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Festival to celebrate world of Jewish music
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Festival to celebrate world of Jewish music

Local band leader aims to bring together diverse traditions

Jeffrey DiLucca, seated at the piano, and his band Shir Mishugas will perform at the first Jersey Shore Jewish music festival on Aug. 7.
Jeffrey DiLucca, seated at the piano, and his band Shir Mishugas will perform at the first Jersey Shore Jewish music festival on Aug. 7.

Jersey Shore Jewish Music was created to celebrate the diversity of the local Jewish population and foster connections between the various groups and the broader community. True to that goal, the organization’s first concert, on Wednesday, Aug. 7, will highlight Syrian-Jewish music, the klezmer of Eastern Europe, and Ladino songs.

“One People, Many Voices: Celebrating a World of Jewish Music,” sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Monmouth County, will take place at Monmouth University in West Long Branch. The program will feature Israeli and Middle Eastern singer Yohai Cohen, and the Shir Mishugas ensemble led by local musician Jeffrey DiLucca.

The honoree of the evening is New York-born Syrian cantor and music teacher Moshe Tawil, who will be recognized for his lifetime commitment and contributions to Jewish music. The cantor, now 97, has instructed and lectured on Sephardi liturgical music in the United States and Israel, and he has played a leadership role in various congregations in New York, Florida, and in the Jersey Shore area. He also founded and directed the Moe Tawil Cantorial Seminary.

DiLucca, 31, a music teacher, composer, and performer living in Middletown, is the creative mind behind the evening. Armed with an undergraduate degree from Westminster Choir College of Rider University and a master’s in scoring for film and multimedia from New York University, he has worked in a range of media and with many kinds of music.

A Modern Orthodox Jew himself, and a member of Congregation Beth Shalom in Red Bank, DiLucca established JSJM last year as a way of celebrating the mosaic of Jewish heritage in the Jersey Shore region. He hopes to do that through concerts, performance workshops, and educational programs. He also wants to promote and preserve rare and lesser known genres of Jewish music.

“I want JSJM to serve as a tool to create stronger bonds between the different facets of the Jewish community who don’t often have a reason to do things together,” DiLucca told NJ Jewish News, “and also to showcase Jewish culture through music to the Jersey Shore region at large.”

In addition to leading his band Shir Mishugas, he will sing songs composed by Turkish composer Alberto Hemsi, accompanied by Russian pianist Maxim Anikushin.

Israeli and Middle Eastern singer Yohai Cohen is the evening’s featured soloist. Backed by an Arabic music ensemble consisting of violin, oud (Middle Eastern lute), kanun (zither), and percussion instruments, he will perform pizmonim, the Syrian-Jewish song tradition that combines Hebrew liturgical poems with Arabic melodies.

The event is made possible by the Monmouth federation’s AdVenture Fund grant program, which was established with the aim of inspiring individuals, synagogues, and other organizations to create innovative programs that enrich Jewish life and engage the community.

Ariella Raviv, the federation’s director of community impact, said, “We are beyond thrilled to support such an exciting and diverse program that brings heroes of Jewish music to our backyard. We know this festival shows great promise, and we hope it blossoms into a robust and annual festival spotlighting all types of Jewish music.

“We applaud Jeff DiLucca’s diligence and vision in putting this together.”

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