Meet The Bisexual Jewish Rock Star On Netflix’s ‘Sex Education’
Sex education is sweeping the nation. No, not the system of keeping children and teens apprised of their bodies’ reproductive and pleasure systems, but something even better: a television show! “Sex Education,” a British TV series that debuted on Netflix over the weekend, has young people buzzing like — well — whatever buzzes — we wish we could tell you, but sex education’s not so good in this country.
The seventh episode of the brief series (no spoilers here!) features a school dance, which, since this is a television show, includes a live rock band. And the lead singer happens to be real life rock star Ezra Furman, an American Jew who is, in our humble opinion, ready to ascend to the status of sex symbol. Furman not only performed in the subversive comedy’s dance scene but also created the show’s excellent soundtrack, which features, alongside classics by The Ramones and A-Ha, songs by Furman that evoke the feeling of speeding down the road with nothing but a driver’s permit and a glitter eyeliner pencil.
Peep Ezra in seed-pearls, tefillin and a tallis, hair styling by the gods:
His identity is rife for stories like this one, but it’s not his whole story. Furman, who is 32, told the Forward in 2016 that he’s frustrated when his artistry is eclipsed in the media by his image. Furman formed his first band at Tufts University (shoutout to the Forward College Guide!) and has gone on to experience explosive success as a solo performer and front for various backing bands in Europe. He recently released his seventh studio album, which recounts a queer biblical exodus story of an angel who is an illegal immigrant who falls in love with a human. Naturally.
Furman is an observant Jew. For him that extends to wearing a kippah in his daily life and pausing work, including touring and performances, for Shabbat. Furman identifies as bisexual and has been as proud and open about his sexual presentation as he has about his religious Judaism, reflecting to the Telegraph, “I guess I just do being a man different than some.” Sometimes that means pairing stubble with a red lip and a rabbinic reflection on anti-Semitism. And what of it?
The Solomon Schechter day school graduate, who names Bob Dylan as his earliest inspiration, calls Judaism “the best part of me.” He considers becoming a rabbi, even as his fame grows, but he’s a deeply musical person. “Jews like to write and sing,” he told the Forward. “In America, a lot of us have been eager to show that we’re part of American culture. But it all goes back to King David writing Psalms,” he said. “That’s what I want to do.” His Jewish identity has shaped every part of him. As a guest on Marc Maron’s podcast he explained that his grandparents were Holocaust refugees. “Haunted,” Furman said, thoughtfully.
Furman is open about having struggled with his mental health, but declines to share specifics with his fans. “It’s not going to help for me to describe whatever breakdown I had, whatever year it was,” he told the Telegraph. “Everybody has got their own thing and it doesn’t teach you that much to hear about my thing, except that it is survivable.”
Oh God, bless and keep Ezra Furman: his crimson lips, his angel tunes, his Jewish grappling, his star turn on “Sex Education!” Keep him teaching us how to survive.
Jenny Singer is the deputy lifestyle editor for the Forward. You can reach her at [email protected] or on Twitter @jeanvaljenny