Jewish band promotes pride, positivity at campus concert

By The Daily Illini Staff Report

American Hasidic folk band Zusha performed Sunday evening at the Illini Union Courtyard Cafe to promote unity and Jewish pride against the backdrop what many see as a surge of anti-Semitic acts and rhetoric on both campus and across the country.

The event was sponsored by Yavneh On Campus, the Orthodox Israel Coalition and Illini Hillel, with additional support from JET and Illini Chabad.

According to Zusha’s website, the musical duo met and began songwriting in New York’s East Village while still in college. They incorporated a blend of musical styles and genres, such as jazz, electronica and folk, along with their deep Jewish faith into their music.

Since 2014, the group has released two EPs and two albums, the most recent release being 2019’s “When the Sea Split.”

Tyler Schwarz, the Israel Education Committee chair at Illini Hillel, helped bring Zusha to campus.

“This concert has been a dream of some students for a while, however, the seeds were planted for Zusha to actually perform on campus over winter break when I met their manager on a trip to New York,” Schwarz said in an email. “The main message I get from their music is love of every person no matter what. Shlomo, the band’s lead singer, tells stories that inspire love of the world and gratitude in between songs.”

Schwarz said bringing Zusha’s message to campus was important to show solidarity against increased incidents of anti-Semitism on campus.

“Recently, a member of the Jewish community was called a Nazi for opposing divestment from Israel,” Schwarz said. “Additionally, two Jewish frat houses on campus had bricks thrown through their windows. Last semester, multiple swastikas were found in University buildings and in a local campus bar.”

However, Schwarz said the event was primarily intended to spread positivity and pride for Jewish people at a time of so much negativity.

“Too often, we are united only to fight anti-Semitism, so we wanted to unite in a proactive expression of Jewish pride,” Schwarz said. “We hope to change the focus of action in the Jewish community from fighting darkness to spreading light. Every display of Jewish pride spreads a little light for the Jewish people.”

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