The Klez Dispensers
Rejoice at the festival
Rejoice: The Central New Jersey Jewish Music & Culture Festival will be held Sunday, Sept. 14, 11 a.m.-6 p.m., at Woodlot Park in the Monmouth Park section of South Brunswick.
Kosher and vegetarian food will be available for purchase. Bring lawn chairs or blankets. Directions to the site and more information on the performers and activities can be found at www.rejoicefestival.com. Those with questions should call 866-364-1455 and leave a message.
Admission is free, but those attending should bring a nonperishable food item to be donated to the South Brunswick Food Bank.
September 4, 2008
In what its organizers hope will be the first of many such events, a festival of Jewish music, culture, and food will be held Sunday, Sept. 14, in South Brunswick.
Rejoice: The Central New Jersey Jewish Music & Culture Festival will feature klezmer, Jewish folk, and Israeli music; kosher food; Israeli dancing; children’s acts and activities; a vendors market; and tables dispensing information about synagogues, schools, and Jewish organizations.
The free daylong event is the brainchild of Aaron Rosloff of South Brunswick, who got the idea while visiting family in the Syracuse, NY, area.
“They’ve had a central New York Jewish music and cultural festival there for nine years,” he said. “I was there, and I overheard two people behind me talking. The woman said she comes every year. The man said, ‘So do I, and I’m not even Jewish,’ and she said ‘Neither am I.’
“I thought,” said Rosloff, “what a wonderful way to demystify Judaism to the general public.”
After returning home, Rosloff mentioned his idea to his friend Danny Greenberg of Kendall Park and to Cantor Bruce Rockman of Congregation B’nai Tikvah in North Brunswick.
Greenberg, who is cochairing the event with Rosloff, said they and the event committee choose Woodlot Park in the Monmouth Park section of South Brunswick as the festival venue because of its central location and proximity to major roadways.
“It is right off Route 1 so it will be easily accessible from many areas of the state,” he said. “We hope Jews from every community will come to South Brunswick.”
Greenberg said so far organizers had reached out to about 50 different synagogues and Jewish organizations throughout the state to publicize the festival.
Rosloff and his family put up a “significant” initial contribution to stage the event — although he declined to name the specific amount — and the committee solicited other contributions.
“We have a budget of $25,000 and have most of it already,” said Rosloff. “This is my legacy…. I just passed my 87th birthday and I still have my health and most of my marbles. I don’t know what God has in store for me, but this is something I wanted to pass on. If it becomes an annual event I will be very pleased.”
Fun and music
Rockman, who was responsible for securing performers, said he wanted to showcase regional talent, but did not place geographic restrictions on the line-up.
The Robyn Helzner Trio
“We wanted to make sure there was something for everyone, including the general community,” he said.
Rockman himself will perform — as lead singer with the Sons of Tikvah, the 12-member ensemble that has become known as “the house band” at Israel rallies and other Jewish community events throughout Middlesex County.
Also appearing will be the Princeton area-based Klez Dispensers, an eight-member ensemble whose CD, New Jersey Freylekhs, was the recipient of the Just Plain Folks award as best new klezmer album.
The Robyn Helzner Trio, based in the Washington, DC, area, performs world Jewish music, including modern Israeli, the folk songs of Eastern Europe, the love songs of Spain, and the eclectic compositions of contemporary North America. Helzner individually or with the group has performed in such far-flung locales as Moscow, Beijing, Hong Kong, and other venues throughout North America and Europe.
“We consider these two performers to be our headliners so they will each take the stage to perform twice during the day,” said Rockman.
Also performing will be Makhelat HaMercaz-the Jewish Choir of Central New Jersey, an interdenominational 50-member community singing group.
Other performers include the Kenya Hora Klezmer Band out of Syracuse and Chris Howatt, who has played Off-Broadway and will perform show tunes and standards.
“It’s a long day and we’ll have time to do a lot of different things,” said Rockman. “There will be a lot of fun and music for all different tastes. The idea behind this is community outreach, and we want to appeal to the general community and strengthen the Jewish community.”
For the kids, the Mama Doni Band out of Essex County, led by Doni Zasloff Thomas, will perform. In May, the band released its first CD, I Love Herring (& Other Fish Shticks for Kids).
Ray Andersen, a former rock musician who has played with such notables as Bruce Springsteen and Meat Loaf, is now a children’s performer known as Mr. Ray. The West Orange native has been featured in such publications as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Parenting Magazine and has toured Great Britain and the United States.