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Doing well, doing good

Israeli band full of New Jersey locals hopes to tour U.S.

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From left, keyboardist Eyal Salomon, bassist Zechariah Reich, guitarist Yakir Hyman, and drummer Chemy Soibelman are the musicians who make up G-Nome. Will Schwerd

If a crowd-funding appeal is successful, the Israeli band G-Nome Project is coming to the United States.

This is not the scientific kind of genome project having to do with decoding DNA, but a musical project launched by four young expatriates – two of them from Teaneck.

It’s also a kind of chesed project. The band’s proposed 10-city “Giving Tour” aims to combine nightly gigs with days of good deeds such as visiting nursing homes and working in a soup kitchen.

This unusual twist was inspired by drummer Chemy Soibelman’s volunteering with Israeli children suffering from cancer.

“We believe that when a bunch of religious guys are seen doing some cool thing – playing great music – while still being religious, and also being nice guys, and also doing chesed, it’s a huge kiddush Hashem” – sanctification of God’s name – said Zechariah Reich, 28.

The band does not play Jewish music, though. Its largely improvised repertoire is described by Mr. Reich and his former Teaneck neighbor, Yakir Hyman, as “Livetronica,” a dance-based fusion of trance, rock-funk, dub (drum and bass), and organic electronica.

“The point of our music is to keep people moving the whole time,” Mr. Hyman said. “This is the furthest thing from preaching.

“Our goal is not to change people, but to help people who hear our music get more in touch with themselves. The way I try to do that is by being a better person and trying to live according to Torah ideals. I hope that comes out in my music.”

G-Nome has been building a bi-continental following since November 2012.

“Although we are based in Israel, a large portion of our fan base lives in the States and we feel it’s time we finally come and meet YOU!” reads the crowd-funding pitch for $12,000 on the band’s Indiegogo page. (You can see it at igg.me/at/gnomeproject.)

“This summer, we have the opportunity of a lifetime to fly across seas and oceans to embark on a three-week tour in the U.S…. with shows organized between August 7-28 in at least 10 cities across seven states, from New York to Colorado,” it reads. “The only thing holding us back at this point is the funds needed to make the trans-Atlantic, 5,565-mile hike to our starting point in NY and get some wheels, gas, and gear together to hit the road.”

“Fans, talent buyers, promoters and booking agents in all those cities reached out to us – movers and shakers who can make shows happen,” Mr. Hyman said. “The only reason we considered doing this is because of the positive reaction we’ve been receiving from people on the ground.”

Thanks to recent technology, fans anywhere can download recorded shows and contact the band. “We’ve had 2,500 Americans downloading a concert in Jerusalem,” Mr. Reich said.

The band – with Mr. Hyman on guitar, Mr. Reich on bass, Mr. Soibelman (originally from Brooklyn) on drums, and Cleveland native Eyal Salomon on keyboards – performs in pubs, bars, and clubs, mainly in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. They’ve also played parties, music festivals, and the occasional wedding.

Mr. Reich works for a corporate lobbying firm, and Mr. Hyman is employed at a digital marketing agency. They live not far from each other in the Gush Etzion region south of Jerusalem, but keeping the momentum going requires late hours. “Disregarding logic and sleep is the only way to do this,” said Mr. Hyman, the father of two young children.

The two men from Teaneck have known each other since they were kids.

“We lived on opposite sides of Route 4, a block away from each other, and we started playing music together when I was 16 and Yakir was 17,” said Mr. Reich, a graduate of Torah Academy of Bergen County. “Our first concert together was at Teaneck High School, with drummer Jon Shiffman of Steel Train and the Bleachers.”

The two of them did a gap-year program at Bar-Ilan University. The following October, when their families were sharing a Shabbat meal, Mr. Reich announced he was making aliyah, and his friend said, “I think I’ll go with you.”

Their Nefesh B’Nefesh flight in August 2005 included other acquaintances from the neighborhood – David Jacobi, Chaim Leichman, and Jessica Berlin. After landing, the two young men became roommates and later served in the same army unit. Throughout everything, they kept jamming.

“We have been so blessed to meet one another and form this amazing music group which we have found brings so much joy to our fans,” the G-Nome musicians say. “The simple smiles, dancing around, and acts of kindness we generally see at our shows is truly inspiring.

“Our fans make us want to be better people. And we want the opportunity to meet more of them.”

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