April 12, 2024
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Joey Newcomb Headlines Tomchei Shabbos Concert

A capacity crowd of well over 400 people attended the concert benefiting Tomchei Shabbos of Middlesex County on Sunday evening, Dec. 24, at the Rutgers Chabad House in New Brunswick. The musical energy, headlined by Joey Newcomb and featuring Aryeh Kunstler as the opening act, fueled the audience for over two hours. Srulee Hercman, one of the event organizers, noted that the beauty of the concert was “seeing everyone come together in celebration and support of Tomchei Shabbos and the land of Israel with a range of ages, communities, levels of religious observance.”

Tomchei Shabbos concerts have a reputation of featuring up-and-coming opening act performers just before they “hit it big.” Kunstler was booked in the spring and was asked to compose a special tune for “Mi Sheberach” over the summer for the organization “Grilling for the IDF” that they could play at their events. After Oct. 7, the acoustical recording took on an entire additional level of meaning.

The concert is the only fundraiser Tomchei Shabbos of Middlesex County holds each year. “We want a show that attracts people and headliner Joey Newcomb brings the whole idea of ‘Thank You Hashem’ to a broad audience,” said Hercman. “The need for funds has never been greater. More local families need help putting food on the table and there is no shortage of charities asking for money for people in Israel. The community can come together tonight to help. After Oct. 7, the heaviness in the community led us to question whether or not to have the concert. Local rabbis said that it is important to support Israel and the IDF, but we still need to also support the community here.”

The Teitelbaum family of Edison enjoying the concert.

Augmented by special effects and video by Halo Productions, the professionally produced concert had people dancing and singing along throughout. Kunstler warmed up the audience with several of his favorites and invited the audience to join in. He ended his set with the percussion-focused “Up Like A Lion” and reassured the audience he was not leaving the stage, but would be a part of the band for Newcomb’s performance.

Newcomb acknowledged Kunstler’s musical contributions and invited him to join him as lead guitarist on several songs, beginning with having the audience join in on “Mi K’amcha Yisroel.” Creatively interweaving the words Tomchei Shabbos into several songs not only reminded everyone what the evening was about and also brought a sense of togetherness.

A cute segment included a small boy named Charlie singing along on stage as Newcomb sang “Charlie Is a Tzaddik.” The presentation of Diaspora Yeshiva Band’s hits included Newcomb and Kunstler putting their guitars behind them while playing. The audience was asked to join in on a niggun that was originally written by Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev extolling the virtues of getting back up after falling down. The audience became so involved that they continued singing the song long after Newcomb ended the song. After a brief pause, Newcomb resumed the song and sang with the audience for a few more minutes.

Emma Farkas, Atara Salhanik, Tova Salhanik, all of Edison.

Songs celebrating the Beit Hamikdash and a medley of popular songs from Israel followed with well-matched video images on the screen behind the performers. The crowd really broke loose with “Thank You Hashem,” with the room divided into two parts to sing the catchy refrain.

Appropriately, Newcomb concluded with a song about Reb Shayele in the “Old Country” who was a destination for all kinds of Jews needing a warm meal or an encouraging word — drawing the parallel to the work of Tomchei Shabbos of Middlesex County. With no questions asked Reb Shayale/Tomchei Shabbos was/is there to provide for another Jew.

For the first time, the concert was held on a Sunday rather than after Shabbat. The earlier start time allowed for families with young children to attend and Chabad’s central location with ample parking is always welcome. Atara Salhanik, a fourth grader at Edison’s Rabbi Pesach Raymon Yeshiva, had a hard time deciding what part of the concert she liked best as she enjoyed all of it so much.

Joey Newcomb

Sara Englard came from East Brunswick with her husband Phil. “I didn’t know what to expect and it turned out to be thoroughly enjoyable. We are fans of the Diaspora Yeshiva Band and were thrilled to hear some of their music covered along with other songs based on tunes from the Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel.”

Milt Erdfarb of Highland Park enjoyed the concert with his wife Debbie, “From start to finish the whole concert was great. Aryeh Kunstler, the band, the high energy, and even a few tears evoking meaningful moments. Based on the song selections, Joey Newcomb really knows how to get people on their feet!”

Tomchei Shabbos of Middlesex County has been providing Shabbos and Yom Tov food packages in the Highland Park, Edison and East Brunswick communities since 2009. Given the current economic climate, there are more families in financial distress than ever before. Help Tomchei Shabbos of Middlesex County continue to feed those in need with dignity and discretion. Donations can be made at tomcheimc.org/donate.

Aryeh Kunstler

Deborah Melman is a staff writer at The Jewish Link.

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