To put Moshav Band’s eclectic sound into words, lead vocalist Yehuda Solomon said it’s really best described as a falafel sandwich.
“You take a pita and you just throw in a lot of different things, but you get a really yummy sandwich and spice it up a little,” he laughed.
The American/Israeli rock group is heading to Philadelphia Aug. 9 for a concert at the Gershman Y benefiting Center City Orthodox shul Mekor Habracha.
Yoella Epstein, Mekor Habracha board member and board liaison for the concert, noted that all the proceeds of ticket sales will go toward the congregation.
That money will benefit general shul needs, including maintenance of the building and membership scholarships.
Hosting the band also enables the shul to spread its name to the community, she added.
Mekor Habracha’s demographic is relatively young compared to other congregations. Epstein estimated the membership’s average age is 28.
“The concert felt like a great way to attract that demographic,” she added. “It’d be another way to raise money since our dues are very, very low.”
(Students are $300 annually, $500 for single members and $900 for couples and families.)
Moshav Band also played for the synagogue in 2012 at Union Transfer, raising more than $5,000. Epstein predicts more will be raised this time.
“The shul tries to be a space that is open to its congregants, both ideologically as well as financially,” she said.
The shul’s house band, Moments of Wrong — which practices in Epstein’s basement — will open for Moshav Band. It started back in 2011, comprised of synagogue members, including Epstein’s husband, Jeremy Kriger.
The band has played every Purim and Lag B’Omer since its inception.
“It’s a great way to enhance the community feeling of our shul,” she said, “and to attract people to the various functions that an American synagogue services. It’s not just a place for people to go and pray.”
Embracing that local camaraderie even further, Bruce Taubman, president of Mekor Habracha, agreed that it is always wonderful when Moshav Band comes to perform — especially considering Solomon is his son-in-law.
He noted that they’ve already sold more than 100 tickets.
“The shul is a real community. Everybody lives in the community; we all help each other. We’ve had a lot of marriages out of the shul, a lot of births,” he said. “It’s really great.”
Moshav Band got its start during Solomon’s youth with childhood friend Duvid Swirsky, who handles vocals and guitar.
They grew up on Moshav Mevo Modiin in Israel, a settlement founded by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach in the 1970s. Known as “The Singing Rabbi,” he composed what is considered Jewish folk music today.
Carlebach introduced a style of praying, which incorporates more dancing and singing to allow the younger generation to connect more to prayer, rather than just mumbling words and getting through it. During the unconventional prayers, Solomon said the shul comes alive.
Solomon and his friends were inspired by him as kids, watching him travel the world with his music.
“The moshav is an interesting place — it’s kind of an American hippie bubble of Americans that came to Israel in the mid-’70s,” he said. His parents moved there with only one electronic device: a record player, accompanied by plenty of vinyl.
“As kids, that’s all we listened to,” he remembered, “artists like Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, that whole era.”
Into their teen years, they started writing their own music, now with Solomon’s younger brother alongside he and Swirsky.
They’d visit Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and hang out around the college campuses, specifically with American or Canadian study abroad students, as the moshav was an English-speaking place.
The group would jam out on campus, playing some of Carlebach’s tunes and some of their own original songs, which became an integral part of the college experience for these visiting students.
As their music became more familiarized, two students from Montreal returned to Israel and had the idea to raise money for the band to travel across North America and play at different college Hillels, strengthening Jewish pride and illustrating what it’s like to grow up in Israel.
The tour was successful, so much so that upon returning to Israel, calls came one after another for international gigs with other Jewish organizations.
By 1999, the five-piece band — all raised in Israel — connected with someone in the music industry who offered to spread their music to a wider audience, not just Jewish.
To date, Moshav Band has released eight records, with another set to be issued in the next couple months. They released a hit single, “World on Fire,” with Matisyahu in 2013.
“We feel so blessed that we’re able to make a living playing music,” said Solomon, who handles vocals and plays percussion, “which is the only thing we know how to do and the only thing we really love to do.”
Based on those ’70s-inspired vibes, the band composes folk/ alternative rock/ reggae music while adding in the Middle Eastern flavor they grew up with.
In high school, for instance, Solomon recalled being drawn to fellow Yemenite classmates’ music.
“We’re always trying to draw in new sounds,” added Solomon, who lives in Los Angeles with his family, “and things that sound interesting to us.”
Their mellow, nonchalant mentality is how the band got its name in the first place. As teenagers, the group didn’t have a name yet, but the American college students would just refer to them as just the band from the moshav — which means settlement — and it stuck.
Solomon said they are inspired by daily life and a constant urge to create new music.
“It’s almost like breathing,” he added. “It’s just something that’s a part of us.”
Tickets are $36 or $40 at the door. VIP tickets, which include preferred seating and a meet-and-greet with the band, are $75.
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