Patrick Aleph is the lead singer of the Southern Jewish punk band Can!!Can and a former employee of Modern Tribe Judaica. Michael Sabani is his quieter, more introverted partner in crime. Together, they’re creating PunkTorah, a mostly (but not entirely) online Jewish community of punks, vegetarians, outlaws, and anyone else who (in their words) wants to take ownership of their spirituality. Physically, they’re based in Atlanta (with a group house and beis midrash/library in the works), but online, they’re literally all over the place. And, with the release of their new Indie Minyan Kit, they’re aligning themselves for even bigger things.
The Minyan Kit includes music, an “egalitarian kippah” (more on that to come) and a brand new PunkTorah Siddur — a “gender-inclusive, LGBT friendly, progressive and independent” prayerbook for individuals and groups, with prayers composed by Aleph and Sabani.
In their short existence so far, Sabani and Aleph have been wildly productive. They’ve started a video blog of the weekly Torah portion, created an online IndieYeshiva (their word) of outside-the-box Jewish learning, and printed about a million little themed pins, from the kooky “Hey! There’s a box on my head” to drawing the missing link (see the graphic on the right) between Star Wars and Pirkei Avot. I wrote my first book about Jewish punk kids because I was Jewish, and pretty intense about it — “intense” in a slam-dancing, shout-your-prayers-out-loud way — and I wished there were other people out there that felt the same way I did. Patrick and Michael did the same thing, but they went a step further: instead of fantasizing about the community, they’re actually building it. Through their websites PunkTorah.com and IndieYeshiva.org, they’re building a virtual community of like-minded activists, learners, and Jews that want to be affiliated, but are uncomfortable affiliating with the usual places. We asked them about the perfect minyan, how to write a siddur…and what exactly a gender-inclusive kippah is.