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Why is Woodstock a Jewish Story ?


The story of Woodstock has may Jewish influences.  Start with the organizers. Woodstock

Ventures,  two Jewish guys from Brooklyn, Michael Lang and  Artie Kornfeld and their two Jewish backers, Joel Rosenman and John Roberts (1945-2001).  

Next, add the very iconic advertising poster: " Woodstock Music and Art Fair;

An Aquarian Exposition/ 3 Days of Peace and Music." ,   This  poster, designed by

Jewish artist  Arnold Skolnik, features the  now-famous drawing of a dove perched on the neck of a guitar.

Though the festival was called Woodstock, it never happened there.  A site was

found in Wallkill but mounting pressures in that town left Woodstock Ventures

without a festival site just weeks  before the event.  The hero of this story is

Jewish dairy farmer Max Yasgur.  In July 1969, Max agreed to allow the

Woodstock festival to take place on his farm in Bethel (Bethel means house of God). It is important to note that Yasgur, a republican, did not oppose the war or encourage dropping out. He did feel the sting of antisemitism in Sullivan County as well as the wounds of Hitler's war and felt that everyone, even teenagers and hippies deserved the freedom to express themselves peacefully.  Max did not appreciate discrimination,

It is well known that there were problems at the festival, plagued by traffic, rain, mud and shortages of everything including food. Desperate pleas for more food went out to local organizations.  The task was daunting as most roads were like parking lots.  The people of Bethel and  the members of the Monticello Jewish Community Center made and sent thousands of sandwiches.


Woodstock was about the music and "the tribe" is well represented there as well. 

Barry "the fish" MeltonLeslie West, Robbie RobertsonMickey Hart, Arlo Guthrie, members of Sha Na Na and Jefferson Airplane......Blood, Sweat and Tears was comprised of Al Kooper, Blues Project guitarist

Steve Katz, and four other Jewish musicians:

Bobby Colomby , Randy Brecker, 

Jerry Weiss and Fred Lipsuis. These  were just

some of the Jews who rocked Woodstock.



In 1958, Leslie Weinstein received a guitar as a Bar

Mitzvah  present. Almost ten years later as Leslie   

West, he formed the band  Mountain .

In 2003, Country Joe and the Fish's  drummer Gary

Hirsch told rock biographer Scott Benarde that he’d always thought of the group as a Jewish band. Actually, with a Jewish drummer, a Jewish keyboardist, half-Jewish guitarists, and a bass player whose maternal grandmother was a Jew, the band is officially only 65% Jewish.  

Jefferson Airplane played Grossinger's Hotel about a year before Woodstock .   Jorma Kaukonen said that he thought about his maternal grandmother, already   deceased, when he played Grossinger's.  He thought to himself that his Bubbie 

would have enjoyed the hotel.     (Nate Bloom, New Jersey Jewish Standard)


Today, Alan  Cooper’s students at Jewish Theological Seminary seem to know he was Sha Na Na’s lead singer at Woodstock. They easily spot him in the film Woodstock doing the twist in the gold vest and shades to “At the Hop”.  It was minutes before Jimi Hendrix would close the festival with his now classic Star Spangled Banner.

The Museum at Bethel Woods tells the story of Woodstock on the site

of Yasgur's Farm.  A monument by the road commemorates the festival.



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