2.07.2006

What Could Possibly Be Worse Than Christian 'Rock'?
Oy Vey! Jewish Rock!

Even Sh'siyah’s 'Foundation' Is Torah and Rock ‘n Roll

from Chicago Jewish Community Online

In the final song on Even Sh’siyah’s new album, Wake Up, Ely Cooper writes, Singing with all those souls/Filling the room with praise/To the One who lives on high/The spirit in me was raised. Though Cooper says "Falling by the Wayside" is dedicated to Reb Shlomo Carlbach, the line aptly describes the Chicago band’s mission: to draw people to Judaism through music.

"Music is a very potent instrument of influence," says Cooper, who first learned to play guitar from Reb Shlomo when he would visit Chicago. Mitch Jacoby, the band’s other lead guitarist, adds, "We want to show unaffiliated Jews that it's possible to be normal, listen to rock music, and be Orthodox."

But perhaps more than raising the spirits of their listeners, Even Sh’siyah’s music uplifts the souls of its musicians. Their music is about blending the rock ‘n roll of their youth with their Judaism.

David Margulis, bass player for the band, adds that when the band members were young, there was no Jewish music other than klezmer and cantorial. The Diaspora Yeshiva Band was the first band to play Jewish music with rock in the late ‘70s I was 17, and this was revolutionary to me, he says.

It’s appropriate then, that a Diaspora Yeshiva Band concert in Chicago was the birthplace of Even Sh’siyah. Rabbi Elisha Prero, an attorney and rabbi for Young Israel of West Rogers Park, ran into Margulis at the concert. Prero was so excited that the next day he approached Margulis about starting a band.

It was Chanukah, and he planned on playing a concert together at Purim. The next thing he said was, ‘I have to find my guitar,’ and I’m thinking, ‘Oh no, what did I get myself into?’ says Margulis.

Their first concert went well, and Even Sh’siyah, whose name refers to the foundation stone, a primordial stone from which tradition says the entire world came into being, evolved from there.

Even Sh’siyah’s music, which critics have compared to the Allman Brothers Band and the Grateful Dead, attracts audiences of all ages and backgrounds. “We once played a concert at Spertus, and most of the audience came in with walkers. So we turned down the volume, and they were really receptive," says Margulis.

"Young people relate to us too…We have jam solos, and people like seeing music written on stage. Of course–we look like their parents."

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