A version of this article first appeared in Yiddish in the Forverts
It’s rare today for a Yiddish song to become a sensation. It’s even more rare for one to go viral on Facebook and Twitter.
But that’s just what happened recently with the new music video for Chaim Shlomo Mayes (Mayesz)’s dance-hit “Bas-Kol” (Divine Voice/Bass Voice). The film, shot at a wedding, is quite cool.
For those already familiar with Mayes’ previous hits with musical partner Dudi Kalish, the music itself isn’t particularly surprising. The two Israeli Hasidic singers and music producers have been releasing remakes of popular Israeli and American songs in Hasidic Yiddish for years now. Instead of singing about sex, money, lost loves or other profane topics, the Kosher reincarnations of these pop hits are filled with words of spiritual encouragement.
The music video for “Bas-Kol” was created to promote the song in the Hasidic community but became a sensation outside of its targeted niche.
Many Israelis who chanced upon it were surprised by the video because they apparently had never seen Hasidic men behaving that way before. In fact, such scenes are quite commonly seen at contemporary Hasidic celebrations, albeit, usually not with such enthusiastic dancing.
Dudi Kalish and Chaim Shlomo Mayes are famous singers and composers who work in nearly all contemporary musical genres such as rock, rap and pop, as well as in more traditional Hasidic styles. Although they have become totally mainstream within the Hasidic world in the past few years their album “Rap in Yiddish,” which was released 8 years ago with music copied from such popular singers as Madonna, 50 Cent, and Michael Jackson created a massive scandal. Of all the songs on the album — called “Rap in Yiddish” — the song “Telephone,” a remake of this Michael Jackson song, is most worth checking out.
It’s also worth hearing Kalish’s song “Yesterday was Good,” which was set to the music of Shlomo Artzi’s hit “Moon.” The new Hasidic version of the song was a surprise hit in Israel, even getting mainstream airplay among typical Israeli Hebrew-language pop music.
Last week, audiences at Tel Aviv’s Fashion Week were surprised when Tovale+, a label run by mother and daughter team Tovale and Namma Chasin, wrapped up their show to Mordechai Ben David’s upbeat song “Maaminim.” Ben David, an American Hasidic Jewish singer popular in the Orthodox community, was an unlikely choice for the high-fashion event.
The festive tune was a change of pace for the show, which otherwise featured quiet classical and electronic music. The show’s models, previously straight-faced, danced, laughed, and held hands as they collectively walked the runway to Ben David’s beats.
Hebrew and Yiddish music doesn’t tend to make much of an impact on the fashion show circuit – many of us would agree that, all things told, it’s not publically viewed as especially hip – but the Tovale+ show was the second time this season that placed an explicitly religious Jewish song in a prominent position. As part of New York Fashion Week, Givenchy’s show – which, taking place on September 11th, adopted a somber mood – opened to a female vocalist singing “Shalom Aleichem.”
What to make of this trend? This paper has recently considered whether and how Judaism needs to adapt to a boredom-averse contemporary era; perhaps high fashion will be an unlikely solution.
Frum porn. It’s a thing.
A recent story published in Vice found no less than 74 videos tagged “frum fetish” on a porn site called clips4sale.com. Another 31 were tagged “frum lesbians.”
Most of these clips, Vice reports, come from a site called frumvids.com(click at your own peril), which specifically caters to an Orthodox Jewish audience.
Obviously, this brought up a lot of questions, which I’ve attempted to answer below.
What does that even look like?
Let’s all give a big hand of applause to Arielle Pardes, author of the Vice story, who watched the teaser for one of these videos, and reports back that “you can see a pair of women in ankle-length skirts and headscarves (a display of modesty) making out and then undressing each other. The whole thing gives off an amateur vibe, with poor lighting and bad video quality.”
The videos also include religious markers — a tallit katan for example — to signal to those in the know that they’re watching religious Jews doing the nasty.
But wait, doesn’t this flout all kinds of modesty laws?
Yes, it does. Orthodox Jews, and Orthodox Jewish women in particular, live their lives according to a set of rules: Legs and arms are covered. Women wear wigs to hide their hair from anyone other than their husband. In some cases, men and women do not even touch outside of their marriage.
So you can understand why porn, especially porn in which an Orthodox man paws at a long-skirted woman under fluorescent lighting, seems incongruous.
In fact, even the experts are confused. Nathan Abrams, who teaches film studies at Bangor University and edited the 2008 anthology “Jews and Sex,” told Vice he found the phenomenon a little baffling. “When I first came across [frum porn], I was skeptical that it was actually a real thing,” he said. “The film industry is market-led—as soon as something arrives, it caters to that taste. So if this is a thing, why has it only come about now?”
So, who watches this stuff?
Vice reached out to the moderator of frumvids.com, who answered: “frum porn is porn for religious Jews or people who have fetish f***ing religious Jews. Why? Because people like to see people who are like themselves. And I can assure you that religious Jewish people are people.”
Basically, unlike Nice Jewish Boy James Deen porn, where “the only thing that’s Jewish is the menorah on the background,” frumvids.com specifically targets an Orthodox audience, with a cast of Orthodox or Conservative actors, according to this unnamed representative.
A quick scan of frumvids.com’s Twitter account, @FrumSex, shows that they have just over 500 followers. Sample tweets include:
Super video is going to be on this page - Motzei Shabbos. 9pm. Be here!— Frum Sex (@frumsex) February 14, 2014
Hello Pron Melech! You are the lucky 613th like of our page! Please contact us for your free month access to FrumVids— Frum Sex (@frumsex) February 25, 2014
There’s no real way to prove that Orthodox Jews are the ones watching or acting in these videos — Frumvids.com doesn’t actually compile data on its users. But as the Vice story points out, the vast Craigslist community claiming to be “seeking frum” does indicate that there is a market for this sort of thing.
Hey, whatever floats your…boat.
Shulem Deen // Photo by Pearl Gabel
(JTA) — Shulem Deen, the former Skverer Hasid who for years blogged under the pseudonym “Hasidic Rebel,” has just published a memoir, “All Who Go Do Not Return” (Graywolf Press). Deen, now 40, describes his sheltered life in New Square, the virtually all-Hasidic village an hour north of New York City, and tells how he lost his faith and, ultimately, his five children. Deen, whose slight Yiddish accent shows his roots, recently sat down with JTA (the interview has been condensed and edited).
Julie Weiner: Most memoirs of leaving Orthodoxy include an anecdote about the first time the author ate non-kosher food or violated some other fundamental rule, but yours doesn’t. Do you remember those experiences?
Deen: I remember my first treif, but it was unimportant – a chicken quesadilla at a Mexican restaurant. But who cares? I was totally a nonbeliever by then, but there was nowhere to buy treif in New Square, and I still looked like a Hasid. As for Shabbat, I was ready to violate it way before I did. It just didn’t feel like anything to me.
So you didn’t half worry you’d be struck down?
That’s the term people use: “Oh, I turned on the light on Shabbat and wasn’t struck by lightning.” I get a little annoyed when people focus so much on that. I get that first steps are important to some people who felt really constrained by the rules; to some people it’s meaningful. It just wasn’t for me.
Your memoir tells how, despite an initially amicable divorce, your ex-wife successfully fought to curtail your custodial and visitation rights. Could you have done anything differently to prevent that?
When I left I knew very few people who were divorced, so it never occurred to me I needed to go to a lawyer. If I had gotten a properly executed agreement on custody, visitation and all that, it would’ve been difficult for anyone to go to court and want to change what’s been agreed upon just because my beard is no longer as long. My naivete was astonishing! Looking back, I don’t know where my mind was. But I’d been with this woman 15 years and thought I knew her. I’d gone on a journey that she watched. She didn’t come along, but she was there with me, and I thought she was somewhat empathetic to what I was going through.
I know this is an unpopular opinion, but I hate Bono. And now, he’s just given me another reason.
In an interview with CBS radio station KROQ’s Kevin & Bean Show, fellow U2 band-member The Edge mentioned that the lead singer casually dresses up as a Hasidic Jew while cycling around New York City.
This explained why no one managed to snap a picture of him when he took a major tumble in Central Park, causing U2 to cancel several shows. Asked about the mishap, The Edge replied, “You know, when Bono goes cycling he likes to dress up as a Hasidic Jew.”
Right. I seem to remember another famous human who was chastised for doing something similar (cough John Galliano). So, we’re just supposed to feel sympathy for Bono? Good to know.
Last month, U2 posted a messaged to fans on Facebook informing them that “…Bono has injured his arm in a cycling spill in Central Park and requires some surgery to repair it. We’re sure he’ll make a full recovery soon, so we’ll be back!…”
In the meantime, continue deleting the free U2 albums from your iCloud here.
You can listen to the full interview here.
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