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Jewish Journal

Prez by Day, Punk by Night

by Henry Benjamin

September 26, 2002 | 8:00 pm

Lawyer, lecturer, punk rocker --and executive president of an Orthodox synagogue.

Welcome to the world of Bram Presser, 26, the Melbourne, Australia-based lead singer of Yidcore, a Jewish punk rock group that specializes in Jewish and Hebrew songs.

As executive president of Melbourne's North Eastern Jewish War Memorial Centre, Presser is responsible for fiscal affairs at the synagogue, which serves 260 families.

"Not all the shul members approve of me, but they do say they like me when I am quiet," Presser said.

At the age of 19 and already into punk, Presser established the Theatre Club at the Northern Suburbs Memorial Centre. At 23 he was involved with Israeli affairs through his position on Victoria's State Zionist Council. The synagogue was a separate entity within the community center until 2001, when the two merged and Presser became executive president of the combined organization.

Yidcore recently completed its second U.S. tour, playing a month of concerts to enthusiastic audiences in New York, Chicago and Philadelphia.

The band's latest CD "Chicken Soup Caper E.P." and its first CD, "Yidcore" feature familiar Jewish songs such as "Dayenu," "Bashana Haba'ah"and "Yerushalayim Shel Zahav," together with originals "Minyan Man" and "Why Won't Adam Sandler Let Us Do His Song?"

The band's third U.S. tour, which Presser hopes will be coast-to-coast, is on the drawing board.

"We formed the band as part of an Australian Union of Jewish Students show and it was a tearaway success," Presser said.

Yidcore features three other members who also came out of Melbourne's Jewish day schools: advertising man Mikie Slonim, marketer Paul Glezer and architect Dave Orlanski.

For a punk rocker, Presser lives a clean life: He is strongly anti-drug and is a nonsmoking vegetarian. He has played in bands since he was 14, and attributes his punk skill to his Jewish background.

He also is a lecturer in law at Melbourne University, where he is preparing his criminology doctoral thesis. In the future, he hopes to arrange a concert tour of Israel for Yidcore -- even performing, if allowed, at the Kotel.

"At the end of the day, it's our way of expressing our Jewishness, and the message is getting through to a generation who would otherwise never hear it," he said.

Yidcore's music can be heard on its Web site, www.yidcore.com . -- Henry Benjamin, Jewish Telegraphic Agency

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