PunkTorah: Jewniks of the 21st Century
This publication was inspired by one of my professors, Dr. Ball, and written in honor of Patrick Aleph.
In the 1950s Jack Kerouac, alongside many of his dubbed “Beatnik” friends, wrote a novel in three weeks called “On The Road”. It took Mr. Kerouac 7 years to travel the county and continually do some soul searching. A man growing up with the social repercussions in America of The Great Depression, World War II, and The Cold War, needed a place to avoid conformity.
It is within his subculture, the Beats, that he found refuge. The Beats avoided the “Corporation Man” and refused to end up like their fathers. They looked for deeper, transcendent meaning in their quest for a new tomorrow. They gave new definitions and context to words used within the culture, providing meaning that redefined their acceptable behaviors. These Beats valued poetry, books, Bebop, and were compelled to find the authentic in their everyday lives.
With all youth subcultures comes backlash by those who fear change or have different values systems. The Beats were called “Beatniks” in a satirical reference to Sputnik, the satellite. Their dark clothing and hair styles were criticized, as though their parents had not been an active participant in the Flapper era. If their parents were more accustomed to the Victorian way of life, it was even more horrendous on the family.
So why would PunkTorah even come close to this movement we see as a joke within movies like “So I Married an Axe Murderer”? It’s an easy grab. PunkTorah was created for those of us who are looking to redefine Judaism. It does not mean we want to start a new sect, but merely to identify that we as Jews are on the preverbal search that Kerouac so graciously and vigorously wrote about.
PunkTorah’s overall goal is to transcend from classification and create the authentic embodiment of Judaism at its core. These Jews too value books and poetry. Some of these books are valued cross sects of the religion, but others may be less accepted in other communities. We cannot be defined by labels! Clearly the genre of Punk is rebellious in nature. It redefines how Punk may use the connotation of rules and order, but defies what our larger community expects from us; we desire individuality. This is not our parent’s Judaism. This sense of the nishama seeps from the very embodiment of the way we davven, dress, speak, and carry about in our temporal lives.
Kerouac had no intention of being connected to Judaism, but he captures what Jews in their teens, 20’s, 30’s (and even those above) are reaching for. He writes of the holy when things cannot get any worse. He sets his characters up for failure, but they do not lose hope or insight to themselves. They separate themselves from the collective whole in hopes that they too will understand themselves in the context of the temporal world. Their rebellion is not one in hopes of destruction, but that based on progressive change. This is PunkTorah’s take on Judaism. We are the change that’s in the world. Our hearts pray they way they know how and our actions follow. We have redefined words, but not taken meaning from them. Continually on the road, we struggle with our journey of life. We are the Jewniks your Jewish mothers warned you about. Are we perfect? No, we simply are the authentic form of G-d’s creation, human.
Be True to the Streets