This too is Torah?

‘Yarmulkes as sexy’ in gay music video

Synth band Potpourri of Pearls is showing a less-known side of yeshiva life in new song, ‘Island’

Renee Ghert-Zand is a reporter and feature writer for The Times of Israel.

Two yeshiva boys frolic in Potpourri of Pearl's 'Island' video. (photo credit: YouTube screenshot)
Two yeshiva boys frolic in Potpourri of Pearl's 'Island' video. (photo credit: YouTube screenshot)

A new music video by a New York- and Philadelphia-based synth band called Potpourri of Pearls is showing ultra-Orthodox yeshiva bochers like we’ve rarely seen them before… at least not in public. The video has two young gay men in standard ultra-Orthodox black pants, white shirts and black kippot kissing in a meadow.

According to band member Adam Brody, 30, the song, “Island,” is about isolation and connection. To illustrate its themes, the video has the two ultra-Orthodox characters meeting by chance along a dirt path, showing sexual interest in one another, and then frolicking and making out among the trees and wildflowers.

Brody is himself gay and Jewish, though not Orthodox. A filmmaker and musician, he formed Potpourri of Pearls two years ago with Sam Allingham, a 28-year-old non-Jewish, straight writer and musician, and music teacher Emily Bate.

“I’ve always been curious about the fact that there aren’t many images showing yarmulkes as sexy,” Brody told The Times of Israel.  “We wanted to get that idea out there and see what the response would be. We thought it would be an interesting experiment.”

The young men in the video are not actually yeshiva students, but are art students from Baltimore who were cast by the video’s director, Scott Ross.

Lead singer Adam Brody, center. (photo credit: courtesy)
Lead singer Adam Brody, center. (photo credit: courtesy)

For the most part, the response since the video was released on September 12 has been positive. “It kind of makes sense, since it’s mostly been covered by gay blogs,” Brody noted.

Brody reported that one commenter was upset by what he claimed was an inaccurate portrayal of ultra-Orthodox young men. Interestingly, the person’s complaint was not about the homosexuality, but rather about one of the actors having a pierced lip, something one would never see on a real yeshiva student.

The band’s sound relies heavily on synthesizers and is a kind of homage to 80’s pop music. “We’ve got a lot of keyboards and drum programming going on,” Brody explains. “Our music is playful and has a sense of fun, and also what I would call a queer sensibility.”

Although Potpourri of Pearls likes to frolic, Brody said he was  serious about sending a certain message, at least to his own religious community.

“Even though as a Reform Jew I grew up in a mostly accepting environment, I still have a sadness that there are segments of the Jewish community that still shun some people,” he said.

“We still have a long way to go.”


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