Guest Post by Michael Croland, author of Oy Oy Oy Gevalt! Jews and Punk
Yidcore, the quintessential Jewish punk band, broke up eight years ago, but their music continues to have relevance year-round. Here are Yidcore songs for Jewish holidays and other occasions throughout the year. From covers of liturgical classics to zany originals, Yidcore shows why punk rock is the perfect approach to Jewish music.
New Year’s: “Happy New Year Atom”
Atom (of Atom and His Package) had a fun tradition with Yidcore singer Bram Presser. When it was still December 31 in Atom’s U.S. but already January 1 in Presser’s Australia, Atom asked “what it’s like next year” because Presser was “living in the future.” Presser manages to sneak a “shana tovah” into a song about the secular New Year.
Shabbat Shira: “Sabbath Prayer”
Shabbat occurs weekly, but there’s no better time to appreciate Shabbat music than Shabbat Shira. With their magnum opus, Fiddlin on Ya Roof, Yidcore covered the full Fiddler on the Roof score. In “Sabbath Prayer,” Yidcore rocks out in a way Tevye never could. The orgasmic “Amen!” at the end is a force to be reckoned with.
Purim: “Shalosh Pinot”
This is a fun song for kids to sing about Haman’s three-corner hat. Yidcore pulls off a blistering cover in about six seconds, making it the shortest song in their oeuvre. Why beat around the bush? No matter how many times I play Yidcore’s version for my wife, she still doesn’t recognize it as “Shalosh Pinot.” Click here.
“Dayenu” is arguably the most appreciated melody in the Passover seder. Presser recalled, “The running gag for a long while was that Yidcore was started with the express primary purpose of speeding up the interminably long and boring seder. Anything beyond that was just a bonus.” At least five punk bands have covered “Dayenu.”
Yom HaAtzma’ut: “Hatikvah”
Yidcore ended their self-titled debut album with a speedy version of the Israeli national anthem. They outdid themselves with an even shorter version on Scrambles. Click here.
Yom Yerushalayim: “Yerushalayim Shel Zahav”
Written after Israel won the Six-Day War in 1967, this beloved folk song by Naomi Shemer—which translates to “Jerusalem of Gold”—was like a second Israeli national anthem. When Yidcore played punk rock covers at a university revue in 2000, they threw in “Yerushalayim Shel Zahav” as a token Hebrew song—and it kick-started the band. Shemer said she was appalled by Yidcore’s approach on Israeli TV shortly before she passed away. Click here.
Tu B’Av: “You! Toilet Wall! Me! Marriage!”
On this Jewish Valentine’s Day, single women would wear white and dance in the fields in an effort to be paired up with men. In this contemporary love story, the narrator sings about discovering a woman’s number in a bathroom stall. “To find true love this could be my last chance,” declare the romantic lyrics.
Rosh Hashanah & Yom Kippur: “Avinu Malkeinu”
This High Holidays prayer asks G-d for mercy and has also been covered by Barbra Streisand and Phish. Yidcore’s take starts off slow before embracing punk rock frenzy, especially when they rock out in the coda. Click here.
Chanukah: “Punk Rock Chanukah Song”
In this spinoff of Adam Sandler’s “The Chanukah Song,” Yidcore celebrates the many Jews in punk rock that came before them, including members of the Ramones, Television, the Dictators, The Clash, NOFX, and Bad Religion. “When you feel like the only punk without a Christmas tree, here’s a list of people who are Jewish, just like you and me,” sings Presser.
Christmas: “Lonely Jew on Christmas”
The slow version sung by Kyle Broflovski on South Park is funny, but by playing loud and fast, Yidcore improved on the original. “I’m a Jew, a lonely Jew/ I’d be happy, but I’m Hebrew,” bemoans Presser. Yidcore’s cover was just named one of the “best Aussie Christmas songs of all time.”
Michael Croland is the author of Oy Oy Oy Gevalt! Jews and Punk, which was published by Praeger (an imprint of ABC-CLIO). Check out the book to learn more about Yidcore and other Jewish punk artists!
Header photo: Bram Presser lights a menorah onstage in San Francisco. (Michael Croland)