Book: Jews Rock! A Celebration of Rock and Roll’s Jewish Heritage

Cleveland Jewish News
Jewish twist to rock and rollers
Photojournalist Janet Macoska captured Jewish stars in Jews Rock.
By Arlene Fine
Senior Staff Reporter
Published: Friday, November 21, 2008 1:18 AM EST

Everyone knows that Neil Diamond, Bob Dylan, Barry Manilow, Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel, Billy Joel and Bette Midler are Jewish rock and rollers. But how about Paula Abdul, Mick Jones of Clash, Paul Stanley of Kiss, Geddy Lee of Rush, Susannah Hoffs of The Bangles, and David Lee Roth of Van Halen?

All these artists are among the 69 Jewish performers featured in Jews Rock! A Celebration of Rock and Roll’s Jewish Heritage, a stunning 128-page coffee-table book complied by Cleveland photojournalist Janet Macoska, with a foreword by former Shaker Heights resident Rabbi Brian Leiken.

Fellow Jews Macoska and Leiken will share their love of rock and roll as an art form and a medium for Jewish expression at a book signing at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage on Fri., Nov. 28.

“I was born in love with rock and roll,” says Macoska. “When I was 5, I was totally infatuated with Ricky Nelson.”

Her passion for rock and roll, combined with her natural ability as a photographer, led Macoska to become a welcome, pre-teen fixture at radio station WKYC. Her first published photo was of Sonny and Cher in “Teen Screen,” when she was just 13.

“I was lucky to live in Cleveland, the home of rock and roll,” says Macoska, 54. For the past 34 years, Macoska was been hired by leading publications and news outlets to take pictures of every renowned rock star. “And not surprisingly, so many of the greats are Jewish,” she says.

A year ago, Cleveland businessman Brad Pryner suggested Macoska compile her photographs of Jewish rock stars for a book and a traveling exhibit. “A mega-watt light bulb exploded over my head,” she says. “This was a fabulous idea waiting to happen.”

Within a year, Macoska had published Jews Rock! The book displays Macoska’s photographs and visually tells the story of the Jewish contribution to the evolution of rock and roll music.

While compiling her book, Macoska learned that Rabbi Leiken of Temple Shalom in Norwalk, Conn., was teaching his congregation about the connection between Judaism and rock and roll music. She liked his message and asked him to write the forward and become the book’s “Jewish voice.”

“Rock and roll is the latest medium for Jews to explore just what it means to be Jewish,” writes Leiken. “The revolutionary thinking of the sages that led to the creation of normative Judaism and the fusion of musical genres that led to rock and roll were successful social movements that allowed their audiences to become active participants in a dialogue about life.”

The back of the book contains a fact sheet about the performers. Along with birthdates, Macoska includes their original names. Bob Dylan (né Robert Allen Zimmerman); Janis Ian (née Janis Eddy Fink); Kenny G (né Kenneth Gorelick); Barry Manilow (né Barry Alan Pincus); Matisyahu (né Matthew Paul Miller).

“The book and the upcoming “Jews Rock!” exhibit pay homage to the artists, concert promoters, and song writers who created America’s music ”“ rock and roll,” says Macoska. “And at the forefront of this musical genre is outstanding Jewish talent. Jews really do rock!”

WHAT: Jews Rock! book signing

WHEN: Fri., Nov. 28, 2-3:30

WHERE: Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage

Contact: 216-593-0575 or

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