In 1991, after High school, in an act of solidarity, Aryeh Shalom traveled to Israel during the Gulf war to volunteer on kibbutz: a collective farm in the hills of Judea & Samaria. Six months (and a barrage of scud missiles) later, after the war ended, he “thumbed” it to Jerusalem with a head full of questions about Judaism. How do you know there is a God, he wondered? Is there any proof of a Divine Torah?
In the Old City of Jerusalem, Aryeh was introduced to Rabbi Noach Weinberg, “ZAL”, the head of Aish HaTorah, College of Jewish Studies. "What are you living for?", he asked. "Are you eating to live or are you living to eat? If you're eating to live what are you living for? Is there anything you would be willing to die for? If so, live for that. The world was created for your pleasure. What’s the opposite of pleasure? Comfort. There are many pleasures available. Physical pleasures, love, acts of kindness, knowledge, and ultimately the transcendental. Strive to live a meaningful life of clarity otherwise suffer a slow death, comfortably numb.”
Aish HaTorah presented both a spiritual & rational basis for the core beliefs of Judaism and showed how the Torah was relevant and insightful. Science, math, and history were all vehicles to disseminate the authenticity of the Torah’s transmission and Divine origin. Aish’s classes helped distinguish between knowledge and faith, revealed empirical proofs of God’s role in history and demonstrated how a traditional lifestyle could offer pleasure and peace of mind.
While at the Yeshiva, Aryeh Shalom began to compose music in order to channel the intense revival he was undergoing. Aryeh was especially inspired when he delved into the historical contributions of ethical monotheism. To paraphrase Historian Ken Spiro: “Judaism has taught the world that all people should be guaranteed basic human rights, primarily the right to life. All people are entitled to live without constant fear, coexist in peace, regardless of race, sex, social status or creed. All people should be treated equally and fairly. Education, family, & social responsibility should be paramount in order to allow all people to grow with dignity.” In addition to the integrity of Judaism, Aryeh was moved by the intense oneness he experienced through Jewish meditation and prayer, the joy of the holidays and the sweetness of familial Shabbat gatherings.
Aryeh had his first “manic-depressive” episode at the age of 22 while studying to be a Rabbi. That moment challenged him in ways he never could have imagined. Aryeh was forced to return to the United States, and with the loving help of family and friends (over many years), learned how to harness the agony and ecstasy within, slowly forging a crucible for the fire of his "unquiet mind". Aryeh decided not to pursue Rabbinical ordination after all; nevertheless, his formal education has included seven years of Judaic studies, encompassing academic pursuits at Sde Eliyahu, Aish Hatorah, Gratz College, the University of Pennsylvania, the Yeshiva Ohr Somayach in Monsey, & Isralight. With a love for learning and all people, Aryeh continually strives to find inter-inclusion between worldly & Jewish wisdom. As it states in the “Ethics of our Fathers”, "Who is Wise? One who learns from everyone."
Every challenge we face is a blessing in disguise. While back in the United States, Aryeh Shalom forged ahead with his desire to help the Jewish community and in turn help the world. His mission; “Think globally, act locally”, (In Hebrew, “Tikkun Olam” or “Repairing the World”) a value instilled in him by his family and reinforced by his teachers. For the past 20 years, Aryeh has served as a community organizer for 20's & 30's in Philadelphia, beginning his course of action with Aish Philadelphia. Following his tenure there, he co-founded The Chevra. The Chevra (loosely translated as a “community of friends”) was created to help ignite a hidden spark by fostering a love for Jewish social arts, educational, spiritual, & volunteer experiences. The Chevra social club (featuring a lounge, bar, live performance stage, art gallery, cinema, & loft for multi-purpose events) at present is being restored after an underground PECO generator exploded and took out half the building. For three years Aryeh also ran a community self defense program, which featured training in krav maga, protective firearms, & outdoor sport. Aryeh Shalom currently serves as The Chevra’s Creative/Social Arts Director, Shaliach Tzibur & Curator of The Chevra Gallery. Aryeh & his family are closely involved with both the Aish & Chabad communities.
The entire world was invited to Aryeh Shalom’s first wedding. Literally. The Chevra hosted a weekend retreat and it was advertised to participants, including the community at large, that all were welcome to attend. For his second wedding, he eloped to Israel and was married in a small ceremony in front of the Western Wall. Twice divorced, Aryeh is still looking forward to meeting his soul mate one day.
In 2004, Aryeh Shalom hosted a music festival to benefit victims of terror in Israel. That moment also served as the unofficial launch for the indie music, film, and live event production company, studio, & record label, Old City Theatre LLC. During this period, Aryeh received training from Berklee Music School and ultimately found a home for his imprint & boutique creative endeavors inside Philadelphia's Chevra social club. Aryeh is experienced in a variety of disciplines, including music composition, creative writing, directing, live performance, musical theatre & acting. He is also trained in music, film, multi-media, event production, editing, & promotion and has worked with a large network of producers, cinematographers, studio musicians, multi-media artists, photographers & live venues in the Philadelphia area. Aryeh has also worked and /or performed with musicians such, Blue Fringe, Bubba, Cedars Of Lebanon, Distant Cousins, Diwon, G-Nome Project, Kosha Dillz, Levyticus, Levi Robin, Moments Of Wrong, Moshav, Pey Dalid, Shtar, Solomon Brothers, Souls On Fire, Soul Farm, The Mystic Mayhem, Yaakov Leib (AKA J-Baum), Yimmy, Yemen Blues & Yosef David.
As a child, Aryeh played cello in various youth orchestras and was involved with high school and summer stock musical theater. He spent a semester studying musical theater at the Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute's former London branch before deciding to travel the world in search of meaning. Aryeh decided against taking his cello to Israel, choosing instead to bring along his mother’s guitar. Since then he is self-taught and continues to write music on both guitar and piano. Currently, aside from his solo music, he performs in the Chevra’s rock house band “Aryeh Shalom, J-Baum & The Mystic Mayhem".
Exile And Redemption: A Neo-Hasidic Rock Opera was curated from 30 years of composition with the desire to offer listeners a musical discovery of Judaism. The film component is meant to personify the Diaspora experience symbolized in the trials and tribulations of one Jewish family, and although conveyed through the lens of Judaism, is meant to be a microcosm of the world's collective soul. This project has seen two marriages, the birth of three daughters (and the subsequent dissolution of his nuclear family), two divorces, a brief manic-depressive (self admitted) hospitalization (after a failed trail of homeopathic medicine) and the passing of his beloved mother (after battling ovarian cancer for three years). Originally meant to be a lone conceptual album, Aryeh Shalom was inspired to share his love for Hasidic stories and details of his personal struggles after setting his weary eyes (one night feeling hopeless in his music studio after his second divorce) upon a portrait of the Hasidic tale, "The Baal Shem Tov (The Rebbe, Reb Yisroel Ben Eliezer), the shepherd boy & his flute" and finding hope and strength in it’s symbolism.
The folklore describes the life of an illiterate shepherd boy and his desperate attempt to connect to God. Entering the synagogue on Yom Kippur (the day of atonement) the shepherd boy was broken-hearted over his inability to read & understand the prayers and felt all alone. Spontaneously, the shepherd boy reached for his flute and passionately began to play and cry out to God. The Baal Shem Tov's disciples were outraged (as you see, one mustn't play music on Yom Kippur) and began to scream at the shepherd boy to exit the Shul. Rather than usher the shepherd boy out, the Baal Shem Tov motioned for the boy to play before the Ark at the front of the Synagogue. Later, the Baal Shem Tov explained to his confused disciples that until the shepherd boy began playing his flute in despair, the gates of Heaven were closed to their prayers. It was only the sincere desire and unconditional love of the shepherd boy that finally compelled God to open up the gates of heaven. Rebbe Nachman, a great-grandson of the Baal Shem Tov teaches: “The whole entire world is a very narrow bridge and the most important thing is not to be afraid.” Rebbe Nachman teaches the power of speaking to God from the heart in our own words as a way to free us from the darkness. Aryeh thought to himself; “At the end of the day, when it feels like all the doors have been closed to you, remember this; no matter who and where you are in life, you are always surrounded by love & forgiveness... and you are never alone. The Torah teaches & the Hasidic Rebbes remind us that music can also be a form of prayer; now all you have to do is to sing.”
Aryeh Shalom's music is reminiscent of Dylan, Marley, Stevens & The Grateful Dead's prophetic spirit, and like the Beatles, stylistically, his music might be considered Adult Contemporary Rock and Baroque Pop; "A fusion genre that combines rock with particular elements of classical music." -Wikipedia. The rock opera and visual album are presented in postmodern black and white, in order to evoke the feeling of footage one might have seen of the Hasidic "Pale Of Settlement'' in the late 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries. The album was co-produced with Barrie Maguire (Amos Lee, Natalie Merchant, The Wallflowers), and NYU film student & rising star Shaia Erlbaum (Content Creator for Universal Music Group), collaborated on the film's cinematography.
Exile And Redemption is an "Official Selection" of the 2021 Philadelphia Jewish Film + eMedia Festival and a "Semi Finalist"of the Academy Award qualifying Flickers' Rhode Island International Film Festival, 2021. "May be first of its kind." - World Israel News. "Rock opera uncovers the mysteries of Judaism." - UK's Jewish Telegraph. Exile And Redemption will be made available on Amazon Prime in its entirety as a full length visual album at the end of 2021 and is currently being adapted as a live "Broadway-style" musical production.