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New Songwriting Contest Hopes to Make Teens Rock Jewish Music

Will the next Debbie Friedman please stand up?

Liel Leibovitz
October 18, 2018
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Please don’t be alarmed, but I’ve a bit of disturbing news: There aren’t too many ways for kids these days to get excited about Jewish life.

Alright, so it’s not exactly news. Still, any group this invested in continuity should consider the basic question of precisely how its young are supposed to find their way into the fold, especially now that the old structures, from the synagogue to the youth group, are fading away.

Scott Harris has an idea. One of New York’s leading real estate agents, he recently launched Jewish Star, a talent search for teenaged Jewish songwriters that wants to take a page from America’s Got Talent and The Voice and make thinking about soulful stuff fun.

As a kid himself, Harris said, he “loved singing Jewish songs at summer camp or even at services. I loved those Debbie Friedman tunes, but then when I finally had the chance to learn the guitar myself, I sat there and played the Eagles.” Had someone tapped him on the shoulder and suggested that he try to write songs himself, and that those songs speak to his love for Judaism, he would’ve been deeply moved. The new contest, he hopes, will give young Jews the chance to do just that.

Teaming with Rick Recht of Jewish Rock Radio, the two recruited an impressive panel of judges, including notable Jewish musicians like Josh Nelson, Julie Silver, and Nefesh Mountain. The six grand winners will receive a host of prizes designed to jump-start their songwriting careers, including a recording contract, mentorship, and airtime for their work.

“I really want parents, rabbis, and teachers to take it upon themselves and tell kids that they are talented, that they should audition, and that they should feel excited about putting Jewish music into the world.”

So if you are a talented and spiritually inclined Jewish teen, click here and apply. Or to nominate a teen you know and love, just fill out this form. All auditions are due by November 15. For those about to rock, we salute you.

Liel Leibovitz is editor-at-large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One. He is the editor of Zionism: The Tablet Guide.

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