Sunday, June 05, 2005

This was in the paper today. You were there from the start. David and Jeffrey are really funny.

Rockin' the Torah


June 5, 2005

"We thought that the highbrow contributions that Jews have made to culture have been amply celebrated," said David Segal, a staff writer for The Washington Post. "We wanted to aim lower." So instead of expending the time, energy and Internet bandwidth to build a Web site dedicated to all the Jews who made their names in the arts, Mr. Segal and the other founders of opted for a less ambitious project: a virtual shrine to the sons and daughters of Israel who have practiced rock 'n' roll. Another curator for - coming soon, though a beta version has been running for several weeks - is Jeffrey Goldberg, a staff writer at The New Yorker, and its manager is Allen Goldberg (no relation), director of branding and communications at XM Satellite Radio. The site pays semi-serious tribute to rockin' Jews both genuine and honorary, from Bob Dylan and Lou Reed to two-thirds of Sleater-Kinney.

Dubbed the Jewish Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, until some unpleasant mishegoss involving the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland necessitated a name change ("Is there anything more un-rock 'n' roll than a temporary restraining order?" Mr. Segal asked), plans to offer such diverse content as essays on the Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren and the clothier Nudie Cohen; a recipe for chopped liver from the Dictators' frontman, Handsome Dick Manitoba; and even a place where Jewish rock fans can - gasp! - show their decidedly unkosher tattoos. "It's a shanda" - a shame - Mr. Segal admitted. "It's a part of rock 'n' roll culture, and it's totally against tradition, but there are Jewish people out there who just can't resist."

Perhaps the most compelling feature is the online quiz "Jew or Not?" Visitors are shown photographs of well-known rockers and asked to guess whether they're members of the tribe. The quiz says Paula Abdul and Billy Joel are indeed Jewish, as are all four members of the pop-rock band the Knack, and even the woman who inspired their hit 1979 single "My Sharona." (She now sells real estate in Los Angeles.) By the somewhat malleable criteria, so too are Beck (a well-known Scientologist), the Strokes guitarist Nick Valensi (who has only a Jewish father) and the punk group New Found Glory (three of their five members actually are), but really, who's kvetching? "We're not operating under rabbinical supervision, let's put it that way," said The New Yorker's Mr. Goldberg. "If we like you, you can be Jewish. I've been wanting someone to write a piece claiming Ozzy Osbourne for the Jews, just so I can put the headline 'Black Shabbos' on it."

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