Eight Days of Indie Chanukah: Day 8: The Ramones, NOFX, punk rock and Judaism

Let’s finish this thing off right. Let’s talk punk.

- Dec 4, 2013

Chanukah is early this year, so we thought it’d be a good chance to go against the tinsel-covered grain and give you some latke-and-candle-friendly anthems. Eight crazy nights of them, to be exact. Today, we end the holiday with a discussion of the intersection between punk rock and Judaism.

Let’s finish this thing off right. Let’s talk punk.

You couldn’t count the number of Jewish first wave New York punk rockers on one menorah (Lou Reed, Joey and Tommy Ramone, Jonathan RichmanLenny Kaye, Richard Hell, Suicide’s Martin Rev, CBGB's Hilly Kristal, Blondie’s Chris Stein, to start), but you also couldn’t find a genre more fraught with its originators’ ethic background: in retrospect, the morbid fascination with the swastika makes CBGB nostalgia a challenge. But in recent years a few people have tried to make a case for a secret Jewish history of punk rock.

Steven Lee Beeber’s The Heebie-Jeebies at CBGB’s, for instance, argues that punk reflects the Jewish history of oppression and a revolt against the traditional bookish, well-mannered “nice Jewish boy” stereotype.  The YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, meanwhile, gathered Tommy Ramone, Stein, Kaye and Handsome Dick Manitoba in 2009 to discuss Judaism’s relationship to punk. They remained divided.

If you’re looking for a nice punk rock Chanukah listen, however, (and that’s what we’re here for, isn't it?), Fat Mike should be able to help. The NOFX leader must have been as sick of Christmas songs as we are when he put together Fat Wreck Chords’ Hanuk-Comp: From the Dreidel to the Grave. The free listen brings together some of the Warped Tour-friendly label’s mainstays, from Rise Against to Anti-Flag, even if there’s little in the way of actual Chanukah songs. For that, how about Me First and the Gimme Gimmes’ two versions of “Hava Nagila,” recorded for Ruin Jonny’s Bar Mitzvah? The second of the two (above), brilliantly, adopts the melody of “Feliz Navidad.”

To check out the rest of our Indie Chanukah series, click here.

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