Audiophiles view America's Jews through vinyl

Wed Dec 10, 2008 2:55pm EST
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By Helen Chernikoff

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Like many children of any faith Roger Bennett and Josh Kun found the religious instruction of their youth boring and irrelevant.

But something must have seeped in because decades later while collecting kitschy Jewish album covers they uncovered musical and cultural gems that could have redeemed Hebrew School.

Their discoveries are recorded in a new book "And You Shall Know Us By the Trail of Our Vinyl," -- a compilation of Jewish record albums from the 1940s through the 1970s.

"My frustration with Hebrew School was that it didn't speak to who I was or who I wanted to be. It didn't engage with life outside of Hebrew School," said Kun.

One of their finds, a mambo-style 1959 album called "Bagels and Bongos", might have spiced things up in synagogue, while "Corned-Beef Confucius," by Max Asnas from the 1950s, could have provided some laughs.

But Bennett and Kun insist the book is more than a nostalgic look at Jewish popular culture. It is a point of departure into a future that will be enriched by an infusion of the past.

Q: Why a book all about records?

Bennett: "Everyday objects tell stories that are more powerful than people think at first glance. We can use objects to frame questions to make people think about who they are, what they're inheriting and what it means to them."   Continued...