‘Israel Hour Radio’

‘Israel Hour Radio’

Teaneck native offers Zoom intro to his popular show

Josh Shron is surrounded by his equipment as he records “Israel Hour Radio.”
Josh Shron is surrounded by his equipment as he records “Israel Hour Radio.”

Episode 1,177 of “Israel Hour Radio” marked the 100th day since the devastating Hamas attacks on Israel with a recap of the songs that have emerged in the wake of the war and in support of the hostages still held in Gaza.

The hourlong playlist begins with pop star Lior Narkis singing “Achenu Kol Beit Yisrael” (“Our brothers, the entire house of Israel”) and features other heartbreakingly beautiful songs such as “Tachzor” (“Return”) by the Idan Raichel Project featuring Roni Dalumi and “Coming Home” by Shiri Maimon and Tamir Grinberg.

On February 8, Josh Shron, the Teaneck-born host of “Israel Hour Radio” will go on Zoom to share the Israeli songs that have become war anthems since October 7. These are the songs that give voice to the country’s pain, sorrow, grief, and worry but also its hope, faith, unity, and strength.

“Since the war began, Israeli artists have been incredible in trying to capture in words the rollercoaster of emotions Israelis have been feeling,” Mr. Shron said. “People always say ‘We have no words’ about this war. These singers have found the words to help the rest of us make sense of it and express it.”

Mr. Shron, 49, was raised in Teaneck and recently made aliyah with his family, joining his parents, Jeff and Hedy Shron, his sister, Carla Shron Sprung, and her family, in the central city of Modi’in. Josh and Carla’s younger brother, Sam, lives with his family in Westchester.

Since December 1994, Mr. Shron has been hosting “Israel Hour Radio” on Rutgers University’s WRSU. It’s still running at WRSU but today can be accessed online in several ways, including at www.myisraelimusic.com/, on Facebook and Instagram, and as a podcast on streaming music sites. “We just hit 1 million downloads for the podcast,” Mr. Shron said.

Mr. Shron recalls being obsessed with radio since he was a kid. When he got to Rutgers, he discovered an Israeli music show had been running on the school’s radio station since 1976.

“My friend was hosting it, and he was getting ready to graduate,” he said. “He said, ‘Josh why don’t you give it a shot?’ I knew nothing about Israeli pop music at the time, but he said I’d learn along the way. So I started immersing myself, learned the artists and songs, and I soon found myself interviewing the artists.

“What really sealed the deal was that the next time I went to Israel I felt so much more connected to the culture than ever before, because wherever I went, I’d hear music playing and I knew those songs.”

For Mr. Shron, who works in marketing, “Israel Hour Radio” is a labor of love — and even more, it’s a mission to use music to help English speakers create a bond with Israel.

“I feel Israeli music is often ignored by English speakers because of the language barrier,” he said. “You don’t need to understand every word — I don’t either — but there are lots of sites to help you understand the lyrics, such as Lyricstranslate.com.

“Just by listening and finding artists whose sound you like, eventually you become more and more connected to Israel through the music. And the more connected you are, the more invested you are in caring about Israel.”

Especially now, with so many Israelis killed, injured, kidnapped, and putting their lives on the line to fight the enemies on two borders, Mr. Shron felt the time was right to introduce more English speakers to the music Israelis are listening to.

“The talk will be about three categories of songs,” he said.

“The first category is loss and pain, and sometimes prayer, trying to make sense of this tremendous tragedy. The second category is songs in support of bringing the hostages back home and keeping their plight at the top of our minds.

“The third category is songs of pride, hope, and victory, great songs that have unified the country and made us believe we will emerge victorious and build a better tomorrow.”

Mr. Shron lived in Teaneck until 1997, when he married Mairov Dubrovsky, whom he’d met at Rutgers, and moved to Middlesex County. “Mairov did the show with me for years, until childcare considerations made it very difficult,” he said. “She still pops in from time to time.” The couple’s three boys and two girls now range in age from 23 to 11.

Today he spends 10 to 15 hours a week recording, producing, and coordinating the show’s social media channels. It’s a one-man operation.

“It’s just me and the board,” he said. “No producer. I even do the editing. I record on Facebook Live every Sunday at 11. That’s the basis for the week’s show and podcast.

“After some light editing, I send it to WRSU, which plays it the following week. It then gets put out on a podcast so people can listen on demand. I miss the thrill of doing live radio in the Rutgers studio, but this is the next best thing.”

He also hosts Israeli Music Community, a Facebook group in English where thousands of members discuss contemporary Israeli music.

One of many aspects that appeals to Mr. Shron is the fluid crossover between religious and secular. As he points out, there are singers such as Ishay Ribo, who is Orthodox yet has a huge religious and secular following in Israel and around the world, and there are singers such as superstar Omer Adam, who is not traditionally observant yet occasionally sings songs with a religious flavor.

“During this conflict, even the most secular Israeli artists have been singing words from Psalms, and that’s fascinating,” Mr. Shron said.

Who are his personal favorites?

“My listeners know I have a bit of a crush on Shiri Maimon, one of the best voices in Israeli pop today,” he said. “I also like Rami Kleinstein, Israel’s answer to Billy Joel. And Jane Bordeaux, a country bluegrass band with very different type of sound. Also, David Broza always holds a special place in my heart. Before I knew much about Israeli music, he did a concert at Rutgers, and I interviewed him.”

Then there’s Idan Amedi, who is in a category of his own. Mr. Amedi, a star of “Fauda” and a popular singer as well, recently was injured during his reserve duty in Gaza.

“I’m so impressed with his commitment to his country,” Mr. Shron said. “Other Israeli celebrities have been doing their part to raise the spirits of the soldiers and those who have been displaced from their homes, but Idan felt his talents could best be utilized on the battlefield. He really is an inspiration for Jews around the world, and I’m so proud of his dedication to his people.”

He notes that Israeli artists such as Ishay Ribo, who sold out Madison Square Garden, and Hanan Ben Ari draw a very diverse crowd when they go on tour in the United States.

“Others, like Keren Peles, cater to a much more Israeli crowd when they come the States, and I think that’s a shame. I would go to these shows and be one of the few non-Israelis there. That’s why it’s my goal to get more English speakers interested in the Israeli music scene.”

In addition to the Zoom “Hug from Israel” on February 8 for the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, Mr. Shron is scheduled to give live talks in several other North American cities, including East Brunswick on February 10 and Voorhees on February 13. For more information, email josh@myisraelimusic.com.

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