Can rock music help inspire someone to become a rabbi? For Moses Montefiore Anshe Emunah Congregation Rabbi Yerachmiel Shapiro, the answer is “yes,” especially when it comes to the American/Israeli rock group Moshav.
Moshav is coming to MMAE for a performance on Aug. 16. The performance will be MMAE’s first major indoor event, aside from prayer services, since the start of the pandemic, Shapiro said.
“They are really the first generation of modern Jewish rock music,” said Shapiro, a resident of Pikesville. “They certainly have roots in the great Jewish musicians of the 1970s and ‘80s, but they took Jewish rock music to a new level of popularity, as well as touching on other musical styles.”
Depending on the weather, the live, in-person performance may take place outside of the shul, Shapiro said. The synagogue hopes that at least 200 people attend. All attendees will be required to wear a mask. Anyone not vaccinated will be required to wear a mask.
While the concert is free, all attendees will need to make a donation of any size to “the rabbi’s charity fund,” Shapiro said.
Founded in 1995, Moshav has brought Jewish music into genres such as alternative rock, reggae, funk and bluegrass.
Shapiro has been a fan of Moshav since his high school days, finding spirituality in their music, which influenced his path to becoming a Jewish spiritual leader.
“Typically, you think of religion being somewhat of a nerdy, or not cool, pursuit, but this kind of music was of the highest quality, making Judaism and spirituality fun and cool,” Shapiro said.
The band is led by Yehuda Solomon and Duvid Swirsky, Shapiro said. The pair of childhood friends grew up in the Israeli community of Moshav Mevo Modiin, the band’s website said. The community was founded by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach in the 1970s, according to a 2017 article by the Jewish Exponent. Known as “The Singing Rabbi,” Carlebach is credited with composing today’s Jewish folk music.
“Whenever I listen to [Moshav’s] music, it makes me feel like I’m back in Israel,” Shapiro said. “It has the spirit of Israel in their music.”
Moshav has actually performed at MMAE in the past, Shapiro said. Their popularity with the congregation is part of why the shul keeps inviting them to perform, he said.
“It has the potential to connect people to Judaism, and so that’s why I keep on bringing them back, because everybody needs a hook to Judaism, and for some, their soul is going to have a musical hook,” Shapiro said.
Solomon contacted Shapiro in late June, asking whether the congregation might be ready soon to schedule a new concert, Shapiro said. “I was ready to have a concert yesterday,” Shapiro responded.
During the pandemic, no one has contracted COVID-19 during any of MMAE’s programs, something the synagogue is quite proud of, Shapiro said.
“At the same time, we really believe that it’s our job to guide our congregants, and really the greater community, back towards the beginning of a normal life again,” Shapiro said.
Shapiro hopes attendees come away from the concert uplifted, with a greater sense of normalcy and ready for the High Holidays, he said.
“I’d like, also, [for] people to have a sense of communal unity, that you’re going to see Orthodox people, Conservative people, Reform and really people from all backgrounds of Judaism together,” Shapiro said.
“My pastime is music in general,” Shapiro said. “I love live music. And so in my role as rabbi, one of my passions is to bring good Jewish music to Baltimore and really to get the whole community dancing together.”
8/6/21 10:20 a.m. Update: this story was updated to new information. While a mask-optional section of the audience had previously been part of the plan, all attendees will now be required to wear masks due to the Delta variant of COVID-19. Also, while the event had been planned to be indoors, it may now be held outdoors depending on weather.