web analytics
August 31, 2015 / 16 Elul, 5775
At a Glance
Sponsored Post

Home » Sections » Arts »

Sing Unto Him A Song: Blue Fringe And Soulfarm

There is Hassidic story about a young boy who attended Yom Kippur services at his local synagogue, and yet could not participate in the High Holiday service because he was illiterate. As the congregation donned prayer shawls and read from prayer books, the young boy sat puzzled at the letters he simply could not interpret. Finally, he stood up on his chair and began to whistle on his reed whistle as loudly as he could. Shocked, those sitting near him hastened to silence him angrily, but the Baal Shem Tov intervened and admonished his congregants. He
explained that the boy had uncovered a universal, purely auditory language and had felt his prayers so deeply that the Gates of Heaven swung wide open immediately, a feat that a day of communal prayers had been unable to produce.

Hand this boy a guitar and send him packing across the world for concerts stuffed with Orthodox teenage groupies, and you have the phenomenon of Orthodox boy bands. In an article on Jewsweek.com entitled “The New Face of Jewish Rock: Meet Blue Fringe, The Best Jewish Boy Band You’ve Never Heard Of,” Chanie Cohen calls the band “the best thing to happen to Jewish teenagers and young adults since Oreos became kosher.”

As one scans the scene of young girls with full sleeves, long hair held with pastel headbands and skirts so long that they reach three inch platform sandals, dancing spiritedly along to the music, one wonders just what the religious bands cause to happen to Jewish teenagers and young adults.

Many of the great minds of Chassidus have written widely on the importance of song as a source of connection with G-d. The Levites sang in the Temple, and Kind David, G-d’s sweet singer, used to arise every midnight to play his harp and compose poetry. Clearly Judaism ? which perhaps crowds out the painter with the Second Commandment and admonitions against excessive reliance on the visual faculties – has much use for the auditory, and grants the musician center stage. One wonders if Rabbi Nachman and Rabbi Schneerson would apply their thoughts on music to Jewish rock bands.

Take Blue Fringe’s Flippin’ Out, from their CD: “My Awakening.” The song – which explores the typical cultural shock experienced by a product of American Day School education encountering a year in yeshiva in Israel – says, “I start to think that girls are “gashmius”/I tell myself that I’m above that shtus/ So I break up with her, my lifelong friend/Cause kavod ha-briyot is just pretend.” With this type of lyrical accompaniment, Blue Fringe will never enjoy a haredi audience, which has no use for sarcastic lines like, “I just heard a half hour Halacha shiur/ And decide to change the way I’ve lived for 18 years.”

Soulfarm plays Jewish songs as well, primarily from Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. Examples include renditions of “I Am Your Servant” [Ki Ani Avdecha] and Uvnay by Rabbi Carlebach, and Oz VeHadar by Reb Blecher.

Blue Fringe proves more diverse than you would expect from a band of four Yeshiva University students. The Blue Fringe band is comprised of Dov Rosenblatt (lead singer, guitarist), Avi Hoffman (lead guitarist), Danny Zwillenberg (drums) and Hayyim Danzig (bass). When one gets past the shock of seeing a rock band with kippas, one notices differences in the band members.

Some wear button down shirts with tzitzis hanging out, while others dress less formally. Some wear knitted yarmulkas and others black skullcaps. Swaying in a manner that recalls a yeshiva student shuckling in time to his Gemara, Dov sings beautifully and masterfully works his guitar into a frenzy. Avi backs him up with an occasional solo and Danny covers the rear, while Hayyim strums his bass unassumingly.

Soulfarm is comprised of Noah Chase, C. Lanzbom and Mark Ambrosino. Where Blue Fringe draws its inspiration from a wide range of influences, Soulfarm embraces The Grateful Dead, and this shows through in their lyrics: “So I scream for no reason/ Just to know I’m still alive,”… “It’s not about me; it’s not about you/ Only things that matter are the crazy things we do/ Kill the silence with our screams/ Take what’s real, make it a dream.”

When I heard the two bands perform a few weeks ago on a boat, I had the distinct feeling that it was really stupid to be on a boat on a rainy day bumping about the waves watching the two bands trying to play and remain standing at the same time, but after overcoming that realization, I was distinctly aware of an emerging link. The two bands manage to attract religious audiences in part because they are Jewish and they employ Biblical texts and Jewish issues in their music, but there seems to be a Jewishness to them that lies not in the verses, but in the auditory scream that opens Heaven’s gates in a way that texts cannot.

Of course, I do not suggest that those who would object to the literal lyrics should compromise their religious standards and encourage their kids to navigate a space that they perceive as religiously dangerous. Nonetheless, it seems quite clear that Jewish music is headed in a direction that draws inspiration not from literal texts, but from an atmospheric sense of identification with Judaism in more of an aesthetic sense. Judging from the audiences, CD sales and world tours, Blue Fringe and Soulfarm fill a certain need and affect their audiences in a way that textual language cannot, and it will be really interesting to see where the bands go from here as they further explore that space.

Menachem Wecker edits the Arts and Culture Section of the Yeshiva University
Commentator. As an artist, he has trained at the Massachusetts College of Art.
Menachem may be contacted at: wecker@yu.edu.

For more information on Blue Fringe, visit http://www.bluefringe.com/ or contact Jon Perl at jpprods@bigfoot.com or at 212.494-9085. For more information on Soulfarm, visit http://www.soulfarm.net/.

About the Author: Menachem Wecker, who blogs on faith and art for the Houston Chronicle at http://blogs.chron.com/iconia, welcomes comments at mwecker@gmail.com.

If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Sing Unto Him A Song: Blue Fringe And Soulfarm”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Seder at the White House. The one without the kippa is President Obama.
Obama Cashes in on Separating Israel from American Jews’ Concerns
Latest Sections Stories

The flag had been taken down in the aftermath of the Charleston shooting and was now back and flying.


A light breakfast of coffee and danishes will be available during the program.


A variety of glatt kosher food will be available for purchase at Kosher Korner (near Section 1).


Jewish Press South Florida Editor Shelley Benveniste will deliver a talk.

Corey Brier, corresponding secretary of the organization, introduced the rabbi.

The magnificent 400-seat sanctuary with beautiful stained glass windows, a stunning carved glass Aron Kodesh, a ballroom, social hall, and beis medrash will accommodate the growing synagogue.

Even when our prayers are ignored and troubles confront us, Rabbi Shoff teaches that it is the same God who sent the difficulties as who answered our prayers before.

I’ve put together some of the most frequently asked questions regarding bullies, friendship and learning disabilities.

His parents make it clear that they feel the right thing is for Avi to visit his grandfather, but they leave it up to him.

There is a rich Jewish history in this part of the world. Now the hidden customs are being revealed, as many seek to reconnect with their roots.

There are times when a psychiatrist will over-medicate, which is why it’s important to find a psychiatrist whom you trust and feel comfortable with.

On November 22, 1963, Abraham Zapruder created one of the most famous, and valuable, pieces of film and became forever linked with one of the greatest American national tragedies when he stood with his camera on an elevated concrete abutment as President John F. Kennedy’s motorcade passed through Dealey Plaza in Dallas. Exhibited here is […]

More Articles from Menachem Wecker
Menachem Wecker

The exhibit, according to a statement from guest curator Michele Waalkes which is posted on the museum website, “examines how faith can inform and inspire artists in their work, whether their work is symbolic, pictorial, or textual in nature. It further explores how present-day artwork can lead audiences to ponder God, religious themes, venerated traditions, or spiritual insights.”


It all started at an art and education conference at the Yeshiva University Museum. When one of the speakers misidentified a Goya painting at the Frick Collection, both the gentleman sitting next to me and I turned to each other and corrected the error simultaneously.

One of my favorite places when I was growing up in Boston was the used bookstore on Beacon and St. Mary’s streets. Boston Book Annex could play a used bookshop on television; it was dimly lit and cavernous, crawling with cats, and packed with a dizzying array of books, many of which sold three for a dollar. But used bookstores of this sort, however picturesque and inviting, are a relatively modern phenomena. In the Middle Ages, for example, I would never have been able to afford even a single used book unless I had been born into an aristocratic family. (Full disclosure, I was not.)

Jewish medals, several with Hebrew inscriptions and provocative imagery, were among the gems at The European Art Fair (TEFAF) in Maastricht, Netherlands, as I wrote in these pages two weeks ago. Another mini-trend at the fair, which will interest Jewish art aficionados, was an abundance of works by Marc Chagall.

It’s virtually impossible to ignore the financial aspects of TEFAF Maastricht, the annual arts and antiques fair in the historic city about two hours south of Amsterdam. More than 250 dealers from nearly 20 countries sell their wares—which span from Greek and Roman antiquities to contemporary sculptures—in the halls of the Maastricht Exhibition and Congress Centre, whose corridors are adorned by nearly 65,000 tulips.

Max Ferguson’s 1993 painting Katz’s may be the second most iconic representation of the kosher-style delicatessen after the 1989 Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan film, When Harry Met Sally. Ferguson’s photorealistic painting depicts the deli from an interesting perspective, which is simultaneously inviting and hostile—in short, the dichotomy of deli culture.

The whole idea of an artful pushka (tzeddakah or charity box) is almost a tease, if not an outright mockery. Isn’t there something pretty backward about investing time and money in an ornate container to hold alms for the poor?

Located about nine miles north of Madrid, the Palacio Real de El Pardo (Pardo Palace) dates back to the early 15th century. Devastated by a March 13, 1604 fire that claimed many works from its priceless art collection, the Pardo Palace and its vast gardens were used as a hunting ground by the Spanish monarchs.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/sing-unto-him-a-song-blue-fringe-and-soulfarm/2004/07/28/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: