especially, the Regan administration.Blush adds, “It turns out I have been shaped by two ethical codes, one from my Jewish heritage, which I learned from my family, and one from being a part of this music scene. Writing the book and doing the movie is studying my life’s path.”

Punk Princesses: Jews With Attitude


There were always Jews in punk, even before there was punk.

“It really begins with Lenny Bruce,” says Steven Beeber, whose new book “The Heebie Jeebies at CBGBs: A Secret History of Jewish Punk,” will be published next year by A Capella Books. “Bruce sort of epitomizes the attitude, the whole smart-ass, clever truth-telling.”

In fact, the punk attitude is also a Jewish attitude that begins with the midrash, in which Abram smashes all but one of his father’s household idols and blames the sole survivor for the wreckage.

In its early days, punk was not only a form of music but also a philosophy, a way of looking at the world. And for three Jewish women musicians, it still is all that and more.

Jewlia Eisenberg, the founder and leader of Charming Hostess, a constantly mutating musical aggregation from the Bay Area, embraces the label “Jewish punk diva” with glee.

“Punk is a form of opposition,” Eisenberg wrote in an e-mail interview. “Real punks are radical in politics and culture. Punk is about screaming and dancing your way out of the margins. Punk is anti-materialist, DIY, direct, and in your face. Punk is a point of view; it’s a site of resistance, it’s a community…. And I can get with all that.”

But if you listen to records made by Charming Hostess — or Annette Ezekiel’s band Golem or Sophie Solomon’s Oi Va Voi — and expect shrieking three-chord rock played at the speed of light and the threshold of permanent hearing damage, you will be surprised. And if you are looking for torn T-shirts, safety pins and Doc Martens … well that’s so 1970s.

Or as Eisenberg dryly observes, “[Punk] is not defined simply by its symbols, which indeed are used to commodify punk and the energy it represents.”

Although the original spirit of punk was a kind of working-class outrage, expressed through a do-it-yourself homemade aesthetic, Eisenberg, Ezekiel and Solomon are university-educated, trained musicians. Of course, punk itself moved beyond three chords and inchoate snarls almost immediately, but the music of Charming Hostess, Golem and Oi Va Voi is stunning in its complexity.

Which is not to say you can’t dance to it.

When Golem played a couple of weddings during their West Coast tour this fall, there were horas and mosh pits side by side.

“Oh, yeah, that was our moshiest tour so far,” Ezekiel says with a grin.

So is Golem punk?

“It’s hard to label our music,” Ezekiel says. “I’m doing straight-up Yiddish music with a punk or rock attitude, but it’s not something you can see from the music.”

Heeb Magazine thinks they are punk, so much so that they won the award as “best punk band” at the publication’s first Jewish Music Awards. Reminded of this, Ezekiel laughed a little then noted that a friend of the late Joey Ramone, who was given a posthumous lifetime achievement award at the same ceremony, came up to her after hearing Golem and said approvingly, “You are so punk!”

For Ezekiel, too, it’s a question of attitude. She compares Golem’s approach to that of some of the more tradition-bound klezmer revival bands.

“I know deep down that we are punk, that we are a wild, edgy band,” she says. “I love the klezmer revival, but sometimes it’s missing the visceral energy, and everyone is playing the same material.”

By contrast, Golem leans more heavily on songs from Yiddish theater, perhaps not in a style that Molly Picon or Seymour Rechseit would recognize.

“People are always asking us why we don’t play more originals,” Ezekiel says. “I have no interest in writing songs. The research is what I love, and we reinterpret the songs we find by adding new elements.”

By contrast, much of Charming Hostess’s material is written by Eisenberg, although she draws on a bewildering variety of texts for her lyrics, ranging from the correspondence and diaries of Walter Benjamin to the verse of Bosnian poet Sem Mehmedinovic. She runs them through her own cerebral Mixmaster and creates delirious music for three female voices and occasional instrumental accompaniment. The result is best described by Ari Davidow, proprietor of the splendid KlezmerShack Web site (www.klezmershack.com) as “what Sweet Honey in the Rock might sound like if they had a bit more punk sensibility and broadened their range to include Balkan Ladino and Jewish campfire tunes.”

Eisenberg herself describes Charming Hostess’ music as “nerdy-sexy-commie-girlie,” and can number Ezekiel as one her most enthusiastic fans. Golem and Charming Hostess played a number of concerts together in California last fall, each described the experience as a joy.

“We even did some tunes together, which was great fun,” Eisenberg notes.

“I’ve never been so happy with a double bill before,” Ezekiel says. “We’re both really into the background and research and culture behind the music we perform, but we’re not bogged down by it.”

“I was talking to Annette today,” Eisenberg wrote, “and I told her why I think the … music of Charming Hostess and the raucous klezmer of Golem are a good double bill; Charming Hostess does avant music framed by a folk sensibility and Golem does folk music framed by an avant sensibility.”

Sophie Solomon, like Eisenberg and Ezekiel, was trained as a classical musician. Her own sensibility is certainly avant, although she would probably opt for hip-hop rather than punk as a label, and Oi Va Voi’s wildly energetic mix of Yiddish, Balkan, Roma, rock and rap undoubtedly draws on as wide a range of folk musics as Hostess or Golem.

Asked about Solomon, Ezekiel exclaims, “Yeah! She’s taking the old stuff and making it sexy, wild and contemporarily relevant. Totally!”

Solomon’s own musical background includes stints as a DJ at clubs and raves in her native England, and she is probably as well-known here for her collaboration with Josh Dolgin, better known as Socalled, on the “Hip-Hop Khasene,” a spirited meeting of Jewish wedding, turntablism, sampling and rap, as for her frenetic fiddle playing with Oi Va Voi. Coincidentally, Golem was also part of a highly publicized musical spoof of Jewish wedding traditions, “Golem Gets Married,” featuring a cross-dressing bride and groom and the band’s spirited musical readings of traditional tunes.

“Hip-Hop Khasene” is a project that speaks directly to Solomon’s own interests and underlines her affinities with Eisenberg and Ezekiel.

“I want to evoke the Jewish musical experience of the past two centuries,” she says, discussing the live version of “Khasene.” “You hear a sample from Naftule Brandwein at the same time that [80-year-old] Elaine Hoffman Watts is playing onstage with David Krakauer and me.”

Socalled’s sampling magic and breakbeat manipulation speak directly to Solomon’s desire to combine Jewish music cross-generationally and her own cross-cultural influences.

“The collage nature of what Josh does is particularly interesting to me,” she says. “I wanted to do something that is authentic — these are real, living wedding traditions — and the concert is like a wedding from beginning to end, the wedding ceremony from ‘Dobriden’ to ‘Zay Gezunt.’ But I also wanted to do something that raises questions about what ‘authentic’ is. This isn’t 19th-century Eastern Europe.”

In a way, Solomon’s remark about authenticity sums up the distance that punk has traveled from the Sex Pistols, the Dictators and the Ramones through the hip-hop world and into the contemporary Jewish music world inhabited by Charming Hostess, Golem and Oi Va Voi. As Steven Beeber says, “Hip-hop is the new punk, and has been for a long time.”

So are these women Jewish punk divas or Jewish hip-hop divas or what?

Ari Davidow, a particularly astute observer of everything klezmer and beyond, remarks, “The issue … is less punk than mash-up — the incredible variety of sounds you get when people who have grown up part of the rich tapestry of musical heritages now care enough about Jewish sources to do a Jewish remix.”

Charming Hostess’s most recent album is “Sarajevo Blues,” on the Tzadik label. They will probably be performing in Los Angeles in February. Golem’s most recent CD is “Homesick Songs” on Aeronaut Records. Oi Va Voi’s most recent recording, “Laughter Through Tears,” is on the Outcaste label, and “Hip-Hop Khasene” by Solomon and Socalled is widely available.

George Robinson is the film and music critic for Jewish Week; his new book, “Essential Torah,” will be published by Shocken Books in fall 2006.