Yona Openden believes that Jewish music has the power to connect young Jews with their cultural heritage.
“All music is powerful,” said Openden, who is co-chairing the July 3 Jewish Roots Music Festival being organized by Shoresh, a Jewish outreach organization, at its Adamstown campus. “Jewish music specifically can really provide a spiritual experience at the same time. And I think that it’s important to expose the next generation to this concept that there’s just wonderful, beautiful music out there that can really connect them to their roots.”
Rabbi David Finkelstein, executive director of Shoresh, calls it a “kosher Woodstock. It’s songs with Jewish messages,” he said.
The musicians scheduled to perform include Moshav Band, Lenny Solomon of Shlock Rock, Pinny Schachter, Diaspora Yeshiva Band and Joey Newcomb, who Finkelstein said had “taken the Jewish world by storm.”
“It’ll be all kinds of Jewish styles, and some are in English and some are in Hebrew and who knows if there’s even going to be one in another language,” said Finkelstein.
“You’re talking about world-famous acts who are at the front and foremost stages of fantastic Jewish music,” said Finkelstein. “You’re talking about legendary performers who have brought so much to the Jewish world in having a love and appreciation for Jewish music.”
“It’s going to be a spectacular day of great music and excitement,” said MollyBeth Rushfield, the director of Junior Shoresh and a resident of Rockville.
Openden added that it also serves as an opportunity to bring people back together after the social distancing of the pandemic.
“The idea was really to bring everybody together,” said Openden. “Obviously after COVID, it’s been a long dry spell of opportunities to interact. So we thought it would be a great idea to bring people around the … Jewish music theme.”
Rushfield, a member of Congregation Har Shalom, expressed a similar sentiment, saying that people have been “split apart for so long, and now to be brought together with our joined love of Jewish music, it sounds like a dream.”
Finkelstein said he hopes “to welcome many people from the Washington community, as half of the children [who] attend our program come from the Washington community.”
Among its programs, Shoresh operates a day camp. “One of the special things about Camp Shoresh is that there’s almost always music playing on the camp grounds,” said Rushfield. “So whenever I think of Camp Shoresh I just think of Jewish music, so I’m excited to hear it in person and live.”
The festival also serves as a fundraiser, and can be viewed as a more elaborate iteration of the barbecue fundraiser Shoresh has held in the past.
“We decided that we wanted to make the fundraiser a little bit more extravagant this year,” said Finkelstein. “And just to have this real festival kind of feel to it.”
Funds raised at the festival will go toward Shoresh’s scholarship fund, Finkelstein said, which is used for financial assistance to families looking to send their children to Shoresh.
Children’s activities at the festival will include pony rides, a petting zoo, face painting, moon bounces and art projects, said Finkelstein. Food will also be available for purchase.
During the festival, a VIP event will be held in Shoresh’s diner, featuring social media personality and underground chef CW Silverberg, said Finkelstein.
Just in time for the Fourth of July, the festival will end with fireworks.
“I hope that [attendees] walk away with an enjoyable experience, but also an understanding of how inspirational and enjoyable Jewish music is and can be,” said Openden.