Spectator – Rock ‘n’ Roll of Ages

“Litigation is one of the sincerest forms of flattery,” said David Segal, co-founder of Jewsrock.org. Shortly before the Web site — which originally used the phrase, the Jewish rock and roll hall of fame — was to go online earlier this year, Segal and partner Jeffrey Goldberg were slapped with a trademark infringement suit, by that other Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame, the one in Cleveland.

After much back and forth, a compromise was made late last month: the Jewish hall of fame turned into the Challah Fame, and the site’s address changed to the non-trademarked Jewsrock, which just opened for business. The sleekly designed site is devoted to Jews who rock, including Alecia Moore (Pink), Lou Rabinowitz (now known as Reed), not to mention more celebrated boychicks such as Neil Sedaka. There are essays about rock’s luminaries and their Jewish connections, such as an excellent meditation by Goldberg on Bob Dylan, Reed and Jewish rage. The two even hired a genealogist to try and find Semitic branches in the family of their idol, Bruce Springsteen (no luck there).

It all began in 2001, as Segal, then the Washington Post’s pop music critic, was looking for an angle that would connect popular music to the Anthrax scare in the news. Such an angle soon presented itself in an interview with Anthrax’s front man, Scott Ian; after the story ran, Segal got a call from his longtime friend, Goldberg, then The New Yorker’s Middle East correspondent, who made a guess about the rocker’s ethnicity.

The wittiness, the irony, the hypochondria — “I bet that guy is Jewish,” he said.

The two did some snooping, and discovered that Ian, nĂ© Scott Rosenberg, was very much a Jew. This prompted an idea: Why not a Web site hailing all the secretly Semitic legends of music? As they raised funds — primarily from the Natan philanthropy network — they stressed that they viewed their site as a cool conduit designed to make disinterested Jews interested again.

“We wanted to present a view of Judaism that’s not too nerdy, not too glib, not too academic,” Segal said.

And the lawsuit helped put their enterprise on the map.

“One moment we didn’t exist, and then … there were stories in 30 newspapers about us,” Segal said.

Article reprinted courtesy The New York Jewish Week.