You Should Know… Yisroel Juskowitz

Photo by David Stuck
Photo by David Stuck

If anyone deserves the title of hyphenate, it’s Yisroel Juskowitz. The 38-year-old Baltimore native is an author, painter, life coach and musician, having released two Hebrew-language albums, The Narrow Bridge and Fixing the World. On top of that, he works as a physical therapist for special needs children in Rockville, where he lives with his wife. While he’s currently working on a second book, Juskowitz talked to WJW about how he balances his time, his musical style and what inspired him to write his first book.

Your day job is a physical therapist with special needs children. How do you balance your time to pursue your other talents?

You make time for the things you’re passionate about. I find that I make time at night. And mornings like today where I start work on the later side. Right before you called I was working on a painting. It’s a studio in my basement. During my lunch break I’ll make phone calls about upcoming shows and different things. It’s definitely challenging especially now, since I have a little baby. I do shows on weekends so it doesn’t conflict with my work. I love it.

Professionally, what do you consider yourself, first and foremost?

When I’m doing it, I try to be in that zone. While I’m painting, I’m a painter. When I’m working on a new CD, I feel like that’s my strongest. The same goes for writing a book. I really try to get in a zone. In terms of my start, I was drawing since I was a little kid. The music is the most recent. I started writing songs when I got more involved in Judaism. Once melodies came to me, I felt like I had to pick up the guitar and play along.

Describe your musical style for those who don’t know your music?

People say it’s similar to Simon & Garfunkel, but it’s in Hebrew. It’s a Jewish folk style. It’s also very similar to the style of the late Shlomo Carlebach. The melodies have a lot of soul. It’s fast and slow. A cool thing about working the albums was that I used to put together concerts for a group in New York called Soulfarm. Part of that group is a guitarist who won a Grammy, C Lanzbom. I knew him before I started working on my own melodies. He charged me, obviously, but he gave me a good deal. He played on almost every song on both albums. It was a privilege to work with him. He’s phenomenal on guitar.

What’s the premise of your book, The Hidden Path, and what inspired you to write it?

Part of it was my own journey. I had a lot of struggles growing up Jewishly. There were times when I felt connected, times when I felt different. Some of it is my own thoughts, ways that reconnected me to Judaism. Ways to find more happiness and meanings in things. And some of it is just ideas I heard from great teachers and rabbis. It’s a pretty eclectic book. There’s been a wide range of people who’ve bought it. The feedback has been wonderful. It was a wonderful outpouring of my soul to get everything into writing.

As an artist, what medium do your work in?

I do a lot in pastels. The painting on my website was done in pastels. Lately I’ve been switching to oil. I’ve dabbled in calligraphy, but never really got into acrylic or watercolor.

If you ever have free time, what do you do with it?

A lot of regular, fun stuff. I have a little baby who’s now a year old, so I love going for walks and spending time with him. And I have a shih tzu named Cheesecake.

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