Sisterhood Blog

Louisa Solomon of The Shondes Talks Censorship

By Sarah Seltzer

  • Print
  • Share Share

Shondes.com // Louisa Solomon of The Shondes

Louisa Solomon is the feminist lead singer of The Shondes, a punk-rock band (think “Bruce Springsteen meets Bikini Kill,” she jokes) with openly queer members. The Forward once said she had “ a talent for androgynous sass.” Although the group espouses punk’s rebellious ethos and sometimes touch on geopolitics in their lyrics, they’re not explicitly political. “Most of our songs are about the power of friendship, hope, surviving heartbreak. We aren’t terribly polemic,” Solomon told me during a Friday afternoon gchat. “We are a rock band, we try to write anthems that help people survive, and we regularly invoke Judaism!”

But before she was a punk singer, Solomon was an activist. She had visited the West Bank and spoken out about what she saw, supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement as a way to levy pressure to end the occupation. As a result of Solomon’s previous personal activism, the JCC of Washington, DC, revoked its sponsorship of an upcoming show by The Shondes. They did this even after Solomon offered to pledge not to bring up politics during her show. To borrow a line from SNL, really, JCC? Really?

Jewish Voice for Peace has stepped up to the plate to sponsor the show, but overall this is bad news. (I’m sure I’m not alone in re-dubbing the mess over BDS and Jewish institutions ‘BDSM.’) Instead of hearing music from a group of gender-inclusive role models, the young folks of the JCC are getting their first taste of a blacklist. Organized Jewish institutions need to loosen up it and allow intellectual and artistic expression from community members who don’t toe the line on Israel. There was Judith Butler, and Ramaz, and the formation of Open Hillel, and several other instances at the DC JCC. Forbidding people from appearances, particularly when the subjects in question are speaking on another topic, is outrageous. And it’s hypocritical too. How can you oppose the cultural boycott piece of BDS, standing for the right of global artists and thinkers to perform and talk in Israel, and then turn around and prevent Jewish artists and thinkers whose ideas you don’t like from sharing their work with their community at home?

I often don’t follow the intra-Jewish community scandal du jour because I’m too busy tearing my hair out over intra-feminist beef. But from the latter experience, I know this: a move to shut down dialogue and censor art is a coward’s move. “There’s something laughable about how afraid they are of us,” Solomon told me. What do the donors and directors at the JCC think will happen — a killer guitar chord soundbite from a BDS supporter will magically turn hordes of listeners into an army of Israel-haters who renounce their Judaism en masse? What a poor opinion they must have of young Jews if they think we can’t critically and thoughtfully engage with guests and artists.

This is exactly the kind of silliness that alienates young Jews, leading them disassociate from traditional Jewish organizations and fill out those “unaffiliated” bubbles on the Pew survey. Many of the younger folks I have recently quizzed on this issue are not thrilled with BDS itself, but hate censorship of BDS supporters. They long for an honest conversation and exchange of ideas. Which, ironically, is exactly what the Shondes shonde has encouraged. “For every two emails yelling at me, there are like 300 letters of support,” said Solomon, “coming from apolitical Shondes fans, music bloggers, Jewish progressives, Palestine activists and even committed Zionists who support our right to play music for Jews even though they would argue with us about Israel.”


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: feminism, boycott, The Shondes, Jewish, Israel, BDS

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.