By: Shlomo Kapustin
August 14, 2012
TORONTO – One of the Toronto Jewish community’s most unconventional organizations rocked an innovative fundraiser last week.
“It’s gonna get loud in here,” said Terry Moshenberg, co-founder of League of Rock (LOR) and unofficial master of ceremonies of Ve’ahavta’s first League of Rock concert.
The event allowed amateur musicians to showcase their chops after months of hard work.
Larry Zimmerman, who labours by day as a corporate attorney, cranked up the volume on electric guitar for The Moody Jews.
“It’s an unusual type of organization,” said Zimmerman, long-time Ve’ahavta board member, of the group.
“Most Jewish organizations do their good deeds primarily focused on the Jewish community; with Ve’ahavta, though the philosophy and funding is from the Jewish community, the bulk of its largesse is in the community at large, both locally and internationally.”
Joining him to kick off the recent event was, among other aspiring musicians, lead singer Avrum Rosensweig, president of the humanitarian and relief organization. Both acknowledged opening-night jitters before their opening set: The Band’s The Weight, Tom Petty’s Won’t Back Down and Can’t You See, from the Marshall Tucker Band. Two other League of Rock bands, Guns N’ Moses and Black Shabbos, followed, and were complemented by guest performances by Scott Helman, newly signed to Warner Brothers, and The Alpha Dogs.
The League of Rock coaches people of varying musical skill sets to perform as bands. While it often creates team-building experiences for companies, Ve’ahavta’s event followed its non-corporate track, which coaches individuals simply for the love of the music.
Ve’ahavta’s shindig may have strayed from the rubber-chicken dinner formula, but charity still owned the stage. While proceeds from the event will support all of its programs, Kinder Kits received special mention from Rosensweig, who urged the crowd of 200 to sponsor 200 kits for Toronto Jews in the coming year. Distributed around the world from Sri Lanka to Israel to Toronto, each kit provides school supplies to a poor child.
For many of the 14 amateurs, the experience represented a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be a rock star – or at least play one in real life. But the fantasy demanded a 12-week commitment of weekly, two-hour practices and a willingness to accept direction from professional musicians such as Michael White, best known for his band’s performances covering Led Zeppelin, and Rush producer Terry Brown.
Bridging the group’s disparate skill levels proved challenging at the beginning, said Moshenberg. Around week 7, 8 or 9, though, the bands turned a corner.
“The payoff is so big,” said Moshenberg, “because they’ve worked so hard. They thought [at the beginning of the process], Oh, my G-d, but they really came out swinging. And now we have three fabulous bands.
“The players played, the coaches coached, and they gelled,” he added.
Zimmerman, who has been taking lessons for six years and has jammed with his son, noted the novelty of the experience.
“Playing with a band is very different from playing by yourself: the teamwork and how your instrument sounds in conjunction with other instruments.”
Moshenberg, however, wasn’t advising his stars-for-a-night to quit their day jobs just yet.
“I want them to reach a lot more people and make more money,” he said.
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