In 2006, May was transformed (via governmental resolution) into Jewish American Heritage Month (JAHM), a celebration of Jewish contributions to American society, including achievements in sports, the arts, entertainment, medicine, business, science, government, and military service.
This year, Jews around the world joined the celebration, following via social media and fan updates as Lenny Solomon, the founding member and lifeblood of the Jewish parody band Shlock Rock, embarked on an historic 7-state musical tour that solidified his status as the first Jewish band/performer since Shlomo Carlebach (it has been argued) to bring Jewish music to every state in the Union.
Over the last 28 years, the “King of Shlock” had rocked venues in 43 of the 50 states. From May 5-18, Lenny played shows in West Virginia, Mississippi, North Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and New Mexico to fulfill a lifelong dream of completing all 50 states.
The inverse relationship that unites the timing of this achievement and the feat itself is absolutely perfect: Jewish American Heritage Month is all about the recognition of Jewish contributions to American culture, while Shlock Rock has always harnessed American culture to help Jews of all stripes connect with their own, beautiful heritage and traditions.
I cannot adequately express my excitement for Lenny. It is so gratifying to see a good friend achieve his dreams, especially one that required so much self-sacrifice.
But don’t change that channel – the story isn’t over just yet.
As if driving 2,500 miles of open American road in less than two weeks weren’t enough, Lenny tacked a few more days onto his tour so that he could play one last gig on American soil before heading home to Israel – Jewish Heritage Night at Coca-Cola Park, home of the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs (a Philadelphia Phillies Triple-A farm team).
Arranged by the Allentown Jewish community, the May 22 showdown with the Toledo Mud Hens was a Jewish pride spectacle to behold, complete with Kosher catering, Iron Pigs kippot, and, of course, the music of Shlock Rock.
For me, this final show in Pennsylvania is the most telling element of the entire extended episode.
While many would have seen completing 50 states as the goal, Lenny saw it as nothing more than a milestone. For Lenny, the real mission is (and always has been) Jewish pride world domination. As such, the tour couldn’t end in Albuquerque, NM – it had to extend to as many additional locations as possible.
From behind the studio microphone, I have watched as Lenny Solomon and Shlock Rock have become synonymous with Jewish pride. Interview after interview, I have marveled at Lenny’s creativity, gumption, and dedication to his craft and his cause. And after more than three decades of friendship and numerous collaborations (including this past February’s “Kosher Halftime Show”), I am in awe of Lenny’s clarity of purpose.
The “King of Shlock” won’t stop until he ignites the Jewish spark within every American Jew and is satisfied that he has done enough to help Jews around the world connect to their Jewish heritage.
I am inspired by Lenny’s completion of all 50 states, but it’s his decision to spend an evening with the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs that will stick with me forever.
The fact is that Jewish pride is something we should never take for granted. Assimilation is at an all-time high, and even those who go through the motions of Jewish observance often do so without a true connection or sense of purpose.
As such, those of us who already feel connected to our traditions and shared Jewish heritage should follow Lenny’s example and utilize our talents and resources to spread that Jewish pride far and wide – throughout the month of May and every other month of the year.