Have you ever wished you could speed up the seder by doing the songs faster? Legend has it that’s what inspired the members of Yidcore to form a Jewish punk band, and they weren’t alone. Here’s a punk playlist for all eight nights of Passover:
- The Schleps: “Adir Hu”
Joshua Sherer handles vocals, guitar, bass, drums, and recording for the Schleps. Sherer said that while Passover has some of his “favorite holiday songs,” he covered “Adir Hu” “simply because it was the easiest and quickest song to record.” One could debate whether this metalcore song is more metal than hardcore/punk, but the guitar sound has a great, heavy crunch, whatever you want to call it.
- Gefilte Fuck: “Diyanu”
Multiple Jewish punk bands covered “Diyanu,” but Gefilte Fuck was unique in adding “Fuck you!” to the chorus. “I thought the Passover song ‘Dayenu’ that I remembered so vividly from Sunday school needed to be screamed and played fast,” wrote guitarist Adam Bregman in the zine Mazel-Tov Cocktail. The band didn’t limit its Passover celebration to music, throwing matzoh and gefilte fish at fans during live shows.
- NOFX: “The Brews”
The number-one Jewish punk anthem of all time is “The Brews” by NOFX. The song hailed the Brews (short for “Hebrews”) as an Orthodox street gang that celebrated Shabbat by drinking Manischewitz wine and beating up non-Jews. The Brews were described as skinheads with “anti-swastika tattoos.” The song ends by chanting the chorus of “Dayenu.”
- Yidcore: “Ma Nishtana”
Yidcore’s “Ma Nishtana” begins with a young boy reciting “Why is this night different from all others?” and making fart noises with his mouth. Yidcore then plunges headfirst into a screaming, full-throttle rendition of “The Four Questions” that’d make your zayde scream too (from being appalled, that is). It was hard to pick just one Passover song by Yidcore, seeing as how they’ve also covered “Dayenu” and “Vehi She’amda.” Yidcore front man Bram Presser noted, “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.”
- The Shondes: “At the Water”
“At the Water,” from the Shondes’ The Red Sea, tells the story of Nashon from Exodus. Nashon led the way by walking into the Red Sea until it parted. Shondes violinist Elijah Oberman explained, “It was specifically inspired by Passover and that moment when Nashon goes into the Red Sea—and the idea that you have to go as far as you can on your own before G-d comes in and makes a miracle.” The band members found the story inspirational for social justice advocacy, as it suggests that people have to take risks in the pursuit of doing the right thing.
- Schmekel: “Pharaoh/Moses Slash”
The transgender Jewish punk band Schmekel wrote songs about most Jewish holidays, including Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Simchat Torah, and Purim. “Pharaoh/Moses Slash” addressed “the part of the Exodus that the haggadah leaves out”: a sexual relationship between Pharaoh and Moses. The chorus celebrates, “Shtupping is a mitzvah, and I’m a matzoh man.” Schmekel also played with “Chad Gadya” in one of their best songs, “The Mohel Song.”
- Electric Menorah: “Let My People Go”
As the name suggests, the one-man band Electric Menorah started out with Chanukah songs in 2003. In 2008, singer/guitarist Brett Singer released Passocore. The EP featured punk covers of traditional Passover songs, including “Let My People Go.” Whereas the 2003 songs required his friend’s assistance with a drum machine and Pro Tools, Singer recorded the new songs on his Mac using GarageBand. This time around, Singer was truly a DIY one-man band.
- Gangsta Rabbi: “Shout in Mizra’im”
In January (while he was in a medically induced coma, no less), Steve “Gangsta Rabbi” Lieberman released The King of Jewish Punk, his 30th album (68th if you count his prior cassette recordings). In 2003, his song “Shout in Mizr’aim” topped the Jewish/Israeli chart on MP3.com for eight days. The lyrics recall how the Hebrews built the pyramids and Moses told Pharaoh, “Hey, let my people go!”
You can learn more about all eight artists in my book, Oy Oy Oy Gevalt! Jews and Punk.