If you’ve been reading my Twitter updates these last few days you are probably either wondering who the hell Jaron is or what the hell Jaron and I are talking about. Well, I am here to explain all! Last week, Jane wrote a blog post which was ostensibly a letter to a country artist called Jaron and the Long Road to Love (try saying that ten times fast!) but was really a justifiable complaint about how lots of Christians use Jesus as an excuse to hate. Jaron and the Unwieldy Title of Band played the central role because they have a new record called “Pray For You” which is about wishing lots of bad things on your ex with a sort of churchy motif. You can read the lyrics in that post, I won’t reproduce them.
Now, I’ll get a couple of things out of the way here. While I reeeeally loathe those “Lord, I pray you take Obama in all caps” status messages on Facebook, the ones from my “friends” were all by Jews. Statistically, that’s about right since two thirds or more of my Facebook friends are Jewish. So I didn’t think of that as a particularly Christian thing. And OK, I’ll flat out admit it, as a Yid, people saying they are God-fearing Christians and yet not acting Jesusy has never been a particular concern of mine. I guess I’m just self-policing. I’ll let the Goyim handle that one, because I really couldn’t tell you what’s Jesusy or not.
No, in actuality, the thing that inflamed me most about the post was not hypocritical Christians at all but the fact that Jaron is Jewish. So the stuff about his church and his preacher and his Jesus, well, he doesn’t really have any of those. Or he’s not supposed to, one would think. For me, the issue wasn’t that a Christian wrote a hateful song; it was that he wasn’t a Christian at all! So why should I care that one Jewish guy wrote a song from a Christian point of view? Why was the central question in my mind, “what happened to Jaron????” This is the background.
A long time ago, Jaron and his twin brother had a band called, creatively, Evan and Jaron. If you are a religious Jew, that’s really the end of the explanation. For the rest of the world, they had a hit called “Crazy For This Girl.” But even before they had that hit, they were our band. When I was little, like most music-crazed kids, I wanted to be a rock star. Or marry a rock star. But it never occurred to me that that could ever happen because I was an Orthodox Jew and rock stars played shows on Friday nights and had TV appearances on Saturdays and traveled around to places with no Kosher food. More importantly, there just weren’t any, so you knew it wasn’t possible. Then we had Evan and Jaron who were Kosher and didn’t play shows on Shabbat. And I knew this earlier than most people because I worked at their first label (the one before the hit… but we did try hard).
And here’s the part where I take it really personally. When we were working Evan and Jaron, I think the person most excited about them in the whole entire world was my mother. Although not really a t-shirt person, she loved the “got shabbos?” tee we made to market them. She adored the list I showed her of Kosher restaurants staffers were given so they could take E&J out in any town. She was thrilled that the kids had a role model. I’m sort of glad she never got to hear Pray For You. I don’t think if she were alive I’d even tell her.
So I really, really wanted to know what happened to Jaron. Wikipedia has just a sentence about the new band (which is just Jaron, I think) and skips right from Evan and Jaron to that. I felt like there was a yawning gap there that needed to be addressed. The person who is always in the know about these things is Pious B, so I wrote her. She wasn’t sure but thought it was doubtful that he was no longer Jewish and that it was all just a reinvention. But it still bothered me so I called someone I know at his new label and this person said, “are you sure it’s the same guy?” I guess the Evan & Jaron backstory is not a huge piece of the marketing plan. Intriguing. I reported back to Pi to tell her I was still investigating, and she said, “I will be checking for a Jaron post. He may be a Jewish traitor but he’s still a hot bitch.” Indeed.
Later that day, I received this cryptic message:
From: Pious B
Subject: Add to Twitter
Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile
But I did not want to follow Jaron on Twitter. And yet… so I answered, “Oh, I don’t think so. But I’ll ask him if he’s still a yid.” Pi said, “I think he’s a MOT in name only. I always got the impression that the Evan portion of the duo was the religiously committed one, but you would know better than I.”
So I sent my own letter to Jaron, via Twitter. I asked him if he was still a practicing Jew. Now, I don’t for one minute think that account is actually Jaron. I assume it’s one of Jaron’s marketing people as it’s mostly retweets of people saying they like the song. And, in fact, after waiting a day and remarking that I still had no answer to my question, I finally got, “what question? Thanks for loving the song.” Well, I never said I loved the song and in fact I’ve never actually heard the song and don’t expect to. But I asked again. I said, “what’s a nice Jewish guy doing singing about church & preachers? Are you still a practicing Jew?” That was about as deep as I could get in 140 characters.
Finally, he answered.
I’d like to state, first and foremost, that Pi nailed it, as usual. Also, that whatever I think about Jaron’s decision to reinvent himself for the Country market, I respect this answer and the fact that he even answered at all. I’m not as religious as I was in 1998 either and would find it hard to respond to that in public, in fewer than 140 characters, and with a sense of humor. With regards to that reinvention, when I worked in the record store, for seven Christmases I had to listen to weeks of holiday music and a good portion of it was Jews singing Christmas songs. A Jew, as we all know, wrote White Christmas. I used to joke that I was going to put together a collection of these numbers and call it, “Shalom, it’s Christmas!” Let’s face it, it’s hard to make a living just marketing to MOT’s. But as I told Pi, I just wanted to know whether Jaron was doing a “Barbara Streisand sings Silent Night” thing or if it was a “Bob Dylan plays for Jesus’ team now” deal. Because it deeply matters to me and, I suspect, to a lot of girls who used to go to Evan and Jaron concerts in modest outfits.
The interesting thing, though, is that, as I said, I couldn’t tell you whether “Pray For You” is in the spirit of Jesus or not; that’s not my department. What I can say is that it’s actually a Jewish theme to wish these sorts of things on your enemies. Things like, “may you grow like an onion with your head in the ground.” Here it is on a cross stitch on Etsy. And here’s a list of some other traditional Yiddish curses. So it’s actually sort of a Mosesey thing. I once saw a documentary where someone said, “Christians never dreamed of white Christmases until Irving Berlin told them they should.” I’m truly happy to hear that Jaron still identifies as a Jew but maybe the Yiddish curses don’t translate as well. Still, I wish him well and much success on the new venture. And don’t forget, shuls rhymes with lulz. You can keep that one.
For those on Jesus’ team, MOT = member of the tribe = Jewish
Evan And Jaron – Crazy For This Girl