Nefesh Mountain is described as the place where American bluegrass and old-time music meet with Jewish heritage and tradition.
Singer Doni Zasloff with her husband, Eric Lindberg, a guitarist, banjo player and composer, are performing with their band at Tikvat Israel Congregation’s annual Cantor’s Concert on March 19.
The evening promises to be an exploration of Jewish music “which has always been an important part of our community,” said Aaron Chusid, executive director of the Conservative synagogue.
The family-friendly performance will be especially meaningful to Zasloff who became a bat mitzvah in 1987 at the synagogue before the family moved to Philadelphia. Her parents are Michael and Barbara Zasloff and her tutor was Jim Perlmutter, a longtime synagogue volunteer.
“It’s very special, a reunion for me,” Doni Zasloff said. “I haven’t been back there in a long time and I realize that so much of my inspiration in my Jewish life has come from that place. So I’m very excited to come back.”
Zasloff earned a degree in musical theater from Brandeis University. She began writing her own songs while teaching at her daughter’s synagogue preschool. She formed the Mama Doni Band, which won the Simcha Award at the 2008 International Jewish Music Festival for her children’s music.
Lindberg grew up in Brooklyn, but often visited his father’s family in Georgia, where he developed an appreciation for bluegrass music. He has a degree in jazz performance from Rutgers University.
The couple formed Nefesh Mountain in 2015. “We’re American and we’re Jewish and that’s the truth of our music,” Zasloff said. “We’re grateful to have people of all ages and backgrounds be connected to what we’re doing.”
Nefesh Mountain calls itself “a newgrass band with influences from bluegrass, old-time, Celtic and jazz. “Every musician is one of a kind so there’s no roadmap for what we’re doing,” Zasloff said. “It’s very different. We did it out of trying to be true to ourselves.” ■
Ellen Braunstein is a freelance writer.