‘If you can breathe, you can sing,” said Noah Aronson, one of the hottest personalities on the Jewish music scene. Every one of his performances offers opportunities for communal singing, the 33-year-old singer/songwriter told NJJN in a phone interview.
“I feel it is my job to get people singing,” he said. “Singing stirs the spirit and allows you to connect with parts of yourself that cannot be reached by speaking alone. My goal is to tap into the power of collective energy and elevate the moment.”
The community will see this force in action on Sunday, April 30, when Aronson appears as featured artist at Congregation Neve Shalom’s annual Susy Schwartz Memorial Concert. The program honors the memory of a former congregant who died in 1990 in her early 40s. She’s described by those who knew her as upbeat and passionate about both music and Israel; the yearly concert, now in its 27th year, supports Neve Shalom’s “Passport to Israel” program which helps fund educational travel to Israel for the Metuchen synagogue’s students.
“The concert series has made it possible for well over 125 youngsters to make the trip,” said event chair Rena Kallman. At the same time, it has hosted a who’s who of Jewish musical artists, including: the late Debbie Friedman (the only one to appear twice), Craig Taubman, Doug Cotler, Sam Glaser, Six13, David Broza, Kol B’Seder, Josh Nelson, and Neshama Carlebach.
Aronson, son of Cantor Ted Aronson, who served for 45 years at Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel in South Orange, sees himself as a “hybrid’ — performer, composer, teacher, and spiritual leader — all wrapped up in a single body. “I don’t think I’d be happy if I had to confine myself to just one of those roles,” he said. “I never perform a concert without infusing some teaching, nor do I do a concert without allowing moments of prayer and reflection.”
Aronson is chair of the faculty of Hava Nashira, an annual song-leading and music workshop sponsored by the Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute, an affiliate of the Union for Reform Judaism.
Aronson said he believes strongly that music should be an effective bridge between people of different cultures.
“I grew up in an atypical Jewish home,” he said. “My father’s work was in South Orange, but my mother was born and raised in Haiti, where her family settled after leaving Egypt and Syria. Her roots are Sephardic Orthodox and my father is an Ashkenazi Reform cantor. So, of course, they sent me to a Solomon Schechter Day School, which was affiliated with the Conservative movement. I may be the only Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, Ashke-Sephardic, Haitian-American musician in the world!”
In Metuchen, Aronson will be accompanied by a band of Israeli musicians, all of whom were his classmates at Berklee College of Music in Boston. The concert also will feature performances by students from Neve Shalom’s Hebrew School, as well as from other Hebrew schools in central New Jersey.
Cantor Sheldon Levin of Neve Shalom who will conduct these selections, said the students’ presence this year is especially relevant, since Neve Shalom’s fourth graders started using a new interactive, video-based curriculum — “Hebrew in Harmony” — in which Aronson hosts each section. “We’re fortunate to be able to present as fine a talent as Noah, one who projects a great sense of love and respect for the text,” Levin said.
Created by Eliana Light, and distributed by Behrman House, the nation’s largest distributor of Jewish educational materials, the curriculum is intended to connect students to prayer through music.