Rocking custom sheitels and opaque tights, and walking the sidewalks of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, Dalia Shusterman and Perl Wolfe have the Hasidic world talking – and singing along to the tunes of their Hasidic alternative rock girl band, Bulletproof Stockings.
Featured in the New York Post and the Times of Israel in the last month, Shusterman, the recently widowed mother of four boys under the age of 8 and Wolfe, a young divorcee, appear the picture of Chabad normalcy.
But while their influences are rather “unorthodox” – Radio Head, Jane’s Addiction, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, they are not. While they do not appear to fill the conventional roles typically adhered to by the women of Chabad Lubavitch, and have raised concerns that they may be poor role models to young Jewish women, Shusterman and Wolfe maintain their commitment to doing things Torah-style.
Their soulful crooning is women-only, in accordance with the rabbinic prohibition of “kol isha”, making live singing performances by women off-limits to men. They said they don’t view the restriction as a limitation, however, viewing it rather as an opportunity for women to commune in an environment of free expression.
In their interviews, the duo said they hope other Jewish women will get musical, and shed the misconception that Jewish women do not sing or perform.
Shusterman is a veteran percussionist on the indie rock scene who found Chabad Lubavitch in September 2001, when a chassid handed her a flyer for a Sukkot event in Crown Heights. She fell in love with Jewish spirituality, and a man she met that night, and ended up the wife of a rabbi and mother of four boys. Her husband passed away in the spring.
Wolfe was a rebellious teen who left the Chabad path her music-loving ba’al teshuva parents had forged for her. She came back to observance after a year in Israel, and ultimately returned to Crown Heights in 2008 after her marriage fell apart.
Wolfe, the singer and song writer, says her songs are inspired by the Torah and by her Lubavitch faith. She says she prays before she writes lyrics, asking God to inspire her with messages which will be meaningful to her audience.
Listen to Bulletproof Stockings on Myspace.