Interview: Wer sind die Jewish Monkeys


There’s not nearly enough overt Judaism in music these days. Sure, you might see Drake re-enacting his Bar Mitzvah in a music video, but it’s not a defining aspect of his identity, like Action Bronson’s beard or Kim Kardashian’s sex tape. Luckily for me, Tel Aviv’s Jewish Monkeys have moved in to fill that Matisyahu-shaped hole in my heart with Semitic satires of age-old classics like Harry Belafonte’s „Banana Boat“ that are more lulz than a, umm, barrel of monkeys. So I rang them up to talk Judaism, two-state solutions and circumcision…


By Aleks Eror

Soooo, how did the Jewish Monkeys come about?

Jossi: We started when we were in our 30s, about 10 years ago, we did a cover of Harry Delafonte’s Banana Boat and we made this joke about two Jews who are quarreling with an Arab. We smashed it up with „Hava Nagila“, and we found a producer in Tel Aviv who was very fond of what we do… and the rest is history.

And why the name Jewish Monkeys?

J: I don’t know, I always thought about the Monkees in the 60s and we’re three very funny people so I said „listen, we’re the Jewish Monkees, this could be a nice band name’ and somehow Ronnie and Gael accepted this weird idea. We like politically incorrect stuff; people who are very politically correct get goose bumps when they hear our name.
Gael: Jewish Monkeys is also a way to not take ourselves too seriously.

Well, when I was doing my research I found that somewhere in the Qur’an it said that Allah transformed a certain group of Jews into apes, I thought it was a reference to that kind of humor.

J: There are also some anti-Semitic connotations to this name but it’s not connected to our decision to use it, we just happened to be Jewish.

Are you fighting anti-Semitism with humor?

J: It’s like a contradiction, it’s satire which is also what most of our lyrics are all about.

G: We’re not against anyone, we’re not militant, we’re certainly not political, we don’t refer to any attacks…
J: You’re getting very serious Gael, it’s satirical stuff… we like to be offensive in a way and we like to provoke, I always say “Woody Allen goes Klezmer-Punk”, it’s maybe too easy of a slogan but it’s very Jewish humor… it’s what you find with Woody Allen and the Marx Brothers.
Roni: I think we like to break some taboos, to slaughter some sacred cow, but I wouldn’t say it’s offensive… some people that look at it in a shallow, politically correct, American way might think that we’re offensive but there is a lot of love of man and a lot of optimism.


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