Photo Essay: Unity of the Bands

Young American yeshiva students rock out at Unity of the Bands with upbeat spiritual lyrics, blazing guitar solos, hip hop and more.

Ben Bresky, | updated: 13:05

English-speaking yeshiva students studying in Israel competed against each other at Unity of the Bands. The contest drew an audience of 700 at Jerusalem’s Great Synagogue this past Saturday night. Thirteen different bands competed.

Unity of the Bands drew about 700 people to the Great Synagogue in Jerusalem, almost all of them young American yeshiva students. Proceeds of the ticket sales went to charity.

First place went to Az Yashir from Yeshivat Kesher. Second place went to Jesse and Hello Sid from Yeshivat Reishit. Tied for third place was The 104 from Yeshivat Sha'arei Mevaseret Tzion and the Levi Teitz Band from Yeshivat Har Etzion. For a full length interview about Az Yashir, the winning band, and their songs based on real life experiences in Gaza, visit

The event was organized by Rabbi Eli Goldsmith, "the midnight rabbi", known for helping troubled young adults channel their energy into music and Torah study. Rabbi Goldsmith often meets with students on the street at midnight and offers use of his recording studio and yeshiva. He runs a new program called which is planning more musical gatherings. The event was produced by Jonty Zwebner of RNY Productions and Yehudit Singer. The evening ended with performances by popular Israeli bands Yood and haMAKOR.

Meir Samberg and band opened up the show.
The Meir Samberg band was accompanied by members Darkeinu, a program for students with Down Syndrome and other special needs.
"Remember life's a test / forget the rest / I love to kick it with all my Jewish brethren"

The 104 from Yeshivat Shaarei Mevaseret Tzion in the city of Mevaseret Tzion mixed rock with rap vocals in English on the struggles a yeshiva student faces in Israel. They tied for third place.
The Lev HaTorah Band from Yeshivat Lev HaTorah in Ramat Beit Shemesh rocks out. On the right is guitarist Gavi Zeitlin who recently made aliyah. The bass player on the left has an orange ribbon on his bass guitar in solidairity with Gush Katif. 
Yeshiva students and other fans of all different styles of kippah came to watch the bands perform. 
The audience was enthusiastic and dressed in a mix of button white shirts with black pants and jeans with t-shirts.
Dovid Honick and his band played emo style rock. They are from the Derech program of Yeshivat Ohr Somayach in Jerusalem.
Only a couple days before Purim, several people came dressed in costumes.
Yitzchak Shlomo and Yohonatan Moshiach Hakimian from Tzfat played mellow, acoustic songs on guitar and jembe drum.
The crowd enthusiatiscally chanted their respective yeshiva names and nicknames. Ner Yaakov became "Ner Jake".  Yeshivat Har Etzion was simply "Gush". Students shouted out to their friends on stage, urging them on.
Levi Teitz and band from Yeshivat Har Etzion in the Gush Etzion region of Judea and Samaria. The stained glass windows of the Jerusalem Great Synagogue can be seen in the background.
Levi Teitz Band from Yeshivat Har Etzion in Gush Etzion tied for third place.
Dov Adler and band from Yesodei HaTorah in Moshav Zanoach near Beit Shemesh. The student on the right is wearing an Israeli army t-shirt.
Popular Israeli singer Naftali Abramson and one the student organizers. The show was run almost entirely by students. Two of the main student organizers were Danny Weiser from Kesher and Baruch Kaplan from Ner Yaakov.
Sam Fisher and band from Yeshivat Ner Yaakov in Jerusalem. The members dressed up for Purim. They played a groovy instrumental jam.
The guitarist from the Sam Fisher band of the Ner Yaakov Yeshiva wearing a t-shirt that reads "Don't Worry, Be Breslev."
Boruch the Rapper of Yeshivat Ner Yaakov performed funky hip hop songs in English with positive, religious lyrics. He was accompanied by Avraham on electric violin. The group recieved honorable mention from the judges.
Abraham Pilcer plays violin while Boruch Vidal raps. Other band members include singer Simcha Feldman, Ezra and Shimmy Leyton and Sruli who performed with keyboards and a laptop computer.
A young man enjoying the concert. Organizer Rabbi Eli Goldsmith encouraged the students to take charge of the event including ticket sales, sound production, manning the door and introducing the acts.
Jesse and Hello Sid from Yeshivat Reishit in Beit Shemesh. They were voted number 2.
Jesse and Hello Sid performed pop rock with cool guitar solos and upbeat lyrics.

Eli Freedman's band from Neveh Tzion Yeshiva in Telz Stone.
A bass player wearing a cow costume in honor of the Purim holiday.
Shimson and the Behemos from Yeshivat Neveh Tzion.
Shimson and the Behemos from Yeshivat Neveh Tzion performed with a more hard rock sound.
The audience is made up of both fans, friends, family and other musicians.
Az Yashir from Kesher Yeshiva in Jerusalem was a crowd favorite and won the competition. The band has recently released a professional demo CD. They performed a song called Lone Soldier, about American yeshiva students in the Israeli army and dedicated it to those that fought in Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. For a full interview with the band visit
The Az Yashir band featuring Nechemia Bochner, David Goldstone and Dovid Chesner.
Shtar, a young band from Yeshivat Aish HaTorah in the Old City of Jerusalem was not actually in the competition but performed a well-received set. They mixed rock and hip-hop, rapping lyrics about Judaism. Vocalist Brad Rubenstein was signed to a major British record label, London Records, but moved to Israel instead. 
The judges: Naftali Abramson,  right, a popular Israeli musician who has just released his third album, Overcoming. Adam Mallerman, left, a new immigrant from England has recently started an English language radio station in Israel called Rusty Mike Radio and is a full time yeshiva teacher. Not pictured, Ben Bresky, host of The Israel Beat Jewish Music Podcast on Israel National Radio. 
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