The hasidic Alt Rock Girl Band out of Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Their music is inspired by the likes of Radiohead, the White Stripes, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jane’s Addiction. The band’s name, “Bulletproof stockings” is a reference to the thick, opaque hosiery traditionally worn by hasidic women. The band is made up of four women – Perl Wolfe on Lead Vocals and Piano, Dalia G. Shusterman on Drums and Vocals, and Laura Kegles/Elisheva Maister who both play the Cello. Their Facebook page gives a brief history of the group:
“Perl Wolfe and Dalia G. Shusterman met on a rainy night in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, in December of 2011. Perl played her songs, and Dalia knew just what to do, like she had heard them before in another lifetime. The connection was made, and Bulletproof Stockings was formed. They recorded their first single “Frigid City,” and played their first show at “In The Glow,” a benefit concert at Lubavitcher Yeshiva for a local school, less than one month after meeting. In March 2012, they recorded and released their first EP album “Down to the Top.” They’ve since played many shows all around New York, and recently played their first show in Los Angeles.”
A Times of Israel article and a New York Post article give background on the two founding band members, Perl Wolfe and Dalia Shusterman. By day, Shusterman, in her mid-30s, is a part-time graphic designer and recently widowed mother of four young boys between the ages of two and eight. Wolfe, a 26-year-old divorcée, is a makeup artist who manages a cosmetics store in Boro Park that caters mainly to hasidic women.
The two are committed to performing for women only audiences. In addition to following the laws of kol isha, a rabbinic prohibition which prohibits Jewish men from hearing women sing, Wolfe posits that, “Women will party and rock out in a completely different way when there’s nobody there but women,”
Critics are saying that the band does not try hard enough not to attract a male audience. Many of the listeners purchasing their four-track EP “Down to the Top.” are men. They are currently number 12 on the ReverbNation Alternative charts for Brooklyn, NY. Critics came out of the woodwork after a photo montage of the women posing in front of the Lubavitch Chabad headquarters appeared on CrownHeights.info:
In the blog article, Shusterman said:
“The deal is that it’s not a women’s mitzvah not to play,” explained Shusterman, using a term for a religious commandment. Her speech, in English, is riddled with Hebrew and Yiddish terms. “It’s a man’s mitzvah not to listen. Anyone who knows halacha [Jewish law] will tell you this. There are plenty of frum [religious] women putting their music out, and YouTube and Amazon and iTunes are the media for getting it out there. And especially for parnasa [income], it’s not even a question.”
“We could sing in the middle of the street and all the men would have to leave. But for the sake of ahavat yisrael [love of fellow Jews], we don’t make issues for people,” Wolfe said.
“Where we draw our line is who we will perform live for,” Shusterman said. “We are not going to put men in a position where they have to listen to us.”
But they are more interested in the flip side of the gender equation. “We are creating a forum where women can freely express themselves without having the male input and presence,” Shusterman said.”
Some of the negative reader comments are below –
“I need to throw up. First of all, why is there a picture like this on a public website?! secondly, WHERE IS CHABAD GOING?!? UGH. Not what I want my family involved in. I am all for niggunim and inspirational music, but this definitely needs to be promoted differently.”
Another commenter wrote – “hello? is this an impression u want to give? whats the point! not impressed at all…. ;(“
Yet another commenter wrote – “Sadly its the women who have been dragging the name of Lubavitch throu the gutters,
there is nothing good about your music or about you and why do you need to go to radio head and other such people to get your inspiration Whats wrong with the rebbe and rabbi akiva ager and the bal shem tov…Your truly nothing but a failur.”
“Last time i checked “chabad” is detirmined by the rebbe. I don’t belive the rebbe would approve of women making a rock band modeled after goyishe singers. I am 100% sure the rebbe would not approve putting such pictures online as it is not in the spirit of orthodox judiasim and for sure not in the spirit of chabad which as the rebbe said is frumkiet plus. People have confused chabad’s kiruv work with the way a lubavitcher should be. Now before getting upset think what the rebbe would say. And base your opinion on what the rebbe actually said (look in sichos and igros kodesh) not what you think the rebbe meant.”
“I see in Mishpacha magazine, that rarely will you see pictures of women. Why here, for all the men to see, a picture of 2 very attractive women? Where oh where is the bottom line.”
There are 65 comments on the CrownHeights.info article, some positive and many negative. What seemed to bother people the most was the pictures that were shown of the women. From the reactions, you would have thought it was a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition!
I think that these women are doing very important work. We have far too few orthodox Jewish female musicians. These women are an inspiration to girls interested in pursuing musical careers or even playing as a hobby. Bulletproof Stockings does have a tough path ahead of them. It is very difficult to garner a steady following when Jewish radio stations won’t play and promote your music, Jewish music websites won’t promote female musicians, and only women buy your music and concert tickets.
Additionally, the financial viability of the music industry has imploded for even the most popular secular musicians due to illegal downloading of albums and singles. Even male hasidic superstars like Mordechai Ben David, who is listened to by men and women all over the world, have been hit hard. Mordechai Ben David stated that illegal CD burning and internet downloads were ruining the industry and making albums financially non profitable.
It doesn’t surprise me that Bulletproof Stockings have so many secular artists as their influence. Speaking as a woman, there are very few places to get female musical inspiration in the frum community. Women who love to sing or play instruments have to rely mainly on secular role models. The closest we get to hearing soprano or female alto ranges is The Miami Boys Choir. I always found it kind of creepy that male musicians must use young boys for what would normally be female parts in songs. Bulletproof Stockings is changing all that. I wish them continued success.