Imagine a group of Israeli teenagers sitting around on a farm between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, jamming out to American musicians of the generation before them such as Bob Dylan and Neil Young.
That was exactly where Yehuda Solomon, Duvid Swirsky and the founding members of the Israeli-American folk band Moshav found themselves in 1995.
“My brothers and my friends would just sit around listening to music from the ’60s and ’70s,” Solomon said.
Solomon and his friends grew up on the moshav Mevo Modi’im and learned the fundamentals of songwriting from the late Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, who founded it in 1976. Many Americans making aliyah began to settle there and formed a community of musicians, artists and farmers. Swirsky said the nontraditional living situation provided them with a perfect environment for making music.
“We grew up in a place where there were no TVs, so there were very few distractions,” he said.
My brothers and my friends would just sit around listening to music from the ’60s and ’70s
“[Songs of the ’60s and ’70s] were definitely some of our influences in creating our own folk-rock in terms of writing,” he said. “Everything that sounds great we kind of blend it together. It’s like folk-rock but with a lot of Middle Eastern influences. We draw from the sources of our Jewish heritage, and then we write our own lyrics.”
Swirsky said Moshav is flexible when it comes to what they play.
“We don’t have a box where we have to play this or we have to play that,” he said.
Moshav has peformed at weddings, camps and universities, and they have even gone on tour with Matisyahu. They have recorded eight albums and performed for 10,000 people two years ago on a soccer field in South Africa.
“I was blown away at how many of them knew our music and came out,” he said.
The performance headlined the International Shabbos Project — an effort started by Rabbi Warren Goldstein to bring Jews together from around the world during one Shabbat out of the year.
This year, the second annual Baltimore Shabbat Project is Oct. 21 and features a magic show at the Gordon Center for Performing Arts and concludes with Moshav’s outdoor performance at the “One People One Heart” concert on the grounds of the Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC on Saturday, Oct. 24 at 8 p.m.
Solomon said Baltimore was one of the first cities they signed a contract with, and they are excited to participate in the project.
“I think it’s an amazing thing,” he said. “It’s a great idea uniting Jews from every walk of life to celebrate Shabbat together.”
Moshav will also lead services at Beth Tfiloh Congregation on Oct. 23 and at Ner Tamid on Oct. 24.
Nisa Felps, a project manager for the Baltimore Shabbat Project, said the unity is the goal of the event, and they are hoping for a turnout of 50,000 people during the four days.
“It’s about respecting, honoring and dignifying every single Jew,” she said. “It’s bringing Jews together from all backgrounds to celebrate one Shabbat.”
Felps is excited for Moshav’s concert. “They’re a pretty big band in the Jewish world,” she said. “They’re really cool and talented and span the denominations.”
Swirsky said he thinks the Shabbat Project will create an atmosphere full of enthusiasm, which is the ideal setting for a performance.
“I think any situation that gathers people in a very real way is positive for us as a band,” he said. “And the connection to one’s roots is a very important thing for us, with singing and dancing.”