My friend Becca, along with some of her Orthodox Jewish Day School friends/co-tichel cuties created a pretty intense fusion of Lady Gaga and traditional Orthodox concepts (the wearing of the tichel – garb for married women, preparing for Shabbat, and the waiting for the Messiah). This is not a likely combination so that’s probably why it has been getting so much attention in the blogosphere, both positive and negative.
I think this mixture of feedback is due to a general confusion of the purpose of the video. Three Orthodox Jewish high school students translating Jewish ritual into Gaga – is this a parody? Are they making fun of Orthodox Judaism? Or are they portraying their lives/futures through this witty medium?
Renee at The Sisterhood questions, “Well, it may be kosher, but it’s not so innocent. The sexual overtones — not to mention some of the lyrics — in this video caused me to be pretty sure that this is all a satire. … Right?”
The confusion is understandable, but these girls deserve a chance to explain their project for themselves. So, I asked Becca for the story behind Tichel Cuties and here are her answers:
Why did you and your friends create this music video? What is its purpose?
My friends and I were suffering from the boredom that comes along with being second-semester seniors (at least two of us were, the other girl is a sophomore), and we decided that we would turn our love for Lady Gaga into a project. We already had the line “ra ra roll the challah,” but I can’t quite remember where the line came from. Once we had that first line, the project just took off.
What message are you trying to convey?
Our main point was to have some fun with traditional Jewish concepts – like tichels (hair coverings) and mashiach (the Jewish redemption). To be honest, the video is a bit of a spoof – poking some fun at the Jewish world – but it is all in good fun.
What are the contradictions present in the project?
Well, firstly, none of us are married, yet we are wearing hair coverings, which is required of married Jewish women. Also, as many angry youtube watchers pointed out, we are breaking the Jewish law of Kol Isha, which says that a man cannot hear the voice of a woman. Although many people keep this law to different degrees, many men would be opposed to girls singing in a video. This was funny because in our religiously themed video, we were breaking laws, according to some.
What does this say about Orthodoxy? Young Orthodox Jewish women?
I think that the reactions of some ultra-orthodox Jews show the negative side of Orthodoxy–that sometimes with extreme religiousness comes a lack of ability to accept others. The fact that many orthodox people openly disliked our videos reveals their closed-mindedness. It’s very upsetting to hear that people accuse us of breaking laws, when they are breaking the most important law: Loving your neighbor as you love yourself. This is why we consider ourselves to be modern-orthodox–we are not afraid to have fun with old cultures and to blend them with fads in popular culture.
What reactions do you hope people will have?
I hope that people can get some laughs from the video. Of course, I find it quite exciting when people get angry about the video and call us “indecent,” but it would be nice to have a generally positive reaction.
Because I heard it from the source, but also because I’m a fan of subversive ways to express Judaism for women, I’m a fan of this video. And who’s calling these young Jewish women “indecent?” I think that what they’re doing – triggering a reaction from people whose cultures are often seen as outdated using contemporary culture is pretty genius to me.