10:00am PT by Benjamin Svetkey
Rabbi Transforms Bel Air's Wise School Into KISS Concert
Students at the prestigious Wise School in Bel Air are evidently learning more than Hebrew and Jewish history. They’re also getting a lesson in mullets, leather pants and two-finger hand gestures.
The school’s senior rabbi, Yoshi Zweiback, 48, recently corralled kids, faculty and some well-connected music industry friends — including John Mellencamp’s old drummer Kenny Aronoff — and made a heavy metal video for a song written by Zweiback and his musician brother about the enduring survival of the Jewish people.
“After we wrote it, the song was just kind of sitting there until I said to my brother, ‘We gotta record this and we gotta make a video and we’ve got to go all out with big hair and a big metal '80s kind of energy,” Zweiback tells The Hollywood Reporter.
Next thing you know, Zweiback, Aronoff and a slew of others (including the school’s cantor, Nathan Lam, who has worked as a voice coach for Rod Stewart and Belinda Carlisle) found themselves on the Wise temple grounds slathered in Gene Simmons makeup and rocking out in front of the cameras. “Most of the parts are played by clergy of the synagogue,” Zweiback says. “But I do the lead vocals. When you compose the song and you’re the senior rabbi of the temple, you get certain privileges.”
The video, titled “Am Yisrael Chai; They Tried to Kill Us, We Survived, Let’s Rock,” was posted on YouTube and Facebook April 19. So far, it’s got about 2,500 views.
A version of this story first appeared in the April 25 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.