Most times, a bridge that connect communities is made of steel and concrete. Other times, a bridge of music can cross community boundaries and provide a connection.
That was the case this fall at Ocean County College, where the band 8th Day performed and then took part in a question-and-answer session with a diverse audience of students and teachers—many with little or no prior exposure to Jewish art and culture. 8th Day is a popular Orthodox Jewish rock group, co-founded by brothers Shmuel and Bentzi Marcus, that has toured and played sold-out concerts around the globe.
Guitarist/vocalist Bentzi Marcus says the gig “could not have gone better.
“Although these were kids from a totally different background and almost completely unfamiliar with our music, the audience was exuberantly involved clapping and singing along,” says Bentzi, who is joined in 8th Day by his brother Shmuel Marcus (lead vocals).
The band doesn’t fit into any neat label. One way to describe the duo’s music is to call it rock, blues and reggae mixed with traditional Jewish music and culture. Bentzi, 36, calls it “eclectic rock. [With] lots of influences from all modern styles of pop/rock and heavy influences from our Jewish Chasidic upbringing.”
The show came together through a combined effort. Things got rolling when Ben Newmark of Lakewood heard from Timothy Hart, director of the Ocean County Cultural & Heritage Commission.
“They’ve run numerous types of events for different cultures,” says Newmark, founding director of Lakewood-based, non-profit Batyagirls, which works with teenage Jewish girls in New Jersey and elsewhere in the U.S. “[Hart] reached out to me and said he wanted to do something … due to rising tensions in Ocean County.”
In an effort to foster an understanding throughout Ocean County and to build bridges in the community, there were two, 22 minute sets from the band and a question-and-answer session on Orthodox culture.
“Anything that could be beneficial … to help people understand each other is a step in the right direction,” says Newmark
“Anything that could be beneficial … to help people understand each other is a step in the right direction,” says Newmark, a resident of Lakewood – where his wife’s family has roots dating to the early 1940s. “Hatred comes from fear, and fear comes from lack of knowledge. When people don’t know each other, and you don’t look at each other as people that we can relate to, they become afraid of what the other person thinks of us, and then it turns into disliking that person.”
In an effort to build better bridges, enter the Ocean County Cultural & Heritage Commission and the band 8th Day.
“They were terrific,” says Hart, who was instrumental in organizing the free event. “My department puts together cultural engagement programs throughout the year. This was one of a series over the last eight years where we bring in a performer, usually from a different ethnic group, and we bring [in] students from around the county.”
“So, we listen to music [and] we do some cultural education. It was a real joint effort and I think everybody had a great time.”
Yes, not all bridges are made of steel and concrete. Sometimes they are built upon the unifying sounds of music.
More about 8th Day
With the band’s latest hit album “Slow Down,” the group has released seven studio albums that get air play regularly on the radio, and have been top sellers on the World Music, Alternative Rock and Jewish Music charts. “Slow Down” reached the #1 spot on iTunes World Music chart, #8 on Billboard’s Heatseekers, and #11 on the Billboard Top 100 selling World Music Albums.
8th Day has played hundreds of sold out concerts across the globe with stops in Australia, Europe, Israel, Asia, South Africa, Canada, the Caribbean Islands and all over the United States. Their hit music video for “Ya’alili” has over 4.5 million views on YouTube. They followed that up with more fan favorites like “All You Got,” “Hooleh!” and now their latest hit video “Celebrate.”
8th Day’s fresh and unique sound is complimented by their poetic lyrics and spirited vocal harmonies. What started as a fun family project, has now become a global phenomenon as their fan base continues to grow all over the world.
Listen to music and more about 8th Day at www.my8thday.com.