Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.
The Schmooze

Why is This Interview Different From All Other Interviews? With Twisted Sister’s Jay Jay French

What is your connection to Judaism?

While never being exposed to Judaism formerly, it is undeniable, upon reflection, that everything that I saw, read, felt and experienced was a byproduct of a very culturally Jewish upbringing that focused on learning, searching and infused with a never ending desire to understand the world and my place in it.

I was a born and raised New York City Jew in 1952.

That has a very clear descriptive connotation.

To grow up in NYC in the sixties to very progressive parents is to have experienced Judaism more culturally then religiously.

I was not Bar Mitvahe’d. Most of my Jewish friends were not. The parents of my schoolmates from the Upper West Side at that time, at least from my experience, clearly removed themselves from that cultural signpost for their sons. Moreover, Bat Mitzvah were unheard of.

My father, Louis Segall, had been but never spoke to me about it.

He also spoke Yiddish. He was a writer and a jewelry salesman.

Neither of my parents ever spoke about my Jewish heritage. I asked my mother once about being Bar Mitzvah’d. She told me that I should attend Hebrew school if that was going to happen. I went once. I came home and told my mother that I hated it. She said that she knew I wouldn’t like it and I never went back and we never discussed it again.

I had, however, an arrogance about who I was. I was a product of the streets on New York’s Upper West Side. I was a fast talking political animal. My mother was a political consultant and I attended my share of progressive summer camps, where, in hindsight, were the summer retreats of the sons and daughters of very progressive, uber liberal, Jewish intellectuals.

My first guitar teacher, when I was 10 years old (1962) and attending Camp Thoreau in Wallkill, NY was Mike Meeropol, the son of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. My bunk mate at Shaker Village in 1967 was Ben Cheney, brother of slain civil rights worker James Cheney.

Looking back now, this is what an Upper West Side NY Jewish kid experienced.

My parents drilled me into reading the NY Times cover to cover starting in fourth grade.

My mother, Evaline Segall, was hired as a proof reader for Simon and Schuster, and proof read, among many other books, The Chosen by Chaim Potock.

They took me to civil rights marches, anti war marches and had me campaign for most of the progressive democratic candidates running for office in NY from 1960-1970.

This is a quick profile of a NYC Jew from the 60’s.

I am one and proud of it!

What big change have you made lately?

I got married for the third time. This is something that I swore, after divorce #2, I would never do again. I did!

Is there a book or movie that you re-read or re-watch? Why?

I have come to the conclusion that I go back to certain movies as mental comfort food. The list isn’t about the greatness of the subjects, it is more like re-playing a favorite song. It just takes me back to a different time that makes me feel good. Movies: Jaws, The Godfather, Enter the Dragon, Guys & Dolls, Weekend at Bernies, Scarface, Goodfellas.

Apart from brushing your teeth, what do you do 2 times daily?

Drink Coffee.

What is a “hidden” aspiration that you have, i.e. something that you have postponed for later in life but you plan/aspire to one day get to?

One day I will learn how to speak Spanish and play the piano, not necessarily in that order.

If you could fully express gratitude to someone in your past who really made a difference in your life, who would it be?

My parents have been gone for a long time. My dad in 1984 when I was 32. My mother especially has had a profound effect on my life and she died over 40 years ago when I was 22. Way to early in my development. I owe her so much.

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.