|Directed by:||Bonnie Burt||Rating:||TV-G|
|Release Date:||2002||Running Time:||18 mins.|
Wearing a ten-gallon hat as he recites Yiddish folk songs, Scott Gerber is an unusual sight — the Jewish cowboy with a beautiful singing voice. When he’s not ranching, he serenades audiences with his mix of Yiddish and cowboy tunes, and Song of a Jewish Cowboy combines his performances and personal history to offer an intimate look at a very original guy whose Yiddish CD can be purchased at your local feed store.
“I guess it is kind of funny to see,” Gerber says of his performances, “The way I dress, I guess I look like I should be doing some Hank Williams song, and then I come out with some Jewish folk songs.”
With his broad shoulders, callused hands, and sun-beaten skin, Gerber runs his ranch on the rolling plains of Sonoma Country. Watching over his ranch with a commanding stature, his love for the land is equal to his respect for the Jewish heritage that his mother and grandmother instilled in him. So when he sings and plays his acoustic guitar at dive bars and small venues, his lyrics aren’t only about heartaches and trucks. He also sings half of his set in Yiddish, remembering the Jewish culture with which he was raised. Song of a Jewish Cowboy shows how Scott blends Judaism with his cowboy lifestyle, feeling equally connected to both.
Gerber’s parents were socialist chicken ranchers who moved to Petaluma County, California to mix their sweat with the soil and create for themselves a simpler, purer way of life. Scott also went into chicken ranching for a while and then dabbled in sheep shearing. But for as long as he can remember, he’s been wearing a cowboy hat, and his dream has always been to live as a cowboy — to herd cattle and survey his acreage from on top of his horse.
Gerber didn’t realize that Judaism was a religion until he was a teenager. To that point, he’d only understood what his socialist parents had instilled in him: that Judaism was a cultural mindset. To be a Jew was to be a slave in Egypt and a middle-class worker in America. A Jew, as he understood it, felt connected to the land and believed in socialist values. For him, it makes perfect sense that he’s a Jew and a cowboy. “I’m involved in agriculture, just as my fore-bearers were,” Gerber explains, “I feel really proud to work the land as a Jew.”
But when other people meet the Jewish cowboy, they’re often shocked. “I was just fiddling around with my lasso rope, jumping in and out of it, popping it over my head — I didn’t know anybody was watching,” he recalls, continuing, “then some old guy says to me, ‘What are you? A Mexican?’ I said, ‘No, I’m a Jew,’ and he said, ‘The hell you are — ain’t no Jew who can handle a rope like that.’”
The lighthearted documentary shows off Gerber’s Jewish sense of humor. While explaining his routine and chores on the ranch, Gerber mentions that one of the things he has to do is castrate calves. “I kid around and say I’m the mohel for these calves.”
As far as his music goes, Gerber’s still starting off and struggling to be heard and recognized. When asked where his CD could be bought, Scott replied, in all seriousness, “Oh mostly local feed stores.” He certainly has an original, marketable niche, but it’s only in small venues that songs such as “Bin Ick Mir Shneideril” (I am a tailor) can be heard, for now.
Ultimately, Song of a Jewish Cowboy reveals how limiting stereotypes can be. No one fits completely into a mold, but it’s common for people to try. Gerber’s not trying to prove anything or please anyone by living as just a Jew or just a cowboy; he’s simply living his life as he sees fit.
Which isn’t to say that striking such a unique chord isn’t without its consequences. Being such a singular individual, Gerber’s been having trouble finding that special someone. Yes, this kindhearted, striking Jewish gentleman is looking for a wife. He’s seen a matchmaker, and his picture is out there. There must be a nice Jewish girl somewhere whose heart is aching for a hardworking cowboy who can head home from the ranch to serenade his love with a Western rendition of “Bei Mir Bist Du Shein.”