Jews' Next Dor

Congregation Beth David's Young Adult Group for Jewish 20 & 30 Somethings

Rom Eliaz takes the stage at To Life! this Sunday

Posted by challahbackgirl on September 19, 2008

A year ago, CBDYAG/Jews’ Next Dor met Rom Eliaz as he came armed with is stapler to help us staple Project Isaiah info sheets to grocery bags. But volunteering isn’t his only talent, in fact he’s a doctor and violinist. You’ll have to opportunity to check out his musical talent at this year’s To Life! Jewish Cultural Festival.

Here’s more about him and his performances from the J. weekly

Violinist ready to multitask

by dina maccabee
correspondent

As a musician, Israeli-born violinist Rom Eliaz wears many hats. His new album, “The Universal Violin,” showcases more styles than a runway at Fashion Week, with selections from Celtic, klezmer, Hungarian, Roma and classical traditions, plus his own takes on popular Jewish and Israeli songs like “Yerushalayim Shel Zahav,” “Hava Negillah” and “Lu Yehi.”

If it’s unusual for a single performer to take on so many expressive personae, it’s even more unusual coming from a player with a full- time day job. And, by the way, that’s Dr. Eliaz to you: With a Ph.D. in chemical engineering and biotechnology, this fiddler is hardly an itinerant starving artist.

Balancing his life as a biotech executive and a musician isn’t difficult for this seasoned multitasker. “The violin was something I did since I was 7 years old,” Eliaz says. “Music is part of my life all the time.”

In that spirit, Eliaz brings not one, but two performances to the To Life! festival. His Israeli-rock cover project, Kzat Acher, promises a dose of nostalgia for the Hebrew-speaking ex-pats in the crowd, with a set of classic Israeli anthems by icons like Maschina, Shlomo Artzi, Yehudit Ravitz and Ehud Banai. Kzat Acher plays at 3:25 p.m. on the main stage.

Eliaz hopes the show, which captures two generations of the Israeli sound with a seven-piece ensemble of native sabras, will catch the ears of non-Israelis too. “Music is a very global thing,” he says, “and it can bring together a lot of people from different backgrounds. So you’re going to have the mix between the Israeli identity and the Jewish identity.”

For many American Jews, that identity is tied to ancestral roots in Eastern Europe, with Yiddish song and klezmer music providing perhaps the most powerful living link to an Old World that survives only in memory.

Audiences at To Life! won’t be surprised, then, to find Eliaz in this realm as well, offering a performance of klezmer tunes, Yiddish favorites and Israeli folk songs on his violin, the instrument that won him entrance to the Beersheva Conservatory of Music at age 7.

Eliaz’ solo performance is “probably going to attract a little bit different kind of people” than the Galilee Band, he says, “probably more people closer to the traditional folk music.” But he also thinks it will also attract “Israelis and the younger people. That’s the beautiful part of it.”

In the past five years, the Bay Area has become a hotbed for a klezmer revival, seemingly seeing more of a flourishing of traditional klezmer bands, as well as energetic explorations of Eastern European sounds, than in Israel.

“Here the Jewish American [audience] is bit more exposed, or more welcoming,” Eliaz explains. “They know the traditional music a little bit better [than the Israeli repertoire], especially the klezmer. I think in Israel it’s mixed, and people are listening to both.”

For Eliaz, describing the power of the violin as universal isn’t tooting his own horn, so to speak.

The portable, voice-like instrument has traditionally served as a passport to a wide array of musical cultures. “The idea was to represent the variety of music from around the world,” Eliaz says, and “the violin is in its center.”

But more importantly, Eliaz’ music is an invitation for all kinds of audiences to share in the fun.

“The music we grew up with in Israel is really good music, and we can still listen to it here,” he says. “If it will bring a smile to the people, they will good have a good time, and that’s it!”

Israeli Showcase spotlights local talent

In partnership with the Israel Center of San Francisco, To Life! will throw the spotlight on some of the Bay Area’s Israeli bands. They’ll provide entertainment throughout the afternoon, starting at 2 p.m. on the Jessica Saal Memorial Main Stage.

Bands include:

• The Peatot, 2 p.m.

• Husband and wife Natan and Einat Gammer, 2:45 p.m.

• Kzat Acher, 3:25 p.m.

• Lee Ganor, 4 p.m.

• Ya-Rock, 4:25 p.m.

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