Three New Yorkers want to introduce the world to Punk Jews. No, it’s not
a band name but a documentary series the producers hope to bring to TV. (video)
So, what are Punk Jews? “They are Jews expressing their spirituality in unique unconventional ways,” producer Evan Kleinman, 28, explains in a conference call. They challenge their identity and fly in the face of staid tradition, he adds.
To get a sense of who they profile, the Punk Jews trailer offers a glimpse into these creative Americans: Cholent is a weekly gathering held inside at a New York City synagogue, where a diverse group of Jews gather to sing, dance, rap, share art and have fun. Y-Love is a Puerto Rican-Jewish rap artist who mixes Torah lessons with anti-racist messages in his rhymes. Rivka Karasik is a 34-year-old mixed media artist known for blending tzitzits and mezuzot in her artwork. Levi Okunov is a former Chassid who uses Hebrew symbols and Jewish-inspired designs to create saucy women’s clothing.
What Karasik and Okunov are doing may be considered sacrilegious in some Jewish circles, but Kleinman says these progressive artists are honouring Jewish symbols with their creativity – more of an ode than an insult.
“This is a new story that hasn’t been told before,” says Jesse Mann, 30, director of Punk Jews. “These are challenging ideas, but they’re turning people onto Judaism.”
Mann and Kleinman point out the series also breaks down stereotypes and “builds bridges to form community,” similar to Cholent’s motivation in New York.
The series is broken up into 10 episodes, each profiling a unique Punk Jew. They recently raised $11,000 in a fundraiser to film another season, although they have to yet to find a home for the documentary.
“We’ll get this on TV one way or another,” says a determined Mann.
So far, the team has been looking around New York for their next round of stories. They’ve entertained the idea of going up to Canada to find more Punk Jews, but for now they’re sticking to their area code because they have a limited budget.
As their website indicates, the Punk Jews team is already filming the next few episodes. Profile subjects include “a yoga Jedi Jewish contortionist from space” and Rabbi Simcha Weinstein, known as the Comic Book Rabbi and the author of Up, Up and Oy Vey.
For more information on the series, visit PunkJews.com