“I knew I wanted to become a rabbi. I wanted to sing and dance and pray, to engage people in this search for truth. But I pushed the thought away. A deaf rabbi?”
Darby Jared Leigh, born profoundly deaf, won acclaim as an actor and musical performer. Yet he thought he could never become a rabbi—until he found RRC. Today, as the new rabbi of Kerem Shalom in Concord, Massachusetts, he has become the second deaf person ever to lead a congregation that is not comprised of hearing-impaired members.
Finding Torah in the Music of Twisted Sister
Growing up Deaf in the mainstream means that one lives a minority experience. Some people might say that that being Jewish in North America also constitutes a minority experience. The heavy metal and punk music genres of the late 1970s and early to mid1980s often spoke to confusion, rage and alienation—feelings that sometimes emerge from the experience of being “different.”
The band Twisted Sister, in particular, had a significant impact on my youth and development because in addition to speaking to alienation, the band expressed support for non-conformity and pride in being who you are. As an adolescent growing up in New York City, I found that the lyrics of Twisted Sister songs were my Torah.
It doesn't matter what the others think,
what counts is do you like you?
You think you're drownin' but you'll never sink
just do what you wanna do.
—From Lookin' Out for Number 1
PS: Let’s not over-analyze it; after all it’s only rock and roll.
Rabbi Darby Jared Leigh, reflecting on his connection to heavy metal music.