Sunday, October 30, 2011

Judaism as remix

Velveteen Rabbi posts:

Libenson on Judaism as remix

I just received the final print issue of Zeek in my mailbox. For nine years Zeek has published a beautiful hardcopy print issue, separate from but related to its online edition; from now on Zeek exists purely online, at Anyway, the print issue is focused on education -- specifically "Jewish education in the Facebook era" -- and I thought this exerpt from one article, by Daniel J. Libenson, might resonate for those of y'all who are interested in transformative works and remix:
A remix is "an alternative version of a recorded song that is made from an original version" (Wikipedia May 2011.) A twenty-first century hip-hop artist might take an old Frank Sinatra tune and intercut it with hip-hop sounds and lyrics to create a contemporary sounding song that still retains some of the big band beauty of Sinatra's music. The effect is to create a new kind of big band / hip-hop sound, as well as to introduce young people to music they never would have listened to otherwise. A Jewish DJ named SoCalled has created two albums on the JDub Records label in which he remixes old Jewish music and creates fresh and compelling contemporary songs that feel anchored in the past.
Remixing is a time-honored Jewish tradition -- it explains how Judaism has changed throughout history. Rabbinic Judaism is essentially a remix of the preceding Temple-centered version (which itself included elements of the previous version, such as an emphasis on the kind of storytelling that dominated pre-Temple Israelite sources) and many elements of Greek thought that had been foreign to Temple Judaism. In their remix, the rabbis reached back to the time of the prophets -- emphatically part of Version 1.0 -- to claim their mantle of authority (the very first sentence of Pirke Avot, which talks about the transmission of the Torah, does not even mention the priests who had ruled over the Jewish people for the previous half millennium.)
...Judaism 4.0 will be a remix of elements of Version 3.0, Version 2.0, and Version 1.0, as well as many contemporary ideas and practices from non-Jewish sources.
This isn't a new idea, of course; the idea of a paradigm shift is a mainstay of the writings of Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi and Reb Arthur Waskow, among others. But I like framing the idea in the language of remix; and, of course, this puts me in mind of the ways in which -- as I've argued before -- fandom and Judaism are both communities centered around a kind of transformative work.-Velveteen Rabb

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