Is there such a thing as “Jewish” pop-culture? Does it exist or did it ever? As Jews, it has always been fun to recognize our people’s unique impact on American popular culture, from Seinfeld, to the Beastie Boys, to Woody Allen, but, what about our Yiddish culture? Many modern day Jews are not even aware of our rich musical and theatrical Yiddish heritage that truly tells the story of our immigration and assimilation into American society. Now, thanks to Roger Bennett and Josh Kun, our musical heritage has been mapped through their new book, And You Shall Know Us By The Trail Of Our Vinyl.
Jews have always been drawn to the entertainment industry, and this book connects the dots for readers, from our involvement in our own musical culture to the mainstream. Although sometimes a bit too scholarly, this book is perfect for anyone’s coffee table. Bennett and Kun have amassed hundreds of pictures of Yiddish and Jewish album covers, and it’s truly a joy to flip through the pages, examining each unique cover. The authors begin at the beginning, tracing our involvement in music to famous cantors who were treated by communities like rock stars and whose album sales would make Brittany Spears jealous. They move on to examine the “Israeli invasion” and discuss Jews’ uncanny ability to adopt other musical cultures, such as Latin music, and make them our own.
Bennett and Kun have written a wonderful time capsule, a work that is a perfect gift for anyone who has a passion for music, and a passion for the history of their Jewish culture.
Adam Teeter is the director of audience development at Tablet Magazine and the co-founder of VinePair.