(JTA) — When she sits down to write song lyrics, Sabrina Teitelbaum, who records music under the moniker Blondshell, doesn’t plan to reference her Jewishness. It just spills out in subtle turns of phrase.
In her song “Sepsis,” for instance, the quickly-rising 25-year-old rocker sings: “I think I believe in getting saved/Not by Jesus validation/In some dude’s gaze.”
In “Salad,” her latest track, which she debuted on Jimmy Fallon’s late-night show Tuesday night, she flirts with the idea of poisoning a friend’s abuser. She sings: “Look what you did/You’ll make a killer of a Jewish girl.”
“I was bat mitzvahed and the whole thing, but I don’t know — I think, culturally, my Judaism finds its way into my music, even in ways that I haven’t really been aware of until somebody brought it up,” she said on Zoom last week from her home in Los Angeles.
Jewish-tinged dark humor is rarely seen in indie rock, especially in the woman-dominated subsets of the genre that Blondshell is being associated with, alongside the likes of Snail Mail, Soccer Mommy and Mitski. And she’s not afraid of putting it out there — the press release for “Salad” notes the song’s “nod” to her Jewishness and the fact that it came out on the first night of Passover.
Teitelbaum’s self-titled album, which is getting rave reviews in advance of its release on Friday, is full of the coming-of-age stories and feelings found in shows like “Girls” and “Broad City.” On “Kiss City,” she sings, “I think my kink is when you tell me that you think I’m pretty.” On “Joiner”: “You’ve been running around LA with trash/Sleeping in bars with a gun in your bag/Asking can I be somebody else.”
The constant undertone is one of personal trauma — from unhealthy relationships, bad sex and other dark things in her personal life that she didn’t want to elaborate on.
“There are just ways of talking about trauma that I think are kind of distinctly Jewish,” she said, “and that comes up in my music for sure.”
It’s all accompanied by earworm pop melodies and the thick guitar sounds found in some of her biggest influences from the ’90s, like Hole (Courtney Love’s main outfit) and PJ Harvey.
Teitelbaum was born in New York to a Jewish dad and a mom who converted to Judaism. She spent a lot of time watching “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and clips of Sarah Silverman standup on YouTube with her sister. The family attended a Reform synagogue and celebrated the major holidays.
She spent two years in USC’s music writing program before dropping out to fast-track her career. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, she wrote electronic pop under the name BAUM. But during lockdown, she dug deep back into ’90s rock and set out at first with just a goal of improving her guitar skills.
“I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to get better. And I’m going to sit down and practice for an hour a day,’ or whatever it was. And I would procrastinate by writing,” she said. “Because I was like, I don’t want to do scales and get better at chord structure, those things. So yeah, it was me trying to get better at guitar that led to everything.”
After finishing a batch of songs as Blondshell, she signed to the buzzy Partisan Records — home to a slew of acclaimed rock groups, such as Fontaines, D.C., Idles and The Black Angels — and began releasing songs last summer. She was quickly grouped together with the vanguard of other female alt-rockers, who have been relentlessly talked about in music journalism for about a decade. The comparisons bring up mixed feelings.
“It can be flattening. People are like, ‘You’re the wave of songwriters, Phoebe Bridgers and Soccer Mommy,’” she said. “My music doesn’t sound anything like Phoebe Bridgers.”
But she added that she is prone to do some categorizing, too.
“There are a lot of women in rock. And so I also get it and I myself have done it when I’m talking about who had been influenced by — I’m like, you know, women in rock in the 90s, PJ Harvey and Courtney Love. I’m also grouping them together.”
Heading out to tour last year across the heart of the country in a van was a startling experience. It was the first time in a while — possible ever — where, as a Jew, she felt like a minority.
“I’m always surrounded by other Jews — like everybody I work with is Jewish,” she said, referencing her manager (Shira Knishkowy), her producer (Yves Rothman) and others she has met in the industry. She mentioned other Jewish rockers she has looked up to, too, including Jeff Tweedy of Wilco and the sisters of Haim.
“[Now] this thing keeps happening where I’m like the only Jew on a tour… It’s a new experience that I’m having,” she said. “It kind of gives a different context to my upbringing, and to who ends up feeling familiar to me.”
In a recent conversation with her Jewish grandmother, Teitelbaum was asked a familiar question.
“She was like, ‘What’s your manager’s name?’ I said ‘Shira.’ She said, ‘Oh, a nice Jewish girl. Does she know her name means song?’ And I was like, ‘she knows,’” Teitelbaum said with a laugh.
Dr. NATHAN WISEMAN
Wiseman, Nathan Elliot
1944 – 2023
Nathan, our beloved husband, Dad, and Zaida, died unexpectedly on December 13, 2023. Nathan was born on December 16, 1944, in Winnipeg, MB, the eldest of Sam and Cissie Wiseman’s three children.
He is survived by his loving wife Eva; children Sam (Natalie) and Marni (Shane); grandchildren Jacob, Jonah, Molly, Isabel, Nicole, and Poppy; brother David (Sherrill); sister Barbara (Ron); sister-in-law Agi (Sam) and many cousins, nieces, and nephews.
Nathan grew up in the north end of Winnipeg surrounded by his loving family. He received his MD from the University of Manitoba in 1968, subsequently completed his General Surgery residency at the University of Manitoba and went on to complete a fellowship in Paediatric Surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital of Harvard University. His surgeon teachers and mentors were world renowned experts in the specialty, and even included a Nobel prize winner.
His practice of Paediatric Surgery at Children’s Hospital of Winnipeg spanned almost half a century. He loved his profession and helping patients, even decades later often recounting details about the many kiddies on whom he had operated. Patients and their family members would commonly approach him on the street and say, “Remember me Dr. Wiseman?”. And he did! His true joy was caring for his patients with compassion, patience, unwavering commitment, and excellence. He was a gifted surgeon and leaves a profound legacy. He had no intention of ever fully retiring and operated until his very last day. He felt privileged to have the opportunity to mentor, support and work with colleagues, trainees, nurses, and others health care workers that enriched his day-to-day life and brought him much happiness and fulfillment. He was recognized with many awards and honors throughout his career including serving as Chief of Surgery of Children’s Hospital of Winnipeg, President of the Canadian Association of Pediatric Surgeons, and as a Governor of the American College of Surgeons. Most importantly of all he helped and saved the lives of thousands and thousands of Manitoba children. His impact on the generations of children he cared for, and their families, is truly immeasurable.
Nathan’s passion for golf was ignited during his childhood summers spent at the Winnipeg Beach Golf Course. Southwood Golf and Country Club has been his second home since 1980. His game was excellent and even in his last year he shot under his age twice! He played an honest “play as it lies” game. His golf buddies were true friends and provided him much happiness both on and off the course for over forty years. However, his passion for golf extended well beyond the eighteenth hole. He immersed himself in all aspects of the golf including collecting golf books, antiques, and memorabilia. He was a true scholar of the game, reading golf literature, writing golf poetry, and even rebuilding and repairing antique golf clubs. Unquestionably, his knowledge and passion for the game was limitless.
Nathan approached his many woodworking and workshop projects with zeal and creativity, and he always had many on the go. During the winter he was an avid curler, and in recent years he also enjoyed the study of Yiddish. Nathan never wasted any time and lived his life to the fullest.
Above all, Nathan was a loving husband, father, grandfather, son, father-in-law, son-in-law, uncle, brother, brother-in-law, cousin, and granduncle. He loved his family and lived for them, and this love was reciprocated. He met his wife Eva when he was a 20-year-old medical student, and she was 18 years old. They were happily married for 56 years. They loved each other deeply and limitlessly and were proud of each other’s accomplishments. He loved the life and the family they created together. Nathan was truly the family patriarch, an inspiration and a mentor to his children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces, and many others. He shared his passion for surgery and collecting with his son and was very proud to join his daughter’s medical practice (he loved Thursdays). His six grandchildren were his pride and joy and the centre of his world.
Throughout his life Nathan lived up to the credo “May his memory be a blessing.” His life was a blessing for the countless newborns, infants, toddlers, children, and teenagers who he cared for, for his colleagues, for his friends and especially for his family. We love him so much and there are no words to describe how much he will be missed.
A graveside funeral was held at the Shaarey Zedek cemetery on December 15, 2023. Pallbearers were his loving grandchildren. The family would like to extend their gratitude to Rabbi Yosef Benarroch of Adas Yeshurun Herzlia Congregation.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba, in the name of Dr. Nathan Wiseman.
Bill Maher tells it like it is when it comes to what “the river to the sea” really means
Bill Maher cuts to the chase like no one else. Here’s a link to a segment from the most recent episode of “Real Time with Bill Maher” where he exposes the total hypocrisy of the “useful idiots” everywhere chanting “from the river to the sea”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KP-CRXROorw
Jewish community holds solidarity rally November 25
The Jewish Federation of Winnipeg held a rally in support of Israel on Saturday evening, November 25.
A number of speakers addressed the crowd of 800, including Rabbi Yosef Benarroch of Adas Yeshurun-Herzlia Congregation; Members of Parliament Ben Carr & Marty Morantz; Yolanda Papini-Pollock of Winnipeg Friends of Israel; Paula McPherson, former Brock Corydon teacher; and Gustavo Zentner, President of the Jewish Federation.
Click here to watch Ben Carr’s remarks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=crfREGNRKfg
Click here to watch a video of Marty Morantz’s remarks: https://studio.youtube.com/video/zHzC-iaqivg/ed
Click here to watch a video of Gustavo Zentner’s remarks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3M_cCYuLgs