By Jonathan Benedek/TPS
Jerusalem (TPS) – A popular Hasidic hipster musical band based out of New York, known as “Zusha,” performed in Jerusalem’s Yellow Submarine music center this weekend. As it does in all of its performances, Zusha sought to inspire and elevate the Jerusalem audience through its Carlebach-style music.
“What we’re trying to do with our music is to gather people together and bring them back to Israel. Even if our listeners are not in Israel, we try to elevate them to Israel,” Shlomo Galsin of Zusha told Tazpit Press Service (TPS).
For Shlomo and the other two members of his band, Elisha Mlotek and Zechariah Goldschmiedt, “Israel” is more than just a geographic location or the name of a country, but a state of elevation through music.
“Whether you are religious or not, everyone needs to elevate themselves from one level to the next and music is a wonderful medium to do that,” explained Shlomo. “This was essential to the [Jewish] Temple, and if it was essential to the Temple, which was the epicenter of Israel, then it is what Israel is all about.”
In particular, Zusha’s mission is to elevate people to a higher level of unity and interconnection with one another. “That’s the goal of the music, to make our niggunim (hymns, melodies) accessible and relatable to everybody,” Elisha elaborated to TPS.
The “niggunim” referred to by Elisha, are the wordless melodies that automatically transcend language barriers and are therefore used by Zusha to unify people from all different backgrounds.
“Not using words really unites a room full of people that don’t speak to each other or know each other, and may even disagree with each other” said Zechariah Goldschmiedt to TPS. “Part of our mission is to bring people together that normally don’t agree with each other and one of the ways to do that is to just not say anything at all, and instead, use your pure voice before opinions even come into place.”
“It doesn’t mean that you should lose who you are but it means that once in awhile, it’s important to realize that we’re all connected and that we should all be looking out for each other,” Zechariah added.
In addition to its many lyric-free melodies, Zusha also attempts to create unity among people by adopting music styles from many different cultures.
“You will often hear a little bit of reggae, some Latin percussive rhythms, as well as some jazz,” explained Elisha to TPS. “But what you ultimately experience is the music resonating with the soul, and that’s something we’ve experienced with both Jews and non-Jews and is something we want to share with the rest of the world.”
Zusha’s very formation was built upon the principle of unity and coming together from different backgrounds. “We were all on different journeys and at different locations,” Elisha told TPS as he described Zusha’s beginnings. “Shlomo was at Yeshiva University, Zechariah was at New York University and I was at Queens College and we all met downtown in this small community that was growing and wanted to feel the spirit of unity.”
“We found unity in the niggunim that we sang together and that’s how we first became friends and grew together spiritually and creatively,” continued Elisha.
During their trip to Israel this past week, Zusha spread its message of unity through music in many different parts of the country. “We’ve been traveling around Israel from Safed to Jerusalem to Beit Shemesh, gathering people together to sing niggunim,” Elisha said to TPS.
In light of the current wave of attacks throughout Israel over the past few months, Zusha hopes that its message of unity will lead to an end to conflict. “The only thing that is going to solve conflict is bringing people together instead being left in completely separate units,” Shlomo said to TPS. “The more we unite, the more we break away all the discord.”
TPS / Tazpit News Agency