Tracey Shipley
Youth, family and addictions counselor/creative therapist/band organizer and manager/event producer/writer

A Grateful Dead fest in Jerusalem featuring the Elevators! Why do Jews love the Grateful Dead?

The Elevators performing live
Upcoming flier made by me Tracey Shipley JOIN US!!
The Elevators performing at my Woodstock Festival at the Silo. Photo taken by me Tracey Shipley

I’ve always wanted to understand the connection between Jews and the Grateful Dead.  With my next Grateful Dead fest coming up I did some research on the matter and was excited to find a lot written about just that. What is so Jewish about the Grateful Dead that attracts so many Jews worldwide, particularly in the US and Israel to follow them, sometimes literally from concert to concert?  Upon reading about this phenomenon I think it comes down to one important factor, like Judaism, The Dead were all about joy, love, family and togetherness.  Add to that, Jews have always been considered Outsiders sometimes on purpose to avoid assimilation.  Dead Heads have the same reputation.  They also don’t fit into the mainstream.

Quoting a “Jam Bands” article by Douglas Gertner PHD “As the epitome of “hippiedom”, the Grateful Dead attracted and nurtured an extended community which emphasized spiritual fulfillment and thus filled the void for many, including many young Jews.” He goes on to say “Therein lies the best explanation for why so many Jews are also Deadheads.  As descendants of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, Jews may still refer to one another…as members of the tribe. This tribal association also describes the Deadhead community as one which is centered around what’s missing from many ethnic, national, and religious communities: peak experience that unifies individuals into a people”. I wish I could have paraphrased Gertner but he said it so well. Jews and Deadheads can both meet each other for the first time and feel like they are at home among family.

What I love most about The Dead is the feeling of being back in the 1960s when Peace was not a dirty word and so many young people were joining the movement to stop ongoing wars that the US was a part of overseas. Of course, as always, Jews were at the forefront of this effort as we are natural activists.  I often wished I had been born a decade before wanting so badly to be a part of the “Flower Child” generation.  I have been an activist since I was in high school and would have loved to be a part of the generation that had a profound effect on the politics of America back then.

Well, knowing I can’t go back in time I try to recreate the atmosphere of those days in my monthly concerts and festivals.  Be them indoors at the Modular Club in downtown Jerusalem or outdoors at the now sadly closed Silo Café, I am always focusing on the music of that time, my favorite and gratefully the favorite of audiences of all ages in Jerusalem and even Tel Aviv.

As I mentioned in my article about my two-day Grateful Dead fest of last summer, I knew little about this band before coming to Israel.  My favorites were Joni Mitchel, James Taylor and Carol King; none of whom were at Woodstock though Joni was invited.  But as I got to know the bands near and dear to the hearts of the Anglo community in Jerusalem, the Grateful Dead kept appearing.  There may well be over five tribute bands to the Dead in Israel and I think I have had each of them at my Woodstock and Grateful Dead festivals.  Every one of them brings a different beat to the table but none match the original Dead band in Israel- The Elevators.

Aryeh Naftaly, the founder and lead singer of the Elevators was a true hippie out of San Francisco and when he made Aliyah in 1986 he moved to the hippiest place in Israel- The Moshav- created and founded by the renowned Shlomo Carebach.  Aryeh played for years with Shlomo until his untimely death.  In Aryeh’s music, you can feel the spiritual muse that Shlomo was known for Jewish music with the soul of yet another Hippie.

Two years ago Aryeh decided to take a break from the Dead set and create a new project.  His new album is called “Eye On Zion”.  As Aryeh explains:  “Rock of Zion” – is a live concert performance featuring a collection of songs and anecdotes from the album “Eye On Zion” and beyond, which chronicle our Zionist journey as we seek to reconnect with the ideas, emotions, and experiences that brought us to Israel in the first place and made us want to stay.” Aryeh continues:  “Our hope is to reach out and inspire audiences in these difficult times in which Zionism has become a dirty word and Zionists must defend themselves against the tides of antisemitism”.  Ironically this process continued during the bitter internal conflict that was tearing Israel apart and continued as we entered an external conflict pitting us not only against Hamas and Hezbollah but also Anti-Semites all over the world.

So, Thursday, April 11th at the Modular Club of the Stay Inn Hotel on King George we will celebrate the music of the Grateful Dead not only starring The Elevators but featuring Jerusalem’s beloved Pesach Stadlan’s acoustic Dead and Shlomo Glass and Ben Katzenstien’s dynamic Duo “Box of Chrain” singing and playing the Dead as only they know how.  Doors open at 7:30pm. The show starts promptly at 8pm. The cost is only 40 shekels in advance and 45 shekels at the door.  A show not to be missed! For advanced tickets contact me via my blog email.

About the Author
Tracey Shipley is a youth and family counselor specializing in addictions and family communication. She was born in the US and moved to Israel in 1984 to continue her studies in Art Therapy. She moved back to the US in 1989 and began working in a drug rehab for teens where she was trained while she worked as a primary counselor. She moved back to Israel in 1996 and continued her work in addictions at the Jerusalem Methadone Clinic for a total of 9 years. She initiated projects for the children of the addicts at the Methadone Clinic, Established a program for Ethiopian Teens educating them about their culture and opened the Jerusalem School of Rock program which helps to create teen rock bands and established monthly teen music events at downtown venues where teens perform for their friends in a teen friendly exciting atmosphere. In addtion to her projects Tracey was the English Speaking Volunteer Coordinator for Emunah Jerusalem succeeding in bringing in more funds and volunteers than ever before. Tracey organizes monthly Rock Festivals and manages rock bands young and old. Tracey also writes for Times of Israel and the Jerusalem Post.
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