When I was an early teenager, there were two rites of passage that I went through. One, at 13, was becoming a Bar Mitzvah. The second, going to my first rock show, was less formal, but no less meaningful. In a way, dancing at punk concerts taught me how to express my passion. Standing in front of my congregation and reading from the Torah in that oh-so-pubescent voice taught me to be unafraid of performing, even when you’re pretty sure you’re going to fall flat on your face.
I won’t belabor the connections between punk rock and Judaism — primarily because I already wrote a book about it — but Micol and David Ostow’s new graphic novel So Punk Rock (And Other Ways to Disappoint Your Mother), about a ska-playing bar mitzvah band that accidentally makes it big, is catapulting the genre to new heights. Micol Ostow, who’s usually known for playing it more conventionally with the Philadelphia prep-school Bradford Novels, lets her inner mohawk out of the closet a bit — although I was a believer ever since she quoted the over-intellectualized speedcore band Bad Religion as an epigraph on an otherwise totally good-kid-lookin’ book. If I asked the Jewish punk grandmaster Patrick Aleph about it, he’d probably say that being subversive is as punk as it gets. I think, if I asked Micol, she’d just smile and shrug mysteriously. And that might be the punkest thing of all.
Pronounced: bar MITZ-vuh, also bar meetz-VAH, Origin: Hebrew, Jewish rite of passage for a 13-year-old boy.
Pronounced: MITZ-vuh or meetz-VAH, Origin: Hebrew, commandment, also used to mean good deed.
Pronunced: TORE-uh, Origin: Hebrew, the Five Books of Moses.