Synagogue leader by day, punk rocker by night
Menu JTA Search

Synagogue leader by day, punk rocker by night

Punk rocker   and Orthodox synagogue president   Bram Presser. (Yidcore)

Punk rocker  and Orthodox synagogue president  Bram Presser. (Yidcore)

SYDNEY, Australia, Sept. 19 (JTA) — Lawyer, lecturer, punk rocker — and executive president of an Orthodox synagogue. Welcome to the world of Bram Presser, 26, the Melbourne, Australia-based lead singer of Yidcore, a Jewish punk rock group that specializes in Jewish and Hebrew songs. On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Presser donned his tallit and took his place with the other 11 members of Melbourne’s North Eastern Jewish War Memorial Centre’s synagogue choir. As executive president Presser is responsible for fiscal affairs at the synagogue, which serves 260 families. Presser “does a wonderful job and it’s a pleasure to have him on our team,” Rabbi Gideon Fox says. “And he is not a three-day-a-year Jew. We are often blessed with his company. He certainly adds color to the choir.” Presser says: “Not all the shul members approve of me, but they do say they like me when I am quiet.” At the age of 19 and already into punk, Presser established the Theatre Club at the Northern Suburbs Memorial Centre. At 23 he was involved with Israeli affairs through his position on Victoria’s State Zionist Council. The synagogue was a separate entity within the community center until 2001, when the two merged and Presser became executive president of the combined organization. “I have been a stand-in choirmaster,” he said, “but never the chazan,” Presser told JTA. “I asked chazan Michael Cohen for some singing tips but he always comes back to the same thing: ‘Don’t scream.’ ” Yidcore recently completed its second U.S. tour, playing a month of concerts to enthusiastic audiences in New York, Chicago and Philadelphia. The band’s EP “Chicken Soup Caper” and its first CD feature familiar Jewish songs such as “Dayenu,” “Maoz Tsur”and “Yerushalayim Shel Zahav,” together with originals “Minyan Man” and “Just One More Shabbos.” The band’s third U.S. tour, which Presser hopes will be coast-to-coast, is on the drawing board. “We formed the band as part of an Australian Union of Jewish Students show and it was a tearaway success,” Presser says. Yidcore features three other members who also came out of Melbourne’s Jewish day schools: advertising man Mikie Slonim, marketer Paul Glezer and architect Dave Orlanski. At Mt. Scopus, Melbourne’s largest Jewish day school, Presser says he was an unconventional and “always disheveled” student. However, he was elected to the prestigious post of school captain. “I never had any problems at home when I embraced the punk rock culture,” Presser says. “My parents are both into self-expression and encourage it. They are extremely cool.” For a punk rocker, Presser lives a clean life: He is strongly anti-drug and is a nonsmoking vegetarian. Presser has played in bands since he was 14, and attributes his punk skill to his Jewish background. “Everyone was always screaming so I had to learn to scream well,” he says. Presser even has used the shofar in the band’s unique form of music. Presser also is a lecturer in law at Melbourne University, where he is preparing his criminology doctoral thesis on “The Civil Liability of Police for Negligent Investigations.” In the future, he hopes to arrange a concert tour of Israel for Yidcore — even performing, if allowed, at the Kotel. “At the end of the day, it’s our way of expressing our Jewishness, and the message is getting through to a generation who would otherwise never hear it,” he said. □ Yidcore’s music can be heard on its Web site, www.yidcore.com.