On the fourth night of Hanukka, Temple Rodeph Torah in Marlboro will “rock the house,” transforming erev Shabbat services into an interactive musical experience, the sanctuary illuminated by hundreds of candles on a multitude of menoras.
Led by popular New Jersey singer, guitarist, songwriter, and music teacher Eric Komar, TRT’s Rock Shabbat will kick off at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 23, as soon as each participating family lights their own menoras brought from home. The temple’s monthly musical prayer service is open to the public; the Hanukka service marks the fourth Rock Shabbat at the Reform temple.
“The idea for Rock Shabbat is to infuse a feeling of enthusiasm and spirit for Jewish worship by using rock-style music,” Komar told NJJN.
TRT’s Cantor Joanna Alexander evidently believes it does just that. “It’s hard to put into words how amazing and invigorating the Rock Shabbat service is,” she said. “Our biggest problem is fitting everyone in the room. We work very closely with Eric to meld his music with the music our congregants already know, to create a musical service where we sing our prayers to God.”
Rock Shabbat also poses a dexterity challenge to members young and old. “We have to figure out how to be on our feet, clapping, singing, and dancing while juggling a prayer book. It’s absolutely energizing,” Alexander said. TRT, which has about 350 families, is headed by religious leader Rabbi Donald Weber.
Komar, who lives in Hillsborough with his wife and two children, will perform on electric guitar, accompanied by a rock band made up of TRT members, including a bass guitarist and a professional drummer. Komar will perform original compositions in English and Hebrew, as well as selections by cantor/composer Jeff Klepper and the late singer/songwriter Debbie Friedman.
Komar’s new CD, Ripples, was released this fall, joining Notes from the Underground and Two Life. He performs at synagogues, JCCs, and Hillels nationwide and has appeared at Center for Advancement of Jewish Education gatherings and Union for Reform Judaism conventions. He teaches music at Temple Beth-El in Hillsborough, Congregation Kehilat Shalom in Belle Mead, and at the Mountain Top Preschool at Temple Har Shalom in Warren.
Rock Shabbat transforms an ordinary Friday night service into something extraordinary, said TRT member Glenn Fuchs of Brick Township. A performer in his own right, Fuchs (aka Kid Kosher) has recorded two Jewish rap albums. “There is an incredible amount of energy in the sanctuary during Rock Shabbat,” he said, “and it stays with you even after the music stops playing.”