Hassidic girl rock band makes waves across US

Hassidic Alt-Rock band 'Bullet Proof Stockings' sets out to inspire women from all walks of life to rock out to the beat of their own drum!

Raphael Poch ,

Hassidic Women's Rock Band Bullet Proof Stockings
Hassidic Women's Rock Band Bullet Proof Stockings
Courtesy: Bullet Proof Stockings

Something new just began in the United States. Something that until yesterday, this reporter had never fathomed would come to be.

A Hassidic alternative girls rock band, which goes by the name of “Bullet Proof Stockings,” just finished their first US national tour, which came complete with sold out performances across the country, and even some home concerts in people’s living rooms.

This new trend of Hassidic women who wish to create a safe space for other women to be able to “rock out”, whether they are Jewish or not, has been picking up steam across the nation.

The morning after finishing their first national tour, ‘Bullet Proof Stockings’ shared their story with Arutz Sheva.

“What we are trying to do, is create places for women to feel safe to have fun,” said Perl Wolfe who plays the keyboard, sings leads vocals and writes for the band.

The rest of the band is comprised of Dana Pestun on the violin, Dalia Shusterman on drums and backup vocal, and Elisheva Maister on the cello.

“One woman asked shouted at us during a gig, “what is this? Goyishye rock music?” We of course answered yes!” said an excited Wolfe.  

According to Wolfe and Shusterman (a widowed mother of four), the group's music style come from a blend of different genres and influences, many of which are based on the pasts of the performers themselves. “There are some jazz elements, some pop elements, but it has a wider range of influences, and it definitely is an all out rock band.”

Wolfe said that she started writing music two years ago. “Previously I was working as a makeup artist in New York City. I grew up playing music but I never put thought to making a band. After my divorce, a spiritual channel opened up and I began writing. I found myself struggling with life and religion, as I became religious because of my husband. I moved back to Chicago with my parents, but as soon as I got there I felt I needed to go back to New York and work on music. I found herself struggling with God, but I knew that this is something that he wanted me to do.”

Wolfe said that she felt it was her calling to make a Hassidic women’s band back in NYC for women and by women. She headed back and a few months later met Shusterman. “I met someone who was making a women’s event in Crown Heights, and who invited me to play. I told her I needed a band and that I had to find other people to play with. The following week I met Dalia, who was Chabad but was very into rock music.” The two organized a jam session and it clicked.

Dalia began her career at 16. She grew up Modern Orthodox, but left her community for the world of rock music. Through a variety of experiences, she learned to become a professional drummer. After five years of being involved in the rock world, she ended up in Crown Heights for the first time, and met the man she was going to marry on the first night she was in the neighborhood. As she recalls it, “I was one foot off the tour bus, and he was one step away from finishing smicha." Through the connection that developed she came back to religion and divorced herself from the rock-n-roll world that she had been part of since adolescence.  

“I met women who were involved in music here and there, but it was never the same. My husband encouraged me to drum, as I was a drummer, and he even bought me my current set of drums.” Shusterman reflected that, “my husband and I came up with the title of the band that really embraces the joke about ultra-orthodox fashion.”

After having four children, her husband passed away. She then moved to Crown Heights, but didn’t know too many people in the community. “Someone asked me to play drums for a melave malkah and I did. Immediately afterwards I began to get phone calls all the time with requests to play drums.”

“God puts all the pieces together when you need them,” said Shusterman. Perl contacted Dalia shortly after her husband passed away, and it was clear, that this was meant to be and that the two were destined for big things together. “Were going to make it big. I have this vision of us playing in Berlin,” said Shusterman.

Two weeks after we the pair met they recorded their first single. “I was setting up drums for our first show and people were wondering what I was going to do with them. I don’t look like a typical rocker anymore. But as soon as we hit the stage and played our first song the room jumped,” Shusterman recounted.

The responses that the band has been getting have been incredibly positive.

“People said we sounded like Janice Joplin and that they hadn’t heard music like this since the 60’s.”

“We ended up connecting with a booking agent, and he jumped on board and built a tour for us. The tour included New York, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Orlando and  Fort Lauderdale, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago and Portland.”

“Our Portland tour got cancelled but we ended up doing a living room concert at our hosts, and that was pretty incredibly as well,” said Wolfe.

The group, plays only for women, but not for the reasons that one might think. “We get asked all the time why we only play for women. It is the first question we are asked. Many people think it is because of Kol Isha issues. But that isn’t true. Kol Isha is a man’s problem. They have the transgression of hearing a woman’s voice. There is no rule against a woman singing. The rule only applies to men hearing women sing. So we don’t worry about that.”

“The reason we play only for women” said Wolfe and Shusterman, “is to create a safe environment for women to connect to other women and rock out together. It is something that is looked down upon as being discriminatory and non-egalitarian. Many of the women in our audience have never been in an all women’s concert or event before. There is something very spiritual and great about women connecting with women. Other women who have never had this experience, as well as men, don’t necessarily understand. Once we perform, the women who come get it. And that has been very cool. To see women get the idea of doing things in an only women group.”

“We play for all women. Women from all walks of life come to see our shows. It is really amazing. Diverse ages and Jews as non-Jews alike.”

“Perception is important. and this is the reason why we’re doing what we are doing. The only way I was going to get back into rock and roll was with Women. I played with men, and I wasn’t into it,” said Shusterman.  

“Going out there and doing things on our terms, calling the shots and saying that this is how I’m going do it, that is the message that we want to send. That women, no matter their background can come together, rock out together, and have a great and safe time to do it. That is our message.”

Shusterman said that the group has received feedback that they are providing a positive message for young Hassidic women, that they can pursue their dreams as they see fit, without giving up on religion or giving in to a modern world that doesn’t quite understand women fully.”

“Mothers have come and told me that this has been very helpful for their daughters. One mother said that her teenage daughter was told that she can’t play drums while wearing a skirt. I told her daughter, “that’s the only way I play.”

The group has not yet been to Israel to perform, but they say that they cannot wait to get here and rock out in the Holy Land. 

The group is set to come out with their first album, 'Homeland-Call Stomp" towards the end of January.