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Ben Lutz to Open for Eitan Katz Dec. 25 in Middlesex

Having grown up in the Highland Park/Edison community, rising Jewish music star Ben Lutz is looking forward to returning to the area as the opening act for Eitan Katz at the upcoming concert on Saturday night, December 25 at the Rutgers Chabad House to benefit Tomchei Shabbos.

Being part of this event was an obvious outcome. A family friend reached out and suggested that Lutz and his band be the opening act. Seeing that he was a “local boy” from the area, and headliner Eitan Katz is his uncle, who else would complete the bill? “Tomchei Shabbos is a great organization and I’m happy to be part of this event,” said Lutz.

Lutz lived in the area until he was about 13 years old, and attended Yeshiva Shaarei Tzion. One of his fondest memories was being inspired by the Yom Tov davening at Congregation Ohav Emeth. “I vividly remember hearing it, being inspired, and feeling that it was something that I wanted to do.” Being part of a musical family, there was always music and singing at every Lutz gathering and around the Shabbos table. “There were always niggunim and singing. Music was all around, with Jewish music instilling a passion.”

Growing up listening to Mordechai Ben David, Avraham Fried and other Chasidic artists had a large influence on Lutz’s life. Shortly before his bar mitzvah, his father showed him a tape of Reb Shlomo Carlebach doing a Friday night davening, and asked him if he could do that— and a career was born.

Lutz remembers his uncle Eitan Katz buying him his first guitar and how he would learn to play the niggunim and songs that he loved so much. Being a huge fan of Rabbi Carlebach, he would play the songs for family, friends and classmates, and saw how the power of music influenced and enhanced people’s connections to Judaism and furthered their relationship with God.

His musical career continued with his membership in the Yeshiva Boys’ Choir and whenever Lutz attended an Eitan Katz concert, he’d be called up on stage to join his famous uncle where he became increasingly more confident in singing solo. Stage performance was never a problem, nor was the natural progression to leading Shabbos and Yom Tov davening from the amud.

One of the best parts of music is that it is a great way to make friends and attract people to what you are doing. Lutz stated that his musical career really began to “gel” the year he went to Israel after high school. Along with several musically inclined friends, they created a pre-Shabbos musical event, the “Erev Shabbos Kodesh Kiddush,” where Lutz led songs on guitar and sang, and the group would enhance the spirit of the holy Sabbath for all.

After returning to the United States, he realized how many people would benefit from a deeper connection to God, and music would help secure that connection. Lutz knew he had the talent and was grateful to Hashem for giving it to him—and realized he had to share the gift.

Lutz put together a small band that played at simchas and events around town, and word began to spread. “It is so meaningful to play music and see everyone in the audience actively participating, enhancing their connection to God, and on the same wavelength. There are no words to describe it, but it gives me so much happiness that is then shared back with the audience.” Lutz recalled that one of the most meaningful and special musical memories was playing and singing to his wife-to-be at their vort.

With many musical friends living nearby, there are always reasons to get together to sing, make some music or give a dvar Torah. Lutz has also been composing new music. He is excited to debut one of his new compositions on December 25 as part of the awesome show that will be coming to the neighborhood.

Although he won’t have much free time on this occasion to visit local sites, Lutz is looking forward to a return trip where he can take a leisurely, nostalgic walk down Raritan Avenue and show his wife (and No. 1 fan) Gitty the area where he grew up. Meanwhile, he wants to give a “shout out” to family and friends in the area, and hopes to see them all at the concert. “Music has tremendous power; it can help to connect to Hashem and spread light to the world.”

For more information about Tomchei Shabbos of Middlesex County and/or to buy tickets, go to: http://tomcheimc.org/ (Note that ticket prices will be higher at the door.) Support Tomchei Shabbos in their mission to “Help feed those in need with dignity and discretion.”

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