By day, Jay Rapoport is a mild-mannered Jewish educator with the title of director of Lifelong Learning at Temple Sholom of Chicago in Lakeview. But this persona is only a mask for his true identity: Jewish rock star.
Rapoport's second Jewish platter, They Tried to Get Us, We Won, Let's Rock, stirs in several flavors of rock 'n' roll, with a heaping helping of Motown-drizzled soul on the side. Food figures prominently on the "The Holiday Song," a New Orleans-style jazz number that catalogs the many Jewish holidays for defeating oppressors—and the foods we eat thereupon. But the bravest track, lyrically, is "God is Just a Word," which he wrote to start discussions with those who profess to be "spiritual but not religious," he said.
Other songs discuss the relationship between the Jews and the Torah ("Am HaSefer"), students and teachers ("My Teacher, My Friend"), and friends ("Wherever You Will Go," based on the Book of Ruth). There is even a song about the ways of interpreting the Torah ("Pardes"). But the album's opener, "I Like to Dance on Shabbat," is just plain fun.
Rapoport's wife is named Rachel, his daughter is named Ruthie, and his website is named RuachRock.com. But there is nothing rated "R" about his music. He considers this a family-friendly album, one that "parents could enjoy along with kids," while it's also "what we adults would listen to" on our own.
Rapoport's first Jewish CD, With All Your Heart, came out in late 2010, but this new one is his ninth overall. His major influences are Billy Joel and Ben Folds, and he has performed with Craig Taubman, Rick Recht, Josh Nelson, and Michelle Citrin. He's even been featured on Recht's Jewish Rock Radio music-streaming site, and at his Song Leader Boot Camp.
Rapoport studied piano and singing at Berklee College of Music. He also has a Master's degree in religious education from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York City.
While he joined Temple Sholom this June, Rapoport boasts 15 years as a Jewish educator, and he's written theme songs for many of his graduating classes. He's also been a camp director in Virginia, which inspired many of his songs.
Rather than have his musical passion clash with his educational career, Rapoport has found a way for them to, well, harmonize. Thankfully, he lets us all sing along.
My annual Chanukah music review "The Chanukah Wrap-Up" can be found on my JUF News blog at jufnews.org.