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What’s Jewish about the jam band Phish? Many things, according to a new book.

(JTA) — Those who are Jewish, or Phish fans — or both — have likely noticed at one point: Jews really seem to love Phish.

There are many possible reasons for this, starting with the fact that the genre-bending jam band has many ardent fans of all stripes, having sold millions of albums and played to enormous festival crowds for decades. Two of the band members — bassist Mike Gordon and drummer Jon Fishman — are also Jewish, and the group has been known to play Jewish songs such as “Yerushalayim Shel Zahav” and “Avinu Malkeinu” live.

But there’s something else — a certain kind of spiritual aspect to Phish fandom that seems to attract the average modern Jewish fan.

“Phish is one of many vehicles through which Jewish fans connect on a meaningful level with their cultural Jewish identity,” University of San Francisco Professor Oren Kroll-Zeldin told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in 2019. “Phish provides an alternative venue to build Jewish community and Phish shows become a site where fans can have meaningful Jewish experiences outside the confines of traditional Jewish life.”

A new book titled “This Is Your Song Too: Phish and Contemporary Jewish Identity,” published this week by Penn State University Press, explores the ins and outs of the relationship through essays from several Phish fans and an interview with Gordon. It’s edited by Kroll-Zeldin and Ariella Werden-Greenfield of Temple University, who in 2019 hosted a conference — likely the first of its kind in academia — on the topic.

“There are so many connections and synergies between Jewish identity and Phish fandom,” Werden-Greenfield told JTA. “What we really have tried to highlight in this book… is the answer is different for every Phish fan who identifies Jewishly in and around Phish.”

As Phish’s legend grew in the 1990s, many Jews learned about them at Jewish summer camps, Kroll-Zeldin said. “Time and time again, people said ‘I learned about Phish from my camp counselor, and then I passed the music down to my campers, who then passed the music down to other campers,” in a process he compared to the Jewish tradition of passing the Torah down through the generations.

Since Phish is also known for their extensive live shows, Phish fans also love to intensely analyze setlists (along with their lyrics, musical styles and more).

“It’s’ very similar to how Jews engage with textual exegesis of Torah and Talmud,” Kroll-Zeldin added.

Another big part of the connection is a healthy sense of humor found in Phish’s lyrical themes and stage presence.

“They are playful and curious and experimental, and that is something that resonates with a lot of Jewish listeners,” Werden-Greenfield said of Phish.

Phish frontman Trey Anastasio performs at the Sixth and I synagogue in Washington, D.C., in 2018. (Andrea Nusinov)

Kroll-Zeldin and Werden-Greenfield were friends and college classmates at Skidmore College — where Phish played an early show in 1990. In the years afterward, they would see each other at Phish shows and then, once they both pursued careers as religious studies academics, at conferences. Both said they have lost track of how many Phish shows they have personally attended.

Their 2019 conference led to a call for papers, some of which ended up in the book.

While many Jewish Phish fans are secular, the book includes essays from devotees of the band who are more observant and often must reconcile the timing of shows with that of Shabbat. Religious services have been held during set breaks at Phish shows, with kosher food sometimes sold in the “shakedown” area, outside of concerts.

There’s also a chapter about Phish and food. The Jewish ice cream purveyors Ben and Jerry — natives of Vermont, where Phish formed — have been offering their Phish Food flavor for years, while Federal Donuts, owned by Philadelphia-based Israeli-American chef Michael Solomonov, has created out multiple special editions of Phish-themed donuts.

In addition to the essays, the book features numerous photographs, of everything from parking lot prayers to Phish-themed dreidels, bat mitzvah invitations and wedding ketubahs.

The band has always seemed to happily nod to its large Jewish fan base. The band got its start playing in cities, towns and colleges in areas with large Jewish populations, and the majority of their performances are still close to metro areas with large Jewish populations. Frontman Trey Anastasio played a solo show at the Sixth and I Synagogue in Washington, D.C., in 2018.

A big part of the book, mentioned by several essayists, is Phish’s performance of “Avinu Malkeinu.” Phish does not play the song often — once every 23.9 shows, according to phish.net‘s exhaustive database — but the band has played it a total of 83 times over many years, between 1987 and 2022.

Why “Avinu Malkeinu”? The book shares the heretofore untold story of how Phish’s Gordon, while growing up in suburban Boston, first heard the song from Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, a prominent rabbi and author in the Reform movement, who happened to be Gordon’s childhood rabbi. Kushner would sing the melody, sometimes wordlessly, “for everything,” including during Havdalah services. While, per the book, Gordon “admits that he never fully accepted Judaism’s belief system or rituals or and even rebelled against them,” that song stuck with him.

Phish drummer Jon Fishman, shown performing with the band in Brooklyn in 2004, is one of two Jewish members of the group. He’s known for performing in a colorful dress. (Scott Gries/Getty Images)

“[Aveinu Malkeinu] was getting not just into my ears but into my soul,” Gordon says in the book. “And so, when I’m bringing that song to the table [with Phish], in some ways… I’m referring back to an experience that was a deep soul experience for me, using that melody.”

The Phish bassist has a sister-in-law who is a cantor, and at the time of the interview, he was planning to sing with his daughter as part of a Zoom-based “Havdalah coffee shop.”

“Looking out into the crowd, it was easy to see who the Jews were because their eyes would light up when we went into it, and that was kind of fun,” Gordon said in the book of the band’s earliest performances of “Avinu Malkeinu.” “When we were playing in clubs and theaters and Jewish people wandering in having no idea that they were going to hear anything in Hebrew, there it was. A look of shock. I liked that part of it.”

For all of its Jewish connections, one thing Phish has not ever done is perform in Israel. There’s been a great deal of campaigning over the years for such a visit by Phish fans who live there, including one woman named Rachel Loonin Steinerman, interviewed in the book, who created the “OhKeePah,” a kippah made from the same fabric as the signature muumuu sported by drummer Fishman during shows. She inscribed #PhishInIsrael on the inside of each.

Music journalist Shirley Halperin says in the book that she spent time in Israel with drummer Fishman in 1993 — including an early-morning hike to the top of Masada — and that Gordon had reached out to her when he was trying to learn how to sing “Yerushalayim Shel Zahav.”

“What is it about Phish and Jews? I don’t know, but a lot of Jews are doing Jewish stuff at Phish shows, which makes it a very joyful way to be Jewish,” Kroll-Zeldin said.


The post What’s Jewish about the jam band Phish? Many things, according to a new book. appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Iran Attacks Israel: CNN Host Minimizes Barrage & Fake News Goes Viral

An anti-missile system operates after Iran launched drones and missiles towards Israel, as seen from Ashkelon, Israel, April 14, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Iran launched an unprecedented direct attack on Israel on Saturday, sending at least 300 drones and missiles towards the Jewish state.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) coordinated with other militaries, including the US and UK, to intercept most of the projectiles, which were also supplemented by further rockets fired from Iranian terror proxies in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.

Iranian-backed Hezbollah also joined the assault, and announced that it had fired two barrages of rockets at an Israeli military base in the Golan Heights.

Hamas gained support for Oct 7 by inciting fear among Palestinians about Israel’s intentions for the Temple Mount.

Tonight, Israel protected their holy sites from missiles fired by Hamas’s patron Iran. pic.twitter.com/sluuiXgbzb

— HonestReporting (@HonestReporting) April 14, 2024

Fake News Goes Viral Overnight

As the skies above and surrounding Israel were lit up with rockets overnight, social media was also alight with fake news, videos, and photos purporting to be of the extraordinary attack.

While the majority of outright false information came from users on the platform X (formerly known as Twitter), Qatari mouthpiece Al Jazeera was also caught publishing a video that it falsely claimed showed rockets hitting Tel Aviv.

Meanwhile, infamous pro-Hamas influencer Jackson Hinkle was among the X platform users to share fake footage that he said showed “Israelis panicking” as the Iranian barrages hit Israel. BBC Verify journalist Shayan Sardarizadeh confirmed the video was actually of crowds in Argentina waiting to meet a musician. 

This video, posted by Jackson Hinkle and others and viewed nearly 5 million times, claims to show “Israelis panicking” as Iran’s missiles and drones reach Israel.

in fact, it shows Louis Tomlinson fans near Four Seasons Hotel in Buenos Aires, Argentina last week; verified by… pic.twitter.com/11tX9bL0sh

— Shayan Sardarizadeh (@Shayan86) April 14, 2024

Hinkle, who was recently banned from Instagram, posted numerous messages of support for Iran throughout the attack, including several posts praising Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and AI-generated images of planes dropping bombs.

Unsurprisingly, Iran’s state TV was behind the spread of many videos that purported to show catastrophic damage in Israel, including one that was actually of a fire in Chile that was filmed in February.

On the left: Iranian state media claiming this is footage from an Iranian missile which hit Israel.

On the right: the same footage from a fire in Chile in February.

𝐑𝐞𝐦𝐢𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐫 𝐭𝐨 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐈𝐫𝐚𝐧𝐢𝐚𝐧 𝐑𝐞𝐠𝐢𝐦𝐞: our defense systems intercepted 99% of their missiles. pic.twitter.com/xpLXGO3qd0

— Israel ישראל (@Israel) April 14, 2024

Perhaps hoping to ratchet up the tension, a number of users shared claims that Israel had immediately launched a drone counterstrike on Iran, including sharing videos of what they claimed was a fire in Tehran.

Others shared footage of the 2020 Beirut Port explosion, which they said showed Israel’s Mossad bombing the Iranian capital.

BREAKING: A massive drone strike has occurred in Iran’s capital, Tehran. The Israeli Mossad has already claimed responsibility for it. pic.twitter.com/Q9VdxI6heV

— GSPs Backup (@ConLibCon) April 13, 2024

The international media responded to the overnight attack with breaking news updates and rolling live coverage.

While most of the reporting stuck to the facts, there were a few instances of the media either downplaying the attack or obscuring the sequence of events that preceded Iran’s assault.

CNN pundit Christiane Amanpour, for example, ludicrously described the attack as “entirely targeted,” even though hundreds of thousands of Israelis were forced into shelters as large parts of the country remained under threat.

“It seems to be entirely targeted; it wasn’t an attack directed at the whole of Israel.”@amanpour, try telling that to the hundreds of thousands of Israelis who were forced into bomb shelters or the 7-year-old girl critically injured by shrapnel to her head. pic.twitter.com/XtZaPY8zmR

— HonestReporting (@HonestReporting) April 14, 2024

The BBC and ABC News Australia did not specify in their headlines that Iran had fired hundreds of drones and long-range missiles at Israel, instead vaguely referring to the weapons as “objects.” Furthermore, ABC News Australia’s headline failed to mention Iran at all.

“Objects.”

Well done, @BBCNews. https://t.co/289O02VZRl pic.twitter.com/oo16CLpxk4

— HonestReporting (@HonestReporting) April 14, 2024

The New York Times, in its coverage, suggested that the attack was somehow justified by asserting that Israel had “bombed an Iranian embassy complex” in Damascus. In reality, Israel targeted a building near the embassy that was being used by Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC) leaders to coordinate attacks on Israel.

The Observer published an editorial mere hours after the attack, calling for any further escalation to be prevented:

Amid the present tumult, it should not be forgotten that this Iranian attack was provoked, according to Iran’s leadership at least, by Israel’s unacknowledged bombing on 1 April of an Iranian embassy annex in Damascus that killed several senior commanders. In Tehran’s not unreasonable view, that attack crossed a red line by targeting diplomatic premises.” [emphasis added]

Let us be completely clear: there is nothing “unreasonable,” as The Observer suggests, about Israel striking the infrastructure of the world’s biggest state sponsor of terrorism that was being used to mastermind attacks on Israel. Suggesting it was merely a diplomatic facility is nothing short of absurd.

According to @ObserverUK, “this Iranian attack was provoked, according to Iran’s leadership at least, by Israel’s unacknowledged bombing on 1 April of an Iranian embassy annex in Damascus that killed several senior commanders. In Tehran’s not unreasonable view, that attack… pic.twitter.com/sXidFByZTZ

— HonestReporting (@HonestReporting) April 14, 2024

The author is a contributor to HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.

The post Iran Attacks Israel: CNN Host Minimizes Barrage & Fake News Goes Viral first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Hamas Leader Haniyeh Set to Meet Turkish President Erdogan

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh speaks during a press conference in Tehran, Iran, March 26, 2024. Photo: Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS

i24 News — Ismail Haniyeh, the political leader of the Palestinian Islamist terror group Hamas, is scheduled to visit Turkey for talks with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, according to reports from broadcaster NTV.

Erdogan had earlier confirmed the upcoming meeting while addressing lawmakers from his AK Party in parliament, reaffirming Turkey’s stance on Hamas as a “liberation movement.”

The meeting comes in the wake of a phone call last Wednesday, during which Erdogan offered condolences to Haniyeh after three of his sons were reportedly killed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza.

“Israel will definitely be held accountable before the law for the crimes against humanity it committed,” Erdogan told Haniyeh, according to the AFP news agency.

Confirming the fatalities, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) stated that the three operatives killed in the strike were indeed the sons of Haniyeh, the chairman of Hamas’ political bureau. One of Haniyeh’s sons was allegedly involved in holding Israeli hostages. The IDF described all three as terrorist operatives in Hamas’ armed wing.

Erdogan’s support for Hamas has been evident amid renewed tensions between Turkey and Israel. Although the two countries announced the normalization of relations in August 2022, Erdogan has resumed his verbal attacks on Israel since the onset of the war in Gaza.

In one of his speeches, Erdogan harshly criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, accusing him of committing atrocities in Gaza and dubbing him as the “butcher of Gaza.”

The post Hamas Leader Haniyeh Set to Meet Turkish President Erdogan first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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CAIR Accuses ADL of Spreading Hate, Despite Controversial Oct. 7 Comments

Nihad Awad, co-founder and executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). Photo: Screenshot

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has accused the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) of fanning the flames of hate and called for the firing of its CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, for a recent comment he made that it was unacceptable for someone wearing a keffiyeh to chant “death to the Zionists.”

The accusation against one of America’s most prominent Jewish civil rights groups came after CAIR, another well known nonprofit, received widespread criticism late last year when its executive director said was “happy” to see Gazans “break the siege” during the Hamas terror group’s Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel.

CAIR on Monday released a letter with more than 60 other organizations, labeling Greenblatt, who is widely perceived as politically liberal, as an “extreme [supporter] of the Israeli government” who has “smear[ed] Palestinian human rights advocates.”

The letter alleged that Greenblatt “analogiz[ed] the Palestinian keffiyeh to the Nazi swastika” during an appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe television program late last month.

On the show, Greenblatt said that people should be concerned about the tactics of anti-Israel activists on college campuses because when they graduate they would be joining “your board rooms, they’re going to editorial boards, they’re going to the assignment desk of news networks.”

He argued that “if you wouldn’t tolerate” someone saying “death to the Zionists, I wish for that and worse” while they were “wearing a swastika on their arm, I’m sorry, you should not tolerate it if you’re wearing a keffiyeh on their head.” He further noted it was wrong to call for “death to” anyone.

CAIR’s letter did not directly quote Greenblatt’s comment, instead only opting to include the group’s  interpretation of it. 

The letter also alleged that the ADL chief has refused to clarify what he said.

Greenblatt responded to CAIR’s claims in a statement to The Algemeiner.

“Comments I made weeks ago are unsurprisingly being taken entirely out of context by CAIR, an organization that seems to specialize in fiction rather than fact,” he said. “To be crystal clear: hate speech calling for the death of people should not be tolerated whether the person is wearing a Nazi armband or a keffiyeh, a kippah or a cross, or anything else for that matter.”

“I’m not comparing the garb,” Greenblatt emphasized. “I’m comparing the hate speech and how it shouldn’t be tolerated from anyone, period.”

This week’s spat between the two organizations came after the head of CAIR said he was “happy” to witness Hamas’ rampage across southern Israel on Oct. 7, when the Palestinian terrorist group invaded the Jewish state from neighboring Gaza, murdered 1,200 people, and kidnapped 253 others as hostages.

“The people of Gaza only decided to break the siege — the walls of the concentration camp — on Oct. 7,” CAIR co-founder and executive director Nihad Awad said in a speech during the American Muslims for Palestine convention in Chicago in November. “And yes, I was happy to see people breaking the siege and throwing down the shackles of their own land, and walk free into their land, which they were not allowed to walk in.”

Awad was referring to the blockade that Israel and Egypt enforced on Gaza after Hamas took control of the Palestinian enclave in 2007, to prevent the terror group from importing weapons and other materials and equipment for attacks.

About a week later, the executive director of CAIR’s Los Angeles office, Hussam Ayloush, said that Israel “does not have the right” to defend itself from Palestinian violence. He added in his sermon at the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City that for the Palestinians, “every single day” since the Jewish state’s establishment has been comparable to Hamas’ Oct. 7 onslaught.

CAIR has long been a controversial organization. In the 2000s, it was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation terrorism financing case. Politico noted in 2010 that “US District Court Judge Jorge Solis found that the government presented ‘ample evidence to establish the association’” of CAIR with Hamas.

According to the ADL, “some of CAIR’s current leadership had early connections with organizations that are or were affiliated with Hamas.” CAIR has disputed the accuracy of the ADL’s claim and asserted that CAIR “unequivocally condemn[s] all acts of terrorism, whether carried out by al-Qa’ida, the Real IRA, FARC, Hamas, ETA, or any other group designated by the US Department of State as a ‘Foreign Terrorist Organization.’”

The post CAIR Accuses ADL of Spreading Hate, Despite Controversial Oct. 7 Comments first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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